June 29 – St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles
Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Behold the hour when the answer which the Son of Man, exacted of the Fisher of Galilee, re-echoes from the seven hills and fills the whole earth. Peter no longer dreads the triple interrogation of his Lord. Since that fatal night wherein before the first cock-crow, the Prince of the apostles had betimes denied his Master, tears have not ceased to furrow the cheeks of this same Vicar of the Man-God; lo! the day when, at last, his tears shall be dried! From that gibbet whereunto, at his own request, the humble disciple has been nailed head downwards, his bounding heart repeats, now at last without fear, the protestation which ever since the scene enacted on the brink of Lake Tiberias, has been silently wearing his life away: Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee!
Sacred Day, on which the oblation of the first of Pontiffs assures to the West the rights of Supreme Priesthood! Day of triumph, in which the effusion of a generous life-blood wins for God the conquest of the Roman soil; in which upon the cross of his representative, the Divine Spouse concludes his eternal alliance with the Queen of nations.
This tribute of death was all unknown to Levi; this dower of blood was never exacted of Aaron by Jehovah: for who is it that would die for a slave?—the Synagogue was no Bride! Love is the sign which distinguishes this age of the new dispensation from the law of servitude. Powerless, sunk in cringing fear, the Jewish priest could but sprinkle with the blood of victims substituted for himself, the horns of the figurative altar. At once both Priest and Victim, Jesus expects more of those whom he calls to a participation of the sacred prerogative which makes him pontiff, and that for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth, thus saith he to these men whom he has just raised above angels, at the last Supper: but I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you. As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love.
Now, in the case of a Priest admitted thus into partnership with the Eternal Pontiff, love is not complete, save when it extends itself to the whole of mankind ransomed by the great Sacrifice. And, mark it well: this entails upon him, more than the obligation common to all Christians, of loving one another as fellow members of one Head; for, by his Priesthood, he forms part of that Head, and by this very title, charity should assume, in him, something in depth and character of the love which this divine Head bears towards his members. But more than this: what, if to the power he possesses of immolating Christ, to the duty incumbent on him of the joint offering of himself likewise, in the secret of the Mysteries,—the plenitude of the Pontificate be added, imposing the public mission of giving to the Church that support she needs, that fecundity which the heavenly Spouse exacts of her? Oh! then it is, that (according to the doctrine expressed from the earliest ages by the Popes, the Councils, and the Fathers) the Holy Ghost adapts him to his sublime role by fully identifying his love with that of the Spouse, whose obligations he fulfils, whose rights he exercises. But then, likewise, according to the same teaching of universal tradition, there stands before him the precept of the Apostle; yea, from throne to throne of all the Bishops, whether of East or West, the Angels of the Churches pass on the word: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.
Such is the divine reality of these mysterious nuptials, that every age of sacred history has blasted with the name of adultery the irregular abandoning of the Church first espoused. So much is there exacted by such a sublime union, that none may be called thereunto who is not already abiding steadfast on the lofty summit of perfection; for a Bishop must ever hold himself ready to justify in his own person that supreme degree of charity of which Our Lord saith: Greater love than this no man hath, that he lay down his life for his friends. Nor does the difference between the hireling and the true Shepherd end there; this readiness of the Pontiff to defend unto death the Church confided to him, to wash away even in his own blood every stain that disfigures the beauty of this Bride, is itself the guarantee of that contract whereby he is wedded to this chosen one of the Son of God, and it is the just price of those purest joys reserved unto him: These things have I spoken to you, saith Our Lord when instituting the Testament of the New Alliance, that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled.
If such should be the privileges and obligations of the bishop of each Church, how much more so in the case of the universal Pastor! When regenerated man was confided to Simon, son of John, by the Incarnate God, His chief care was, in the first place, to make sure that he would indeed be the Vicar of His love; that, having received more than the rest, he would love more than all of them; that being the inheritor of the love of Jesus for His own who were in the world, he would love, as He had done, even to the end. For this very reason, the establishing of Peter upon the summit of the hierarchy coincides in the Gospel narrative with the announcement of his martyrdom; Pontiff-king, he must needs follow even unto the cross, his Supreme Hierarch.
The Feasts of his two Chairs, that of Antioch and that of Rome, have recalled to our minds the Sovereignty whereby he presides over the government of the whole world, and the Infallibility of the doctrine which he distributes as food to the whole flock; but these two feasts, and the Primacy to which they bear witness on the sacred cycle, call for that completion and further sanction afforded by the teachings included in today’s festival. Just as the power received by the Man-God from his Father and the full communication made by him of this same power to the visible Head of his Church, had but for end the consummation of glory, the one object of the Thrice-Holy God in the whole of his work; so likewise, all jurisdiction, all teaching, all ministry here below, says Saint Paul, has for end the consummation of the Saints, which is but one with the consummation of this sovereign glory; now, the sanctity of the creature, and the glory of God, Creator and Savior, taken together, find their full expression only in the Sacrifice which embraces both Shepherd and flock in one same holocaust.
It was for this final end of all pontificate, of all hierarchy, that Peter, from the day of Jesus’s Ascension, traversed the earth. At Joppa, when he was but opening the career of his apostolic labors, a mysterious hunger seized him: Arise, Peter; kill and eat, said the Spirit; and at that same hour, in symbolic vision were presented before his gaze all the animals of earth and all the birds of heaven. This was the gentile world which he must join to the remnant of Israel, on the divine banquet-board. Vicar of the Word, he must share His vast hunger; his preaching, like a two-edged sword, will strike down whole nations before him; his charity, like a devouring fire, will assimilate to itself the peoples; realizing his title of Head, the day will come when as true Head of the world, he will have formed (from all mankind, become now a prey to his avidity) the Body of Christ in his own person. Then like a new Isaac, or rather, a very Christ, he will behold rising before him the mountain where the Lord seeth, awaiting the oblation.
Let us also “look and see;” for this future has become the present, and even as on the great Friday, so now, we already know how the drama is to end. A final scene all bliss, all triumph: for herein deicide mingles not its wailing note to that of earth’s homage, and the perfume of sacrifice whith earth is exhaling, does but fill the heavens with sweet gladsomeness. Divinized by virtue of the adorable Victim of Calvary, it might indeed be said, this day, that earth is able now to stand alone. Simple son of Adam as he is by nature, and yet nevertheless true Sovereign Pontiff, Peter advances bearing the world: his own sacrifice is about to complete that of the Man-God, with whose dignity he is invested; inseparable as she is from her visible Head, the Church likewise invests him with her own glory. Far from her now the horrors of that mid-day darkness, which shrouded her tears when, for the first time, the cross was up-reared. She is all song; and her inspired lyric (Hymn at Vespers) celebrates “the beauteous Light Eternal that floods with sacred fires this day which openeth out unto the guilty a free path to heaven.” What more could she say of the Sacrifice of Jesus Himself? But this is because by the power of this other cross which is rising up, Babylon becomes today the Holy City. The while Sion sits accurses for having once crucified her Savior, vain is it, on the contrary, for Rome to reject the Man-God, to pour out the blood of his Martyrs like water in her streets. No crime of Rome’s is able to prevail against the great fact fixed forever at this hour: the cross of Peter has transferred to her all the rights of the cross of Jesus; leaving to the Jews the curse, she now becomes the true Jerusalem.
Such being then the meaning of this day, it is not surprising that Eternal Wisdom should have willed to enhance it still further, by joining the sacrifice of Paul to that of Peter. More than any other, Paul advanced by his preachings the building up of the body of Christ. If on this day, holy Church has attained such full development as to be able to offer herself, in the person of her visible Head, as a sweet smelling sacrifice, who better than Paul may deservedly perfect the oblation, furnishing from his own veins the sacred libation? The Bride having attained fulness of age, his own work is likewise ended. Inseparable from Peter in his labors by faith and love, he will accompany him also in death; both quit this earth, leaving her to the gladness of the divine nuptials sealed in their blood, whilst they ascend together to that eternal abode wherein that union is consummated.
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 cortège 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 center of his operations. Rome, therefore, was well inspired when, leaving to the Beloved Disciple the honor 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 labors 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. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night revealeth the deep secret. 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; sublime that echo, sonorous its power, vocal still throughout the whole earth, 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, the Gentile world, now become the Bride, is resplendent in glory, 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. 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. 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 honor both of these on the same day, deferred till the morrow her more explicit praises of the Doctor of the Gentiles. She thus became more free to concentrate the demonstrations of her devoted enthusiasm upon him whom even the Greek Church herself styles, in every form, the corypheus of the blessed choir of Apostles. These remarks seem needed for the clear understanding of the Office which is about to follow.
