August 1, 2017: ST. PETER IN CHAINS
August 1, 2017: ST. PETER IN CHAINS
Rank: Greater Double.
“The Lord sent his
Angel, and he delivered me out of the hands of Herod.”
(Acts, xii. 11)
O God, who didst deliver blessed Peter the Apostle from his chains, and set him at liberty untouched; deliver us, we beseech thee, from the bonds of our sins, and mercifully protect us from all evils. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
(Commemoration of St. Paul) O God, who by the preaching of blessed Paul the Apostle, didst instruct the multitude of the Gentiles; grant, we beseech thee, that while we celebrate his festival, we may find the effect of his prayers. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
“The Angel said to Peter: put thy garment about thee, and follow me.”
The bolts and fetters open fly,
And Peter gains his liberty:
Him the faithful flocks obey,
Who gives them food, and when they stray
Seeks them, and drives the wolf away.
To God the Father glory be:
Eternal Son, let’s sing to thee
Transcendent praise, and to thy name,
O Holy Ghost, be endless fame:
To Three and One give all the same. Amen.
V. Thou art Peter.
R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.
Rome, making a god of the man who had subjugated her, consecrated the month of August to Caesar Augustus. When Christ had delivered her, she placed at the head of this same month, as a trophy of her regained liberty, the feast of the chains, wherewith, in order to break hers, Peter the Vicar of Christ had once been bound. O Divine Wisdom, who hast a better claim to reign over this month than had the adopted son of Caesar, thou couldst not have more authentically inaugurated thy empire. Strength and sweetness are the attributes of thy works, and it is in the weakness of thy chosen ones that thou triumphest over the powerful. Thou thyself, in order to give us life, didst swallow death; Simon, son of John, became a captive, to set free the world entrusted to him. First, Herod, and then Nero showed him the cost of the promise he had once received, of binding and loosing on earth as in heaven: he had to share the love of the Supreme Shepherd, even to allowing himself, like him, to be bound with chains for the sake of the flock, and led where he would not.
Glorious chains! never will ye make Peter's successors tremble any more than Peter himself; before the Herods and Neros and Caesars of all ages ye will be the guarantee of the liberty of souls. With what veneration have the Christian people honoured you, ever since the earliest times! One may truly say of the present feast that its origin is lost in the darkness of ages. According to ancient monuments, (Martyrolog. Hieronym., Bed., Raban., Notker.) St. Peter himself first consecrated on this date the basilica on the highest of the seven hills, where the citizens of Rome are gathered to-day. The name Title of Eudoxia, by which the venerable Church is often designated, seems to have arisen from certain restorations made on occasion of the events mentioned in the Lessons. As to the sacred chains, which are its treasure, the earliest mention now extant of honour being paid to them occurs in the beginning of the second century. Balbina, daughter of the tribune Quirinus, keeper of the prisons, had been cured by touching the chains of the holy Pope Alexander; she could not cease kissing the hands which had healed her. “Find the chains of blessed Peter, and kiss them rather than these,” said the Pontiff. Balbina, therefore, having fortunately found the Apostle's chains, lavished her pious veneration upon them, and afterwards gave them to the noble Theodora, sister of Hermes. (Acta S. Alenxandri.)
The irons which had bound the arms of the Doctor of the Gentiles, without being able to bind the word of God, were also after his martyrdom treasured more than jewels and gold. From Antioch, in Syria, St. John Chrysostom, thinking with holy envy of the lands enriched by these trophies of triumphant bondage, cried out in a sublime transport: “What more magnificent than these chains? Prisoner for Christ is a more beautiful name than that of Apostle, Evangelist, or Doctor. To be bound for Christ's sake is better than to dwell in the heavens; to sit upon the twelve thrones is not so great an honour. He that loves can understand me; but who can better understand these things than the holy choir of Apostles? As for me, if I were offered my choice between these chains and the whole of heaven, I should not hesitate; for in them is happiness. Would that I were now in those places, where it is said the chains of these admirable men are still kept! If it were given me to be set free from the care of this Church, and if I had a little health, I should not hesitate to undertake such a voyage only to see Paul's chains. If they said to me: Which wouldst thou prefer, to be the Angel who delivered Peter or Peter himself in chains? I would rather be Peter, because of his chains.”
Though always venerated in the great basilica which enshrines his tomb, St. Paul's chain has never been made, like those of St. Peter, the object of a special feast in the Church. This distinction was due to the pre-eminence of him “who alone received the keys of the kingdom of heaven to communicate them to others,” and who alone continues, in his successors, to bind and loose with sovereign power throughout the whole world. The collection of letters of St. Gregory the Great proves how universally, in the sixth century, was spread the cultus of these holy chains, a few filings of which enclosed in gold or silver keys was the richest present the Sovereign Pontiffs were wont to offer to the principal churches, or to princes whom they wished to honour. Constantinople, at some period not clearly determined, received a portion of these precious chains; she appointed a feast on the 16th January, honouring on that day the Apostle Peter, as the occupant of the first See, the foundation of the faith, the immovable basis of dogma.
The following is the legend of the feast in the Roman Breviary:
During the reign of Theodosius the younger, Eudoxia, his wife, went to Jerusalem to fulfil a vow, and while there she was honoured with many gifts, the greatest of which was an iron chain adorned with gold and precious stones, and said to be that wherewith the Apostle Peter had been bound by Herod. Eudoxia piously venerated this chain, and then sent it to Rome to her daughter Eudoxia. The latter took it to the Sovereign Pontiff, who in his turn showed her another chain which had bound the same Apostle, under Nero.
When the Pontiff thus brought together the Roman chain and that which had come from Jerusalem, they joined together in such a manner that they seemed no longer two chains, but a single one, made by one same work-man. On account of this miracle the holy chains began to be held in so great honour, that a church at the title of Eudoxia on the Esquiline was dedicated under the name of St. Peter ad vincula, and the memory of its dedication was celebrated by a feast on the Kalends of August.
From that time St. Peter's chains began to receive the honours of this day, instead of a pagan festival which it bad been customary to celebrate. Contact with them healed the sick, and put the demons to flight. Thus, in the year of salvation 909, a certain count, who was very intimate with the Emperor Otho, was taken possession of by an unclean spirit, so that he tore his flesh with his own teeth. By command of the Emperor he was taken to the Pontiff John, who had no sooner touched the count's neck with the holy chain than the wicked spirit was driven away, leaving the man entirely free. On this account devotion to the holy chains was spread throughout Rome.
Taken from: The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806; and
The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901.
Loose, by the command of God, O Peter,
who causest the kingdom of heaven to be opened to the blessed,
the chains that bind us here on earth.