My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΝΩ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE HOLY FEAST OF THE HOLY, GLORIOUS, AND ALL-FAMED CHIEFS OF THE HOLY APOSTLES, PETER AND PAUL (JUNE 29th)
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
O Foremost of the Apostles and teachers of the world, intercede ye with the Master of all that He grant peace to the world and grant mercy to our souls.
Hypakoe. Plagal of Fourth Tone
What prison hath not had thee as its prisoner? What church hath not had thee as her orator? Damascus maketh much of thee, O Paul, for it saw thee bereaved of sight; Rome received thy blood, and she too doth boast; but Tarsus rejoiceth yet more, and with longing she honoureth thy swaddling bands. O Apo0tle Paul, thou boast of the world, be quick to make us streadfast.
Kontakion Hymn. Second Tone
Thou hast taken to Thyself, O Lord, the firm and God-proclaiming heralds, the chief Apostles, for the enjoyment of Thy blessings and for repose; for Thou hast accepted their labours and death as above all sacrifice, O Thou Who alone knowest the secrets of our hearts.
SAINT PETER: The divinely-blessed Peter was from Bethsaida of Galilee. He was the son of Jonas and the brother of Saint Andrew the First-Called. He was a fisherman by trade, unlearned and poor, and was called Simon; later he was renamed Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who looked at him and said: "Thou art Simon the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter)" (St. John 1:42). On being raised by the Lord to the dignity of an Apostle and becoming inseparable from Him as His zealous disciple, he followed Him from the beginning of His preaching of salvation up until the very Passion, when, in the court of Caiaphas the high priest, he denied Him thrice because of his fear of the Jews and of the danger at hand. But again, after many bitter tears, he received complete forgiveness of his transgression. After the Resurrection of Christ and the descent of Holy Spirit, he preached in Judea, Antioch, and certain parts of the Asia, and finally came to Rome, where he was crucified upside down by Nero, and thus he ascended to the eternal habitations about the year 66 or 68 AD, leaving two Catholic (General) Epistles to the Church of Christ.'
SAINT PAUL, the chosen vessel of Christ, the glory of the Church, the Apostle of the Nations and teacher of the whole world, was a Jew by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, having Tarsus as his homeland. He was a Roman citizen, fluent in the Greek language, an expert in knowledge of the Law, a Pharisee, born of a Pharisee, and a disciple of Gamaliel, a Pharisee and notable teacher of the Law in Jerusalem. For this cause, from the beginning, Saint Paul was a most fervent zealot for the traditions of the Jews and a great persecutor of the Church of Christ; at the time, his name was Saul (Acts 22:3-4). In his great passion of rage and fury against the disciples of the Lord, he went to Damacus bearing letters of introduction of the high priest. His intention was to bring the Disciples of Christ back to Jerusalem in bonds. As he was approaching Damascus, about midday there suddenly shone upon him a light from Heaven. Falling on the earth, he heard a voice saying to him: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And he asked: "Who art Thou, Lord?" And he said: "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." And that heavenly voice and brilliance made him tremble, and he was blinded for a time. He was led by the hand into the city and on account of a divine revelation to the Apostle Ananias (see October 1st), he was baptized by him, and both his bodily and spiritual eyes were opened to the knowledge of the Sun of Righteousness. And straightway--O wondrous transformation!--beyond all expectation, he spoke with boldness in the synagogues, proclaiming that "Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 9:1-21).
SERMON ON THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, LEADERS OF THE HOLY APOSTLES
by Saint Gregory Palamas
The commemoration of each of the Saints on the appointed feast day is an occasion for town and country, citizens and their rulers to share in rejoicing, and brings great benefit to all who celebrate. "The memory of the just is praised", says the wise Solomon (cf. Prov. 29:2). If a lamp is lit at night, its light shines for the service and enjoyment of everyone present. Similarly, through such commemorations, each Saint's God-pleasing course, his blessed end, and the grace bestowed on him by God, because of the purity of his life, bring spiritual joy and benefit to the whole congregation, like a bright flaming torch set in our midst. When the land bears a good harvest everyone rejoices, not just the farmers (for we all benefit from the earth's produce); so the fruits which the Saints bring forth for God through their virtue delight not only the Husbandman of souls, but all of us, being set before us for the common good and pleasure of our souls. During their earthly lives, all the Saints are an incentive to virtue for those who hear and see them with understanding, for they are human icons of excellence, animated pillars of goodness, and living books, which teach us the way to better things. Afterwards, when they depart this life, the benefit we gain from them is kept alive for ever through the remembrance of their virtues. By commemorating their noble deeds, we offer them that praise which, on the one hand, we owe them for the good they did our Ancestors, but which, on the other hand, is also fitting for us at the present time, on account of the help they give us now...
If, as we have said, we commemorate each of the Saints with hymns and appropriate songs of praise, how much more should we celebrate the memory of Saints Peter and Paul, the supreme Leaders of the pre-eminent company of the Apostles? They are the fathers and guides of all Christians: Apostles, martyrs, holy ascetics, priests, hierarchs, pastors and teachers. As chief shepherds and master builders of our common godliness and virtue, they tend and teach us all, like lights in the world, holding forth the word of life (Phil. 2:15-16). Their brightness excels that of the other radiantly pious and virtuous Saints as the sun outshines the stars, or as the heavens, which declare the sublime glory of God (cf. Psalm 19:1), transcend the skies. In their order and strength they are greater than the heavens, more beautiful than the stars, and swifter than both, and as regards what lies beyond the realm of the senses, it is they who reveal things which surpass the very heavens themselves and indeed the whole universe, and who make them bright with the light "in which there is no variableness neither shadow of turning" (cf. St. James 1:17). Not only do they bring people out of darkness into this wonderful light, that each of them may shine like the sun (St. Matthew 13:43), when the Author of Light, the God-man and Logos (Word), appears in glory.
The appearance to us this day of both these luminaries together brightens the Church, for their meeting produces a wealth of light, not an eclipse. It is not the case that one has a higher orbit and is placed above, while the other's is lower down and passes under his shadow. Nor does one rule the day, the other the night, such that one would overshadow the other if they appeared opposite each other. Light is not produced by one and received by the other in such a way that the latter's radiance would vary sometimes depending on the distance between them. Rather, both share equally in Christ, the Everlasting Source of Eternal Light, and have attained to the same height, glory and radiance. That is why the coming together of these lights signifies their solidarity and support for one another and illuminates the souls of the faithful twice over.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God