The Embrace of the Apostles Peter and Paul,
Cretan school, Angelos Akotantos,
Painted first half 15th century
tondo, paint and gilding on wood base, diameter 37.5cm,
© C. Krimbas Collection, Athens

The Embrace of the Apostles Peter and Paul,
Cretan school, Angelos Akotantos,
Painted first half 15th century
tondo, paint and gilding on wood base, diameter 37.5cm,
© C. Krimbas Collection, Athens

Gospel of 29 June 2023

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

Reflection on the Byzantine Icon

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Peter & Saint Paul. There is evidence of an already lengthy tradition of celebrating the solemnities of both saints on the 29th of June as early as the year 258 AD.

Our 15th-century icon painted in Crete depicts the embrace of the Apostles Peter and Paul. It is a rare theme in Byzantine art until the 1450s. But from then onwards paintings depicting the two saints together flourished. Why? It is quite probable that it had to do with the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439) and the efforts to bring about a reconciliation between the Western and Eastern churches. Last year on this solemnity we looked at a painting by Carlo Crivelli, also painted during this period (click here) and also depicting the two saints together. So in both Eastern and Western churches were the two saints portrayed together as part of wider reconciliation efforts.

In our icon we see St Peter on the left and St Paul on the right. Pope St Benedict XVI said: “Christian tradition has always considered Saint Peter and Saint Paul to be inseparable: indeed, together, they represent the whole Gospel of Christ.”

Most of the apostles and many saints have their own feast day. But there is no separate Feast of St. Peter as such; there is also no Feast of St. Paul (apart from celebrating his conversion). The fact that the Catholic Church celebrates our two most important saints on the same day strengthens their groundbreaking work and draws attention to how they worked together, as one, to build God’s kingdom on earth.

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Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
7 months ago

A beautiful icon. Today’s reading is pretty straightforward in establishing St. Peter’s primacy among the apostles and the head of Christ’s Church. Protestants tend to jump through many hoops in order to deny this. Thank you Father Patrick for your reflection today, although you may be jumping the gun a bit on the canonization of Pope Benedict XVI.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andy Bocanegra
Michael Trudeau
Member
Michael Trudeau
7 months ago

Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453. This was a blow to all Christendom, not just the Church in the East. Maybe the event triggered an urge to renewed fellowship?

Christine Vanaken
Member
Christine Vanaken
7 months ago

St Petrus & Paulus, de patroonheiligen van onze kleine Belgisch-Limburgse parochie TONGERLO bij Bree. In de hoofdkerk te Bree, waar onze deken Jaak Janssen de viering voorging, herinnerde hij dat Petrus Jezus 3x verloochende en dat Paulus de grote vervolger van Jezus was. Dus bij God krijgen we heel veel respijt. Proficiat voor onze deken Jaak, die morgen zijn 50 jaren priesterjubileum viert. (zou nog één iemand van onze parochie Tongerlo er vandaag aan denken dat het feestdag van de parochie is? De kermis is ook niet meer)

marleen de vlieghere
Member
marleen de vlieghere
7 months ago

Ik feest mee met uw parochie!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
7 months ago

Absolute giants these two men! We cannot imagine what the church would be without them. Unfortunately I am still unwell today (but hopefully on the mend) so may not get to mass as I had intended. However, I wish you all a Happy Feast Day!!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
7 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Just on my way to Mass now so I shall include you SFG x

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
7 months ago

Oh that is very kind.

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
7 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Praying for your swift recovery, SFG.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Crain

Thankyou- I am making slow progress.

marleen de vlieghere
Member
marleen de vlieghere
7 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

I pray for you SFG

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
7 months ago

So kind- thank you

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
7 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

I’m praying for you.

John Richardson
Member
John Richardson
7 months ago

Thanksgiving for this fabulous work of art

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
7 months ago

Icon painting usually has the subject facing directly at the viewer so this painting with Sts Peter and Paul slightly to the left and right is unusual I believe. Crete is where El Greco came from – I wonder if he knew this artist? Idle speculation some might say!
I read that St Paul grafted Greek philosophical thinking onto the Jewish faith and Jesus’ teachings. Is that true? The great Greek philosphers – Plato, Aristotle (although pagans) etc were said to be divinely inspired by some early Christians.
Random musings….

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
7 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Interesting, there is something of the icon in El Greco’s paintings, a stillness, a concentration, the “distortion”… and he would have seen many icons in his youth. St. Peter is the stronger figure, firmly clasping St. Paul, as befits the appointed first father of the church…

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
7 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

They both lived a few hundred years before the events in the New Testament- so would know nothing of Christian thought, however the world was very well connected then so no doubt they influenced and were influenced by, Judaism in some respects.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
7 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Yes SFG. I worded that badly. I meant that some early Christians said that those pagan philosophers had been divinely inspired by God. Not that some early Christians had any influence on them as, as you say, they were centuries apart!

Maria Contreras
Member
Maria Contreras
7 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

San Pablo tenia influencia judia, griega y romana. Las cartas de San Pablo dejan ver una personalidad decidida, valiente, audaz, fiel a Cristo.

Gisela Schreyer
Member
Gisela Schreyer
7 months ago

I enjoy your website and share it with others. I am familiar with the icon of Peter and Paul together, but the aspect of reconciliation of Eastern and Western Church is new. THanks for pointing it out. Now, did I miss something? You write St Benedict XVI!!! Do you really mean Saint Benedict XVI? I am not a fan of “Santo subito” and would prefer to give time for discernment to the Church…

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
7 months ago

I think this has now been corrected!

Silvia Moiron
Member
Silvia Moiron
7 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Me encanta leer, por primera vez, ¡San Benedicto XVI! 🕊

Silvia Moiron
Member
Silvia Moiron
7 months ago

BENEDICTO XVI, mi queridísimo Benito. ¡Santo, Santo, Santo!🙏❤️😇

Moira Cunningham
Member
Moira Cunningham
7 months ago

This is a great feast and the Church that Jesus founded needs prayers more than ever. We are a church of sinners and also greatly loved and a high price paid for our redemption. St Peter and St Paul we need your prayers.

Mike Baird
Member
Mike Baird
7 months ago

I don’t recall having seen an icon of Saints Peter and Paul embracing. It’s quite beautiful.
The greatest authority Jesus could give the Church was the authority to forgive sins. Authority over demons, over sickness, even over death are all lesser. As the Pharisees acknowledged, only God can forgive sins.

The most anticipated event of my reception into the Church was receiving Holy Communion. A very close second was receiving absolution in the sacrament of confession. I strained for the peace I knew only this sacrament could give.

It’s time I again darkened the doorway of the confessional.

Saints Peter and Paul, please pray for me.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

The Holy Spirit giving you a dig in the ribs, then? 🙂

Silvia Moiron
Member
Silvia Moiron
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Baird

El Sacramento de la paz y de la alegría. 😇

Dios Padre nos espera con los brazos abiertos: ¡ somos sus hijos muy amados!

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