The coats of arms of the Holy See and Vatican City

The Fundamental Law of Vatican City State describes the shield as chiavi decussate sormontate del Triregno in campo rosso (keys in saltire surmounted by the papal tiara on a red field) and depicts the keys as two, one silver (argent) in bend and one gold (or) in bend sinister, interlaced at their intersection with a red (gules) cord. The tiara is represented as white with golden crowns.

The coats of arms of the Holy See and Vatican City

The Fundamental Law of Vatican City State describes the shield as chiavi decussate sormontate del Triregno in campo rosso (keys in saltire surmounted by the papal tiara on a red field) and depicts the keys as two, one silver (argent) in bend and one gold (or) in bend sinister, interlaced at their intersection with a red (gules) cord. The tiara is represented as white with golden crowns.

Gospel of 27 August 2023

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven

Matthew 16:13-20

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.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Reflection on the Coat-of-Arms

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus says ‘You are Peter…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’. Even nowadays, when we give someone the keys to our house, it means we trust them. We don’t give any of our keys to just anyone: it requires a relationship of trust and the belief that they will act responsibly with the keys we have given them.

Artists over the centuries have depicted the scene of our Gospel reading in a very realistic way, with Jesus physically handing over a bunch of keys to Peter. Peter is also mostly portrayed by holding a key. Matthew's  account of Jesus giving keys to Peter suggests that he is investing Peter with significant authority. This is not an authority in the sense of power, but authority in the sense of responsibility and service.

Even the language of ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ is a language which refers to teaching authority. In fact, Jewish rabbis had authority to ‘bind’ and ‘loose’ the Jewish law, to declare which parts of the law were binding and which could be interpreted loosely. Rabbis thus had the authority to interpret God’s law for people’s lives. What Jesus is portrayed as doing in our gospel reading today is giving Peter responsibility for interpreting, not the Jewish law, but the teaching of Jesus. Peter is given the task of interpreting the teaching of Jesus for the lives of the members of the church. This is still a crucial aspect in the life of our papacy.

The illustrated coat of arms of the Holy See and Vatican City features two crossed keys and a tiara. This coat of arms of the Holy See has origins in the 14th century (found in Froissart's Chronicles of 1353). The combination of one gold and one silver key is a somewhat later development and starts to be featured with Pius II (1458–64). The gold key signifies the keys to heaven; the silver key refers to the earthly authority of the Church. It was also in the 14th century according to the Froissart Chronicles that the papal tiara was included in the coat of arms of the Holy See.

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Ana G
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Ana G(@anagb)
5 months ago

Andy, I’m glad you say that, because historians know very well that many negative things have been told about the Spanish (the so-called Black Legend) and all the very important positive things have been kept quiet, especially about the missionaries, the jurists, and the kings of the time of discovery, who condemned slavery, respected culture, and religious freedom. and there was a great evangelizing illusion. Not so all conquerors. Even among many Spanish compatriots this legend was believed. It’s time to know history and to know the situation in which the natives lived when the Spaniards arrived, cruelly enslaved by other tribes.. Thanks for your message brother. Yes, Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, pray for us.

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