The Feast of the Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul

FROM THE PROLOGUE OF OCHRID
SAINT NICHOLAI

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 was at first called Simon, but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas, or Peter (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 (Matthew 16:16). His love for the Lord was great, and his faith in the Lord became gradually stronger. 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 showed himself to be a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. Following one of his sermons in Jerusalem, three thousand souls were converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel in Palestine, Asia Minor, Illyria and Italy. Peter worked many powerful miracles: he healed the sick and resurrected the dead, and the sick were healed even from his shadow. He had a great struggle with Simon the Magician, who proclaimed himself to be a god, but who was in reality a servant of Satan. Peter finally shamed and defeated him. By order of Simon’s friend, the evil Emperor Nero, Peter was condemned to death. Having consecrated Linus Bishop of Rome, and having counseled and comforted 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 had his Lord. Thus, this great servant of the Great Lord reposed and received a wreath of eternal glory.

The Holy Apostle Paul
Paul was born in Tarsus and was of the tribe of Benjamin. At first he was called Saul. He studied under Gamaliel, and 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, named Paul and numbered in the service of the Great Apostles. With fiery zeal Paul preached the Gospel everywhere, from the borders of Arabia to Spain, among the Jews and among the Gentiles, and received the title “the Apostle to the Gentiles.” As horrible as his sufferings were, so much greater was his superhuman patience. Throughout all the years of his preaching, Paul hung from day to day as on a weak thread between life and death. Having filled all his days and nights with labor and suffering for Christ, having organized the Church in many places, and having attained such a degree of perfection, he was able to say: not I, but Christ liveth in me (Galatians 2:20). Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero, at the same time as the martyrdom of the Apostle Peter.


HYMN OF PRAISE

Saints Peter and Paul
Unlearned and learned, but equal in spirit,
And as strong as angels in the love of God,
Peter a simple man, Paul educated,
Both were illumined by the grace of the Spirit.
Two flaming candles, unquenchable candles,
Towering and beautiful, two brilliant stars.
They traversed the earth and spread the light.
Nothing did they take, but to men they gave all;
They were utterly poor, but enriched the world;
They were prisoners and servants, but conquered the whole world.
With the teaching of Christ they enriched the world;
With new weapons they conquered the whole world:
With humility and peace and blessed meekness,
With prayer and fasting and powerful mercy.
When their stormy day passed into stormy night,
Bloodthirsty Nero cut short their lives.
But when Nero, the ruler of the world, issued a command,
Giving Peter and Paul over to suffering,
The world was theirs and no longer Nero’s;
By death the apostles gained the Kingdom.