If you have had the opportunity to watch the first seasons of The Chosen, you too might have extra appreciation for the figure of Peter. In the series, Simon (Peter) is depicted as a hot-tempered, authentic man, experiencing the pressures of daily life and doing his best to follow the Messiah and become what he’s been invited to be: a “fisher of men.”
Plenty of creative license is taken as the show imagines the personalities and circumstances of the characters and it is a hopeful glimpse at the imperfections and humanity that the Lord chose to work with amidst His followers. Time and again throughout Scripture (and throughout the show), Simon Peter demonstrates our very real dependence upon Christ to follow the will of the Father as opposed to our own desires and tendencies, even when our intentions are good.
What’s with the Chair?
The feast we celebrate today—the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter—may give you reason to scroll through that mental rolodex of Catholic lingo and solemnities and come up blank. Peter we know. But his chair?! Did we miss something?
It is a feast worth celebrating, and in order to do so, one that may need a bit of context.
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Upon This Rock
Today’s feast is unique in that, like an icon, Saint Peter’s chair points to a larger reality. Namely, it signifies the papacy and its succession throughout history. Instead of celebrating the chair itself (the symbolic chair which is housed in Saint Peter’s Basilica), it points to the larger significance of to whom the chair belongs and the responsibilities and the spiritual significance of the leadership given to the Vicar of Christ since the time of Jesus.
While it gives a nod to Peter, our first Pope who would come to lead and guide the Church on earth, it also recognizes all who have followed in the same role:
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. // Matthew 16: 13-20 (emphasis added)
The Role and Responsibilities
Again, after the Resurrection, Jesus tasks Peter with the responsibility to “feed my lambs,” and “feed my sheep” (see John 21: 15-17), a responsibility that has been passed to every Apostolic successor since. The Pope should lead in a way that unifies and governs rather than fracturing the Body of Christ.
A good analogy might be that of a throne, a specific seat upon which a particular leader guides and governs. A throne highlights the guidance and leadership expected from the office of the person who occupies that seat. However, the throne itself does not command respect, but highlights the position of the one who occupies it.
So, in the same way we venerate the wood of the Cross on Good Friday, or the Immaculate Conception of Mary before Christmas, we celebrate today the Chair of Saint Peter, joining our prayer with the whole of the Mystical Body for our Pope, and those whose leadership have brought us to today.
I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but Your Blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. // Saint Jerome to Pope Damasus
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