From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

WHEREAS the Greeks on this day are uniting in one solemnity the memory, as they express it, ‘of the illustrious saints, the twelve apostles, worthy of all praise,’[1] let us follow in spirit the Roman populace, who are gathered around the successor of Peter, and are making the splendid basilica of the Ostian Way re-echo with songs of victory, while he is offering to the Doctor of the Gentiles the grateful homage of the city and of the world.

On the twenty-fifth of January we beheld Stephen leading to Christ’s crib the once ravenous wolf of Benjamin,[2] tamed at last, but who in the morning of his impetuous youth had filled the Church of God with tears and bloodshed. His evening did indeed come when, as Jacob had foreseen, Saul, the persecutor, would outstrip all his predecessors among Christ’s disciples in giving increase to the fold, and in feeding the flock with the choicest food of his heavenly doctrine.[3]

By an unexampled privilege, our Lord, though already seated at the right hand of his Father, vouchsafed not only to call, but personally to instruct this new disciple, so that he might one day be numbered amongst his apostles. The ways of God can never be contradictory one to another; hence, this creation of a new apostle may not be accomplished in a manner derogatory to the divine constitution already delivered to the Christian Church by the Son of God. Therefore, as soon as the illustrious convert emerged from those sublime contemplations during which the Christian dogma had been poured into his soul, he went to Jerusalem to see Peter, as he himself relates to his disciples in Galatia. 'It behoved him,' says Bossuet, 'to collate his own Gospel with that of the prince of the apostles.'[4] From that moment, aggregated as a co-operator in the preaching of the Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles describes him at Antioch accompanied by Barnabas, presenting himself to the work of opening the Church to the Gentiles, the conversion of Cornelius having been already effected by Peter himself. He passes a whole year in this city, reaping an abundant harvest. After Peter's imprisonment in Jerusalem, at his subsequent departure for Rome, a warning from on high makes known to those who preside over the Church at Antioch, that the moment has come for them to impose hands on the two missionaries, and confer on them the sacred character of Ordination.

From that hour Paul attains the full power of an apostle, and it is clear that the mission for which he had been preparing is now opened. At the same time, in St Luke's narrative, Barnabas almost disappears, retaining but a very secondary position. The new apostle has his own disciples, and he henceforth takes the lead in a long series of peregrinations marked by as many conquests. His first is to Cyprus, where he seals an alliance with ancient Rome, analogous to that which Peter contracted at Cesarea.

In the year 43, when Paul landed in Cyprus, its proconsul was Sergius Paulus, illustrious for his ancestry, but still more so for the wisdom of his government. He wished to hear Paul and Barnabas: a miracle worked by Paul, under his very eyes, convinced him of the truth of his teaching; and the Christian Church counted that day among her sons one who was heir to the proudest name among the noble families of Rome. Touching was the mutual exchange that took place on this occasion. The Roman patrician had just been freed by the Jew from the yoke of the Gentiles; in return, the Jew hitherto called Saul received and thenceforth adopted the name of Paul, as a trophy worthy of the apostle of the Gentiles.

From Cyprus Paul travelled successively to Cilicia, Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia, everywhere preaching the Gospel and founding Churches. He then returned to Antioch in the year 47, and found the Church there in a state of violent agitation. A party of Jews, who had come over to Christianity from the ranks of the Pharisees, whilst consenting indeed to the admission of Gentiles into the Church, were maintaining that this could only be on condition of their being likewise subjected to Mosaic practices, such as circumcision and distinction of meats. The Christians who had been received from among the Gentiles were disgusted at this servitude to which Peter had not subjected them; and the controversy became so hot that Paul deemed it necessary to undertake a journey to Jerusalem where Peter had lately arrived, a fugitive from Rome, and where the apostolic college was at that moment further represented by John, as well as by James the bishop of the city. These being assembled to deliberate on the question, it was decreed, in the name and under the influence of the Holy Ghost, that to exact any observance relative to Jewish rites should be utterly forbidden in the case of Gentile converts. It was on this occasion, too, that Paul received from these pillars, as he styles them, the confirmation of his apostolate superadded to that of the twelve, and to be specially exercised in favour of the Gentiles. By this extraordinary ministry deputed to the nations, the Christian Church definitively asserted her independence of Judaism, and the Gentiles could now freely come flocking into her bosom.

