Commemoration of Philip: Deacon and Evangelist
Almighty and everlasting God, we thank You for Your servant Philip the Deacon, whom You called to proclaim the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia. Raise up in this and every land heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, that your Church may make known the immeasurable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
The deacon Philip, was also called an evangelist (see Acts 21:8). He was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve Apostles and of the rapidly growing early church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor, especially to the widows who had limited support (6:1-6).
Unless Saint Luke omitted some portion of the selection process, this Philip is not the Philip we meet in the Gospels, whose feast is celebrated on 1 May with James, son of Alphaeus. For if they are the same person, why would one of the twelve Apostles separate himself from the ministry into which Christ had called him and go off to “serve tables” (Acts 6:2)? Therefore, we are dealing with at least two separate Philips in the New Testament.
Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the Sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (8:4-13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-39), through whom Philip became indirectly responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people on the continent of Africa.
Here we make two historical asides. First, the “Ethiopia” known to the Mediterranian world of Philip’s time may actually have been part of modern-day Sudan. Second, while a “eunuch” is technically a castrated male, it also served at times as a generic term for royal officials, including some where records indicate that they were capable of siring children.
Saint Philip’s final appearance in Scripture comes in conjunction with Saint Paul. He hosted the apostle in the town of Caesarea before the apostle completed his final visit to Jerusalem (21:8-15). During this meeting, Luke also discovered and informs his readers that Philip “had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied (21:9)”