Every saint, seemingly, has his or her day. St John the Baptist has two (24 June and 29 August), while our Lady has several. How is it that St Peter — “the rock on which I build my Church” — shares 29 June with St Paul, whose Conversion is already observed on 25 January?
St Augustine gave the classic explanation of the double celebration of St Peter and St Paul on 29 June. In one of his sermons in their honour (sermon 295), he declared: “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy by the apostles’ blood. . .”
The fame of these two apostles as heroes of the faith was treasured, and traditions of their ministries and martyrdom at Rome were early and unrivalled in the Sub-Apostolic Church, by which they were revered — as Princes of the Church. Their cult can be dated from its original observance on 29 June in AD 258, and it is, therefore, one of the oldest festivals in the Christian calendar.
Originally, it was not necessarily observed on that date as the anniversary of their martyrdoms, whose dates were probably unknown. It probably marked the translation of the apostles’ bodies to a resting-place ad Catacumbas — “to [the] catacombs” adjacent to the present Church of St Sebastian on the Appian Way in the city of Rome, where they were safely guarded during the third-century persecution under Valerian.
In the next century, their bodies were finally deposited in the basilicas constructed for them by the Emperor Constantine, at the Vatican and the Ostian Way. The Roman Church continued to celebrate their joint festival on 29 June, because that date had been fixed in the calendar, and it had definitely become an annual commemoration of the apostles’ martyrdoms. As a double festival, it spread throughout the Western Church, but at the English Reformation, in the 1549 Prayer Book, Cranmer restricted the date to St Peter.
Mindful of the antiquity of the combined observance and its significance in the foundation of the Christian Church, Bishop Cosin attempted to restore the title “St Peter and St Paul’s Day” in his Durham Prayer Book, and amended the collect to include St Paul as “a choice vessel to bear thy name before the Gentiles”; but his proposal was not adopted in 1662.
It was not until the Alternative Service Book 1980 that provision was again made for those who wished to follow the ancient custom of celebrating both St Peter and St Paul on the same day — with an optional arrangement that continues in the Common Worship calendar. This notes that “Peter the Apostle may be celebrated alone without Paul, on 29 June.”
(Canon) Terry Palmer
Why cannot the wine remaining in the chalice after the holy communion service be poured down the drain instead of having to pass through a human body before it is flushed down the drain?
G. E. R.
A member of our church prayer team now prays regularly in tongues. Whenever she does so, she always uses the same words, no matter what situation we are praying for. As I’ve have never spoken in tongues myself, is this normal, or would you expect the Holy Spirit to give different words for different situations to the person praying?
Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.