Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles

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Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles
(from the Liturgical Year, 1904)

After the great solemnities of the movable cycle, and the Feast of St. John the Baptist, none is more ancient, nor more universal in the Church, than that of the two Princes of the Apostles. From the beginning, Rome celebrated their triumph on the very day itself which saw them go up from earth to heaven, June 29th. Her practice prevailed, at a very early date, over the custom of several other countries, which put the Apostles' feast towards the close of December. It was, no doubt, a fair thought which inspired the placing of these Fathers of the Christian people in the cortege of Emmanuel at his entry into this world. But, as we have already seen, today's teachings have intrinsically an important preponderance in the economy of Christian dogma; they are the completion of the whole Work of the Son of God; the cross of Peter fixes the Church in her stability, and marks out for the Divine Spirit the immutable centre of his operations. Rome, therefore, was well inspired when, leaving to the Beloved Disciple the honour of presiding over his brethren at the Crib of the Infant God, she maintained the solemn memory of the Princes of the Apostles upon the day chosen by God Himself to consummate their labours and to crown, at once, both their life and the whole cycle of mysteries.

Fully today, do the heavens declare the glory of God, as David expresses it, today do they show us the course of the Spouse completed on the eternal hills (Ps. xviii. 2-6). Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night revealeth the deep secret (Ibid. 3). From north and south of the new Sion, from either side of her stream, Peter and Paul waft one to other, as a farewell song, as a sacred Epithalamium, the good Word (Ps. xliv. 2); sublime that echo, sonorous its power, vocal still throughout the whole earth (Ibid. xviii. 4, 5), and yet to resound as long as the world lasts. These two torches of salvation blend their flames above the palaces of ancient Rome; the passing darkness of their death, that night of which the Psalmist sings, now concentrates light, forever, in the midst of the queen city. Beside the throne of the Bridegroom fixed forever and ever on yonder seven hills (Ps. xliv. 7-10), the Gentile world, now become the Bride, is resplendent in glory (Eph. v. 27), all fair in that peerless purity which she derives from their blood united as it is to that of the Son of God.

But seemly is it, not to forget, on so great a day, those other messengers sent forth by the divine householder, and who watered earth's highways with their sweat and with their blood, the while they hastened the triumph and the gathering in of the guests invited to the Marriage feast (St. Matth. xxii. 8-10). To them is it due, if now the law of grace is definitively promulgated throughout all nations, and if in every language and upon every shore the good tidings have been sounded (Ps. xviii. 4, 5). Thus the festival of St. Peter, completed by the more special memory of St. Paul his comrade in death, has been from earliest times regarded as the festival likewise of the whole Apostolic college. In those primitive times it seemed impossible to dream of separating from their glorious leader any of those whom Our Lord had so intimately joined together in the responsibility of one common work. But in course of time, however, particular solemnities were successively consecrated to each one of the Apostles, and so the feast of June 29th was more exclusively attributed to the two Princes whose martyrdom rendered this day illustrious. More than this; as we shall presently see, the Roman Church, thinking it impossible fittingly to honour both of these on the same day, deferred till the morrow her more explicit praises of the Doctor of the Gentiles.


he Antiphons and Capitulum of First Vespers take us back to the opening days of the apostolic ministry. They place us in the midst of those which immediately follow the Descent of the Holy Ghost. Peter and John go up together to the temple of Jerusalem. Calvary's sacrifice has put an end to its figurative oblations; but it, nevertheless, still continues to be a place of prayer, pleasing to heaven, on account of its grand memories. At the door of the sacred edifice, a man, lame from his birth, begs an alms of the Apostles. Peter, lacking both silver and gold, exerts in his favour the power of healing which he possesses in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The Synagogue yields no more to the miracles of the disciple than she did to those of the Master; she will not be converted; and presently a new Herod, wishing to please the Jews, finds no better means of doing so than the putting to death of James the brother of John, and the imprisoning of Peter.




