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Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Monday, July 29th is the celebration of patron saints, Saint Peter and Saint Paul. 

“Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. 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.”  – St Augustine

Peter

Peter was very likely a middle-aged man when Jesus called him. He was a fisherman from Bethsaida, a village near the Lake of Galilee. Perhaps he was part of a fisherman’s co-op with his brother Andrew and friends James and John. At any rate, Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus. Jesus said, “You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas, meaning Rock.”

During the three years the apostles lived with Jesus, Peter showed definite signs of leadership. He was often the spokesman for the group. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It was Peter who objected to Jesu’ stating that he was on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die. He appears lovable, impetuous, practical, and sometimes weak under pressure. Jesus loved him dearly, even after Peter denied knowing him during the passion.

Peter was one of the 12 Apostles of JesusRoman Catholic tradition holds that Jesus established Peter as the first pope (Matthew 16:18). Jesus also gave him “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19), which is why he is often depicted at the gates of heaven in art. After Jesus’ death, he served as the head of the Apostles and was the first to perform a miracle after Pentecost (Acts 3:1–11). 

Peter was imprisoned three or four times. Finally, in Rome, he was sentenced to death by crucifixion. Out of respect for his Master, Jesus, he asked the guard to fasten him to the cross upside down.

Paul

Paul received the best education. Being a strict Jew, he persecuted the Christians who were teaching strange new things. One day on the way to Damascus, Paul had a dramatic encounter with God. He’d been traveling there to do some more persecution, when he was surrounded by a great light from heaven which blinded him. He then encountered Jesus Christ, was baptized, and had his sight restored. 

From this point on he took the name Paul, his name was Saul, and was an unstoppable force for God.  Paul became the greatest Christian missionary, preaching and founding churches. In the beginning, Paul had difficulty convincing the Jewish Christians that non-Jews could be baptized and did not have to follow Jewish rules. He finally won.

For about thirty years Paul traveled around the Roman Empire preaching about Christ and suffering. From his many letters that are in the Bible and from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s greatest impact on Christian history comes from his letters, which are the most influential books of the New Testament after the Gospels. 

There are 13 epistles (letters) attributed to Paul in the New Testament: Romans, 1 Corinthians,
2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. 

The Christological statements in his letters have been particularly important in the development of Christian theology. Although they do not form a complete system, they show a powerful mind grappling with the question of how to express the relationship between Jesus the Christ and God the Father. He was the right man to build the bridge between Jewish religion of the Old Testament and the Christianity of the New Testament. 

Paul was imprisoned and finally beheaded outside of the walls of Rome.

Collect for the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Washington National Cathedral is officially known as the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul

Exactly one week later, June 29 marks the double feast of the Cathedral’s own patron saints, Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The name comes courtesy of the Rev. George William Douglas of St. John’s, Lafayette Square, who helped to draft a constitution for the nascent “church for national purposes.”Long-established tradition records that Simon Peter, one of the Apostles, was the first pope; his name, meaning “rock,” occasioned Jesus’ remark that that disciple would become “the rock” on which he would build his church (Matthew 16:18). Paul, originally named Saul, was a Roman citizen who persecuted Christians before a powerful conversion experience on the way to Damascus in which he both lost and regained his sight (Acts 9). His letters to early Christian communities are among the earliest-dated Scriptures in the New Testament.Peter and Paul were by no means perfect individuals. In addition to his cruel past, Paul claimed to suffer from a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10); Peter makes himself known for rash and impulsive nature in the New Testament rather than rocklike stability (Matthew 17:4–6; 26:75). Both martyrs’ very accessible humanity makes them ideal patrons for a Cathedral that prides itself as a house of prayer for all people.The name of the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul unites the memory of two powerful early fathers of Christianity who frequently have separate churches dedicated in their honor. Most powerfully, the unification of the two saints in Washington reflects the enduring ideal of reconciliation behind the National Cathedral, since Peter and Paul didn’t always agree on everything. The ideal of unity—between these two great apostles and among all people—is reflected in the prayers appointed for June 29:Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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