Today is the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter. This day also begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Today we will celebrate Holy Eucharist at 12:00 p.m. (noon). Also, we will be led in Evening Prayer by Reader Jeff Brown tonight at 7 p.m.
THE CONFESSION OF ST. PETER
The beginning of the ministry of the Apostle Peter at Rome has been commemorated in that city from ancient times. The feast, known as the ‘Chair of Peter’, is a reminder of the chair or cathedra on which a bishop sits and teaches. The traditional readings for the day include Peter’s acclamation of Jesus, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’, a confession which has given its name to this commemoration. Since 29 June may be observed as the Feast of both Peter and Paul, today’s feast allows Peter to be commemorated alone, and mirrors the remembrance of Paul a week later. These two days, the Confession of Peter and the Conversion of Paul, bracket the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. As Paul’s conversion reminds us that we are united in a call to proclaim Jesus among the nations, so Peter’s confession reminds us that we are united in proclaiming the divine revelation of Jesus Christ, ‘the Son of the living God’.
A READING FROM A SERMON BY ST. LEO THE GREAT
The Lord once asked the apostles what people thought of him. As long as they related the uncertainties of the foolish about him, they all said the same. But when Jesus asked the disciples what they themselves actually thought, it was the man who held first place among the apostles who was first to confess the Lord.
Peter declared, ‘You are the Christ, the son of the living God.’ To this Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’ In other words, you are blessed because my Father has taught you this. You have not been deceived by the opinions of the world, but informed by heavenly inspiration; it was not flesh and blood, but the One whose Son I am who has revealed this to you.
Jesus continued, ‘And I tell you’, meaning, that as my Father has revealed to you my divinity, so I will now make known to you your high position: ‘that you are Peter.’ What Jesus means is that I am the secure rock, the cornerstone which unites, that foundation which no one else can ever lay. But you Peter also are a rock because by my strength you are made firm, with the result that you and I share together those things which are my special prerogative by right.
‘And on this rock I shall build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ On this strong foundation, Jesus says, I will build an everlasting temple and my church will rise high to heaven upon the strength of this faith. The gates of hell will not imprison this confession, nor the chains of death bind it. Your voice is the voice of life: as it lifts up to heaven those who confess it, so it plunges into hell those who deny it. That is why Jesus said to blessed Peter, ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’
The right to this power was handed on to the other apostles and the provisions of this decree have been passed on to all the leaders of the church. But it was not an idle gesture to put into one person’s keeping what was to be communicated to all. This commission was given to Peter in particular because the example of Peter is placed before all the leaders of the church.
THE COLLECT FOR THE CONFESSION OF ST. PETER
Almighty God, who inspired your apostle Saint Peter to confession Jesus as Christ and Son of the living God: build up your Church upon this rock, that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth and follow one Lord, your Son our Saviour Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.