My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 29th of June, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates the
holy, glorious, far-famed, and chiefs of the Apostles,
PETER and PAUL.
Peter and Paul, the chiefs of the Apostles, are celebrated on the 29th of June in one of the culminating feasts of the Holy Gospel, according to Saint John Maximovitch, "The Apostles Peter and Paul, without having authority over others, both stood in front of all the others on account of their warm seal and labors. Their life was the most brilliant and was a personification of the life and labors of all the Apostles. The end of their earthly labors was especially impressive, also thanks to the fact that it occurred as it were before the eyes of the whole world. Peter WAS CRUCIFIED UPSIDE DOWN, and Paul WAS BEHEADED, BOTH IN ROME, itself toward which at that time the gaze of all peoples was directed. The news of this quickly flew to all the ends of the universe, all the more in that they were both known personally in many places; their names were everywhere the Savior was preached. The Apostle of the Jews and the Apostle of the Gentiles departed in Christ ON THE SAME DAY, as if indicating their equal nearness to God and the oneness of the Church of Christ, ‘WHERE THERE IS NO GREEK AND JEW’ (Colossians 3:11). Therefore, the day on which the earthly labors ended for the leaders of the Apostles, who labored more than all–though separated in body, yet together in spirit–became one of the most memorable days for the whole Church.
"Though it is an immovable feast, still it is bound up with the movable feasts since the preparation for it–the Apostles’ Fast–begins one week after the Feast of Pentecost. Thus, the length of this fast also depends on the date of the celebration of Pascha. This say reminds us of how they went over the earth preaching the heavenly kingdom. They emulated Christ by THEIR POVERTY, ENDURANCE WHILE BEING DISHONORED, AND SUFFERINGS. They showed their love for the children of the Heavenly Father. They revealed their inward travails over those who heeded their preaching as well as their griefs over those who paid no heed to their words. Then, finally, they offered themselves as a sacrifice. This was the earthly lot of the Apostles. But the culmination of their earthly life is at the same time the beginning of their Heavenly glory… their ascent in Christ, Whom they loved, in order to REMAIN ETERNAL WITH Him. The day of their earthly end in the day of their heavenly birth. It is the receiving OF THE CROWNS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, laid up for them and FOR ALL WHO HAVE LOVED THE HIS APPEARING.
"It is noteworthy that the Feast of the Holy Apostles follows after the Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit and, being in part bound up with it, the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul CULMINATES THE YEARLY CYCLE OF FEASTS DED9CATED TO THE EARTHLY LIFE OF CHRIST AND REVEALS THE ESSENCE OF HIS PROMISES. Even as the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist IS THE PROLOGUE TO THE GOSPEL AND THE BEGINNING OF THE EVENTS DESCRIBED IN IT, SO ALSO THE REPOSE OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL IS BOTH THEIR CULMINATION AND THE EPILOGUE OF THE GOSPEL. The Feast of Saint John the Baptist IS THE BEGINNING OF THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ON EARTH; HIS BEHEADING IS THE PREACHING OF OF IT IN HADES; AND THE FEAT OF THE HOLY APOSTLES IS THE REALIZATION OF IT IN HEAVEN."
"We, therefore, celebrate THE MEMORY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL WITH REVERENTIAL AWE AND HEARTFELT LOVE. Saint Gregory Palamas writes for the present feast: "They are the fathers and guides of all Christians: APOSTLES, MARTYRS, HOLY ASCETICS, PRIESTS, HIERARCHS, PASTORS, AND TEACHERS. As Chief shephereds 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’ [Philippians 2:16]. Their BRIGHTNESS EXCELLS 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, TRANSCEND THE SKIES… The appearance to us this dasy of both these luminaries together BRIGHTENS THE Church. It is not the case that one has a higher orbit and is placed above, while the other is lower down and passes under his shadow. Nor does one rule the day, the ohter 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 EQUALITY IN CHRIST, THE EVERLASTING SOURCE OF Eternal Light, and hae 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." [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy, Divine, and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George