The 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 favor 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.
|Ant. Petrus et Johannes ascendebant in templum ad horam orationis nonam.||Ant. Peter and John went up to the temple at the ninth hour of prayer.|
|Dixit Dominus Domino meo: * Sede a dextris meis.||The Lord said to my Lord, his Son: Sit thou at my right hand, and reign with me.|
|Donec ponam inimicos tuos: * scabellum pedum tuorum.||Until, on the day of thy last coming I make thy enemies thy footstool.|
|Virgam virtutis tuæ emittet Dominus ex Sion: * dominare in medio inimicorum tuorum.||O Christ! the Lord thy Father, will send forth the scepter of thy power out of Sion: from thence rule thou in the midst of thy enemies.|
|Tecum principium in die virtutis tuæ in splendoribus sanctorum: * ex utero ante luciferum genui te.||With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the saints: For the Father hath said to thee: From the womb before the day-star I begot thee.|
|Juravit Dominus, et non pœnitebit eum: * Tu es Sacerdos in æternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech.||The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: he hath said, speaking to thee, the God-Man: Thou art a Priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.|
|Dominus a dextris tuis: * confregit in die iræ suæ reges.||Therefore, O Father, the Lord, thy Son is at thy right hand: he hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.|
|Judicabit in nationibus, implebit ruinas: * conquassabit capita in terra multorum.||He shall also judge among nations: in that terrible coming, he shall fill the ruins of the world: he shall crush the heads in the land of many.|
|De torrente in via bibet: * propterea exaltabit caput.||He cometh now in humility: he shall drink in the way, of the torrent of sufferings: therefore, shall he lift up the head.|
|Ant. Dixit Dominus Domino meo, sede a destris meis.||Ant. The Lord said to my Lord, sit thou at my right hand.|
|Ant. Fidelium.||Ant. Faithful.|
|Ant. Argentum et aurum non est mihi: quod autem habeo, hoc tibi do.||Ant. Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give unto thee.|
|Confitebor tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo: * in consilio justorum et congregatione.||I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: in the council of the just, and in the congregation.|
|Magna opera Domini: * exquisita in omnes voluntates ejus.||Great are the works of the Lord: sought out according to all his wills.|
|Confession et magnificentia opus ejus: * et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.||His work is praise and magnificence: and his justice continueth for ever and ever.|
|Memoriam fecit mirabilium suorum, misericors et miserator Dominus: * escam dedit timentibus se.||He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord: he hath given food to them that fear him.|
|Memor erit in sæculum testamenti sui: * virtutem operum suorum annuntiabit populo suo.||He will be mindful for ever of his covenant with men: he will show forth to his people the power of his works.|
|Ut det illis hæreditatem Gentium: * opera manuum ejus veritas et judicium.||That he may give them, his Church, the inheritance of the Gentiles: the works of his hand are truth and judgment.|
|Fidelia omnia madata ejus, confirmata in sæculum sæculi: * facta in veritate et æquitate.||All his commandments are faithful, confirmed for ever and ever: made in truth and equity.|
|Redemptionem misit populo suo: * mandavit in æternum testamentum suum.||He hath sent Redemption to his people: he hath thereby commanded his covenant for ever.|
|Sanctum et terribile nomen ejus: * initium sapientiæ timor Domini.||Holy and terrible is his name: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.|
|Intellectus bonus omnibus facientibus eum: * laudatio ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.||A good understanding to all that do it: his praise continueth for ever and ever.|
|Ant. Fidelia omnia mandata ejus; confirmata in sæculum sæculi.||Ant. Faithful are all his commandments; confirmed for ever and ever.|
|Ant. In mandatis.||Ant. In his commandments.|
|Ant. Dixit angelus ad Petrum: Circumda tibi vestimentum tuum et sequere me.||Ant. The Angel said to Peter: Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.|
|Beatus vir, qui timet Dominum: *midast; in mandatis ejus volet nimis.||Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord; he shall delight exceedingly in his commandments.|
|Potens in terra erit semen ejus: * generatio rectorum benedicetur.||His seed shall be mighty upon earth; the generation of the righteous shall be blessed.|
|Gloria et divitiæ in domo ejus: * et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.||Glory and wealth shall be in his house: and his justice remaineth for ever and ever.|
|Exortum est in tenebris lumen rectis: * misericors, et miserator, et justus.||To the righteous a light is risen up in darkness: he is merciful, and compassionate, and just.|
|Jucundus homo, qui miseretur et commodat, disponet sermones suos in judicio: * quia in æternum non commovebitur.||Acceptable is the man that showeth mercy and lendeth; he shall order his words with judgment: because he shall not be moved for ever.|
|In memoria æterna erit justus * ab auditione mala non timebit.||The just shall be in everlasting remembrance: he shall not fear the evil hearing.|
|Paratum cor ejus sperare in Domino, confirmatum est cor ejus: * non commovebitur donec despiciat inimicos suos.||His heart is ready to hope in the Lord; his heart is strengthened: he shall not be moved until he look over his enemies.|
|Dispersit, dedit pauperibus, justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi: * cornu ejus exaltabitur in gloria.||He hath distributed, he hath given to the poor; his justice remaineth for ever and ever: his horn shall be exalted in glory.|
|Peccator videbit, et irascetur, dentibus suis fremet et tabescet: * desiderium peccatorum peribit.||The wicked shall see, and shall be angry; he shall gnash with his teeth, and pine away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.|
|Ant. In mandatis ejus cupit nimis.||Ant. In his commandments he delighteth exceedingly.|
|Ant. Sit nomen Domini.||Ant. May the name of the Lord.|
|Ant. Misit Dominus angelum suum, et liberavit me de manu Herodis. Alleluia.||Ant. The Lord hath sent his Angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod. Alleluia.|
|Laudate pueri, Dominum: * laudate nomen Domini.||Praise the Lord, ye children: praise ye the name of the Lord.|
|Sit nomen Domini benedictum: * ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.||Blessed be the name of the Lord: from henceforth now and for ever.|
|A solis ortu usque ad occasum: * laudabile nomen Domini.||From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise.|
|Excelsus super omnes Gentes Dominus: * et super cœlos gloria ejus.||The Lord is high above all nations: and his glory above the heavens.|
|Quis sicut Dominus Deus noster qui in altis habitat: * et humilia respicit in cœlo et in terra?||Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high: and looketh down on the low things in heaven and in earth?|
|Suscitans a terra inopem: * et de stercore erigens pauperem.||Raising up the needy from the earth: and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill.|
|Ut collocet eum cum principibus: * cum principibus populi sui.||That he may place him with princes: with the princes of his people.|
|Qui habitare facit sterilem in domo: * matrem filiorum lætantem.||Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.|
|Ant. Sit nomen Domini benedictum in sæcula.||Ant. May the name of the Lord be for ever blessed.|
|Ant. Nos qui vivimus.||Ant. We that live.|
|Ant. Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam.||Ant. Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.|
|Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes: laudate eum, omnes populi.||Praise the Lord, all ye gentiles: praise him, all ye peoples.|
|Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus: * et veritas Domini manet in æternum.||For his mercy is confirmed upon us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.|
|Capitulum (Acts, xii)|
|Misit Herodes rex manus, ut affligeret quosdam de Ecclesia. Occidit autem Jacobum fratrem Joannis gladio. Videns autem quia placeret Judæis, apposuit ut apprehenderet et Petrum.||Herod the king stretched out his hand to afflict some of the church; and he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also.|
Although touched up in the 17th century, according to the taste of that age, the Hymn which here follows magnificently expresses the glories of this day. This song of triumph was composed by Elpis, a Sicilian lady, aunt of St. Placid, Martyr, and wife of the Senator Boetius, the most illustrious representative of the gens Anicia, had not that family given to the Church at the same period the great Saint Benedict. The third Strophe, which in majestic strain hails the Queen-City, is taken (with a few modifications) from another poem attributed to St. Paulinus of Aquilæia, and was added to the work of Elpis by the immortal Pontiff St. Pius V.
|Decora lux æternitatis, auream
Diem beatis irrigavit ignibus,
Apostolorum quæ coronat principes,
Reisque in astra liberam pandit viam.
|Lo! beauteous Light Eternal floods, with sacred fires, this golden day which crowns the Princes of Apostles and opens out unto the guilty a free path to Heaven.|
|Mundi magister atque cœli janitor,
Romæ parentes, arbitrique gentium,
Per ensis ille, hic per crucis victor necem,
Vitæ senatum laureati possident.
|The Teacher of the whole earth, as well as the Door-keeper of Heaven, both of them Fathers of Rome, and Judges of nations, each a victor of death, the one by the sword, the other by the cross,—laurel-crowned, both take their seats in the Senate of Eternal Life.|
|O Roma felix, quæ duorum principum
Es consecrata glorioso sanguine,
Horum cruore purpurata cæteras
Excellis orbis una pulchritudines.
|O happy Rome, by noble gore of Princes twain art thou now consecrated; empurpled by the blood of such as these, thou alone in beauty dost surpass all the rest of the earth.|
|Sit Trinitati sempiterna gloria,
Honor, potestas atque jubilatio,
In unitate quæ gubernat omnia,
Per universa sæculorum sæcula.
|To the Trinity in Unity that governeth all things through ages of ages, may there be eternal glory, honor, power, and jubilation.|
|℣. In omnem terram exivit sonus eorum.||℣. Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth.|
|℟. Et in fines orbis terræ verba eorum.||℟. And their words unto the ends of the world.|
|Antiphon of the Magnificat|
|Tu es pastor ovium, princeps Apostolorum: tibi traditæ sunt claves regni cœlorum.||Thou art the Shepherd of the sheep, O Prince of the Apostles, to thee were delivered the keys of the kingdom of heaven.|
|Our Lady’s Canticle (Magnificat)
(St. Luke, i.)
|Magnificat: * anima mea Dominum:||My soul doth magnify the Lord.|
|Ex exsultavit spiritus meus: * in Deo salutari meo.||And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my savior.|
|Quia respexit humilitatem ancillæ suæ: * ecce enim ex hoc Beatam me dicent omnes generationes.||Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for, behold from henceforth all generations shall call me Blessed.|
|Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est: * et sanctum nomen ejus.||Because he that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is his name.|
|Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies: * timentibus eum.||And his mercy is from generation unto generation, to them that fear him.|
|Fecit potentiam in brachio suo: * dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.||He hath showed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.|
|Deposuit potentes de sede: * et exaltavit humiles.||He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble.|
|Esurientes implevit bonis: * et divites dimisit inanes.||He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.|
|Suscepit Israël puerum suum: * recordatus misericordiæ suæ.||He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy.|
|Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros: * Abraham et semini ejus in sæcula.||As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.|
The feast of every Apostle, during the year, was formerly a day of obligation. The Holy See in many instances having removed this precept, wished to compensate for it by ordering a commemoration to be made of all the holy Apostles, in the Mass and Office of the festival of Saints Peter and Paul. This may be considered, in some sense, a return to the ancient custom which treated the feast of the head of the Apostolic College as that of all the Apostles. As it is not used in England, we omit it.