Paul then resumed his course of apostolic journeys over all the provinces he had already evangelized, in order to confirm the Churches. Thence, passing through Phrygia, he came to Macedonia, stayed a while at Athens, and then on to Corinth, where he remained a year and a half. At his departure he left in this city a flourishing Church, whereby he excited against himself the fury of the Jews. From Corinth Paul went to Ephesus, where he stayed two years. So great was his success with the Gentiles there, that the worship of Diana was materially weakened; whereupon a tumult ensuing, Paul thought the moment come for his departure from Ephesus. During his abode there he made known to his disciples a thought that had long haunted him: ‘ I must needs see Rome.’ The capital of the Gentile world was indeed calling the apostle of the Gentiles.

The rapid growth of Christianity in the capital of the empire had brought face to face, in a manner more striking than elsewhere, the two heterogeneous elements which formed the Church of that day: the unity of faith held together in one fold those that had formerly been Jews, and those that had been pagans. It so happened that some of both of these classes, too easily forgetting the gratuity of their common vocation to the faith, began to go so far as to despise their brethren of the opposite class, deeming them less worthy than themselves of that Baptism which had made them all equal in Christ. On the one side, certain Jews disdained the Gentiles, remembering the polytheism which had sullied their past life with all those vices which come in its train. On the other side, certain Gentiles contemned the Jews, as coming from an ungrateful and blinded people, who had so abused the favours lavished upon them by God as to crucify the Messias.

In the year 53, Paul, already aware of these debates, profited by a second journey to Corinth to write to the faithful of the Church in Rome that famous Epistle in which he emphatically sets forth how gratuitous is the gift of faith; and maintains how Jew and Gentile alike being quite unworthy of the divine adoption, have been called solely by an act of pure mercy. He likewise shows how Jew and Gentile, forgetting the past, have but to embrace one another in the fraternity of the same faith, thus testifying their gratitude to God through whom both of them have been alike prevented by grace. His apostolic dignity, so fully recognized, authorized Paul to interfere in this matter, though touching a Christian centre not founded by him.

While awaiting the day when he could behold with his own eyes the queen of all Churches, lately fixed by Peter on the seven hills, the apostle was anxious once again to make a pilgrimage to the city of David. Jewish rage was just at that moment rampant in Jerusalem against him; national pride being more specially piqued that he, the former disciple of Gamaliel, the accomplice of Stephen's murder, should now invite the Gentiles to be coupled with the sons of Abraham, under the one same Law of Jesus of Nazareth. The tribune Lysias was scarcely able to snatch him from the hands of these bloodthirsty men, ready to tear him to pieces. The following night Christ appeared to Paul, saying to him; ‘Be constant, for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.’

It was not, however, till after two years of captivity, that Paul, having appealed to Cæsar, landed in Italy at the beginning of the year 56. Then at last the apostle of the Gentiles made his entry into Rome: not with the trappings of a victor; he was but a humble Jewish prisoner led to the place where all appellants to Cæsar were mustered; yet he was that Jew whom Christ himself had conquered on the way to Damascus. No longer Saul the Benjamite, he now presented himself under the Roman name of Paul; nor was this a robbery on his part, for after Peter he was to be the second glory of Rome, the second pledge of her immortality. He did not bring the Primacy with him, indeed, as Peter had done, for that had been committed by Christ to one alone; but he came to assert, in the very centre of the Gentile world, the divine delegation which he had received in favour of the nations, just as a tributary flows into the main stream, which, mingling its waters with its own, at last empties them unitedly into the ocean. Paul was to have no successor in his extraordinary mission; but the element which he had deposited in the mistress and mother Church was of such value, that in course of ages the Roman Pontiffs, heirs to Peter's monarchical power, have ever appealed to Paul's memory as well, pronouncing their mandates in the united names of the 'blessed apostles Peter and Paul.’

