Today’s apostle was the patron of one of the parishes I once served. It seems like a tough time for a patronal feast in an ordinary parish; the bustle of Christmas Eve and Day is past and many people in liturgical ministry are just breathing a sigh of relief. More so in a university parish where almost all the young people are gone. Plus many residents in transit to visit extended families. So John stays just a name for a lot of Catholics.
The eagle is associated with John the evangelist. I was unaware that a whole subset of those predators are called “snake eagles.” Interesting, eh? Americans are used to seeing birds bald and golden scanning from above for rodents, rabbits and other small mammals. Grabbing snakes: that’s Virgin Mary material.
In astronomy, one of our summer constellations is interpreted as an eagle. There’s a commonality in this across many Eurasian cultures. Hindu’s eagle is the figure Garuda. For the Greeks, it was Zeus’s pet eagle, the one who snatched the boy Ganymede, one of the god’s many infatuations. Arabic observers named the brightest star from the phrase al-nasr al-tair, the flying eagle. More on the 12th-brightest star here.
A personal musical favorite is this setting adapting the first words of the first letter of John, from what I think of as the apex of Gregory Norbet’s Weston Priory period (1977-78). From the Bible:
We declare to you what was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked at and touched with our hands,
concerning the word of life—
this life was revealed,
and we have seen it and testify to it,
and declare to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was revealed to us—
we declare to you what we have seen and heard
so that you also may have fellowship with us;
and truly our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:1-4)