The sun is bending towards the horizon. The Church is about to resume her chants, and to begin the sacred Vigil which will be continued until morning with all the pomp and continuity of the greatest solemnities. In heart, at least, let us keep watch with her. This night is the last during which the visible Head given to her by the Spouse, is fulfilling his ministry of prayer and suffering in Nero’s dungeons; so much the less, therefore, will she leave him, and so much the more eager is she to spend herself in extolling his greatness. When once again the day-star shall appear in the east, gilding with his rays those seven hills whereon the Queen of nations is seated, the hour of sacrifice will have sounded for the Vicar of the Man-God. Let us, then, prepare to form a part of the cortège, by representing to ourselves in thought the historic details of this glorious drama, and the facts which led to it.
Since the terrible persecution of the year 64, Rome had become for Peter a sojourn fraught with peril, and he remembered how his Master had said to him, when appointing him Shepherd of both lambs and sheep: Follow thou me. The Apostle, therefore, awaited the day when he must mingle his blood with that of so many thousands of Christians, whom he had initiated into the faith, and whose Father he truly was. But before quitting earth, Peter must triumph over Simon the Magician, his base antagonist. This heresiarch did not content himself with seducing sould by his perverse doctrines; he sought even to mimic Peter in the prodigies operated by him. So he proclaimed that on a certain day, he would fly in the air. The report of this novelty quickly spread through Rome, and the people were full of the prospect of such a marvellous sight. If we are to believe Dion Chrysostom, Nero seems even to have entertained at his court this wonderful personage, who pledged himself to soar aloft in mid-air. More than that, the emperor would even with his own presence honor this rare sight. The imperial lodge was reared upon the Via Sacra, where the scene was to be enacted. But cruel for the impostor did this deception prove. “Scarce had this Icarus begun to poise his flight,” says Suetonius, “than he fell close to Nero’s lodge which was bathed in his blood.” The gravest writers of Christian antiquity are unanimous in attributing to the prayer of Peter this humiliation inflicted on the Samaritan juggler in the very midst of Rome, where he had dared to set himself up as the rival of Christ’s Vicar.
The disgrace, as well as the blood of the heresiarch, had fallen on the emperor himself. Curiosity and ill-will but needed, therefore, to be combined, in order to attract personally upon Peter an attention that might prove disastrous. Moreover, be it remembered, there was yet another danger, and to this Saint Paul alludes, namely, the peril of false brethren. To understand this term and justly to appreciate the situation, we must bear in mind how inevitable are the clashings of certain characters in a society so numerous as was already that of the Christians in Rome; and how discontent is necessarily caused to vulgar minds when existing circumstances sometimes demand higher interests to be exclusively consulted, in the always difficult question of choosing persons to offices of trust, or to special confidence. These things well borne in mind, it will be easy to account for what Saint Clement, an eye-witness of the Apostle’s martyrdom, attests in a letter to the Corinthians, viz., that “rivalries and jealousies” had a large share in the tragic end brought about, through the suspicions that last conceived by the authorities against “this Jew.”
The filial devotedness of the Christians of Rome took alarm, and they implored Saint Peter to elude the danger for a while, by instant flight. “Although he would have much preferred to suffer,” says Saint Ambrose, Peter set out along the Appian Way. Just as he reached the Capuan gate, Christ suddenly presented himself, seemingly about to enter the city. “Lord, whither goest thou?” cried out the Apostle. “To Rome,” Christ replied, “to be there crucified again.” The disciple understood his Master; he at once retraced his steps, having now no thought but to await his hour of martyrdom. This Gospel-like scene expresses the sequel of our Lord’s designs upon the venerable old men. With a view to founding the Christian Church in unity, He had extended to his disciple his own prophetic name of the “Rock,” or “Stone,” Petrus; how, even unto the Cross itself, was He about to make him His participator. Rome having replaced Jerusalem must likewise have her Calvary.
In his flight, Peter dropped from his leg a bandlet which a disciple picked up, with much respect. A monument was afterwards raised on the spot where this incident occurred: it is now the Church of Saints Nereus and Achilles, anciently called Titulus fasciolæ, the Title of the bandlet. According to the designs of Providence the humble fasciola was to recall the memory of that momentous meeting at the gates of Rome, where Christ in person stood face to face with His Apostle, the visible Head of His Church, and announced that the hour of his sacrifice on the cross was at hand.
From that moment Peter set everything in order with a view to his approaching end. It was at this time he wrote his Second Epistle, which is, as it were, his last testament and loving farewell to the Church. Therein he declares that the close of his life is near, and compares his body to a temporary shelter, a tent which one takes down to a journey further on. The laying away of this my tabernacle is at hand, according as our Lord Jesus Christ also hath signified to me. These his words are evidently an allusion to the apparition on the Appian Way. But, before quitting this world, Peter must provide for the transmission of his pastoral charge and for the needs of Holy Church, now about to be widowed of her visible Head. To this he refers in these words: And I will do my endeavour, that after my decease, you may also often have whereby you may keep a memory of these things.
Into whose hands are those keys to pass, which he received from Christ, as a sign of his dominion over the whole flock? Linus had been for more than ten years and auxiliary of the holy Apostle in the midst of the Christians of Rome; the still further increase of the Faithful induced Peter to give Linus a colleague in the person of Cletus; yet on neither of these two did the choice of Peter fall at this solemn moment in which he was about to fulfil the promise contained in his farewell letter, to provide for the continuance of his ministry. Clement, whose nobility of birth recommended him to the consideration of the Romans, whilst, at the same time, his zeal and learning merited the esteem of the Faithful, was the one on whom the Prince of the Apostles fixed his choice. During these last days still remaining to him, Peter imposed hands on Clement, and having invested him with the Episcopal character, enthroned him in his own Chair, declaring his intention to have him for his successor. These facts, related in the Liber Pontificalis, are confirmed by the testimony of Tertullian and Saint Epiphanius.
Thus the quality of Bishop of Rome entailed that of Universal Pastor; and Peter must needs leave the heritage of the divine keys to him who should next occupy the See which he held at the moment of death. So had Christ ordained; and a heavenly inspiration had led Peter to choose Rome for his last station, Rome prepared long beforehand, by Providence, unto universal empire. Hence, at the moment when the supremacy of Peter passed to one of his disciples, no astonishment was manifested in the Church. It was well known that the Primacy was and must necessarily be a local heritage, and none ignored the fact that Rome herself was that spot made choice of by Peter long years before. Nor after Peter’s death, did it ever occur to the mind of any of the Christians to seek the center of holy Church either at Jerusalem, or at Alexandria, or at Antioch, or elsewhere.
The Christians in Rome made great account of the paternal devotedness he had lavished on their city. Hence their alarms, to which the Apostle once consented to yield. Saint Peter’s Epistles, so redolent of affection, bear witness to the tenderness of soul with which he was gifted to a very high degree. He is ever the Shepherd all devotedness to his sheep, fearing, above all else, anything savoring of a domineering tone; he is ever the Vicar effacing himself, so that nothing may transpire save the dignity and rights of Him whom he represents. This exquisite modesty is further increased in Peter, by the remembrance which haunts his whole life (as ancient writers say), of the sin he had committed and which he continues to deplore up to these closing days of extreme old age. Faithful ever to that transcending love of which his Divine Master had required him to make a triple affirmation, before confiding to him the care of His flock, he endured unflinchingly the immense labors of his office of Fisher of men. One circumstance of his life, which relates to this its closing period, reveals most touchingly the devotedness wherewith he clung to Him who had vouchsafed both to call to follow Him, and to pardon his fragility. Clement of Alexandria has preserved this detail, as follows.
Before being called to the apostolate, Peter had lived in the conjugal state: from that time forth his wife became but a sister in his regard; she nevertheless continued in his company, following him about from place to place, in his various journeys, in order to render him service. She was in Rome while Nero’s persecution was raging, and the hour of martyrdom thus sought her out. Peter watched her as she stepped forth on her way to triumph, and at that moment his solicitude broke out in this one exclamation: “Oh! bethink thee of the Lord.” These two Galileans had seen the Lord, had received Him into their house, had made Him their guest at table. Since then, the Divine Pastor had suffered on the cross, had risen again, had ascended into heaven, leaving the care of his Flock to the Fisherman of Lake Genesareth. What else then would Peter have his wife do at this moment, save to recall such sweet memories, and to dart forwards unto Him whom she had known here below in His Human Features, and who was now about to crown her hidden life with immortal glory!
