Friday, October 10, 2014

ST. PHILIP THE DEACON AND EVANGELIST & BOK CHOY

Rembrandt

St. Philip the Deacon and Evangelist was born early in the first century probably near Jerusalem. He is remembered as one of the first seven deacons of the Church, for converting a large Samarian community, and for baptising an Ethiopian royal official who later founded the Christian Church in Ethiopia. After raising a family in Caesarea Maritima, St. Philip became the Bishop of Lydia in modern-day Turkey and died on an unknown date.

He is honored in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches who celebrate his feast day on October 11. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, he is honored as one of the Seventy Apostles and his feast is celebrated on June 6.

Throughout history, people have mixed up St. Philip the Deacon with St. Philip the Apostle. Arguments in favor of this possibility are based on the fact that both were Greek, good with money, and that one Philip would have made the perfect link between the two groups. However, the passage from Acts about the Samarians wouldn't makes sense if he were the Apostle Philip. So we'll go with the general modern-day belief that they were separate individuals.

Philip appears for the first time in Acts when he is chosen from the Greek-speaking Jewish community to serve as one of the first deacons, although the word "deacon" is not used:

Now during those days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables (or keep accounts).

Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.

What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
                                                        Acts 6:1-6

In Acts 7:54-60, we read of the persecution and death of St. Stephen by public stoning, resulting in our honoring of him as the first Christian martyr who died for his public belief in Jesus Christ. To escape their own persecution, Philip and many other Christians left the city and spread the Word throughout the lands.

Samarians practiced Judaism with some added paganism. The other Jews considered them unclean, and so rejected and avoided them. Philip discovered that the Samarians were very much open to the teachings of Jesus Christ and baptism:

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said, by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed: and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 

And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.
                                               Acts: 8:4-13

In Acts 8:14-25, the Apostles Peter and John traveled to lay their hands on the newly baptized to “confirm” their baptism with the Holy Spirit. It could also be that it hadn’t occurred to the Apostles that people outside their Jewish community were open to conversion so they wanted to check it out and get in on it.

The next passage shows Philip literally jumping in (to a chariot) to teach someone who was already open to learning. This is another instance in which Philip recognized someone’s Christian potential and helped him along his journey:

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went.

Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Get over to this chariot and join it.” 

So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 

He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

        “Like a sheep he was led to slaughter,
          and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
          so he does not open his mouth.
          In his humiliation justice was denied him.
          Who can describe his generation?
          For his life is taken away from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water: and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 

He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
                                            Acts 8:26-40

The eunuch traveled home and, according to oral tradition, later established the Christian Church in Ethiopia.

In Caesarea, St. Philip married and raised a family. Twenty-four years later, St. Paul and St. Luke showed up for a visit. St. Luke is the author of Acts and refers to himself in the first person:

The next day we left and came to Caesarea; and we went into the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who had the gift of prophecy.
                                  Acts 21:8-9

It was most likely during this visit that Luke learned the details of Philip’s earlier activities which he included in the beginning of Acts.

This passage also shows how St. Philip encouraged his daughters in their good works as messengers of God instead of marrying them off as was the custom of their day.

It’s believed that some days after the visit of Paul and Luke, Philip went on a mission to Lydia (in modern-day Turkey) where he became the bishop of Tralles and died peacefully on an unknown date.

Some ancient texts also state that his daughters traveled on missions as well. Unfortunately, this was during a dangerous time for Christians. After creating a hospice for the poor in Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey), St. Hermione was martyred by the occupying Romans for spreading the Word of Jesus Christ. Her feast day is celebrated on September 4 in the Eastern Orthodox Church.  

Holy God, no one is excluded from your love, and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: As your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Collect, HOLY WOMEN, HOLY MEN, CELEBRATING THE SAINTS

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Sources:

HOLY BIBLE: NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION
STARS IN A DARK WORLD: STORIES OF THE SAINTS AND THE HOLY DAYS OF THE LITURGY by Fr. John-Julian, OJN
ALL SAINTS: DAILY REFLECTIONS ON SAINTS, PROPHETS, AND WITNESSES FOR OUR TIME by Robert Ellsberg
LIVES OF THE SAINTS: Vol. II, COMPLETE STANDARD EDITION, by Rev. Alban Butler 

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An Ethiopian recipe would be perfect for St. Philip the Evangelist. Click here to see a variety of Ethiopian dishes.

Alas, dearworthy readers, having never tasted Ethiopian food, I didn't have time to learn about the food, enjoy a meal at an Ethiopian restaurant, and then try to recreate a recipe at home. But it’s on my list.

Instead I offer a recipe for sautéed bok choy because during a recent morning walk, I suddenly began crying over my nephew Phil. Grief comes at you like that sometimes, in unexpected waves.

Phillip Alexander Ross died on August 10, 2011, at the age of 28 due to sleep apnea only a year after his dear mother, Sandra, passed following a courageous battle with cancer.

Here’s the Remembrance I gave at his funeral:

            I became Phil’s aunt 20 years ago when I married his uncle Stuart. But I had met him five years before that when Phil was three years old at the beach house overlooking Duxbury Bay. One morning, we went outside to enjoy the beautiful day. The sun shone on the green grass while the soft sound of the ocean waves and the muddy scent of the marsh wafted up to us. Phil was an adorable bundle of energy. I’ll never forget that I convinced him to be my pillow so that I could lie down and look up at the clouds drifting across the blue sky above. Phil was totally into it. For about 5 seconds. I got him to do it three times. For about 5 seconds. Then he was off running to play. What nerve I had making him my pillow. But that he did it, even for the tiniest amount of time was a true gift.

