Our Lord says of Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, (Simon has confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God) but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter [the rock], and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17-18).
The faith of Peter is the very foundation of Christ’s Body, the Church. And it is established on this impetuous, sometimes weak and imperfect human being, a man who denied Jesus, but wept in repentance, a man who walked on water but began to sink because his faith weakened, a man who was indeed to lead the Church, but only in the grace of the Spirit. Today we celebrate his chains, the imprisonment he suffered because of his faith. Therefore, he is a model for all of us – faith is our “rock,” but we are weak, we sin, we need the forgiveness and grace of God to live a Christian life. And, like Peter, we will have to suffer because of our faith. Peter likewise is the model for the whole Church, for its bishops and leaders, who often, like Peter, stumble and fall, yet on these weak human beings faith is secured by the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Roman Church celebrates the chains of Peter on the 18th, and a week later, the 25th, the conversion of Saul, who from a persecutor of the faithful, was transformed by a vision of our Lord, into Paul, a great Apostle. To mark these two feasts, the Chair of Unity Octave was established, from January 18 to the 25, now called the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The Byzantine Church celebrates great Church teachers on these two days, Saints Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria on the 18th and Saint Gregory the Theologian on the 25th. It is a perfect time to pray for the necessary unity of the one faith, which can be established only on the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, founded, as it is, on our weak human powers which have divided the garment of faith and which can find union only in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Icon: Peter led out of prison
Meditation by Archpriest David Petas