The moment for entering into this same glory came at last for Peter himself. When thou shalt be old, mysteriously had his Master said to him, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not. So, Peter was to attain an advanced age; like his Master, he must stretch forth his arms upon a cross; he must know captivity and the weight of chains with which a foreigner’s hand will load him; he must be subjected, in its violent form, to death from which nature recoils, and drink the chalice from which even his Divine Master himself prayed to be spared. But like his Master also, he will arise strong in the divine aid, and will press forwards to the cross. Lo! this oracle is about to be accomplished to the letter.
On the day fixed by God’s decree, pagan power gave orders for the Apostle’s arrest. Details are wanting as to the judicial procedure which followed, but the constant tradition of the Roman Church is that he was incarcerated in the Mamertine Prison. By this name is known the dungeon constructed at the foot of the Capitoline hill, by Ancus Martius, and afterwards completed by Servius Tullus, whence it is also called Carcer Tullianus. Two outer staircases, called the steps of sighs, led to this frightful den. An upper dungeon gave immediate entrance to that which was to receive the prisoner and never to deliver him up alive, unless he were destined to a public execution. To be put into this horrible place, he had to be let down by cords, as though an opening above, and by the same was he finally drawn up again, whether dead or alive. The vaulting of this lower dungeon was high and its darkness was utter and horrible, so that it was an easy task to guard a captive detained therein, specially if he were laden with chains.
On the twenty-ninth of June, in the year sixty-seven, Peter was at length drawn up to be led to death. According to Roman law, he must first be subjected to the scourge, the usual prelude to capital punishment. An escort of soldiers conducted the Apostle to his place of martyrdom, outside the city walls as the laws required. Peter was marched to execution, followed by a large number of the Faithful, drawn by affection along his path, and for his sake defying every peril.
Beyond the Tiber, facing the Campus Martius, there stretches a vast plain, which is reached by the bridge named the Triumphal, whereby the city is put in communication with the Via Triumphalia and the Via Cornelia, both of which roads lead to the North. On its further side from the river, the plani is bounded on the left by the Januculum, and beyond that, in the background, by the Vatical hills whose chain continues along to the right in the form of an amphitheater. Along the bank fo the Tiber the land is occupied by immense gardens, which three years previously had been made by Nero the scene of the principal immolation of the Christians, just at this same season also. To the west of the Vatican Plain and beyond Nero’s gardens was a circus of vast extent, usually called by his name, although in reality it owes its origin to Caligula, who placed in its center an obelisk which he had transported from Egypt. Outside the Circus, towards its furthest end, rose a temple to Apollo, the protector of the public games. At the other end, the declivity of the Vatican hills begins, and about the middle, facing the Obelisk, was planted a turpentine tree well known to the people. The spot fixed upon for Peter’s execution was close to this said turpentine tree. There, likewise, was his tomb already dug. No other spot in all Rome could be more suitable for so august a purpose. From remotest ages, something mysterious had hovered over the Vatican. An old oak, said by the most ancient traditions to be anterior to the foundation of Rome, was there held in great reverence. There was much talk of oracles heard in this place. Moreover, where could a more choice resting-place be found for this old man who had just conquered Rome, than a mound beneath this venerated soil, opening upon the “Triumphal Way” and the “Cornelian Way,” thus uniting the memories of victorious Rome and the name of the Cornelii, which had now become inseparable from that of Peter?
There is something supremely grand in the taking possession of these places by the Vicar of the Man-God. The Apostle, having reached the spot and come up to the instrument of death, implored of his executioners to set him thereon, not in the usual way, but head downwards, in order, said he, that the servant be not seen in the same position once taken by the Master. His request was granted; and Christian tradition, in all ages, renders testimony to this fact which adds further evidence to the deep humility of so great an Apostle. Peter, with outstretched arms, prayed for the city, prayed for the whole world, the while his blood flowed down upon that Roman soil the conquest of which he had just achieved. At this moment Rome became forever the new Jerusalem. When the apostle had gone through the whole round of his sufferings, he expired; but he was to live again in each one of his Successors, unto the end of time.
Mass.—“The crowd is pressing more than usual, clad in festal garb; tell me, my friend, what means this concourse: all Rome is swaying to and fro, mad as it were with joy?—Because this day recalls a memory of a triumph the most gorgeous: Peter and Paul, both of them Victors in death sublime, have ennobled this day with their blood. Tiber, henceforth sacred, since he flows betwixt their tombs set on either bank, was witness of the cross and of the sword. Double trophy, double riches, claiming homage of the Queen-City; double solemnity on one day! Wherefore, behold the people of Romulus in two streams crossing one another, athwart the city! Let us haste our speed that we may be able to share in the two feasts; let us lose not one of these sacred hymns. First, let us pursue the way which leads to the Adrian bridge; yonder guilded roofs mark the spot where Peter reposes. There, at early dawn, the Pontiff offers his first vows. Hastening on and reaching the left bank, he comes presently to Paul’s tomb, there to offer once again the holy sacrifice. So remember, thus is honored this twice sacred day.”
It is Prudentius, the great Christian Poet of the Fourth Century, who has just come forward, in the above words, at witnesses of the enthusiasm wherewith the solemnity of the Apostles was celebrated in Rome at his time. Theodoret and St. Asterius of Amasea tell us that the piety of the Faithful on this feast was not less demonstrated in such distant Churches as those of Syria and Asia. In the codes which bear their name, Theodosius and Justianian lay down or repeat the prohibition of toil or trade, of law-suits and profane shows, on the day of the Martyrdom of the Apostles, the “Masters of Christendom.” In this respect even schism and heresy have not been suffered in the East to prevail over gratitude and love. Nearer home too, yea, in the very midst of the ruin brought about by the pretended reform in this protestant England of ours, its “Book of Common Prayer” still marks this feast of June 29th, and a fast, too, on its Vigil. Nevertheless, by a strange phenomenon, little in keeping with the tendencies of the “Establishment,” Saint Paul is discarded on this day, leaving all the festal honors to Saint Peter, of whom alone is mention made in the day’s service,—of him whose successor the Bishop of Rome is! whereas this same Anglican calendar retains no memory of St. Paul save the feast of his Conversion, January 25th.
The poem of Prudentius cited above brings to light a certain degree of difficulty formerly experienced by the Roman people, in order not to lose any part of the double station proper to this day. The distance was greed indeed from the Vatican Basilica to that on the Ostian Way; and the two streams of people to which the poet alludes, prove significantly that a great number of pilgrims, from the impossibility of their being present at both Masses, were reduced to the necessity of making choice of one or other. Added to this difficulty, let us remember, that the preceding night had not been without fatigue, if at that same period, as certainly was the case in later ages, the Matins of the Apostles begun at dusk, had been followed by those of the Martyrs at the first cock-crow. Saint Gregory the Great, wishing therefore to spare his people and clergy an accumulation of services which turned rather to the detriment than to the increase of honor paid to the two Princes of the Apostles, put off till the morrow the station on the Ostian Way, with its solemn Commemoration of the Doctor of the Gentiles. Consequently, it is not surprising that, save the Collect common to the two Apostles, the formulæ chanted at the Mass which is about to follow, relate exclusively to Saint Peter. This Mass was formerly on the first of the day, namely, the one which was celebrated in the early morning at the tomb of the Vicar of the Man-God.
The Bride is all brilliant today, gorgeously arrayed in sacred purple twice dyed in the one stream of generous blood. While the Pontiff is advancing to the altar, encircled by the divers Orders of Holy Church forming his noble cortège, the choir of singers intones the Antiphon of the Introit, alternating it with several verses of Psalm 138. This Psalm, which is to be found further on, at Second Vespers, is chosen in honor of the Holy Apostles, chiefly on account of the words of its seventeenth verse: To me thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honorable: their principality is exceedingly strengthened.
|Nunc scio vere quia misit Dominus Angelum suum: et eripuit me de manu Herodis, et de omni exspectatione plebis Judæorum.||Now I know in very deed, that the Lord hath sent his Angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.|
|Ps. Domine, probasti me, et cognovisti me: tu cognovisti sessionem mean et resurrectionem meam. ℣. Gloria Patri. Nunc scio.||Ps. Lord, thou hast proved me, and known me: thou hast known my sitting down, and my rising up. ℣. Glory, &c. Now I know.|
The Collect, which is repeated in each of the Hours of the Divine Office, is the principal formula chosen by the Church for each day. Herein her leading thought is always to be found. That which follows shows us that it is certainly the Church’s intention, on this day, to celebrate conjointly the two Princes of the Apostles, and to render to both unitedly the tribute of her devoted gratitude.
