Monday, June 30, 2008

The Proper of the Day: SS Peter and Paul, Apostles and Martyrs

St Paul's martyrdom, Hendrik Goltzius

Today the Church commemorates the Major Feast in honor of the two most significant of the Apostles, St. Peter "the Rock" and St. Paul "the Writer." (This Major Feast is normally observed on June 29, but is transferred to the next open weekday when it falls on a Sunday as on this year.) Much of the New Testament writings are either directly from SS Paul and Peter or attributed to them. The Letters to the Romans, Corinthians, I Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon are considered by most scholars to have been written by Paul himself. II Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, I and II Timothy, and Titus may have been written by Paul (they have his name in the openings of them) by may well have been written by members of a Pauline "schola," using his name and ideas to lend credence to their own work. This wasn't uncommon in the First Century. Catholic Resources Online has a decent summary of the scholarly consensus about these writings that's worth a read. The Letters of Peter, I and II Peter, seem to perhaps been written by a Petrine schola but many conclude not by Peter himself.

None of that is to say that these writings are not important. They are absolutely crucial to understanding what the Apostles thought about Jesus! Peter knew Jesus personally, after all, and Paul was a very early convert himself, given the title Apostle ("one who is sent") because of his missionary activity throughout the Roman world. We honor these two Apostles not only for what they wrote, but for what they did in spreading the Gospel. Tradition says they were executed under Nero in AD 64 in Rome. Peter is counted as the first Bishop of Rome, and St. Peter's Basilica is erected over the site of his tomb. There is some evidence that the actual tomb of Peter might have been found in recent years.

Here is a stirring version of Tu Es Petrus, Thou Art Peter, which is the appointed Gradual for today (at least I think it is; this looks like it's in Polish or something, so I'm not exactly sure! Just in case, here's a more traditional setting here.)

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 for ever. Amen.


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