By Archpriest Steven Rogers – Word Magazine, June 1999
There are perhaps no two men more greatly revered yet so seemingly different than Saints Peter and Paul.
Commemorated by the Orthodox Church on June 29, Saints Peter and Paul, “the heads of the Apostles” as described throughout the hymnody of the feast, are especially loved by the Church of Antioch, where Peter served as its first bishop and Paul set forth on his great missionary travels. Peter, who preached on the day of Pentecost when 3,000 were converted to the faith, and Paul, the greatest missionary the world has ever known and author of over half of the New Testament, were two of the most powerful instruments ever raised up by God to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to found This holy Church. Their preaching and the power of God within them literally transformed the world. Both lived completely for Christ and both died a martyr’s death in Rome by order of the evil Roman emperor Nero.
Their power and end were the same, and yet when we first meet them in scripture, they are so seemingly different. There is Peter, the fisherman, simple and uneducated. There is Paul (then Saul), the Pharisee, brilliant and educated, learned in Jewish, Greek and Roman thought. There is Peter, emotional and impulsive, often speaking and acting hastily but always remorseful. There is Paul, seemingly cold and calculating, a powerful and even ruthless intellect, able to persecute and kill without remorse.
No two men could be more different than Peter and Paul — one driven by fire and emotion, the other by coldness and intellect.
Yes, these men were vastly different. But they had one thing in common — one thing that transcended their differences and made them one. That one thing was a personal encounter with the Son of God.
Peter encountered Christ and was raised up from his humble beginnings to a man of power. Paul encountered Christ and was lowered from his lofty position to a man of godly humility. Both gave up what they were, to become what God desired them to be. And through them the whole world was changed.
Oftentimes, we look at ourselves with our limitations and inadequacies and feel we have nothing to offer to God. We shy away from serving His Church because we feel we have no skills or gifts to offer. We see others with all their gifts, and we back away thinking there is nothing within us that God can use.
Often times, in our pride and arrogance, we feel we are above many of the simple tasks and labors that are so much a part of the ongoing life of God’s Church.
Seen together, Saints Peter and Paul teach us a great lesson — that no matter who we are — no matter our backgrounds, our talents, our station in life — if we offer who we are completely to God, He will make us who we are supposed to be. If we offer ourselves completely to God — both our abilities and our limitations — He can and will use us to the glory of His kingdom. If we offer ourselves completely, whether we are a simple fisherman or a towering intellectual, the world will see God within us.
God created us who we are and He came into the world to make us all we can be. Peter continued to be Peter and Paul continued to be Paul, but it was Christ within them that made them into all that God desired them to be.
And so it is with us. If we offer ourselves to God with all our strengths and weaknesses, He will use us to the glory of his Kingdom. As we, the Church of Antioch, gather together to celebrate the feast of our beloved Apostles Peter and Paul, those “luminaries to those in darkness, two rays of the sun,” let us commit ourselves to give all that we are to God as they did, so that like them, we may radiate the love of God into a cold and unbelieving world.
Holy and Glorious Apostles Peter and Paul – June 29
Leaders of the Apostles and teachers of the world, pray to the Master of all to grant peace to the world and great mercy to our souls.
Kontakion, Tone 2
Thou hast taken the firm and divinely inspired Preachers, O Lord, the leading Apostles, for the enjoyment of Thy blessings and for repose. For Thou hast accepted their labours and death as above every burnt offering, O Thou Who alone knowest the secrets of our hearts.