Feast of Peter and Paul

To commemorate Peter and Paul today, I'm copying a sermon of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo…

Today the Holy Church piously remembers the sufferings of the Holy
Glorious and All-Praised Apostles Peter and Paul.



Ppw03 St. Peter, the fervent follower of Jesus Christ, for the profound
confession of His Divinity: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living
God," was deemed worthy by the Savior to hear in answer, "Blessed art
thou, Simon … I tell thee, that thou art Peter [Petrus], and on this
stone [petra] I build My Church" (Mt.16:16-18). On "this stone" [petra],
is on that which thou sayest: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the
Living God" it is on this thy confession I build My Church. Wherefore
the "thou art Peter": it is from the "stone" [petra] that Peter [Petrus]
is, and not from Peter [Petrus] that the "stone" [petra] is, just as
the Christian is from Christ, and not Christ from the Christian. Do you
want to know, from what sort of "rock" [petra] the Apostle Peter
[Petrus] was named? Hear the Apostle Paul: "Brethren, I do not want ye
to be ignorant," says the Apostle of Christ, "how all our fathers were
all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were
baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all drink the
same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that
followed them: and that Rock was Christ" (1 Cor.10: 1-4). Here is the
from whence the "Rock" is Peter.



Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the final days of His earthly life, in the
days of His mission to the race of man, chose from among the disciples
His twelve Apostles to preach the Word of God. Among them, the Apostle
Peter for his fiery ardor was vouchsafed to occupy the first place
(Mt.10:2) and to be as it were the representative person for all the
Church. Therefore it is said to him, preferentially, after the
confession: "I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven:
and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in the heaven:
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth: shall be loosed in heaven"
(Mt.16: 19). Therefore it was not one man, but rather the One Universal
Church, that received these "keys" and the right "to bind and loosen."
And that it was actually the Church that received this right, and not
exclusively a single person, turn your attention to another place of the
Scriptures, where the same Lord says to all His Apostles, "Receive ye
the Holy Spirit" and further after this, "Whose soever sins ye remit,
they are remitted unto them: and whose soever sins ye retain, are
retained" (John 20: 22-23); or: "whatsoever ye bind upon the earth,
shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall
be loosened in heaven" (Mt.18:18). Thus, it is the Church that binds,
the Church that loosens; the Church, built upon the foundational
cornerstone, Jesus Christ Himself (Eph 2:20), doth bind and loosen. Let
both the binding and the loosening be feared: the loosening, in order
not to fall under this again; the binding, in order not to remain
forever in this condition. Therefore "Iniquities ensnare a man, and
everyone is bound in the chains of his own sins," says Wisdom (Prov
5:22); and except for Holy Church nowhere is it possible to receive the
loosening.

After His Resurrection the Lord entrusted the Apostle Peter to shepherd
His spiritual flock not because, that among the disciples only Peter
alone was pre-deserved to shepherd the flock of Christ, but Christ
addresses Himself chiefly to Peter because, that Peter was first among
the Apostles and as such the representative of the Church; besides
which, having turned in this instance to Peter alone, as to the top
Apostle, Christ by this confirms the unity of the Church. "Simon of
John" — says the Lord to Peter — "lovest thou Me?" — and the Apostle
answered: "Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee"; and a second time
it was thus asked, and a second time he thus answered; being asked a
third time, seeing that as it were not believed, he was saddened. But
how is it possible for him not to believe That One, Who knew his heart?
And wherefore then Peter answered: "Lord, Thou knowest all; Thou knowest
that I love Thee." "And sayeth Jesus to him" all three times "Feed My
sheep" (John 20:15-17).

Besides this, the triple appealing of the Savior to Peter and the triple
confession of Peter before the Lord had a particular beneficial purpose
for the Apostle. That one, to whom was given "the keys of the kingdom"
and the right "to bind and to loose," bound himself thrice by fear and
cowardice (Mt.26:69-75), and the Lord thrice loosens him by His appeal
and in turn by his confession of strong love. And to shepherd literally
the flock of Christ was acquired by all the Apostles and their
successors. "Take heed, therefore unto yourselves, and to all the
flock," the Apostle Paul urges church presbyters, "over which the Holy
Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of the God, which He
hath purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28); and the Apostle Peter
to the elders: "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the
oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly: not for filthy
lucre, but of a ready mind: neither as being lords over God's heritage,
but being examples to the flock. And when is appeared the Prince of
pastors, ye will receive unfading crowns of glory" (1 Pet. 5:2-4).

