St. Leo the Great says, “The whole world, dearly-beloved, does indeed take part in all holy anniversaries, and loyalty to the one Faith demands that whatever is recorded as done for all men’s salvation should be everywhere celebrated with common rejoicings.”[i] Is this not especially so for us on this feast as we bring to mind those two preeminent Apostles: Peter and Paul. Not only do we bring them to mind today but we have done so in our daily lives by way of fasting for the past few weeks.
These luminaries are actually and chronologically our “Fathers among the Saints,” who have begotten us through the Gospel throughout time, us who were living among the dead. They are the fountainhead after whom the Holy Spirit has coursed through the ages of men, that fountain of living water bringing life and light to all men who live in a dry and deserted place. Out of this righteous pair grows that tree of righteousness, which the Preacher says will flourish, the root of which shall not be moved and the fruit of which becomes a tree of life to those of us, barren of all good works.
Twice a year we hear, “It is good to hide the secret of a king, but it is glorious to reveal and preach the works of God” (Tobit 12:7). It is these “works of God,” the lives of saints as St. Gregory Palamas says, which bring us spiritual joy and benefit when we hear of their God-pleasing manner, their purity and the grace that was bestowed upon them.[ii] Therefore, let us look into the lives of these All-praised Leaders of the Apostles.
In Paul, the persecutor becomes the Prophet of the age to come;
In Peter, the denier becomes the demonstrator of the Kingdom among us.
Gamaliel’s pupil, is now instructed in the third heaven;
and the fisherman now confounds the wise.
He who put to death the children of God, now boasts of his stripes, shipwrecks, and perils;
He who had a wife and family now receives a hundred fold and everlasting life.
He who fumed with rage and murder against the Lord’s disciples, now desires to be accursed in his love for the same;
He who was ashamed of his Galilean dialect, now speaks in the tongue of all men gathered in Jerusalem.
He who was enamored by the light of his own reason, is arrested in the midday sun and blinded by the light of Christ;
He who followed in the shadow of the Messiah, now heals when his shadow comes down upon the sick.
He who persecuted through zeal without knowledge, is seized by the All-knowing Light of Life;
He who through eagerness and pride fell away, is lifted up through humility and feeds the flock of Christ.
He who was born out of due time, now preaches the adoption of the sons of God;
the fisherman who labored mending his nets, now catches the whole world in Christ’s net.
He who had his sight returned through the prayers of Ananias, saves a shipload of criminals by his supplications;
He who sunk in the waters of Galilee through doubt, now raises the lame man through faith.
He who was chained in prison, preaches the release from the shackles of our sins;
He who warmed his hands by the fire, endures being girded by another in the stretching forth of his arms.
He who was under the curse of Adam, is bit by a serpent yet lives;
He who was enlightened at Pentecost, preaches the Light to the world.
He who watched the blood of Stephen be spilled through stoning, waters the ground with the blood from his severed head;
He who abandoned Christ who was crucified up in the air, is voluntarily crucified with his head down to the earth.
Paul, the least of the Apostles, has labored more abundantly than all;
Peter, the stone, helps to build the edifice in which the chief cornerstone is Christ.
Truly, “Their sound has gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world” (stichos of the feast).
Truly, God is glorified in His saints!
Through the prayers of the All-praised Leaders of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, Lord Jesus Christ, Our God, Have Mercy on us!
[ii] Homily 28.1.