|Deus, qui hodiernam diem Apostolorum tuorum Petri et Pauli martyrio consecrasti: da Ecclesiæ tuæ, eorum in omnibus sequi præceptum, per quos religionis sumpsit exordium. Per Dominum.||O God, who hast consecrated this day by the martyrdom of thine Apostles Peter and Paul; grant to thy Church that she may in all things follow their instruction by whom she received the Faith. Through our Lord, &c.|
|Lectio Actuum Apostolorum.||Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.|
|Cap. XII.||Ch. XII.|
|In diebus illis: Misit Herodes rex manus, ut affligeret quosdam de ecclesia. Occidit autem Jacobum fratrem Joannis gladio. Videns autem quia placeret Judæis, apposuit ut apprehenderet et Petrum. Erant autem dies Azymorum. Quem cum apprehendisset, misit in carcerem, tradens quatuor quaternionibus militum custodiendum, volens post Pascha producere eum populo. Et Petrus quidem servabatur in carcere. Oratio autem fiebant sine intermissione ab ecclesia ad Deum pro eo. Cum autem producturus eum esset Herodes, in ipsa nocte erat Petrus dormiens inter duos milites, vinctus catenis duabus: et custodes ante ostium custodiebant carcerem. Et ecce angelus Domini astitit: et lumen refulsit in habitaculo: percussoque latere Petri, excitavit eum, dicens: Surge velociter. Et ceciderunt catenæ de manibus ejus. Dixit autem angelus ad eum: Præcingere, et calcea te caligas tuas. Et fecit sic. Et dixit illi: Circumda tibi vestimentum tuum, et sequere me. Et exiens sequebatur eum, et nesciebat quia verum est, quod fiebat per angelum: existimabat autem se visum videre. Transeuntes autem primam et secundam custodiam, venerunt ad portam ferream, quæ ducit ad civitatem: quæ ultro aperta est eis. Et exeuntes processerunt vicum unum: et continuo discessit angelus ab eo. Et Petrus ad se reversus, dixit: Nunc scio vere quia misit Dominus angelum suum, et eripuit me de manu Herodis, et de omni exspectatione plebis Judæorum.||In those days, Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to afflict some of the church. And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also. Now it was in the days of the Azymes. And when he had apprehended him, he cast him into prison, delivering him to four files of soldiers to be kept, intending, after the pasch, to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison. But prayer was made without ceasing by the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by him: and a light shined in the room: and he striking Peter on the side, raised him up, saying: Arise quickly. And the chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said to him: Gird thyself, and put on thy sandals. And he did so. And he said to him: Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And going out, he followed him, and he knew not that it was true which was done by the angel: but thought he saw a vision. And passing through the first and the second ward, they came to the iron gate that leadeth to the city, which of itself opened to them. And going out, they passed on through one street: and immediately the angel departed from him. And Peter coming to himself, said: Now I know in very deed, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.|
It would be difficult to insist more than does our today’s Liturgy on the episode of Peter’s captivity in Jerusalem. Several Antiphons and all the Capitula of this Office are drawn from thence; the Introit has just sung the same; and here our Epistle comes giving us every line of that which seems to interest the attention of Mother Church, in so special a manner today. The secret of her preference can easily be divined. This festival celebrates the fact, that peter’s death confirms the Queen of the Gentile world in her august prerogatives of Sovereign Lady, Mother, and Bride; but then, the starting point of all this greatness of hers was the solemn moment in which the Vicar of the Man-God, shaking the dust from off his feet over Jerusalem, turned his face westwards, and transferred to Rome those rights which the Synagogue had repudiated. Now it was on quitting Herod’s prison that all this happened. And going out of the city, says the Acts, he went into another place. This other place, according to the testimony of history and tradition, is no other than Rome, then about to become the new Sion, where Simon Peter arrived some weeks afterwards. Thus, catching up the angel’s word, the Gentile Church sings this night in one of her Responsories at Matins: “Peter, arise, and put on thy garments: gird thee with strength to save the nations; for the chains have fallen from off thy hands.”
Just as, in bygone days, Jesus, slept in the bark that was on the point of sinking, so Peter was sleeping quietly on the eve of the day doomed for his death. Tempests and dangers of all kinds are not spared, in the course of ages, to Peter’s successors. But never is there seen on the bark of Holy Church the dire dismay which held aghast the companions of Our Lord on that vessel tossed as it was by the wild hurricane. Faith was then lacking in the breasts of the disciples, and its absence was that which caused their terror. Since the descent of the Holy Ghost, however, this precious faith, whence all other gifts flow, can never be lost in the Church. Faith it is that imparts to superiors the calmness of their Divine Master; faith maintains in the hearts of the Christian people that uninterrupted prayer, whose humble confidence silently triumphs over the world and the elements, yea, even over God himself. Should the bark of Peter near the abyss, should the Pilot Himself seem to sleep, never will Holy Church imitate the disciples in the storm of Lake Genesareth. Never will she set herself up as judge of the due means and moments for Divine Providence, nor deem it lawful for her to find fault with him who is watching over all: remembering that she possesses within her a better and a surer means than any other, of bringing to a solution, and that without display or commotion, crises the most extreme; never ignoring, that if intercessory prayer falter not, the angel of the Lord will surely come at the given hour to awaken Peter and break his chains asunder.
Oh! how far more potent are a few souls that in their unobtrusive simplicity know how to pray, than all the policy and all the soldiers of a thousand Herods put together. That small community assembled in the house of Mary, mother of Mark, were few indeed in numbers; but thence, day by day and night by night, arose one continual prayer; fortunately, that fatal naturalism was unknown there, which under the specious pretext of not tempting God, refrains from asking of him the impossible, whenever there is question of the Church’s interests. This pest of naturalism is a domestic enemy harder far to grapple with, at a critical moment, than the crisis itself! To be sure, the precautions taken by Herod Agrippa not to suffer his prisoner to escape his hands, do credit to his prudence, and certainly it was an impossible thing asked for by Holy Church, when she begged the deliverance of Peter, at such a moment: so much so indeed, that even those who were praying, when their prayers were heard, did not at first believe their own eyes! But the prevailing force of their strength was just in that, namely, to hope against all hope, for what they themselves knew to be holy foolishness; that is to say, to submit in prayer the judgment of reason to the sole views of Faith!
The Gradual sings the power promised, in the sacred Epithalamium, to the companions and sons of the Bridegroom; they, too, have beheld numerous sons replacing the fathers whom they quitted, in order to follow Jesus.
The Alleluia Verse hails the Rock (Petrus) that supports the Church, on this glad day whereon it is fixed forever in its predestined place.
|Constitues eos principes super omnem terram: memores erunt nominis tui, Domine.||Thou shalt make them princes over all the earth: they shall remember thy name, O Lord.|
|℣. Pro patribus tuis nati sunt tibi filii: propterea populi confitebuntur tibi.||℣. Instead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee: therefore shall people praise thee.|
|Alleluia, alleluia.||Alleluia, alleluia.|
|℣. Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam. Alleluia.||℣. Thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church. Alleluia.|
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.||Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.|
|Cap. XVI.||Ch. XVI.|
|In illo tempore: Venit Jesus in partes Cæsareæ Philippi: et interrogabat discipulos suos, dicens: Quem dicunt homines esse Filium hominis? At illi dixerunt: Alii Joannem Baptistam, alii autem Eliam, alii vero Jeremiam, aut unum ex prophetis. Dicit illis Jesus: Vos autem, quem me esse dicitis? Respondens Simon Petrus dixit: Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi. Respondens autem Jesus, dixit ei: Beatus es Simon Bar Jona: quia caro et sanguis non revelavit tibi, sed Pater meus, qui in cælis est. Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam. Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum. Et quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in cælis: et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in cælis.||At that time Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.|
In the Epistle, Rome has celebrated the day on which Juda’s obstinacy in rejecting the Vicar of the Man-God won for the gentile Church the honors of the Bride. See how in joyous gratitude she now recalls the memory of that blissful moment when first earth hailed the Spouse by His divine title: Thou art Christ, Son of the Living God! Oh! happy word awaited for centuries, and for which John the Baptist has been preparing the Bride! But the Precursor himself had quitted the world ere its accents awakened an echo in earth too long dormant. His role was to bring the Word and the Church face to face; after that he was to disappear, as indeed he did, leaving the Bride to the spontaneity of her own effusions. Now is not the pure gold of the Divinity wherewith his Head is adorned, the first of the Beloved’s excellencies pointed out by the Bride in the sacred Canticle? Thus, therefore does she speak on the plains of Cesarea Philippi; and her organ is Simon Bar-Jona, who for having thus rendered her heart’s full utterance, remains forever the “Mouth of Holy Church.”
Faith and love with one accord, hereupon, constitute Peter Supreme and most ancient summit of Theologians, as Saint Denys calls him in his book of the Divine Names. First verily, both in order of time and in plenitude of dogma, he solves the problem, the involvable formula of which had stretched to the utmost the theology of prophetic times. “The words of him that gathereth the people,” said the Wise man, “the words of him who scattereth truths; the vision which the man spoke with whom God is, and who being strengthened by God abiding with him said: I have not learned wisdom … Who hath ascended up into heaven, and descended, so that he may know the name of Him who made the earth? And what is the name of His Son? Who can tell it?” Then, after this mysterious exordium, leading up to the mysterious question, the Wise man, without pursuing it further, concludes with a confiding reserve yet mingled with timidity: Every word of God is fire-tried: he is a buckler to them that hope in him. Add not anything to his words, lest thou be reproved and found a liar.
What then, O Peter, art thou more wise than Solomon? and can that which the Holy Ghost declared to be above all science, be confided as a secret to a poor fisherman? Yes, even so. None knowth the Father, but the Son; yet the Father Himself hath revealed to Simon the mystery of his Son, and the word which attests it may not be gainsaid. For that word is no lying addition to divine dogma: it is the oracle of Heaven which, passing through human lips, raises its happy interpreters above the level of mere flesh and blood. Like Christ, whose Vicar it causes him to become, his one mission is to be Heaven’s faithful echo here below,—that is, the Word of the Father. Here we have the entire Mystery of the Church, at once of heaven and of earth, and against which hell may not prevail.
