Commemorated on November 27
St. James the Persian was born in the Persian Royal City of Beit-Lapeta, of an illustrious family. As his family, he embraced Christianity and married a devout Christian. Attached as a soldier to the Court of Shah Yazdegard the King of Persia, he rose to the highest ranks, and enjoyed the highest honors. He was Shah Yazdegerd’s favorite, who overwhelmed him with favors. James, in response to the attention shown him by the Shah, went so far as to renounce his Christian faith. Soon after the Shah Yazdegerd died and was succeeded by his son Shah Braham V. James’ mother and wife learned about his apostasy, and with grief sent him the following letter:
St. James the Persian "We have heard that the favor of a terrestrial king and the love of perishable resources of this century, have made you abandon the Eternal God. We ask you a single question, deign to answer: where is this king now, for whom you have made such a great sacrifice? He died, as the last of the men, he fell into dust: what can you await from him now? Will he offer you a refuge from the eternal torment? If you endure in your apostasy, you will fall like him into the hands of the vengeful God; and we will have nothing to do with you anymore, because you abandoned God; we want to have nothing in common with an apostate. It's over; we no longer exist for you.”
This letter made a deep impression on James who was deployed in the army at the time; it opened his eyes. He returned to his senses and went into his tent, where he found a Bible. Reading it, gradually divine light enlightened his soul and the grace of God touched his heart. In one instant he changed into another man. His paralyzed soul, as if called back from the tomb by a powerful voice, suddenly awoke: the feeling of remorse became unbearable, he felt as if his insides were being ripped apart.
His expressions of remorse and repentance were heard by his fellow soldiers. Rivals, jealous of his position, denounced James to the new Shah. The King summoned James immediately and interrogated him about his return to the Christian Faith. James declared, “I am a servant of my Lord Jesus Christ”.
This response infuriated the King, but he tried to win him back by flattery and promises, altered by threats of torture, but without result. James, to avoid the king’s temptations to win him back to paganism, boldly answered to all his questions. In one response he exposed to him the errors of the religion of the Persians: “You who claim to know the Divinity better than other people are in a grave error. By adoring inanimate and insensible creatures and by giving the incommunicable name of God to creatures you offend the true God. Your vain divinities are incapable of protecting you.”
This solemn renunciation of idolatry infuriated the king. It was clear that James was abandoning the religion of the Persians. The Shah wanted to make an example of James. The recommended punishment was to cut him into pieces. Once the sentence was determined James was immediately dragged to the place of execution.
The decision of the Shah to kill James in such a horrific manner became known to believers and unbelievers, who immediately felt a great sympathy for the Saint and who were thoroughly shocked by the barbarous sentence of the Shah. The Christians, when hearing the death sentence kneeled down with their faces to the ground, bursting into tears, and addressed to God the following prayer: “O sovereign Lord who gives strength to the weak and health to the sick, you who give life to the infirm and the dying, you who save those who are passing away, help your servant, make him victorious in this dreadful combat. Make him triumph for your glory Lord, Oh Christ, prince of the victors, king of the martyrs!”
A large part of the population and the entire army gathered at the place of torture. Being dragged by the soldiers he asked them to stop for a moment so he could address God with the following prayer: “Receive, O Lord, the prayers of your humble servant; give strength and courage to the son of your maidservant; make of me a sign of consolation for those who love you, those who suffer, and for those who will suffer persecution for your namesake. And when I will have overcome by your omnipotent grace, thus receiving the crown of the elect, make my enemies see it so they may be confounded because you have been, Lord, my consolation and my stronghold.” When he finished this prayer the soldiers violently grabbed him and lay him down to be executed according to the command of the Shah.
The blessed James suffered his martyrdom on November 27th, his feast day in the Byzantine calendar. His body remained in the open air. Immediately after his execution Christians came to take away a part of the holy relics: it was in vain. Because of fear of the Shah the soldiers wouldn't allow it. The faithful then did as if they left the place but in fact hid nearby waiting for nightfall to set in to be able to gather at least a part of the relics. Around the ninth hour of the evening, the guards having left, the believers took his bodily remains that they found in 289 pieces. His relics have been circulated around the world.