1. THE HOLY APOSTLE PETER
Peter was the son of Jonah and the brother of Andrew, the First-called. He was of the Tribe of Simeon from the town of Bethsaida. He was a fisherman and, at first, was called Simon but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas or Peter: “And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, He said, You are Simon the son of Jonah: you shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a rock” (St. John 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to clearly express faith in the Lord Jesus saying: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (St. Matthew 16:16). His love for the Lord was great and his faith in the Lord gradually strengthened. When the Lord was brought to trial, Peter denied Him three times but after only one glance into the face of the Lord, Peter’s soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter appears as a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. Following one of his sermons in Jerusalem, three-thousand souls converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, throughout Illyria and Italy. Peter worked many powerful miracles; he healed the sick, resurrected the dead; the sick were healed even from his shadow. He had a great struggle with Simon the Magician who proclaimed himself as god but in reality Simon was a servant of Satan. Finally, Peter shamed and defeated him. By order of the evil Emperor Nero, Simon’s friend, Peter was condemned to death. Installing Linus as Bishop of Rome, counseling and comforting the flock of Christ, Peter proceeded joyfully to his death. Seeing the cross before him, he begged his executioners to crucify him upside down for he considered himself unworthy to die as did his Lord. Thus the great servant of the Great Lord reposed and received the wreath of eternal glory.
2. THE APOSTLE PAUL
Paul was born in Tarsus of the tribe of Benjamin. At first, he was called Saul, studied under Gamaliel, was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christianity. He was miraculously converted to the Christian Faith by the Lord Himself Who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was baptized by the Apostle Ananias, was called Paul and numbered in the service of the great apostles. With a fiery zeal, Paul preached the Gospel everywhere from the borders of Arabia to Spain, among the Jews and among the Gentiles. He received the title “Apostle to the Gentiles.” As horrible as his sufferings were, so much more was his super human patience. Throughout all the years of his preaching Paul, from day to day, hung as one on a weak thread between life and death. Since he fulfilled all days and nights with labor and suffering for Christ, since he organized the Church in many places and since he attained such a degree of perfection he was able to say: “It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero at the same time as the Apostle Peter.
Apolytikion of the Holy Apostles (Mode 4)
Preeminent Apostles and teachers of the universe, intercede with the Master of all, to grant peace to the whole world, and great mercy to our souls.
Kontakion (Mode 2)
You have taken to yourself, O Lord, the pinnacles of Your Disciples, those unerring theologians and preachers, to enjoy Your blessings and repose. For You accepted their labors and their death as being higher than any whole-burnt offering, for only You know what is in the heart.
Excerpt from St. John Chrysostom’s homily:
“On the chiefs of the apostles Peter and Paul,
and on their most-glorious martyrdom”
I behold heaven and earth in contest today, for this present feast of the memory of the apostles, with the heavenly powers preciously praising their pained voice of teaching, through which was made known to the world the mystery, as Paul cries out: “So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:10)”, while men on earth rush to rightly praise and show honor to the chiefs, through whom they have entered into salvation. For how was Peter great? How was Paul equal? Through their works and words they conquered all creation in the heavens and upon earth. For though the clay of their bodies was covered with wounds, they were found greater than the angels. What, therefore, shall I say towards those teachers of the creation above and below? I will not find a proper word to honor those who honored our people, who passed through the whole earth and sea, and uprooted the roots of sins, and sowed the seeds of piety in the hearts of disobedient men.
Peter, the teacher of the apostles; Paul, who is known to the world, and who partakes with the powers above. Peter, the bridle of the ungrateful Judeans; Paul, the entreaty for the nations. And I see the surpassing wisdom of the Master, for Peter was chosen from among fishermen, while Paul from the maker of tents, and He did this for our benefit. For he drowned the glory of the Judeans. Because of this, to the fisherman, the Lord said: “Go to the shore, and cast out your hook, and the first fish you find, open its mouth, and you will find a coin.” By sea, I take it to mean the lawless judgment of the Judeans. By hook, the crafted word of preaching. By fish, He symbolizes the law. Regarding the opening of its mouth, He speaks of its explanation. To find a coin in it, He means to spiritually examine it. While Paul was used as a tent-maker for the nations, that they who were naked, through the law and grace, might be clothed with the red covering that was dyed in the water and blood of the Master. Therefore, the Master cries to him: “Go forth, therefore, for I send you to the far away nations.” O blessed dyad, in which the souls of the whole world have believed! Peter, the beginning of orthodoxy, the great revealer of the Church, the needed counselor of Christians, the treasure of the powers from above, the apostle honored by the Master. Paul, the great preacher of the truth, the boast of the world, the man in heaven, and angel upon the earth, the glory of the Church, the eagle that soars in the heights, the lyre of the Spirit, the swallow and cicada (τέττιξ), the Master’s organ, the speedy servant of Christ. Paul and Peter, the yoked oxen of the Church, who passed through the world well in things, taking up the cross instead of a yoke, instead of a driver the Savior, instead of a furrow laid down the Scriptures, instead of the plow the grace of the Holy Spirit. Paul and Peter, who daily gladden the Church, the Master’s treasuries, the inns of the world, the receptacles of the Spirit, those who explain the Holy Trinity, those who relate the economy of the divine word. Peter, my spiritual love; Paul, the vessel of election, and my staff. Peter, the temple of God; Paul, the mouth of Christ, the lyre of the Spirit, a man of three cubits and who reaches the heavens; who is outlined in place, and outlines the Master of all for the world; who proceeded from Jerusalem and around as far as Illyricum fulfilling the Gospel of Christ; the long-distance runner, the eagle who reaches heaven; he who fulfills divine grace, he who witnessed for the Lord, bearing His name before the whole world; the three-floored building leading to heaven, and entering paradise, and reaching the Master, and incomprehensible throne that ascends, and he who hears unspeakable mysteries, which cannot be spoken of by man.