The sacrificial rites are progressing in majestic splendor. While the basilica is still re-echoing which the sublime accents of the Credo which the apostles preached, and which rests on Peter, the Church arises bearing her gifts to the altar. At the sight of this long file of peoples and kings succeeding one the other in the dim mist of ages, paying fealty on this day to the crucified Fisherman, the choir resumes, but to a new melody, the verse of the psalm which has already in the Gradual hailed the supereminence of that Princedom created by Christ for the messengers of his Love.
|Constitues eos principes super omnem terram: memores erunt nominis tui, Domine, in omni progenie et generatione.||Thou shalt make them Princes over all the earth: they shall remember thy name, O Lord, throughout all generations.|
Earth’s gifts have no intrinsic worth whereby to merit the acceptance of Heaven. Therefore, the Church, in her Secret, begs the intervention of Apostolic prayer to render her offering pleasing in God’s sight. This prayer of the Apostles is, not only on this day, but always, our sure refuge and the remedy of our miseries. This same idea is also expressed in the beautiful Preface which follows. The Eternal Shepherd could never abandon his flock; but he continues to guard it by means of the blessed Apostles, who are themselves shepherds likewise, and guides, in his place, of the Christian people.
|Hostias, Domine, quas nomini tuo sacrandas offerimus, apostolica prosequatur oratio: per quam nos expiari tribuas et defendi. Per Dominum.||May the prayer of thine Apostles, O Lord, accompany the Sacrifice which we offer to thy name; and by the same prayer grant us to be purified and defended. Through, etc.|
|Preface of Apostles|
|Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare: te, Domine, suppliciter exorare, ut gregem tuum, Pastor æterne, non deseras, sed per beatos Apostolos tuos continua protectione custodias. Ut iisdem rectoribus gubernetur, quos operis tui vicarios eidem contulisti præesse pastores. Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia cœlestis exercitus, hymnum gloriæ tuæ canimus, sine fine dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.||It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, humbly to beseech thee, that thou, O Lord, our eternal Shepherd, wouldst not forsake thy flock, but keep it under thy continual protection, by thy blessed Apostles. That it may be governed by those whom thou hast appointed its vicars and pastors. And therefore with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominations, and with all the heavenly host, we sing an everlasting hymn to thy glory, singing: Holy, etc.|
The Church enjoys a taste in the sacred Banquet of the close relation there is between the Mystery of Love and the grand Catholic unity founded upon the Rock. She therefore sings:
|Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam.||Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.|
The Postcommunion returns to the thought of the immense power contained in Apostolic Prayer, being, as it is, the safeguard and very bulwark of Christians who are fed upon this heavenly food.
|Quos cœlesti, Domine, alimento satiasti, apostolicis intercessionibus ab omni adversitate custodi. Per Dominum.||Preserve, O Lord, from all adversity, by the intercession of thy Apostles, those whom thou hast fed with heavenly nourishment. Through, etc.|
This greatest of days for the eternal city is speeding its course; the solemn Office of Vespers is once more gathering the Faithful around the tomb, where the Vicar of the Man-God reposes after his toilsome sacrifice. No more of labor, of prisons, of chains, in the Church’s song: the work is done; Peter has ended his militant life; naught remains of the thousand phases through which this life of his was passed, nor of the combat that terminated it, but the eternal triumph. Therefore, the Liturgy of Vespers returns no more, as it did yesterday and this morning, to those glorious episodes in the history of Simon Bar-Jona, which were but preliminaries of the final victory won upon this day. Our Evensong is to celebrate results acquired, and to hail them in all their imposing and immutable grandeur. By extension, the five Psalms which follow, with their Antiphons, have become those of the Second Vespers common to all the Apostles; but they primarily refer to Peter and his illustrious companion Paul.
Peter, by the offering of himself, has entered within the Holy of Holies, the heavenly Sanctuary. Bathed in his own blood he has penetrated within the veil, and comprehends how he has thus confirmed forever the High priesthood which, this day, makes of him a perfect reproduction of Jesus, the true High Priest. The Church of earth sings in unison with that of heaven, these words in his honor:
|Ant. Juravit Dominus, et non pœnitebit eum: Tu es Sacerdos in æternum.||Ant. The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou art a Priest for ever.|
Ps. Dixit Dominus, above.
As the new Pontiff enters, invested in the Priesthood, not of Aaron, but of Christ their Supreme Head, the celestial hierarchies open their ranks, hailing his Principality which falls not short of their own.
|Ant. Collocet eum Dominus cum principibus populi sui.||Ant. Let the Lord place him with the princes of his people.|
Ps. Laudate pueri, above.
With still more reason than when quitting Herod’s prison, Peter may now exclaim to his Lord: Thou hast broken my chains. And forthwith entering upon his function of eternal Highpriest, in union with Jesus Christ, he adds: I will sacrifice unto thee the Sacrifice of praise.
|Ant. Dirupisti, Domine, vincula mea: tibi sacrificabo hostiam laudis.||Ant. O Lord, thou hast broken my bonds: I will sacrifice unto thee the sacrifice of praise.|
|Credidi, propter quod lucutus sum: * ego autem humiliatus sum nimis.||I have believed, therefore have I spoken: but I have been humbled exceedingly.|
|Ego dixi in excessu meo: * Omnis homo mendax.||I said in my excess: Every man is a liar.|
|Quid retribuam Domino: * pro omnibus quæ retribuit mihi?||What shall I render unto the Lord for all the things that he hath rendered unto me?|
|Calicem salutaris accipiam: * et nomen Domini invocabo.||I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the Name of the Lord.|
|O Domine, quia ego servus tuus: ego servus tuus, et filius ancillæ tuæ.||O Lord, for I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid.|
|Dirupisti vincula mea: tibi sacrificabo hostiam laudis, et nomen Domini invocabo.||Thou hast broken my bonds: I will sacrifice unto thee the sacrifice of praise, and I will call upon the Name of the Lord.|
|Vota mea Domino reddam in conspectu omnis populi ejus: * in atriis domus Domini, in medio tui Jerusalem.||I will pay my vows to the Lord in the sight of all his people: in the courts of the house of the Lord, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.|
|Ant. Dirupisti, Domine, vincula mea: tibi sacrificabo hostiam laudis.||Ant. O Lord, thou hast broken my bonds: I will sacrifice unto thee the sacrifice of praise.|
Now such should be for all of us, the encouragement offered by this feast: we who sow, at present, in tears, may promise ourselves a day wherein we shall reap in joy. Peter and Paul suffered more than we, along life’s road.
|Ant. Euntes ibant et flebant, mittentes semina sua.||Ant. Going they went and wept, casting their seed.|
|In convertendo Dominus captivitatem Sion: * facti sumus sicut consolati.||When the Lord brought back the captivity of Sion: we became like men that are comforted.|
|Tunc repletum est gaudio os nostrum: * et lingua nostra exsultatione,||Then was our mouth filled with gladness: and our tongue with joy.|
|Tunc dicent inter gentes: * Magnificavit Dominus facere curm eis.||Then shall they say among the Gentiles: The Lord hath done great things for them.|
|Magnificavit Dominus facere nobiscum: * facti sumus lætantes.||The Lord hath done great things for us: we are become joyful.|
|Converte, Domine, captivitatem nostram: * sicut torrens in austro.||Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as a stream in the south.|
|Qui seminant in lacrymis: * in exsultatione metent.||They that sow in tears: shall reap in joy.|
|Euntes ibant et flebant: * mittentes semina sua.||They went forth on their way and wept: casting their seed.|
|Venientes autem venient cum exsultatione: * portantes manipulos suos.||But returning they shall come with joyfulness: carrying their sheaves with them.|
|Ant. Euntes ibant et flebant, mittentes semina sua.||Ant. Going they went and wept, casting their seed.|
For our two Apostles, a day whose sun knoweth no setting, hath arisen; after the fatiguing march, after all those tears, lo! now rest eternal in the power and glory of God himself! For that God who already called them His friends even here below, now gives them in virtue of this title, a participation in all his goods.
