Monday, July 02, 2007

The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

by Dom Christopher Lazowski

Michael Lawrence recently wished us all a happy summer Christmas, which reminded me that the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist has its very own Boxing Day, so to speak: the feast of Sts Peter and Paul. The celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord, as we all know, is followed immediately by the dies natalis of the first Christian to shed his blood for his faith, St. Stephen. A few days after the feast of the nativity of the precursor, we celebrate the natalis of the two disciples whose blood consecrated the city and church of Rome. As the persecution which led to the death of St. Stephen pushed the Church beyond the walls of Jerusalem, so the death of Sts Peter and Paul in the capital of the pagan Roman Empire began a long process whereby the woman drunk on the blood of the saints would become the mother and head of all the churches.

The liturgy of 29 June also contains echoes of Christmas. In fact, is some places, the natalis of Sts Peter and Paul (we don't know the date of their death with anything like certitude) was celebrated on other days. In Gaul, the feast was observed on 27 or 28 December. The Roman feast, according to a Roman calendar dating from 354 at the very latest, was observed on 29 June. This date seems to be connected with a possible temporary translation of their relics to the cemetery of St. Sebastian in 258, to protect them from profanation during the persecution of Valerian. Whatever the origin of the Roman date may be, two of the chants of the day's proper remind us of a primitive connection with Christmas. The melody of the 2nd mode alleluia, “Tu es Petrus”, is the same as the alleluia “Dies sanctificatus” of the third Mass of Christmas. The 6th mode communion “Tu es Petrus” echoes the communion “In splendoribus” of the first Mass of Christmas; beyond a more general resemblance, the word “aedificabo” in the first has the same melody as “ex utero” in the second.

The photographs are of first Vespers of the feast here at Saint-Wandrille last Thursday.

Free Image Hosting at

Free Image Hosting at

Free Image Hosting at

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: