There are some saints in particular whose lives on earth are so closely connected with the earthly life and ministry of Jesus that their stories are literally part of the Gospel itself. Perhaps the most obvious examples would be the apostles and evangelists. In the history of the church, including the history of our Lutheran Church, the commemorations of these saints have been observed with special distinction—always to the praise and glory of Christ Jesus and His Gospel. These days are really treated as “Feasts of Christ,” that is to say, as days when we remember, celebrate, and give thanks for the life that our Lord Jesus Christ lived for us in the flesh. For these reasons, it is appropriate to observe these “Feasts” with the Sacrament of the Altar, in which the Word-made-flesh draws close to us and gives himself to us in much the same way that he came and lived among the apostles and other disciples in the New Testament.
May 1 has been kept as the feast day of St. Philip and St. James since A.D. 561 when on that date, the supposed remains of the two saints were interred in the Church of the Apostles in Rome. But the Church celebrates these saints today not because we have a piece of their earthly bodies to worship; rather, we follow the example of Holy Scripture in remembering those whom God has called to be his own, in whom he has demonstrated his grace of forgiveness and his gift of life (cf. Hebrews 11; Matthew 26:13). Today we give thanks to God for the gift of apostles—specifically Philip and James—who served his church as leaders and missionaries.