Instead of having to await in prison the day whereon his cause was to be heard, Paul was at liberty to choose a lodging-place in the city. He was obliged, however, to be accompanied day and night by a soldier to whom, according to the usual custom, he was chained, but only in such a way as to prevent his escape: all his movements being otherwise left perfectly free, he could easily continue to preach the Word of God. Towards the close of the year 57, in virtue of his appeal to Cæsar, the apostle was at last summoned before the prætorium, and the successful pleading in his cause resulted in his acquittal.

Being now free, Paul revisited the East, confirming on his evangelical course the Churches he had previously founded. Thus Ephesus and Crete once more enjoyed his presence; in the one he left his disciple Timothy as bishop, and in the other Titus. But Paul had not quitted Rome for ever: marvellously enlightened as she had been by his preaching, the Roman Church was yet to be gilded by his parting rays and empurpled by his blood. A heavenly warning, as in Peter’s case, bade him also return to Rome where martyrdom was awaiting him. This fact is attested by St Athanasius:[5] we learn the same also from St Asterius of Ameseus, who hereupon remarks that the apostle entered Rome once more, 'in order to teach the very masters of the world; to turn them into his disciples; and by their means to wrestle with the whole human race. There Paul finds Peter engaged in the same work; he at once yokes himself to the same divine chariot with him, and sets about instructing the children of the Law within the synagogues, and the Gentiles outside.’[6]

At last Rome possesses her two princes conjointly: the one seated on the eternal chair, holding in his hands the keys of the kingdom of heaven; the other surrounded by the sheaves he has garnered from the fields of the Gentile world. They shall now part no more; even in death, as the Church sings, they shall not be separated. The period of their being together was necessarily short, for they must render to their Master the testimony of blood before the Roman world should be freed from the odious tyranny under which it was groaning. Their death was to be Nero’s last crime; after that he was to fade from sight, leaving the world horror-stricken at his end, as shameful as it was tragic.

It was in the year 65 that Paul returned to Rome; once more signalizing his presence there by the manifold works of his apostolate. From the time of his first labours there, he had made converts even in the palace of the Caesars: having returned to this former theatre of his zeal, he again found entrance into the imperial abode. A woman who was living in criminal intercourse with Nero, and also a cup-bearer of his, were both caught in the apostolic net, for it were hard indeed to resist the power of that mighty word. Nero, enraged at ' this foreigner’s ’ influence in his household, was bent on Paul’s destruction. He was cast into prison, but such was his zeal that he persisted the more in preaching Jesus Christ. The two converts of the imperial palace having abjured, together with paganism, the manner of life they had been leading, their twofold conversion hastened Paul’s martyrdom. He was well aware that it would be so, as can be seen in these lines addressed to Timothy: ‘I labour even unto bands, as an evildoer; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect. For I am even now ready to be sacrificed, like a victim already sprinkled with the lustral water, and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice which the Lord, the just Judge, will render to me in that day.'[7]

On the twenty-ninth of June, in the year 67, whilst Peter, having crossed the Tiber by the triumphal bridge, was drawing nigh to the cross prepared for him on the Vatican plain, another martyrdom was being consummated on the left bank of the same river. Paul, as he was led along the Ostian Way, was also followed by a group of the faithful who mingled with the escort of the condemned. His sentence was that he should be beheaded at the Salvian waters. A two miles' march brought the soldiers to a path leading eastwards, by which they led their prisoner to the place fixed upon for his martyrdom. Paul fell on his knees, addressing his last prayer to God; then having bandaged his eyes, he awaited the death-stroke. A soldier brandished his sword, and the apostle's head, as it was severed from the trunk, made three bounds along the ground; three fountains immediately sprang up on these several spots. Such is the local tradition; and to this day three fountains are to be seen on the site of his martyrdom, over each of which an altar is raised.

