Today is a Feast Day for the church unlike most others in that it is a day where the church has, in death, tried to reconcile two saints who didn’t get along well in life.
Today is the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, Arguers, and Erstwhile Frienenemies.
Simon, later renamed Peter, was identified as the rock upon which Christ would build the church. He’s a clear leader from the start, though imperfect, and took the helm after Christ’s ascension. He would become the first Bishop of the church.
Saul, later renamed Paul, was a rogue leader from the beginning. He had a vision for the Gospel that was not bound by ethnicity, race, or creed, and he pushed the boundaries the emerging religious leaders were erecting around this new wave of spirituality. He would become the first superstar of the church.
Peter and Paul did not get along well. Their quarrels are documented in the Acts of the Apostles, as well as the book of Galatians, with varying degrees of agreement between the texts. Their back-and-forth is emblematic of the kind of push-and-pull that the church would face when love for others met the hard barriers of cold doctrine and group identity.
I mean, this still goes on today.
Paul and Peter eventually did agree on one thing: that they would each continue to serve the poor. And they each did secure their own, separate, feast days around specific events in their lives: Peter’s Confession (January 18th) and Paul’s Conversion (January 25th).
But the church would not let their feud last forever and, after their deaths, decided to reconcile them on a single feast day. Most icons even have them kissing, or at least embracing, imagining that their honest love for the faith would overcome their seemingly honest contempt for the other.
Their issues in life would not follow them past the grave.
Maybe that’s one of the most beautiful things the church can offer a world as divisive as this one in these days: the chance to continue to work on loving and being loved even past the grave.
-historical bits gleaned from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations, the Book of Acts, and because I study.
-icon written by Fr. Thomas Loya