This feast celebrates the two pillars on which Christianity was built: Peter is associated with the community in Jerusalem and Paul with the Gentile converts. Together they represent the universality of the Church.
Peter, the Rock, was the chief of the Apostles, their leader and our first Pope. Peter was put to death in the reign of Nero sometime between 64 and 67 AD. There is no historical evidence for the tradition that he was crucified, either upright or upside down, but this is no reason to discount the tradition. For centuries Peter’s tomb was believed to have been under what we now call Saint Peter’s Basilica. In 1968 Pope Paul VI announced that his skeletal remains had been found beneath the high altar.
Paul, the Pharisee who was converted during his trip to Damascus was also executed in the reign of Nero, in 67 or 68 AD, possibly at the same time as Saint Peter. The place of martyrdom in local Roman tradition is the site of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. Since he was a Roman citizen, the mode of execution according to the same tradition was decapitation.
The red vestments worn on this day remind us of the price that the commitment of these men exacted of them. The focus here is not on the offices either of them might have held within the community but on the character of their witness of faith.
When June 29 falls on a Sunday, the feast supersedes the celebration of the Sunday in Ordinary Time. Continue reading “Jun 29, 2021: Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles (ABC)”