Let us unite our voice of homage to that of preceding ages in honour of this vessel of election, whence salvation flows so abundantly over our earth. Let us first borrow the following responsories from the Roman Office, the formulas of which for to-day's feast present such a fair collection of graceful beauty.

℟. Tu es vas electionis, sanete Paule apostole, prædicator veritatis in universo mundo:
* Per quem omnes gentes cognoverunt gratiam Dei.
℣. Intercede pro nobis ad Deum, qui te elegit.
* Per quem.
℟. Gratia Dei sum id quod sum:
* Et gratia ejus in me vacua non fuit, sed semper in me manet.
℣. Qui operatus est Petro in apostolatum, operatus est et mihi inter gentes.
* Et gratia.
℟. Thou art a vessel of election, O holy apostle Paul, thou preacher of truth unto the whole world:
* By whom all nations have known the grace of God.
℣. Intercede for us unto God who elected thee.
* By whom.
℟. By the grace of God I am what I am:
* And his grace in me hath not been void, but ever abideth in me.
℣. He who wrought in Peter among the apostles hath wrought in me also among the Gentiles.
* And his.

On the feast of the conversion of the great apostle, Adam of St Victor furnished a theme for our songs in an admirable sequence. The Missal of Liège of the year 1527 offers us the following, the simplicity of which is wanting neither in gracefulness nor depth:


Doctori gentium
Gentes applaudite:
Votaque mentium
Voce depromite.

Pastori gregibus
Curam impendere:
Pastorem ovibus
Incumbit colere.

Electum vasculum
Honoris ferculum
Tumoris vacuum
Jure percolitis
Qui veri quæritis
Fontis irriguum.

Exempli gratiam,
Laudis materiam
In hoc exilio
Confert et gaudium,
Doctoris gentium
Sacra conversio.

Rapax mane,
Sero munificus:
Non inane
Benjamin typicus
Tulit auspicium.

Parit mater
Doloris filium:
Vocat pater
Dextræ suffragium,
Doctus mysterium.

Quod Saulus rapuit,
Paulus distribuit:
Divisit spolia
Legis in gratia.

Quem Annas statuit
Ducem malitiæ,
Christus exhibuit
Ministrum gratiæ.

Dum vacat cædibus,
Cæcutus corruit:
Lapsa de nubibus
Vox eum arguit.

Cur me persequeris,
Saule, nec sequeris:
Cur in aculeum
Vertis calcaneum?

Cum ne persequeris,
Præstare crederis
Mihi obsequium:
In meis fratribus
Cruentis manibus
Versando gladium.

Excessit littera,
Cesserunt vetera:
Præconem gratiæ
Te nunc constituo:
Surge continuo,
Locum do veniæ.

O plena gratia,
De cujus cumulo
Arenti copia
Redundat sæculo.

Felix vocatio,
Non propter meritum:
Larga donatio,
Sed præter debitum.

Per aquae medium,
Per ignem Spiritus,
Ad refrigerium
Transit divinitus.

Mutato nomine,
Mutatur moribus:
Secundus ordine,
Primus laboribus.

Par est apostolis
Vocatis primitus:
Præest epistolis,
Vocatus cœlitus.

Ter virgis cæditur,
Semel lapidibus:
Ter mari mergitur,
Nec perit fluctibus.

Ad cœlum tertium
Raptus in spiritu,
Dei mysterium,
Mentis intuitu
Intuetur, nece loquitur,
Quia nec loqui sinitur.

O pastor inclyte,
Pastorum gloria,
Felici tramite
Tua ovilia Deduc,
Perduc, constitue
Perennis loco pascuæ,

Unto the doctor of the Gentiles
clap your applauding hands,
O ye Gentiles: and with voice
proclaim your soul’s wishes.

