Today is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Chief of the Apostles. Χρόνια πολλά! It’s worth checking out the Epistle and Gospel Readings for today’s Liturgy, as well as the Gospel for Orthros. Orthros is the morning prayer service of the Greek Orthodox Church. These readings we can find on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s website, www.goarch.org.
The Epistle Reading is from 2 Corinthians 11:21-33; 12:1-9.
In the Epistle, Saint Paul is defending his apostleship because there were people trying to slander him in Corinth. In his Apostolic ministry, he genuinely refers to himself as the least of all the Apostles, but here, for the sake of the flock, he defends what he has done as an Apostle. Saint John Chrysostom, in his homilies on the Epistles of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, writes:”Seest thou that he no where glorieth of miracles, but of his persecutions and his trials?”
Regarding the revelations that Saint Paul received from God, Saint John writes “he would have still kept silence, had he not seen the brethren perishing.” Concering the “thorn in the flesh” that Saint Paul also writes about, Saint John sheds light into what this was:
“An adversary is called, in the Hebrew, Satan; and in the third Book of Kings the Scripture has so termed such as were adversaries; and speaking of Solomon, says, ‘In his days there was no Satan,’ that is, no adversary, enemy, or opponent. (1 Kings v. 4.) What he says then is this: God would not permit the Preaching to progress, in order to check our high thoughts; but permitted the adversaries to set upon us….And so by the “messenger of Satan,” he means Alexander the coppersmith, the party of Hymenæus and Philetus, all the adversaries of the word; those who contended with and fought against him, those that cast him into a prison, those that beat him, that led him away to death; for they did Satan’s business.”
The Gospel for Liturgy is from Matthew 16:13-19. In this Gospel, Saint Peter confesses Christ to be the Son of the living God. Saint John Chrysostom, in his homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, tells us that the rock on which the Church is built is Saint Peter’s confession of faith, that Christ is the Son of the living God.
The Gospel for Orthros is from John 21:14-25. Regarding this excerpt, let us reflect on the words of Saint Gregory Palamas in his “Homily Twenty-Eight”:
“Anyone who looks at Peter will see that through repentance and painful grief he not only adequately healed the denial into which he had been drawn, but he also completely rooted out of his soul that passion which had made him fall behind the others. Wishing to demonstrate this to everyone, the Lord, after His Passion in the flesh for our sake and His rising on the third day, used those words to Peter which we read in today’s Gospel, asking him, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me more than these’ (John 21:15), meaning, ‘more than these disciples of mine’. But see how much humbler he has become. Whereas before, even without being asked, he set himself above the rest and said that even if all forsook the Lord, he would not; now, on being asked whether he loves Him more than the others do, he affirms that he loves Him, but leaves out the word ‘more’, saying ‘Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee’ (John 21:15, 16, cf. 17).”