|Ant. Confortatus est principatus eorum, et honorati sunt amici tui, Deus.||Ant. Their principality is strengthened, and thy friends, O God, are made honorable.|
|Domine, probasti me et cognovisti me: * tu cognovisti sessionem meam et resurrectionem meam.||O Lord, thou hast proved me and known me: thou hast known my sitting down and my rising up.|
|Intellexisti cogitationes meas de longe: * semitam meam et funiculum meum investigasti.||Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off: my path and my line thou hast searched out.|
|Et omnes vias meas prævidisti: * quia non est sermo in lingua mea.||And thou hast foreseen all my ways: for there is no speech in my tongue.|
|Ecce, Domine, tu cognovisti omnia, novissima et antiqua: * tu formasti me, et posuisti super me manum tuam.||Behold, O Lord, thou hast known all things, the newest and those of old: thou hast formed me and hast laid thine hand upon me.|
|Mirabilis facta est scientia tua ex me: * confortata est, et non potero ad eam.||Thy knowledge is become wonderful to me: it is high, and I cannot reach to it.|
|Quo ibo a spiritu tuo? * et quo a facie tua fugiam?||Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face?|
|Si ascendero in cœlum, tu illic es: * si descendero in infernum, ades.||If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present.|
|Si sumpsero pennas meas diluculo: * et habitavero in extremis maris:||If I take my wings early in the morning: and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea:|
|Etenim illuc manus tua deducet me: * et tenebit me dextera tua.||Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.|
|Et dixi: Forsitan tenebræ conculcabunt me: * et nox illuminatio mea in deliciis meis.||And I said, perhaps darkness shall cover me: and night shall be my light in my pleasures.|
|Quia tenebræ non obscurabuntur a te, et nox sicut dies illuminabitur: * sicut tenebræ ejus, ita et lumen ejus.||But darkness shall not be dark to thee, and night shall be light as the day: the darkness and the light thereof are alike to thee.|
|Quia tu possedisti renes meos: * suscepisti me de utero matris meæ.||For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast protected me from my mother’s womb.|
|Confitebor tibi quia terribiliter magnificatus es: * mirabilia opera tua, et anima mea cognoscit nimis.||I will praise thee, for thou art fearfully magnified: wonderful are thy works, and my soul knoweth them right well.|
|Non est occultatum of meum a te, quod fecisti in occulto: * et substantia mea in inferioribus terræ.||My bone is not hid from thee, which thou hast made in secret: and my substance in the lower parts of the earth.|
|Imperfectum meum viderunt oculti tui, et in libro tuo omnes scribentur: * dies formabuntur, et nemo in eis.||Thine eyes did see my imperfect being, and in thy book all shall be written: days shall be formed, and no one in them.|
|Mihi autem nimis honorificati sunt amici tui, Deus: * nimis confortatus est principatus eorum.||But to me thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honorable: their principality is exceedingly strengthened.|
|Dinumerabo eos, et super arenam multiplicabuntur: * exsurrexi et adhuc sum tecum.||I will remember them, and they shall be multiplied above the sand: I rose up and am still with thee.|
|Si occideris, Deus, peccatores: * viri sanguinum, declinate a me:||If thou wilt slay the wicked, O God, ye men of blood depart from me:|
|Quia dicitis in cogitatione: * accipient in vanitate civitates tuas.||Because you say in thought to Satan the prince of this world: They shall receive thy cities in vain.|
|Nonne qui oderunt te Domine, oderam? * et super inimicos tuos tabescebam?||Have I not hated them, O Lord, that hated thee: and pined away because of thine enemies.|
|Perfecto odio oderam illos: * et inimici facti sunt mihi.||I have hated them with a perfect hatred: and they are become as enemies unto me.|
|Proba me, Deus, et scito cor meum: * interrogata me, et cognosce semitas meas.||Prove me, O God, and know my heart: examine me, and know my paths.|
|Et vide si via iniquitatis in me est: * et deduc me in via æterna.||And see if there be in me the way of iniquity: and lead me in the way eternal.|
|Ant. Confortatus est principatus eorum, et honorati sunt amici tui, Deus.||Ant. Their principality is strengthened, and thy friends O God, are made honorable.|
The Capitulum and Hymn are the same as at First Vespers, above. The Church then, in the Versicle, brings prominently before us the divine knowledge which the Apostles received and communicated to earth.
|℣. Annuntiaverunt opera Dei.||℣. They declared the works of God.|
|℟. Et facta ejus intellexerunt.||℟. And understood his doings.|
The following Antiphon is a worthy crown to all these songs consecrated by the queen of the nations, to the honor of her two Princes. The melody to which it is set is admirably suited to the triumphal events which render this day so nobly illustrious, in the eyes of heaven and earth.
|Antiphon of the Magnificat|
|Hodie Simon Petrus ascendit crucis patibulum, alleluia: hodie clavicularius regni gaudens migravit ad Christum: hodie Paulus Apostolus, lumen orbis terræ, inclinato capite pro Christi nomine martyrio coronatus est. Alleluia.||This day, Simon Peter ascended the gibbet of the cross, Alleluia. This day, the Keeper of heaven’s keys went on his way to Christ with joy. This day the Apostle Paul, the light of the world, laying down his head for the name of Christ, was crowned with martyrdom. Alleluia.|
|The Canticle (Magnificat), above.
|Deus qui hodiernam diem Apostolorum tuorum Petri et Pauli martyrio consecrasti: da Ecclesiæ tu7aelig; eorum in omnibus sequi præceptum, per quos religionis sumpsit exordium. Per Dominum.||O God, who hast consecrated this day by the martyrdom of thine Apostles Peter and Paul; grant to thy Church that she may in all things follow their instruction by whom she received the faith. Through our Lord. &c.|
We here couple with the above glorious Magnificat Antiphon, another which was deservedly prized by our forefathers, for its beauty.
|Dum duceretur Petrus Apostolus ad crucem, repletus gaudio magno, dixit: Non sum dignus ita esse in cruce, sicut Dominus meus, qui de Spiritu Sancto conceptus est, me autem de limo terræ ipse formavit: nam crux mea caput meum in terra debet ostendere. At illi verterunt crucem, et pedes ejus sursum confixerunt, manus vero deorsum. Dum esset Petrus in cruce, venit turba multa maledicens Cæsarem, et fecerunt planctum magnum ante crucem. Petrus exhortabatur eos de cruce, dicens: nolite flere, sed gaudete mecum, quia ego hodie vado vobis parare locum. Et cum hoc dixisset, ait: Gratias tibi ago, Pastor bone, quia oves quas tradidisti mihi, compatiuntur mecum: peto namque, ut participentur mecum de gratia tua in sempiternum.||When Peter the apostle was being led to the cross, filled with great joy he exclaimed: I am not worthy, to be so fixed upon the cross, as was my Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, whereas he formed me out of the slime of the earth: even so should my cross point my head downwards to the earth. Therefore did they reverse the cross, and crucify his feet upwards and his hands downwards. Whilst Peter was hanging on the cross, a crowd gathered around him, cursing Cæsar and making much wailing before the cross. Peter exhorted them from the cross, saying: “Weep not, but rejoice with me, because this day I go to prepare a place for you.” And when he had said this, he added: “I give thanks to thee, O Good Shepherd, because the sheep that thou didst confide to me, compassionate with me: lo! now I beseech thee that they may be participators with me also in thy grace for ever.”|
We must here set before the reader, the entire poem from which the strophe O Roma felix is taken. Other strophes of this same Hymn, namely, the fourth and the fifth, are likewise used on the two Feasts of St. Peter’s Chair, and on that of his Chains.
From end to end of earth, excelleth in gladsomeness, this happy Feast of Blessed Peter and most holy Paul, Apostles, whom Christ in his precious Blood did consecrate and depute to be Princes of the Church.
Two olives these, before the Lord, and candelabra radiant all with light, two brilliant luminaries these of heaven; they burst asunder stoutest bonds of sins, and throw open to the Faithful, the gates of Heaven.
Potent they, to close by word alone abodes supernal, or to open wide heaven’s refulgent portals, yonder, above . the their tongues are made to be keys of Heaven ; they drive off, beyond earth’s utmost limits, ghosts and specters.
Blessed Peter, by Christ’s behest, doth wondrously burst all bonds of chains; Keeper of the Fold is he, and Teacher of the Church; Shepherd too of the Flock; Guardian of all things, he withholds the savage rage of wolves.
Whatsoever, on earth, he may with fetters bind, shall in heaven be all tightly bound: and what, on earth, by his free will, he may loosen, shall be loosed, in Heaven. At the end of the world, judge shall he be of all the universe.
Nor less than he, is Paul, Doctor of the Gentiles, most sacred Temple of election, his compeer in death, his sharer in the crown, as both of them lights and adornments of the Church; with rays resplendent, they light up the whole earth.
O happy Rome! that art impurpled with the precious blood of such great Princes! It is not by thine own glory, that thou surpassest all the beauty of the world, but by the merits of these holy ones whom thou didst immolate with thy bloodstained sword.
Ye then, glorious Martyrs, Peter the Blessed, and Paul the Lily of the world, triumphant warriors of the heavenly court, by your peerless prayers defend us from all evil and bear us up yonder, beyond the ether skies.
Glory be to the Father, through endless ages: to Thee, Son, beauty, empire, honour, power, as likewise to the Holy Ghost: Hail to the undivided Trinity, through countless ages of ages. Amen.
We shall return during the ensuing days, to the formulæ of homage paid by the West to her two Princes. It behooves us now to turn our ear, for a while, to the sweet accents of the Eastern Churches; let us lovingly hearken to these echoes of the primitive faith, which, by happy inconsistency, have not been stifled even in mouths poisoned by schism. Let us first listen to the Syrian Church all inebriated with the generous blood of these two clusters of rich grapes, which being this day trodden in Nero’s Wine-press, the whole earth has been saturated therewith. She blends the perfumes of her praises with the fragrance that curls from these two golden censers; she hails these two witnesses of the Spouse, to whom the Sulamitess is indebted for the end put to her loneliness. Then striving to particularise the singular merits of each, she extols Peter, the foundation-stone of the Church, Head of his brethren, Peter who feeds both sheep and lambs, and teaches to all the divine Alleluia.
Let us study the following Hymn and Prayer of the Night Office. Exquisite indeed is their beauty, despite the impious Eutyches, to whom is chiefly due that separation which holds aloof from Mother Church, nations so fitted to be her glory.
Simon the Fisherman been himself caught in the net of Christ; henceforth, men even as fish are caught by Simon who brings them to life. O’er Rome herself, hath he cast his net, and hath drawn it up filled; the lioness hath he bound like a sheep, leading her to the Church; and she presently taking idols in horror, hath turned her back upon molten things, to adore the Cross of the Redeemer. Blessed is He, who did choose the Apostles and did make their name illustrious.
How sweet the voice of Jesus, to Simon, the Prince, when of the Priesthood, he said: “Behold, I appoint thee over all my house, and to thee I commit my heavenly Treasure, the keys likewise of the High Places and of the Abyss . What thou dost bind, that do I bind also: what thou dost loose, that do I loosen, together with thee; if thou pray for sinners, thou shalt be heard!
“If thou love me, Simon, Son of John, feed my sheep; by faith make whole that which is broken; by heavenly medicines heal the sick; by the cross, drive off the wolves, gathering the lambs into the sheep-fold of life; then will the celestial hosts cry out from on high: Blessed is he who hath magnified his Church!”
Before Him who hath chosen you, Apostles, stand as suppliants and implore : that schisms may cease, in the Church, and strifes among brethren; for lo! sophists are prowling round about us, yea and deceivers, obscuring faith. Let thy Church, Lord, in which is thy Gospel Word, be as a crucible trying speeches, even as gold is proved in the furnace; and let thy Priests chastely sing forth: “Blessed is He who hath magnified his Church!”
The Armenian Church joins her voice to the concert. In her Charagan, or collection of Hymns, she intones as follows, in honour of the Princes of the Apostles.
PETRI ET PAULI CANON
Gladsome is the holy Church of God, this day, firmly built up, as she is, on the rock of faith, the while she hails the Apostles who have adorned her with precious necklaces in honour of the Word made Flesh. One of whom, enlightened by the Father, from on high, hath proclaimed the ineffable nature of the Only Begotten, and therefore blessed by grace, hath merited to be made the rock against which the gates of hell cannot prevail: the other, although yet a sojourner on earth, hath been found soaring beyond the angelic legions in their incorporeal flight, and therefore indeed worthy that Divine Wisdom should ravish him unto the heavenly tabernacles.
Lord, who (from amongst all the other Apostles chosen by thee,) hast singled out blessed Peter to be the Head of Faith, and Foundation of the Church; O thou, who by a divine call, didst raise up the Vessel of election, unto the Apostolate, so that revealing unto him the hidden Mystery of Christ, he himself might call the Gentiles to salvation; O thou who by these two chosen ones, these two luminaries of earth, hast consolidated thy Church; by their intercession, do thou, Christ, mercy on us.
The want of space will not permit us to continue the citation any farther. Still we cannot resist gathering a few pearls from the boundless sea in which the Greek Liturgy is wont to revel. Besides, it is worth our while to prove how, notwithstanding more than one fraudulent alteration, Byzantium up to this very day in her Liturgical texts, condemns her own schism; Peter is still proclaimed by her, the Rock and Foundation of faith, the Sovereign basis, the Prince and Premier of the Apostles, the Governor and Head of the Church, The Bearer of the keys both of grace and of the Heavenly Kingdom. (Menæa, passim)
MENSIS JUNII DIE XXIX
In festivitate sanctorum, illustrium et maxime memorabilium apostolrum ac majorum coyphæorum Petri et Pauli.
Joy hast thou given to thy Church in thy holy Apostles, O God, thou Lover of men! In their midst, Peter and Paul stand out magnificently resplendent, blazing like two spiritual torches, or like two intellectual stars, whose rays are shed over the whole earth, whereby thou hast illumined the darkness of the West, thou potent Jesus, Redeemer of our souls.
Thou hast bestowed stability upon thy Church, Lord, by the solidity of the rock, Peter, and by the knowledge and splendid wisdom of Paul. O Peter, thou famous corypheus of Apostles, thou Rock of Faith; and thou, admirable Paul, thou Doctor and Light of Churches: standing before the divine Throne, do ye intercede for us, with Christ.
Let us blithely hail, throughout the whole universe, these disciples of Christ, these two coryphei, Peter and Paul: Peter, the Foundation-stone and Rock; ‘ and thou also, Paul, vessel of Election. Both of you, as it were, under the one yoke of Christ, did bring all to the confession of God, to wit, nations, cities, islands. Foundation-stone of Faith, delight of the world, confirm the sheep-fold ye have won over unto Christ your Ruler.
Peter, thou who dost feed the sheep, protect the flocks of thy fold, from the fraudulent wolf; keep thy servants from dire falls: for, thee have we obtained from God, to be our vigilant protector, and we are made safe by our joy in thee.
Paul, Torch of the earth, incomparable Mouth of Christ, the Living God, who like to a sun dost illumine the uttermost bounds by thy preaching of divine faith, burst the chains of sins for those who call upon thee in love, and who would fain imitate thee, confiding in thy protection.
Blessed do I call thee, Rome; to thee be praise, honour, glory, and concert of hymns: for in thee are preserved the bodies of the two coryphei; in thee the divine doctrines of men, who are such great luminaries; sacred remains of incorruptible vessels. most excellent Leader of Apostles, chief President, and Dispenser of the royal Treasure-house, Foundation-stone of all the Faithful, solidity, plinth, seal, and crown of the Catholic Church, Peter, thou lover of Christ, lead thy sheep to the best of pastures, put thy lambs in the grassy field.
O Peter, we also hail thy glorious tomb! Well does it behoove us, thy chosen sons of the West, to celebrate with faith and love the glories of this day. If all nations are moved at the tidings of thy triumphant death ; if all tongues proclaim that from Rome perforce must the Law of the Lord come forth, unto the whole world ; is it not because this death of thine has turned Babylon into that City of divine oracles hailed by the son of Amos, in his prophecy? (Isaias 2:1-5) Is it not because the mountain prepared, in distant ages, to bear the House of the Lord, begins to peer from out the mist, and now stands forth in full day-light to the eyes of the nations? The site of the new Sion is for ever fixed; for on this day, is the corner-stone laid, (Isaias 28:16) and Jerusalem is to have no other foundation, than this tried and precious Stone.
Peter, on thee must we build; for fain are we to be dwellers in the Holy City. We will follow our Lord’s counsel, (Matthew 7:24-27) by raising our structure upon the rock, so that it may resist the storm, and may become an eternal abode. Our gratitude to thee, who hast vouchsafed to uphold us, is all the greater, since this our senseless age, pretends to construct a new social edifice, which it would fix on the shifting sands of public opinion, and hence realizes naught save downfall and ruin! Is the stone rejected by our modern architects any the less, head of the corner? And does not its strength appear in the fact (as it is written) that having rejected and cast it aside, they stumble against it and are hurt, yea broken? (1 Peter 2:6, 8)
Standing erect, amid these ruins, firm upon the foundation, the rock against which the gates of hell cannot prevail, as we have all the more right to extol this day, on which the Lord hath, as our Psalm says established the earth. (Psalms 92:1) The Lord did indeed manifest his greatness, when he cast the vast orbs into space, and poised them by laws so marvelous, that the mere discovery thereof does honour to science ; but his reign, his beauty, his power, are far more stupendous when he lays the basis prepared by him to support that temple of which a myriad worlds scarce deserve to be called the pavement. Of this immortal day, did Eternal Wisdom sing, when divinely foretasting its pure delights, and preluding our gladness, he thus led on our happy chorus: “When the mountains with their huge bulk were being established, and when the earth was being balanced on its poles, when he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters, when he laid the foundations of the earth, I was with him, forming all things; and was delighted every day playing before him at all times; playing in the world, for my delights are to be with the children of men.” (Proverbs 8)
Now that Eternal Wisdom is raising up, on thee, O Peter, the House of her mysterious delights, (Proverbs 9) where else could we possibly find Her, or be inebriated with her chalice, or advance in her love? Now that Jesus hath returned to heaven, and given us thee to hold his place, is it not henceforth from thee, that we have the words of Eternal Life? (John 6:69) In thee, is continued the mystery of the Word made Flesh and dwelling amongst us. Hence, if our religion, our love of the Emmanuel hold not on to thee, they are incomplete. Thou thyself, also, having joined the Son of Man at the Right Hand of the Father, the cultus paid unto thee, on account of thy divine prerogatives, reaches the Pontiff, thy Successor, in whom thou continuest to live, by reason of these very prerogatives: a real cultus, extending unto Christ in his Vicar, and which consequently cannot possibly be fitted into a subtile distinction between the See of Peter, and him who occupies it. In the Roman Pontiff, thou art ever, Peter, the one sole Shepherd and support of the world. If our Lord hath said: No one cometh to the Father but by Me; we also know that none can reach the Lord, save by thee. How could the Bights of the Son of God, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, suffer in such homages as these paid by a grateful earth unto thee? No we cannot celebrate thy greatness, without at once, turning our thoughts to Him, likewise, whose sensible sign thou art, an august Sacrament, as it were. Thou seemest to say to us, as heretofore unto our fathers by the inscription on thine ancient statue: Contemplate the God Word, the Stone divinely CUT IN THE GOLD, UPON WHICH BEING FIRMLY FIXED I CANNOT BE SHAKEN! (Deum Verbum intumini, auro divinitus sculptam petram, in qua stabilitus non concutior.- Dom Mabillion, Vetera analecta, t. iv)
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)