To the shepherd
appertaineth the care of the flock:
unto the sheep
it behoveth to revere the shepherd.

O chosen vessel,
vessel of honour
without flaw,
rightfully treasured by such as seek
indeed pastures watered
by the true fountain.

The sacred conversion
of the doctor of the Gentiles
confers gladness
in this our exile,
subject of praise,
and a worthy example.

At morn, ravenous;
at eve, munificent:
not vainly
did the type of Benjamin
give omen.

The mother brought forth
a son of pain:
the father called him
the son of the right hand,
for he knew the mystery.

That which Saul had seized,
Paul distributed:
he divided the spoils
of the Law in grace.

Him whom Annas appointed
to be the leader of wickedness,
Christ showed
to be the minister of grace.

While intent on slaughter,
he falls down blind:
a voice from the clouds
reproves him.

‘Wherefore persecutest thou me,
O Saul, wherefore followest me not?
Wherefore kickest thou
against the goad?

‘The while thou persecutest me,
thou thinkest
to do me service
brandishing the sword
with bloody hands
against my brethren.

‘The letter is at an end,
the old things are done away with:
thee do I now constitute
preacher of grace:
at once arise,
I give place to pardon.’

O full of grace
from out whose copious
stream the arid world
is inundated.

O happy vocation,
not on account of merits:
O copious donation,
beyond all measure due!

Through the midst of water,
through the fire of the Spirit,
he passes
to divine refreshment.

His name being changed,
changed are his manners:
in order he is second,
in labours he is first.

Of apostles called in the first instance,
he is peer:
he excels in his epistles,
he is called directly by heaven.

Thrice he is beaten with rods,
once stoned:
thrice submerged in the sea,
yet perished not in the waves.

In spirit rapt
to the third heaven,
he beheld with mental gaze
the mystery of God,
nor spoke it again,
for speak it he could not.

O matchless shepherd,
glory of shepherds,
by a safe pathway
lead, conduct,
establish thy sheep
in the place of perennial pasture.


St Peter Damian has consecrated a hymn to the doctor of the Gentiles in strains of energetic piety.


Paule, doctor egregie,
Tuba clangens Ecclesiæ,
Nubes volans ac tonitrum
Per amplum mundi circulum.

Nobis potenter intona,
Ruraque cordis irriga:
Cœlestis imbre gratiæ
Mentes virescant aridæ.

O magnum Pauli meritum,
Cœlum conscendit tertium,
Audit verba mysterii
Quæ nullis audet eloqui.

Dum verbi spargit semina,
Seges surgit uberrima:
Sic cœli replent horreum
Bonorum fruges operum.

Micantis more lampadis,
Perfundit orbem radiis:
Fugat errorum tenebras,
Ut sola regnet veritas.

Sit Patri laus ingenito,
Sit decus Unigenito,
Sit utriusque parili
Majestas summa Flamini.

O Paul, incomparable doctor,
O resounding trumpet of the Church,
O fleeting cloud swift
carrying the thunder all round earth's circuit:

Do thou roar thy potent thunders into us,
and irrigate the fields of our hearts:
may our arid souls wax green,
beneath the sweet showers of heavenly graces.

O mighty merit of Paul!
he scales the third heaven,
he hears words of mystery,
which he dares not repeat to anyone.

Whilst he casts the seed of the word,
a rich harvest springs up:
thus are heaven’s granaries filled
with the fruits of good works.

After the manner of a lamp,
he sheds his rays over the world:
the darkness of error he puts to flight,
and truth reigns alone.

Praise be to the Father, born of none,
glory be to the Only-Begotten,
supreme majesty be to the Spirit,
equal of both.


