The Holy Glorious, All-praised and First of the Supreme Apostles
Saints Peter and Paul are commemorated in great solemnity by the Church. To add greater significance to their celebration, the Fathers have ordained a fast as a preparation. It is only meet that the memory of these two Chief of the Apostles should be commemorated after the Feast of Pentecost.
The Holy Apostle Peter
The Holy Apostle Peter, brother of Apostle Andrew, born a Judean, was distinguished by the ardor and boldness of his character (Mt. 16:15-17, 22-23; 14:25-31; Mk. 1:20, 30, Jn. 1:44). Called by the Lord from the modest lot of fisherman, he was one of the zealous disciples of the Savior (Mt. 4:18-19; Lk. 5:10-11) and promised that he would no longer be a fisherman but a “fisher of men”.
Up to his calling he was called Simon. After his calling, as a reward for his firmness in faith, he received the name Cephas, which in Greek is Peter – meaning rock. He remained faithful to this name all his life and proved this by numerous examples of his strong affection for the Lord. He was the participant and witness of the greatest miracles of the Savior and the major events of His mortal life (Jn.1:42; Mt. 16:18; 17:1; 26:37; Lk. 8:51). This rock became the pillar and example by which we can be saved – the ardent faith in our Saviour. Just as Peter was called, so are all men called to worship their Creator in spirit and truth.
After the resurrection of the Savior, Saint Peter was ordained by our Lord for apostolic service and thus washed away the bitterness of his denial before our Lord’s Passion. He kept unshakably firm like a rock in the faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world. He tried also to inspire this in other people (Jn. 21; Acts 2:14; 4:8; 12:3; 8:14; 12). He was an apostle mainly of the Judeans (Gal. 2:7, 8). In the year 44 when Herod Agrippa threatened him with death in Jerusalem, St. Peter was released from prison by an angel (Acts 12:1-11), and then he left Jerusalem. Great was the work the Lord required of Saint Peter.
He preached in Syria, Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Asia and Egypt, confirming great wonders by the power of his words: he raised the dead and healed the infirm, and one of the latter was healed even from his shadow only (Acts 5:5, 10, 15; 9:33-34, 40). It is for such reason that the Church has recognized the sacred Relics as Grace-filled trophies of the Holy Spirit and as a for-taste of the incorruptibility of the age to come.
During the reign of Nero, Saint Peter arrived in Rome and endured a martyr’s death on a cross. Recognizing his unworthyness to be crucified the way Jesus Christ was crucified, Saint Peter asked that he be crucified with his head downwards.
Although Apostle Peter was also distinguished with special zeal for Christ, this did not give him superiority of authority over the other apostles, but only superiority of honor according to Apostolic labor. The same as the other apostles he proposed the council to decide the matters of the church and these were decided by the common voice of the apostles and presbyters with the entire Church (Acts 15:7, 12, 14; 1:23-26; 6:2-6; 15:22-23). As further evidence of the early respect for order in the Church, this first council, called the Council of Jerusalem, was presided by James, the Brother of the Lord and Bishop of Jerusalem.
We must carefully note that this council sent Peter on the matter of serving in the same way as the other disciples of Christ (Acts 8:14).
The Apostle Paul, speaking about the apostles and honoring them as pillars, places James in the first place and then Peter and John (Gal. 2:7-9; 2 Cor. 11:5).
The claim of the Roman church that Apostle Peter was bishop of Rome from 42 to 67 cannot be affirmed according to the sacred diptychs and genealogies of the Church. The Church has rather held the tradition that the Apostles were unique in their ministry and set forth to fulfill the evangelic commission. They set forth “overseers” (from the Greek word episcopos, which is the Greek name ascribed to Bishops) to govern the flocks.
According to tradition, the venerable relics of St. Peter repose in the Vatican cathedral in Rome. The Holy Apostle bequethed two Catholic Epistles to further nourish the faithful.
The Holy Apostle Paul
The Holy Apostle Paul, named Saul up to his calling to be among the Apostles, was born as a Judean in the city of Tarsus. He was a disciple of the famous Hebrew teacher Gamaliel and belonged to the sect of the Pharisees. From scripture we know that he severely persecuted Christians (Acts 13:7-12; 21:39; 22:3; Phil. 3:4-5; Acts 7:58; 8:1, 3; 9:1, 2; 26:11).
In a marvelous manner, he was called to be an apostle by the Lord Himself, Who revealed Himself to Saul on the way to Damascus. Saul was directed by the Lord to seek out the Apostle Ananias. He thus accepted Holy Baptism from Apostle Ananias and his conversion was complete. Since this time became the most zealous preacher of the Gospel (Acts 9:3-30).
He wrote that he more than all labored in the good news of Christ (1 Cor. 15:10). He was the apostle of the nations (Rom. 15:16, 18; Eph. 3:6-7; Gal. 2:7) and preached Christ in Arabia, Palestine, Caesarea, Asia Minor, Greece, Italy and many other countries.
Having undergone much suffering, he was made worthy of the revelation by the Lord, being taken-up into paradise, uplifted to the third heaven where he heard such mysteries that is impossible for anyone of human nature to retell and performed many great miracles (2 Cor. 11:2З-29; 12:1-4, 7; Acts 13:11; 14:10; 16:18; 19:12; 20:9-12; 28:3-6).
Deep faith in the truth of preached doctrines, clear understanding of Christian truths, courageously tranquil amidst every possible danger, unusual knowledge of the human heart and by nature having the fascinating power of eloquence during the gifts of grace by the Holy Spirit, promoted his praise-worthy success.
In the words of St. John Chrysostom, Apostle Paul for his sermons sought more of reviling and dishonor rather than honor; more of death rather than life; more of poverty rather than repose; more of grief rather than others of joy; and prayed more for enemies rather than others who prayed against enemies.
The one thing that was terrible and dangerous for him was that of offending God. But more than anything, equally and driving him, was nothing except pleasing God.
He put love for Christ higher than anything. With this love he wanted more to be accounted among the last and punished, rather than being without it among the highest and receiving honors. He died in Rome about the year 67, beheaded by the sword on command of Emperor Nero. According to tradition, his relics repose in a Roman church beyond the city on road to Ostia.
The Holy Apostle Paul has written 14 Epistles: to the Romans, 2 to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, 2 to the Thessalonians, 2 to Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon and to the Hebrews.
In the services for this day the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul are glorified as:
- “friends of Christ”
- “of the heavenly recesses”
- “rivers of knowledge”
- “feeders of the entire inhabited world”
- “preachers of true piety”
- “intercessors for the whole world”
- “disciples of Christ and founders of the Church
- true pillars and walls
- trumpets of the doctrine and suffering of the divine Christ
- “fishers of the world”
- “possessors of the keys of the Kingdom”
- “prototypes of the preachers of God”
- “chiefs of the Apostles”.
By their preaching the knowledge of the Word of God was spread throughout the inhabited world!