SAINT PETER’S CHAIR AT ANTIOCH
By Abbot Dom Guéranger
We are called upon, a second time, to honour St. Peter’s chair: ﬁrst, it was his pontiﬁcate in Rome; today, it is his episcopate at Antioch. The seven years spent by the prince of the apostles in the second of these cities, were the grandest glory she ever had; and they are too important a portion of the life of St. Peter to be passed by without being noticed in the Christian cycle.
Three years had elapsed since our Lord’s Ascension. The Church had already been made fruitful by martyrdom, and from Jerusalem she had spread into distant countries. Antioch, the ﬁrst of the cities of Asia, had received the Gospel; and it was there that those who professed the faith of Jesus were ﬁrst called Christians. Jerusalem was doomed to destruction for having not only refused to acknowledge, but even cruciﬁed, the Messias: it was time for Peter, in whom resided the supreme power, to deprive the faithless city of the honour she had heretofore enjoyed, of possessing within her walls the chair of the apostolate. It was towards the Gentiles that the Holy Spirit drove those clouds, which were shown to Isaias as the symbol of the holy apostles. Accordingly, it is in Antioch, the third capital of the Roman Empire, that Peter ﬁrst places the august throne, on which, as vicegerent of Christ, he presides over the universal Church.
But the progress of the apostles was so rapid; the conquests they made, in spite of every opposition, were so extensive, that the vicar of Christ was inspired to leave Antioch, after he had honoured it with the chair during the space of seven years. Alexandria, the second city of the empire, is also to be made a see of Peter; and Home, the’ capital of the world, awaits the grand privilege for which God has long been preparing her. Onwards, then, does the prince advance, bearing with him the destinies of the Church; where he ﬁxes his last abode, and where he dies, there will he have his successor in his sublime dignity of vicar of Christ. He leaves Antioch, making one of his disciples, Evodius, its bishop. Evodius succeeds Peter as bishop of Antioch; but that see is not to inherit the headship of the Church, which goes whithersoever Peter goes. He sends Mark, another of his disciples, to take possession, in his name of Alexandria; and this Church he would have to be the second in the world, and though he has not ruled it in person, he raises it above that of Antioch. This done, he goes to Rome, where he permanently establishes that chair, on which he will live, and teach, and rule, in his successors, to the end of time.
And here we have the origin of the three great patriarchal sees, which were the object of so much veneration in the early ages: the ﬁrst is Rome, invested with all the prerogatives of the prince of the apostles, which, when dying, be transmitted to her; the second is Alexandria, which owes her pre-eminence to Peter’s adopting her as his second see; the third is Antioch, whither be repaired in person, when he left Jerusalem to bring to the Gentiles the grace of adoption. If, therefore, Antioch is below Alexandria in rank, Alexandria never enjoyed the honour granted to Antioch, of having been governed, in person, by him whom Christ appointed to be the supreme pastor of His Church. Nothing, then, could be more just, than that Antioch should be honoured, as having, for seven years, had the privilege of being the centre of Christendom; and this is the object of today’s feast.
The children of the Church have a right to feel a special interest in every solemnity that is kept in memory of St. Peter. The father’s feast is a feast for the whole family; for to him it owes its very life. If there be but one fold, it is because there is but one Shepherd. Let us, then, honour Peter’s divine prerogative, to which Christianity owes its preservation; and let us often reﬂect upon the obligations we are under to the apostolic see. On the feast of the chair at Rome, we saw how faith is taught, and maintained, and propagated by the mother-Church, which has inherited the promises made to Peter. Today, let us consider the apostolic see as the sole source of the legitimate power, whereby mankind is ruled and governed in all that concerns eternal salvation
Our Saviour said to Peter: ‘To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” that is to say, of the Church. He said to him on another occasion: ‘Feed My lambs, feed My sheep.’ So that Peter is prince; for, in the language of the sacred Scriptures, keys denote princely power: he is also pastor, and universal pastor; for the whole flock is comprised under the two terms, lambs and sheep. And yet there are other pastors in every portion of the Christian world. The bishops, whom the Holy Ghost hath placed to rule the Church of God, govern, in his name, their respective dioceses, and are also pastors. How comes it that the keys, which were given to Peter, are found in other hands than his? The Catholic Church explains the difﬁculty to us by her tradition. She says to us, by Tertullian: ‘Christ gave the keys to Peter, and through him to the Church.’ By St. Optatus of Milevum: ‘For the sake of unity, Peter was made the ﬁrst among all the apostles, and he alone received the keys, that he might give them to the rest.’ By St. Gregory of Nyssa: ‘It is through Peter that Christ gave to bishops the keys of their heavenly prerogative.’ By St. Leo the Great: ‘If our Lord willed that there should be something common to Peter and the rest of the princes of His Church, it was only on this condition, that whatsoever He gave to the rest, He gave it to them through Peter.
