Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The Chair of Peter

Today's feast of the Chair of Peter, which I have posted about in Chair of St Peter last year, clearly has a particular significance this year, falling as it does less than a week before the present Pope lays down the Petrine burden. At Mass this morning the homily urged us to keep both the Pope and the College of Cardinals in our prayers, as well as the man who will be elected to fill the See of Peter - not that, I am sure, we are not so doing.

There is an informative post about the way the feast is celebrated in St Peter's Basilica in an article from 2011 on the New Liturgical Movement website which can be seen at Decorations of the Vatican Basilica on the Feast of St. Peter's Chair. This site as well as  another one on the same theme can be found in my post from last year More on the Chair of St Peter.

There is information about the history of the enthroned statue of St Peter attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio from the Vatican website here.


 The enthroned statue of St Peter in the Vatican as vested for today's feast

Image: Panoramio

For those who have not read it here is the second lection from the Office of Readings for today in the Divine Office. It is from one of the homilies of Pope St Leo the Great (440-461), who was, I think it fair to say, the first Pope or indeed Father of the Church to fully outline the responsibilities of the Papal office.

" Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of his power that God in his goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that he has given to others what he has not refused to bestow on them.
  The Lord now asks the apostles as a whole what men think of him. As long as they are recounting the uncertainty born of human ignorance, their reply is always the same.
  But when he presses the disciples to say what they think themselves, the first to confess his faith in the Lord is the one who is first in rank among the apostles.
  Peter says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replies: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” You are blessed, he means, because my Father has taught you. You have not been deceived by earthly opinion, but have been enlightened by inspiration from heaven. It was not flesh and blood that pointed me out to you, but the one whose only-begotten Son I am.
  He continues: And I say to you. In other words, as my Father has revealed to you my godhead, so I in my turn make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter: though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one, the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by my strength, so that which is my very own because of my power is common between us through your participation.
  And upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. On this strong foundation, he says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of my Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.
  The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.
  Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.
  The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church."

The text has been downloaded from the Universalis site, and is, I think, a different translation from that in the Divine Office as used in this country, Ireland, Australia etc.

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