Monday, February 22, 2010

Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle - February 22

Today, Februrary 22, is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. This chair is the symbol of the authority of St. Peter's and his successors, the popes, and thus a key to the unity of all Christians. That is in part because it not just a chair, but a throne (θρόνος), or cathedra, i.e. a seat of authority.

The symbol of the throne as seat of authority is actually alluded to Christ, who is promised the throne of his father David:
"He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David." (Luke 1:32)

Christ rules the Church through the men He has entrusted with the keys of His Kingdom, and given them authority to speak in His name.

"And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19)

Christ has given stewardship of His Kingdom to His steward. This is the Petrine office, the chair of St. Peter the Apostle.

St. Cyril, bishop of Alexandria (375-444 AD), says: "That we may remain members of our apostolic head, the throne of the Roman Pontiffs, of whom it is our duty to seek what we are to believe and what we are to hold, venerating him, beseeching him above others; for his it is to reprove, to correct, to appoint, to loose, and to bind in place of Him Who set up that very throne, and Who gave the fullness of His own to no other, but to him alone, to whom by divine right all bow the head, and the primates of the world are obedient as to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself."

Although the power of binding and loosing was given to all the apostles in common, nevertheless in order to indicate some order in this power, it was given first of all to Peter alone, to show that this power must come down from him to the others. For this reason He said to him in the singular: "Confirm (strengthen) your brothers" (Luke 22:32), and: "Feed My sheep" (John 21:17), i.e. according to St. John Chrysostom [347–407 AD, Archbishop of Constantinople]: "Be thou the president and head of thy brethren in My stead, that they, putting thee in My place, may preach and confirm thee throughout the world whilst thou sittest on thy throne."

The signficance of today's feast, therefore, in addition to the tradition of the reverence associated with this chair, is the actual respect and obedience accorded to Peter's successors, the Popes, Vicars of Christ. The Pope remains the visible symbol of unity of the Church and, through his teaching authority, continues to guarantee the infallibility of the Church's Tradition and teachings.

We as Catholics should not fail to continue to pray for the man that occupies the Chair of Peter. It is through his ministry we are all called to freedom from sin and called to conversion. Pope Benedict XVI has asked for prayers as he began his Lenten retreat yesterday, February 21.

The Relic of the Chair of St. Peter

The Cathedra Petri (Latin) or Chair of Saint Peter is a relic conserved in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, enclosed in a gilt bronze casing that was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and executed 1647-53.

The chair of a bishop is a cathedra. The cathedra in Saint Peter's Basilica was once used by the popes. It was therefore often thought to have been used by Saint Peter himself, but was in fact a gift from Charles the Bald to the Pope in 875.[1]

This wooden chair is enclosed in a gilt bronze casing designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and executed 1647–53. The chair of St. Peter now sits above his bones in the Basilica of St. Peter.

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