Yes, the episcopate is most sacred, for it comes from the hands of Jesus Christ through Peter and his successors. Such is the unanimous teaching of Catholic tradition, which is in keeping with the language used by the Roman pontiff’s, from the earliest ages, who have always spoken of the dignity of bishops as consisting in their being ‘ called to a share of their own solicitude.’ Hence St. Cyprian does not hesitate to say that ‘ our Saviour, wishing to establish the episcopal dignity and constitute His Church, says to Peter: “To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven”; and here we have both the institution of bishops, and the constitution of the Church.’ This same doctrine is clearly stated in a letter written to Pope St. Symmachus by St. Cesarius of Arles,‘ who lived in the ﬁfth century: ‘The episcopate ﬂows from the blessed apostle Peter; and consequently, it belongs to your holiness to prescribe to the several Churches the rules which they are to follow.’ This fundamental principle, which St. Leo the Great has so ably and eloquently developed (as we have seen on the feast of the chair at Rome, January 18), this principle, which is taught us by universal tradition, is laid down with all possible precision in the magniﬁcent letters, still extant, of Pope St. Innocent I., who preceded St. Leo by several years.
Thus he writes to the Council of Carthage, that ‘the episcopate, with all its authority, emanates from the apostolic see’; to the Council of Milevum, that ‘bishops must look upon Peter as the source whence both their name and their dignity are derived ’; to St. Victricius, bishop of Rouen, that ‘the apostolate and the episcopate both owe their origin to Peter.’
Controversy is not our object. All we aim at by giving these quotations from the fathers on the prerogatives of Peter’s chair, is to excite the faithful to be devoted to it and venerate it. This we have endeavoured to do, by showing them that this chair is the source of the spiritual authority, which, in its several degrees, rules and sanctiﬁes them. All spiritual authority comes from Peter; all comes from the bishop of Rome, in whom Peter will continue to govern the Church to the end of time. Jesus Christ is the founder of the episcopate; it is the Holy Ghost who establishes bishops to rule the Church; but the mission and the institution, which assign the pastor his ﬂock, and the ﬂock its pastor, these are given by Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost through the ministry of Peter and his successors.
How sacred, how divine, is this authority of the keys, which is ﬁrst given by heaven itself to the Roman Pontiff’; then is delegated by him to the prelates of the Church; and thus guides and blesses the whole Christian world! The apostolic see has varied its mode of transmitting such an authority according to the circumstances of the several ages; but the one source of the whole power was always the same, the chair of Peter. We have already seen how, at the commencement, there were three chairs: Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch; and all three were sources of the canonical institution of the bishops of their respective provinces; but they were all three chairs of Peter, for they were founded by him that they might preside over their patriarchates, as St. Leo, St. Gelasius, and St. Gregory the Great, expressly teach. But of these three chairs, the Pontiff of Rome had his authority and his institution from heaven; whereas, the two other patriarchs could not exercise their rights, until they were recognized and conﬁrmed by him who was Peter’s successor, as vicar of Christ. Later on, two other sees were added to these ﬁrst three: but it was only by the consent of the Roman Pontiff that Constantinople and Jerusalem obtained such an honour. Let us notice, too, the difference there is between the accidental honours conferred on four of these Churches, and the divine prerogative of the Church of Home. By God’s permission, the sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and
Jerusalem, were deﬁled by heresy; they became chairs of pestilence; and having corrupted the faith they received from Rome, they could not transmit to others the mission they themselves had forfeited. Sad indeed was the ruin of such pillars as these! Peter’s hand had placed them in the Church. They had merited the love and veneration of men; but they fell; and their fall gave one more proof of the solidity of that ediﬁce, which Christ Himself had built on Peter. The unity of the Church was made more visible. Obliged by the treachery of her own favoured children to deprive them of the privileges they had received from her, Rome was, more evidently than ever, the sole source of pastoral power.
We, then, both priests and people, have a right to know whence our pastors have received their power. From whose hand have they received the keys? If their mission come from the apostolic see, let us honour and obey them, for they are sent to us by Jesus Christ, who has invested them, through Peter, with His own authority. If they claim our obedience without having been sent by the bishop of Rome, we must refuse to receive them, for they are not acknowledged by Christ as His ministers. The holy anointing may have conferred on them the sacred character of the episcopate: it matters not; they must be as aliens to us, for they have not been sent, they are not pastors.
Thus it is that the divine Founder of the Church, who willed that she should be a city seated on a mountain, gave her visibility; it was an essential requisite; for since all were called to enter her pale, all must be able to see her. But He was not satisﬁed with this. He moreover willed that the spiritual power exercised by ‘her pastors should come from a visible source, so that the faithful might have a sure means of verifying the claims of those who were to guide them in His name. Our Lord (we say it reverently) owed this to us; for, on the last day, He will not receive us as His children, unless we shall have been members of His Church, and have lived in union with Him by the ministry of pastors lawfully constituted. Honour, then, and submission to Jesus in His vicar! honour and submission to the vicar of Christ in the pastors he sends!
As a tribute of our devotion to the prince of the apostles, let us recite, in his honour, the following hymn, composed by St. Peter Damian:
O prince of the apostolic senate! Herald of our Lord! First pastor of the faithful! watch over the ﬂock entrusted to thee.
Lead us through verdant pastures, feeding us with the nourishment of the word; and lead us, thus fed, into the heavenly fold, whither thou hast already gone.
To thee, Peter, have been delivered the keys of heaven’s gate; and all things, both in heaven and on earth, acknowledge thy authority.
‘Tis thou that choosest the city where is to be established the rock of the true faith, the foundation of the building, on which the Catholic Church stands immovable.
Thy shadow, as thou passest by, heals the sick; and Tabitha, that made garments for the poor, was raised to life at thy bidding.
Bound with two chains, thou wast set free by an angel’s power; he bids thee put on thy garments and thy sandals, and lo! the prison door is opened.
To the Father unbegotten, and to the only-begotten Son, and to the coequal Spirit of them both, be praise and kingly highest power. Amen.
Glory be to thee, O prince of the apostles, on thy chair at Antioch, where thou didst for seven years preside over the universal Church! How magniﬁcent are the stations of thy apostolate! Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria (by thy disciple Mark), and Rome, these are the cities which have been honoured by thy august chair. After Rome, Antioch was the longest graced by its presence: justly, therefore, do we honour this Church, which was thus made, by thee, the mother and mistress of all other Churches. Alas! all her beauty has now left her; her faith is dead; she is in bondage to the Saracen. Save her, take her once more under thy power, bring her into allegiance to Rome, where thou hast thy chair, not for seven years only, but for all ages. The gates of hell have let loose the fury of every tempest upon thee, ﬁrm rock of the Church! And we ourselves have seen the immortal chair banished for a time from Rome. The words of St. Ambrose then came to our minds: ‘Where Peter is, there is the Church.’ How could we despair? Did we not know, that it was God’s inspiration which made thee choose Rome for the ﬁxed resting-place of thy throne ‘No human will can put asunder what God has united; the bishop of Rome must ever be the vicar of Christ; and the vicar of Christ, let sacrilege and persecution banish him as they will, must ever be the bishop of Rome. Holy apostle! Calm the wildness of the tempest, lest the weak should ‘take scandal. Beseech our Lord that He permit not the residence of thy successor to be disturbed in that holy city, which has been chosen for so great an honour. If it be that her inhabitants deserve punishment for their offences, spare them for the sake of their brethren of the rest of the world; and pray for them, that their faith may once more become what it was when St. Paul praised it, and said to them: ‘ Your faith is spoken of in the whole world.’
THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER AT ANTIOCH
Greater–double White vestments
Missa ‘Statuit ei Dominus’
MONDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK OF LENT
The Station is in the church of Saint Clement, Pope and Martyr. In this, more than in any other church of the city of Rome, there has been preserved the ancient arrangement of the early Christian basilicas. Under its altar reposes the body of its holy patron, together with the relics of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, and of the consul St. Flavius Clemens.
INTROIT – Eccles. 45: 30; Ps. 131: 1
Statuit ei Dominus testamentum pacis, et principem fecit eum: ut sit illi sacerdotii dignitas in æternum. Ps. Memento Domine, David: et omnis mansuetudinus ejus. Gloria Patri.
The Lord made to him a covenant of peace, and made him a prince: that the dignity of priesthood should be to him forever. Ps. O Lord, remember David: and all his meekness. Glory be to the Father.
O God, Who, committing to blessed Peter, Thine Apostle, the keys of the heavenly kingdom, didst bestow on him the pontifical function of binding and loosing, grant that, by the help of his intercession, we may be delivered from the bonds of our sins. Who livest and reignest.
COMMEMORATION OF ST. PAUL
O God, Who by the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul didst teach the multitude of the Gentiles, grant us, we pray Thee, that, honoring his commemoration, we may experience the benefit of his patronal influence with Thee. Through our Lord.
COLLECT – FERIA IN LENT
Grant, we beseech You, almighty God, that Your servants who discipline the body by fasting from food, may strive after righteousness by abstaining from sin. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE – I Peter 1: 1-7
Lesson from the first letter of St. Peter the Apostle
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers dispersed through Pontus, Galatía, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the fore-knowledge of God the Father, unto the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ; grace unto you and peace be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ Who according to His great mercy hath regenerated us unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that can not fade, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are kept by faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time Wherein you shall greatly rejoice, if now you must be for a little time made sorrowful in divers temptations: that the trial of your faith, much more precious than gold (which is tried by the fire), may be found unto praise, and glory, and honour, at the appearing of Jesus Christ our Lord.
GRADUAL – Psalm 106: 32, 31
Let them exalt him in the church of the people; and praise him in the chair of the ancients. Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him; and his wonderful works to the children of men.
TRACT – Matthew 16:18-19
And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.
GOSPEL – Matthew 16: 13-19
At that time, Jesus came into the quarters of Cæsarea Philippi, and He asked His disciples, Saying, Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said, Some, John the Baptist, and other some, Elias, and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them, But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father Who is in Heaven: and I say to thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and to thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven.
OFFERTORY – Matthew 16: 18-19
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.
We beseech Thee, O Lord that the prayer of the blessed Apostle Peter may commend the sacrifices and supplications of Thy Church, so that the celebration we hold for his glory may profit for our pardon. Through our Lord.
COMMEMORATION OF ST. PAUL
Sanctify, O Lord, the offerings of Thy people by the prayer of Thine Apostle Paul, that those things which are pleasing to Thee by Thine own institution may become the more pleasing by the favour of his intercession. Through our Lord.
SECRET – FERIA IN LENT
May this sacrificial gift offered in appeasement and praise, O Lord, make us worthy of Your protection. Through our Lord.
PREFACE OF THE APOSTLES
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, to entreat Thee humbly, O Lord, that Thou wouldst not desert Thy flock, O everlasting Shepherd; but through Thy blessed Apostles, wouldst keep it under Thy constant protection; that it may be governed by those same rulers, whom as vicars of Thy work, Thou didst set over it to be its pastors. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying…
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.
COMMUNION – Matthew 16: 18
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.
Let the gift we offer bring us joy, O Lord, that, as we declare Thee wonderful in Thine Apostle Peter, so through him we may share the generosity of Thy forgiveness. Through our Lord.
COMMEMORATION OF ST. PAUL
Sanctified by the mystery of salvation, O Lord, we pray that his prayer may fail us not, by whose patronage Thou halt granted us to be governed. Through our Lord.
POSTCOMMUNION – FERIA IN LENT
May this Communion, O Lord, cleanse us of sin, and make us partakers of heavenly healing. Through our Lord.