Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Peter and Paul

Today is another one of those oddest of feasts, the feast of the Dedication of a Church. Only in this case, it is two churches. Two really important churches: St. Peter's Basilica and the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. The feast has its origin in the transfer of the Apostles' remains from a temporary resting place on the Appian Way to their own shrines near their places of martyrdom.
Even though history hints that Peter died in 64 AD and Paul in 67, tradition insists on keeping the two Apostles practically joined at the hip in their last imprisonment and death. There is a whole genre of artistic depictions of Peter and Paul (side by side, or in matched sets), and another sub-genre of their last good-bye and kiss of peace as they were led off (on the same day, tradition says) to death. (The image here is on a plaque on the Ostian Way, a site which claims to be the very place the Apostles were separated.)
One interesting tidbit: look at any of these typical depictions of Peter and Paul and imagine Jesus standing between them. You'll almost always find that Peter is at Jesus' right and Paul at his left. So much for James and John's request "See to it that we are placed one at your right and one at your left in your Kingdom." Jesus said that this was "reserved to those the Father has chosen."
Peter and Paul.

Does your parish have a matched set of Peter and Paul? Where is it located? Is Peter on Jesus' right?


Anonymous said...

Our parish, Queen of Angels, on W. Sunnyside Ave in Chicago has carved wooden statues of Sts Peter and Paul on the altarpiece (formerly the "high altar") either side of Christ crucified. The saint to Christ's right has a key so I suppose that is Peter and the saint on Christ's left (Paul?) has a sword.

The church has had some redecorating since this picture was taken but the altar is largely unchanged and you can see the statues of the two saints.


Fred said...

Thank God for your knowledge, wit and good sense...I am always at a loss on those feasts celebrating a "building" but this on represents a great moment in our Church's history...Perhaps we should rename the feast to the Comemoration of the Separation of Saints Peter and Paul...makes as much sense, if not more!
I am also taking this opportunity to ask your readers to pray for a young man (Mario) I met yesterday. He recently moved his family to Chicago from Mexico and now he has no job and is about to have not house...He is strong and capable and wants to work and make a better life for his family. I promised him I would pray for him...
Father Fred, CMF