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FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER, APOSTLE



Alleluia Mt 16:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia. You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. R. Alleluia, alleluia.


When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”


REFLECTION

"You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”


Today we celebrate the Chair of St. Peter. This massive sculpture is in the semicircular recess (apse) behind the main altar in St. Peter's Basilica. It is a powerful work of art that expresses a spiritual statement. As you see in the picture above, the chair is encased in bronze, surrounded by angels, and supported by four doctors of the church (two Western doctors, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, and two Eastern doctors, St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius). Above all is a circular stained glass window depicting the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. (https://www.st-peters-basilica-tickets)


What does the Chair of St. Peter have to do with what our Lord confers upon St. Peter? Jesus bestows on St. Peter, His Church, and the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Why doesn't Jesus mention a chair?


Well in researching this question, Jesus gives us the answer in the Gospel of St. Matthew 23:2. Jesus tells the crowd and His disciples, “The scribes and Pharisees have sat down in the chair (or seat) of Moses. Therefore, all things whatsoever that they shall say to you, observe and do. Yet, truly, do not choose to act according to their works. For they say, but do not do.”(Matthew 23: 2-3)


There are two theories about the meaning of the “seat of Moses” and how it applies to the “chair of St. Peter.”


Theory 1 – The “seat of Moses” was the place in the Synagogue where the Rabbi would read from the Torah. He would sit to read and then stand to teach. Jesus does the opposite. He stood to read from the Torah and sat to speak or teach. The scribes and Pharisees would have commented on this discrepancy.


Theory 2 – The “seat of Moses” could be the actual seat where Moses sat down to judge the people or to listen to their complaints. This refers to the tradition or office in the ancient culture of the Israelites where a local official would sit and judge the people at the gate to the city. (torahapologetics.com)


Theory 2 seems to be better supported. Therefore, the “seat of Moses” and the “Chair of St. Peter” refer to the power to judge others or to make an official judgment on spiritual, moral, or matters of doctrine as the Catholic Church carried on this tradition.

According to history, St. Peter sat on the chair to give his sermons.


Pope Benedict the XVI in an address to visitors supports theory 2, “The Chair of Peter, represented in the apse of the Vatican Basilica is a monumental sculpture by Bernini. It is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity.” (Angelus, Feb. 19, 2012)


Traditionally since the fourth century, the Chair of St. Peter was celebrated as the “seat of the Holy See.” It was the chair of St. Peter’s Successors and where the new Pope would sit and was presented to the people after his election. Since the ancient chair was secured in the Vatican and encased in bronze, it is venerated as a relic. Still, it also denotes the cathedra or the place which is the cathedral of the bishop’s authority.

Yet, when the Pope proclaims “ex cathedra” which means “from the chair”, he does not have to sit on the Chair in order to make his proclamation infallible. He doesn’t even need to sit to make his pronouncements on faith and moral issues, ex cathedra.

(https:///www.ncregister)


Let us pray our PAPA Prayer for Priests and especially for the Pope and his mission as the Successor of St. Peter.



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