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The Chair of St Peter
“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and walked wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and your arms, and someone else will dress you, and carry you where you do not wish to go.” John 21:18
“Today’s feast, attested as early as the mid-fourth century may have its roots as a Christian substitute for the pagan commemoration of dead relatives and friends celebrated in Rome between 13-22 February. At this commemoration, a chair (cathedra) was left empty for particular deceased persons. Since the actual date of Peter’s death was unknown, it came to be commemorated on 22 February, eventually celebrating his taking pastoral responsibility of the Church of Rome.” From the Ordo, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
When I was commissioned to paint/write an icon of The Chair of St Peter I could only contemplate the chair that any Pope would eventually hold, which is the Cross. The legend around the death of St Peter tells us he did not feel worthy to be crucified upright as his Lord Jesus and asked to be crucified upside down. No matter how good or how holy, or how diligently each Pope has ministered to us, they always face incessant criticism and spiritual or actual crucifixion. I have witnessed this in my own brief lifetime from Pope Pius XII to our present day with Pope Francis. This is a very special feastday to honor and pray especially for our blessed Pope Francis.
“...feed the flock of God which is among you, taking care of it, not by constraint, but willingly, according to God, not for filthy lucre’s sake, but voluntarily: neither as lording it over the clergy, but being made a pattern of the flock from the heart. And when the prince of pastors shall appear, you shall receive a never fading crown of glory.” First Letter of St Peter 5:2-4.
“Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.”
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 February 2021