SS Peter and Paul
FOR ALL THE SAINTS: PETER AND PAUL
Much ink has been spilled over these two, who were so different from one another, but so important to the foundation of the church after the resurrection of Christ and the Pentecost gift of the Spirit. Their disciples became bishops and leaders throughout the known world. You simply cannot imagine the early church without them, nor for that matter the church of today. They cast a two thousand year long shadow.
Though they were at loggerheads on occasion, they were completely agreed about the revolutionary nature of Christian faith. These two saints are hallmarks of the early church. Cathedrals are named after these Apostles in Philadelphia, Detroit, Indianapolis, Passaic, London, Prague, St Petersburg, the Virgin Islands, Australia – the list goes on. Many churches of all denominations are named for them.
St Paul’s journeys are the stuff of legend. He took the gospel far and wide, touring the Mediterranean basin as far west as Rome. Perhaps less well known is that St Peter traversed much of the same territory, building and edifying churches along with Paul, though not at the same time. Between the two of them and their companions, Silas and Barnabas and Mark and Timothy and women like Junia and Phoebe, missions grew.
Both men wrote epistles, Paul to specific churches and Peter to the whole church. Both men died for the faith at the hands of Nero’s persecution in the middle of the first century. While some traditions say they died on the same day, most hold that they were martyred close to one another.
Sts Peter and Paul were always commemorated on the same day, but the day was not the same all over. The Syrian Martyrology (from the end of the fourth century), a Greek catalogue of saints from Asia Minor, lists as feasts after Christmas 26 December, St Stephen; 27 December, Sts James and John; and 28 December, Sts Peter and Paul. From 258 on, at Rome, their chief feast was kept on 29 June where it remains for the universal church today. This date marks either the translation of their relics to the churches that commemorate them in Rome, or their death date.
In the tropar for their day we sing: “O foremost in the ranks of apostles, and teachers of the world, intercede with the Master of All to grant safety to the world and to our souls the great mercy.” These are the giants of the faith; let us revere their memory and invoke their prayers.