            My next memory is of the family all gathered together to watch a video of Phil demonstrating how to cook bok choy for a school assignment. Bok choy. Never heard of it, never wanted to cook it. So I didn’t pay attention to his actual demonstration. Instead I focused on the serious and intense way that Phil handled the demo and the beaming pride on his mother’s face as we watched. It never occurred to me to tell Phil this, but whenever I see or hear the word “bok choy” I think of him. And in a real ironic twist, every now and then bok choy is delivered in our North Carolina Produce Box. I’ve tried different recipes, but every time I try to cook it, I burn the leaves. I should have paid attention to his demo.

            Phil had a particular silly sense of humor. It’s a Ross trait that occurs is only a few of the Ross’s. Don’t get me wrong, we all love to laugh and we all can be pretty funny. However, Phil had that particular sense of humor that his father had seen before in his little brother, Stuart. That’s why when young Phil was being really silly, he’d call him Stu. Then to complicate matters, a new Ross was born named Don the third. Soon little Donny was running around being silly and Don would say, “Calm down, Stu, I mean Phil, I mean Donny. Oh whatever.”  And then Papa, Don the first, recognizing a part of himself in that silly sense of humor, would sit back and giggle.

            Once when Donny was about seven, we were up for Christmas and playing our traditional Santa Swap game in which we buy mostly annoying presents to throw into the grab bag. Depending on your number, you can either grab from the big bag or take a present away from someone else so they’d have to grab from the bag again. This one year, careful to spend the correct dollar amount, Phil threw in a ten-pound bag of potatoes. What an amazingly annoying present especially to those of us who traveled by airplane. I thought that was absolutely hysterical. But Donny’s memory is stronger than mine and he remembers the rest of the story. Phil spent the entire game trying to win the potatoes back so he could give them to his brother, Andrew, who was just getting into gourmet cooking. And he did it.

            That’s the way Phil was – supportive of others and their endeavors. About 5 years ago; Phil was assigned to be my Secret Santa. He gave me this tee shirt that says, “Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel.” I love this shirt because it’s a bit snarky and defiant. And I love it because he recognized me as a writer. Most people don’t recognize writers until they’re published, and sometimes writers believe that themselves. At the time, it was pretty powerful for me to know that Phil recognized and supported the writer in me. I wear this shirt whenever the writing gets particularly challenging.
            
            Donny never got around to telling Phil about his love of the Marx Brothers and especially Harpo. But if he had, we know that Phil would have found a way to recognize and support Donny in this interest. Donny’s in the process of growing out his hair so it will look like Harpo’s hair. We know that it would have been appropriate to get his hair cut for this service, but we feel in a way that we are honoring Phil who also had naturally curly hair. But, more importantly, we feel that we are honoring him because Harpo was funny and Phil loved to laugh.
            
            Our best, most consistent memories of Phil are in the playing of board games. Especially Balderdash -- a game in which players make up fake definitions in an effort to convince the other players that it’s the real definition to obscure words. As an early morning riser myself, I’m usually too tired to play when the rest of the gang pulls out the board, but I love to sit by and crochet so I can get in on the laughs. Donny called Phil the laugh starter. If Phil thought a definition was funny, the laughter spread like a warm flame across the table and around the room.
            
           We writers aren’t supposed to use clichés, but I believe that laughter is good for the soul. So Phil we invite you and your mom to swing down from heaven to listen in the next time we play Balderdash. From now on, every game we play together is dedicated to you.
           
            (I added a Celtic prayer I learned from my priest, Rev. Mark Powell. It’s adapted a bit due to my faulty memory.)
            
           Lord, help us to be swift to love and hasten to be kind for we do not know how long we have to gladden the hearts of others. Grant us your loving comfort and peace all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Just like St. Philip acted upon the Christian potential in a group of Samarians (whom the Apostles originally considered unworthy of attention), and the Ethiopian who was curious, Philip Ross saw the potential in others and supported them along their path with his interest and a side order of humor.

I believe that saintly attributes are handed down generation by generation in the naming of babies after saints (or relatives who were named for saints). If I were to argue for that belief, I’d say - Where else would Phil have picked up his habit of supporting the potential in others?

And then I’d argue the other side and say - Watch the video again. Every member of Phil’s family, including his grandmother, helped him with their expertise and support of his potential (in this case to hold it together and not laugh too much).

Speaking of which, when I recently watched Phil’s cooking video again, I discovered why the bok choy segment stayed with me – let’s just say, not all of it made it into the pan. See Bonus Material at Time 5:00.

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Sautéed Bok Choy



More photos below.

Ingredients:

1 bunch of adult or 2 bunches of baby bok choy
4 teaspoons olive oil divided
Soy sauce to taste

Instructions:

1. Separate leaves and wash bok choy.
2. Separate green stuff from white stuff.
3. Chop into bite size pieces and keep separate.
4. Place 2 teaspoons of olive oil in frying pan over medium high heat.
5. Sauté white stuff until golden. Season with soy sauce.
6. Repeat Step 4 and 5 with the green stuff. Sauté for less time than the white stuff and stir regularly.
7. Combine golden white and green stuff in a serving bowl.
7. Served as a side dish or as part of a stir fry with rice, protein, and other vegetables.

Enjoy!

Photos:





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Bonus Material:

Phil's Video