It is remarkable that Christ, having said to Peter: "Feed My sheep," did
not say: "Feed thy sheep," but rather to feed, good servant, the sheep
of the Lord. "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye
baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor.1:13). "Feed My sheep". Wherefore
"wolfish robbers, wolfish oppressors, deceitful teachers and
mercenaries, not being concerned about the flock" (Mt.7:15; Acts 20:29; 2
Pet 2:1; John 10:12), having plundered a strange flock and making of
the spoils as though it be of their own particular gain, they think that
they feed their flock. Such are not good pastors, as pastors of the
Lord. "The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11),
entrusted to Him by the chief Shepherd Himself (1 Pet 5:4). And the
Apostle Peter, true to his calling, gave his soul for the very flock of
Christ, having sealed his apostleship by a martyr's death, is now
glorified throughout all the world.


The Apostle Paul, formerly Saul, was changed from a robbing wolf into a
meek lamb. Formerly he was an enemy of the Church, then is manifest as
an Apostle. Formerly he stalked it, then preached it. Having received
from the high priests the authority at large to throw all Christians in
chains for execution, he was already on the way, he breathed out
"threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts
9:1), he thirsted for blood, but "He that dwells in the Heavens shall
laugh him to scorn" (Ps 2:4). When he, "having persecuted and vexed" in
such manner "the Church of God" (1Cor.15:9; Acts 8:5), he came near
Damascus, and the Lord from Heaven called to him: "Saul, Saul, why
persecutest thou Me?" and I am here, and I am there, I am everywhere:
here is My head; there is My body. There becomes nothing of a surprise
in this; we ourselves are members of the Body of Christ. "Saul, Saul,
why persecutest thou Me; it is hard for thee to kick against the goad"
(Acts 9:4-5). Saul, however, "trembling and frightened", cried out: "Who
art Thou, Lord?" The Lord answered him, "I am Jesus Whom thou
persecutest."

And Saul suddenly undergoes a change: "What wantest Thou me to do?" —
he cries out. And suddenly for him there is the Voice: "Arise, and go to
the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9:6). Here
the Lord sends Ananias: "Arise and go into the street" to a man, "by
the name of Saul," and baptize him, "for this one is a chosen vessel
unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the
children of Israel" (Acts 9: 11, 15, 18). This vessel must be filled
with My Grace. "Ananias, however, answered: Lord, I have heard from many
about this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints in Jerusalem:
and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all who call
on Thy Name" (Acts 9:13-14). But the Lord urgently commands Ananias:
"Search for and fetch him, for this vessel is chosen by Me: for I shall
show him what great things he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts
9:11, 15-16).


And actually the Lord did show the Apostle Paul what things he had to
suffer for His Name. He instructed him the deeds; He did not stop at the
chains, the fetters, the prisons and shipwrecks; He Himself felt for
him in his sufferings, He Himself guided him towards this day. On a
single day the memory of the sufferings of both these Apostles is
celebrated, though they suffered on separate days, but by the spirit and
the closeness of their suffering they constitute one. Peter went first,
and Paul followed soon after him. Formerly called Saul, and then Paul,
having transformed his pride into humility. His very name (Paulus),
meaning "small, little, less," demonstrates this. What is the Apostle
Paul after this? Ask him, and he himself gives answer to this: "I am,"
says he, "the least of the Apostles… but I have labored more
abundantly than all of them: yet not I, but the grace of God, which was
with me" (1 Cor.15:9-10).

And so, brethren, celebrating now the memory of the holy Apostles Peter
and Paul, remembering their venerable sufferings, we esteem their true
faith and holy life, we esteem the innocence of their sufferings and
pure confession. Loving in them the sublime quality and imitating them
by great exploits, "in which to be likened to them" (2 Thess 3: 5-9),
and we shall attain to that eternal bliss which is prepared for all the
saints. The path of our life before was more grievous, thornier, harder,
but "we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses"
(Heb 12: 1), having passed by along it, made now for us easier, and
lighter, and more readily passable. First there passed along it "the
author and finisher of our faith," our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Heb
12: 2); His daring Apostles followed after Him; then the martyrs,
children, women, virgins and a great multitude of witnesses. Who acted
in them and helped them on this path? He Who said, "Without Me ye can do
nothing" (John 15: 5).


Cap26

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