But the angel of the Lord comes down into the prison where he is sleeping, on the eve of the day fixed for his death; the angel bids him arise, put on his garments, and follow him. The Apostle, set free, proclaims the reality of that which at first he thought but a dream. He departs from Jerusalem, now hopelessly the accursed city; and on all sides of the gentile world into whose midst he has entered, is verified the prophecy: Tu es Petrus: Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church (St. Matth. xvi. 18).

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The Lesson is taken from a Sermon bySt. Leo the Pope

Dearly beloved, in the joy of each and every holy feast the whole world may have a share. For there is but one love of God, and whatsoever is solemnly called to memory, if it hath been done for the salvation of all, must needs be worth the honour of a joyful memorial at the hands of all. Nevertheless, this feast which we are keeping today, besides that world-wide worship which it doth of right get throughout all the earth, deserveth from this our City of Rome an outburst of gladness altogether special and our own. For in this place it was that the two chiefest of the Apostles did so right gloriously finish their race. And upon this day whereon they lifted up that their last testimony, let it be that the memory thereof receiveth in this place the chiefest of all its jubilant celebrations. O Rome! these twain are the men who brought the light of the Gospel of Christ to shine upon thee! These are they by whom thou, from being the teacher of lies, wast turned into a learner of the truth.

These twain are thy fathers; they truly are thy shepherds! These twain are they who laid foundations for thee (that thou mightest upbuild the kingdom of heaven) better and happier than did the Romulus (from whom thou art named), when he first planned thine earthly ramparts; which same he polluted with his brother's blood. These twain are they who have set on thine head this day thy glorious crown, so that thou art become an holy nation, a chosen people, a city both priestly and kingly, whom the sacred throne of blessed Peter hath exalted till thou art become the Lady of the world, unto whom the world-wide love for God hath conceded a broader lordship than is the possession of any mere earthly empire. Thou wast once waxen great by victories until thy power was spread haughtily over land sea, but thy power was narrower then, which the toils of war had won for thee, than that thou now hast which hath been laid at thy feet by the peace of Christ.

It was convenient for the doing of the work which God had decreed, that the whole multitude of kingdoms should be bound together under one rule, and that so the universal preaching of the Gospel should find easier entry unto all people, since all were governed by the empire of one city. But this City, knowing not him who had been pleased to make her great, used her lordship over almost all nations to make herself the minister of all their falsehoods; and seemed to herself exceedingly godly because there was no false god whom she rejected. But the tighter that Satan had bound her, the more wondrous was the work of Christ in setting her free.

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A Homily by St. Jerome the Priest

Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? This question is well put, for they who speak of him as the Son of Man are men, while they that know of him that he is God are called not men but gods. And they said: Some say that thou art John the Baptist, some, Elias. I marvel that commentators have thought it worth their while to search into the origin of each of these blunders, and to engage in a discussion of weary length as to why some thought that our Lord Jesus Christ was John the Baptist, some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the Prophets. Their blunders concerning Elias and Jeremias were but of a piece with Herod's concerning John the Baptist: It is John, whom I beheaded; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

But whom say ye that I am? Note from the context, discreet reader, that a distinction is here drawn between the Apostles and mere men. The Apostles are called gods. Who, asketh the Lord, do men say that I am? But, on the other hand, whom say ye that I am? They being but men deal in human speculations, but ye that be as gods, who be ye persuaded that I am? And then Peter, as the representative of all the Apostles, uttered the testimony: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. He calleth God living, to mark the difference between him and all others, that be called gods, and who are indeed dead.

And Jesus answered and said unto him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona. The Apostle having testified of the Lord, the Lord in turn testifieth of the Apostle. Peter had said: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And he received, in return for his testimony to the truth, the words: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona. Why, blessed? For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father. What flesh and blood could not reveal, the grace of the Holy Ghost had revealed. Meet for him therefore, because of his confession, is his name, as the name of one who hath revelation from the Holy Ghost, and therefore is called The son of the Holy Ghost. That is, Bar-jona, being interpreted, is The son-of-the-Dove.
 
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