Today is the feast day of Saint John before the Latin Gate.
“The seething oil was changed for him into an invigorating bath, and the Saint came out more refreshed than when he had entered the cauldron.” (3)
(by Fr. Prosper Gueranger 1870)
The Beloved Disciple John, whom we saw standing near the crib of the Babe of Bethlehem, comes before us again today; and this time, he is paying his delighted homage to the glorious Conqueror of death and hell. Like Philip and James, he too is clad in the scarlet robe of martyrdom. The month of May, so rich in saints, was to be graced with the Palm of St. John.
Salome one day presented her two sons to Jesus, and, with a mother’s ambition, had asked Him to grant them the highest places in His kingdom. The Saviour, in His reply, spoke of the Chalice which He Himself had to drink, and foretold that these two Disciples would also drink of it. The elder, James the Greater, was the first to give His Master this proof of his love; we shall celebrate his victory when the sun is in Leo; it was today that John, the younger Brother, offered his life in testimony of Jesus’ Divinity.
But the martyrdom of such an Apostle called for a scene worthy the event. Asia Minor, which his zeal had evangelized, was not a sufficiently glorious land for such a combat. Rome, whither Peter had transferred his Chair and where he died on his cross, and where Paul had bowed down his venerable head beneath the sword, Rome alone deserved the honour of seeing the Beloved Disciple march on to martyrdom, with that dignity and sweetness which are the characteristics of this veteran of the Apostolic College.
Domitian was then Emperor, the tyrant over Rome and the world. Whether it were that John undertook this journey of his own free choice, and from a wish to visit the Mother-Church, or that he was led thither bound with chains, in obedience to an imperial edict, John, the august founder of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, appeared before the Tribunal of pagan Rome. He was convicted of having propagated, in a vast province of the Empire, the worship of a Jew that had been crucified under Pontius Pilate. He was a superstitious and rebellious old man, and it was time to rid Asia of his presence. He was therefore sentenced to an ignominious and cruel death. He had somehow escaped Nero’s power; but he should not elude the vengeance of Caesar Domitian!
A huge cauldron of boiling oil is prepared in front of the Latin Gate. The sentence orders that the preacher of Christ be plunged into this bath. The hour is come for the second son of Salome to partake of his Master’s Chalice. John’s heart leaps with joy, at the thought that he, the most dear to Jesus, and yet the only Apostle that has not suffered death for him, is, at last, permitted to give him this earnest of his love. After cruelly scourging him, the executioners seize the old man, and throw him into the cauldron; but, lo! the boiling liquid has lost all its heat; the Apostle feels no scalding; on the contrary, when they take him out again, he feels all the vigour of his youthful years restored to him. The Praetor’s cruelty is foiled, and John, the Martyr in desire, is to be left to the Church for some few years longer. An imperial decree banishes him to the rugged Isle of Patmos, where God reveals to him the future of the Church, even to the end of time.
The Church of Rome, which counts the abode and martyrdom of St. John as one of her most glorious memories, has marked, with a Basilica, the spot where the Apostle bore his noble testimony to the Christian Faith. This Basilica stands near the Latin Gate, and gives a title to one of the Cardinals. (1,2)
Image: crop (2)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff