There is often much confusion over the saints whose memories we celebrate today.
It is often said, especially by our brothers and sisters in the West, that Peter founded the Church in
. This is not true. Peter founded the Church in Rome , the place where Saint Luke records that the disciples of our Lord were first called Christians. Antioch
The Church of Rome was founded by
. This is the reason that he wrote his epistle to the Romans – the people there were his spiritual children. Peter did not write to the people of Saint Paul . It is believed that Peter was in fact illiterate, and ‘dictated’ his memories and thoughts to Saint Mark, who wrote them down in a Gospel, and later wrote from such dictation the epistles of Peter. Rome
It is also claimed that since Peter founded the church of Rome (which we now see to be untrue), this somehow gives the Church of Rome a primacy, a place of authority over the other churches. This also is clearly not true. If it were, the
should be capable of making this claim – a condition which has never occurred. Church of Antioch
This ‘authority’ is based upon the reading we just finished from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, wherein Peter’s confession that our Lord is in fact the Christ, the Son of the Living God is met with words from our Lord in praise of the statement. Note that we do not conclude that the Lord’s words are in praise of the man, but of the understanding and wisdom that was granted by the Holy Spirit to men, to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the true Son of God. This is the unanimous interpretation of all the Church Fathers throughout the history of the Church, and it is borne witness to by the writings left to us from Blessed Augustine.
This later distortion clearly is foolishness, implying that there is no Church without Peter!
Further, when our Lord was preparing for His Ascension, He ‘restored’ Peter for the three denials, asking “Do you love Me?”, and then commanding in return, “Feed My sheep.” Jesus did not command Peter, “Feed YOUR sheep,” for the Church is the faithful, and the faithful are not Peter’s, they (we) belong to the Lord!
Another distortion often applied to this Feast is that somehow Peter represents the Church of the West, and Paul the Church of the East. This also is untrue, and an invention that is very recent indeed. Both Apostles were Jews, both came from the east, and went to the west. In the words of the Apostle Paul himself, the Church is not ‘of Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas’ (1Cor 2:12), but the Church is Christ’s, it is His Body!
Such discussions attempt to legitimize a ‘separation’, a division of the Church. Division within the Church is not possible. Christ is not “divided,” and therefore neither is His Body, the Church. If we see ‘division’, we must recognize it for what it is – a falling away from the truth, and not “division”! We will pray shortly the Creed, in which we say that we believe in “One Holy, Catholic and
.” We say each time we pray this prayer that we believe in truth that the Church is One! For the Lord is One, God is One in Trinity. And it will remain this way until the end of time! Apostolic Church
So, what can we say of Peter and Paul? Certainly, they were very different fellows. Peter was one of the twelve. Paul had none of those experiences or direct memories of walking with the Lord in His ministry, for Paul was converted after the Ascension. Peter was a simple fisherman, and as we’ve stated, most likely illiterate. Paul was educated in the
, a highly educated rabbi. Peter was a common man under domination of the Romans. Paul was a Roman citizen. Peter’s name, Simon, meant “he who obeys,” and was changed by our Lord to Peter, “the rock.” Paul’s real name was Saul, meaning “the destroyer,” and was changed to Paul, which in Latin meant “short in height.” Perhaps he was another Zacchaeus! Temple
Peter renounced our Lord three times before His crucifixion, and this resulted in his triple repentance after the Resurrection in response to our Lord’s question, “Do you love Me?” Paul persecuted the Church, taking part in the martyring of the first martyr of the Church, Saint Stephen. Peter spent his life in ministry traveling to convert the Jews. Paul traveled wherever he could, becoming known as “the Apostle to the Gentiles.”
Despite all of these differences, there was one core element in common between the two. They were both obedient, both repenting for their failings and sins, and they both shared in the crowns of martyrdom, with tradition holding that they both gave their lives on this same day.
In this, they together show us the path to salvation – a path paved with great faith and repentance, living a life in accordance with the will of our Savior!
It’s a glorious Feast!