Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle
The readings for the day can be found here.
It may seem odd to have a Christian feast in honor of a chair! Yet for centuries upon centuries now, Christians have celebrated the unity that St. Peter not only represents but effects. Pope Benedict XVI who now sits on this symbolic chair, or cathedra in Greek and Latin (from where we get the term cathedral, the place of diocesan unity where one finds the bishop’s chair), recently reminded us that, “The Chair represents the pope’s mission as guide of the entire People of God. Celebrating the ‘Chair’ of Peter means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God.” This is why the first reading today reminds us that true Christian authority is not a matter of lordship but of freedom and growth (in Latin, the word authority and growth are the related); the Gospel, then, recalls Christ’s decision to establish his Church on Peter, thereby providing all he would need to ensure division and distortion never prevail over his holy people (that’s you and me!).
All Christians need this apostolic “Chair” of Peter because we all need to know what Christ asks of us. It is today popular to stress one’s “spirituality” while rejecting any particular commitment or demands on that faith life—”spiritual but not religious.” This is convenience, not Christianity. Since the time of the Apostles, God’s chosen ones knew and celebrated the very concrete nature of the faith as expressed by their bishops. As Cyprian taught as early as the year 250, we cannot have God for our Father if we refuse to have the Church for our Mother. Mother Church is what allows us not only to know the demands of discipleship but to receive the grace to flourish in living truly Christian lives: to love God and neighbor above all, but also to ensure we honor the Sabbath by (at least!) weekly Mass attendance, to live lives of sober and chaste virtue, to care for the poor, and to grow in the routine use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration, and daily—constant—prayer. The Chair of Peter makes demands upon our hearts and minds because through his Mother, through his Apostles, through all his Saints, Christ continues to draw all peoples to himself.
Fr. David Meconi, S.J. is an Assistant Professor of Early Christianity in the Department of Theological Studies.