Orthodox Christian Church of the Holy Spirit
Orthodox Church in America - Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
145 N. Kern St Beavertown PA, 17813
Sts. Peter and Paul, Chiefs of the Apostles

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today the Church commemorates the two chief princes of the Church – Sts. Peter and Paul.  Their mutual preeminence in the Church is expressed iconographically with them standing together holding the Church in their hands: Peter the Apostle to the Jews and Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.  Peter having walked with our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ from the earliest of days and Paul a “Johnny-come-lately,” self-described as “one born out of due time.”  He confesses, “I am the least of the Apostles, not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am,” he confides (1 Cr. 15:8-10).  

Now, one might be wondering why it is today we celebrate these two glorious saints and the answer is quite simple: their feast concludes the Apostles’ Fast.  The Church has been doing so since around the fourth century or earlier.  However, you may have noticed we didn’t have an Apostles’ Fast this year due to the lateness of Pascha.  We went directly from Pentecost into a fast free week that now concludes with today’s Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.    

The Faith of Peter is the Faith of Paul is the Faith of all believers of every time and every place.  It is “the Faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Ju. 1:3).  St. Peter’s confession of faith this morning which we heard in the Holy Gospel is at once both fundamental to the Church and her foundation: “’Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’” he declares without hesitation when asked by our Lord to which Jesus replies, “’Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father Who is in Heaven’” (Mt. 16:13-19).  Peter’s faith – as is ours as well as the Apostle Paul’s – is of divine revelation (Ga. 1:12; Ep. 3:3).  This divine revelation of Jesus Christ is absolutely fundamental for the entire life of the Church and it – or rather He – is the foundation or chief cornerstone of the Church of the Apostles (Ep. 2:20; 1 Pe. 2:6).  In fact, St. Paul assures us in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, there is no other foundation laid or that can be laid except Jesus Christ (1 Cr. 3:11).     

It is this Jesus, then, Who is central to the Faith and Life of His Apostles and for us since we stand in their venerable line and the Tradition received from them.  It is this Jesus both beloved Apostles yearned to know in the very core of their being and for Whom they gladly and joyfully surrendered their lives as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God.  St. Augustine has this to say regarding these Apostles on their feast day.  He says,

This day has been made holy by the passion of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.  We are, therefore, not talking about some obscure martyrs.  ‘For their voice has gone forth to all the world, and to the ends of the earth their message.’  These martyrs realized what they taught: they pursued justice, they confessed the Truth, they died for it. . . . And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the Apostles’ blood.  Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of Faith.

 

“This day has been made holy by the passion of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul,” St. Augustine tells us.  It is because Sts. Peter and Paul, each in their own way, made holy in themselves and for themselves the Great and Holy Passion of their Saviour (1 Pe. 2:11-24).  They sought to know only Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cr. 2:2).  They geared their whole lives toward knowing this Jesus in His entirety so that, as Paul confesses, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.  And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Ga. 2:20).  In fact, this crucified Jesus, this glorified Son of God, is the glory and the boast of His Apostles, especially St. Paul!  “But God forbid,” says the Apostle, “that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus. Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Ga. 6:14). 

This is what St. Paul clearly outlines for us today in his Epistle which we heard.  He has been seeking to be conformed to the image of the Son of God – something we are to be seeking as well, if we, too, desire to be united with Christ (Rm. 8:29).  Because, ultimately, this is our destiny in Christ if we have been baptized into His Death and Resurrection (Rm. 6:1-11).  While St. Paul’s impressive competitors – those “super apostles” intriguing to the Corinthian church and much touted by them – are courting the Corinthians with impressive feats and exploits, St. Paul lays out his apostolic resume of weaknesses (at least as far as the worldly spirit would understand them).  He says this is what qualifies him as an Apostle of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, whose glory is the Cross: he has labored more abundantly, “in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews,” he says with a sense of relish,

five times I received 40 stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods [a Roman punishment]; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils on my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils of the city, in perils of the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness, in toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness – besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for the churches.

 

Does any of this show up on the resumes of those “super” Christians who want the hype but not the crucified King of Glory?  In a sense, Paul challenges both them and us: show me what you have done for Jesus!  How far will you go or have you gone to be united with Christ, the Lord of Glory, Who reigns from the Tree?  “You say you love Jesus?  That’s fine.  I, on the other hand, will show you what the love for Jesus Christ looks like.  ‘[F]or I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus’” (Ga. 6:17).    

Just after Peter’s spontaneous, but divinely revealed, confession of Faith, our Lord summons His Apostles – and all of us would-be followers of the Messiah –

‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his Cross and follow Me.  For whosoever will save his life will lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Mt. 16:24-26; Mk. 8:34-37; Lk. 9:23-25).

 

To further heighten his unity with the Lord Jesus, St. Paul speaks of his “thorn in the flesh” which so plagued him that three times he sought relief from the Lord.  But each time Jesus said to him, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’”  Like his Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal, on the eve of His glorification on the Cross, Who sought from His Father three times to let this cup pass Him by, Paul, ultimately, is consoled like the suffering Jesus with the Father’s will being done (Mt. 26:36-46; Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:39-46).  Paul’s consolation is to be one with his Lord and Saviour, his Master and his God.  He is contented with the grace of Jesus revealed through his weaknesses.  He finds solace when he humbly resigns himself to the all-sufficient grace of God.  It is the Apostle’s power and strength of life lived to the glory and for the glory of God in all humility.  In weakness, God is present with power (2 Cr. 13:4). 

“I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my foundation, my refuge, and my deliverer” (Ps. 17 [18]:1).  These are the words of the psalter prayed by the Priest just before the confession of the Faith.  These are the words, the hope, the prayer of the psalmist which may very well have undergirded the faith of the Apostles as they sought to be united with Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.  “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my foundation, my refuge, and my deliverer.”  “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cr. 12:10). 

This is a paradox that can only find its resolution in Jesus Christ Who humbled Himself to the point of death, “even the death of the Cross” (Pp. 2:5-11).  “[T]hough He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered,” thereby He was perfected (Hb. 2:10; 5:8-9).  And all who know this Jesus in humility know His grace and His power.      

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

      

VIGIL PROPERS:                     PROPERS:

 

1 Pe. 1:3-9                                          2 Cr. 11:21-12:9

1 Pe. 1:13-19                                      Mt. 16:13-19

1 Pe. 2:11-24

      

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