In conclusion, conformably with liturgical tradition which never celebrates one of these two apostles without making a commemoration of the other, we give below, despoiled of all later touches, the entire poem of Elpis, whence yesterday’s Vesper hymn culled but two strophes. The third strophe is used by the Church on the other feasts of St Peter, the fourth on those of St Paul; the two unitedly formed the Lauds hymn of yesterday’s feast.


Aurea luce et decore roseo.
Lux lucis, omne perfudisti sæculum:
Decorans cœlos inclyto martyrio.
Hac sacra die quæ dat reis veniam.

Janitor cæli, doctor orbis pariter,
Judices sæcli, vera mundi lumina:
Per crucem alter, alter ense triumphans,
Vitæ senatum laureati possident.

Jam, bone Pastor Petre, clemens accipe
Vota precantum, et peccati vincula
Resolve, tibi potestate tradita,
Qua cunctis cœlum verbo claudis, aperis.

Doctor egregie, Paule, mores instrue,
Et mente polum nos transferre satage:
Donec perfectum largiatur plenius,
Evacuato quod ex parte gerimus.

Olivæ binæ pietatis unicæ,
Fide devotos, spe robustos, maxime
Fonte repletos charitatis geminæ,
Post mortem carnis impetrate vivere.

Sit Trinitati sempiterna gloria,
Honor, potestas, atque jubilatio,
In unitate cui manet imperium,
Ex tunc, et modo, per æterna sæcula.

O Light of Light (Jesus), thou hast inundated every age
with a golden light and with a ruddy beauty,
adorning the heavens with a glorious martyrdom,
on this sacred day, which gives pardon to the guilty.

The door-keeper of heaven, as also the teacher of the universe,
the judges of the world, the true lights of the earth,
the one conquering by the cross, the other by the sword,
crowned with laurel, both take their seats in the senate of Life.

Come! O good shepherd, Peter, do thou mercifully receive the prayers of suppliants,
and loose the fetters of sin,
by the power given to thee,
whence, by thy word, thou shuttest or openest heaven to all.

O Paul, thou excellent teacher, instruct us,
regulate our way of living, and do thou carefully bear us up in spirit to heaven;
until that which we now have but in part being brought to an end,
that which is perfect may be given to us in its plenitude.

O twin olive trees, made one in tenderness of affection,
grant that devoted in faith, strong in hope, and above all,
filled from the fount of twofold charity,
we may come to live for ever after the death of this flesh.

To the Trinity in Unity,
to which there is ever due supreme dominion,
both in time past, and now through everlasting ages,
may there be eternal glory, honour, power, and jubilation!


To thee, O Paul, we turn this day! Happily founded on Peter, the rock that supports the Church, could we possibly forget thee, by whose labours our forefathers, the Gentiles, became part of the city of God? Sion, once the well-beloved, rejected the Stone and stumbled against it: what is the mystery of this other Jerusalem come down from heaven, the materials whereof were nevertheless drawn up from the abyss? Compacted together in admirable masonry, they proclaim the glory of the skilful architect who laid them on the CornerStone; and they are precious stones of such surpassing brilliancy as to outshine all the gems of the daughter of Sion. To whom is this new-comer indebted for all her beauty, for all these her bridal honours? How have the sons of the forsaken one come out from the unclean dens where their mother dwelt, a companion of dragons and of leopards?[8] It is because the voice of the Spouse was heard saying: ‘ Come, my bride, come from Libanus; from the top of Amana, from the top of Sanir and Hermon!'[9] Nevertheless, the Spouse in his own sacred Person, while he lived here below, never quitted the ancient land of promise, and his mortal accents never once fell on the ear of her who dwelt beyond the confines of Jacob. But, O Paul, didst thou not exclaim: 'How shall they call upon him? how believe him of whom they have not heard?'[10] Yet whosoever knows thy love of the Spouse has naught to fear, mindful that thou thyself, O holy apostle, hast proposed the problem and canst solve it.

This is the answer; we sang it on the day of Christ's triumphant Ascension: ‘ When the beauty of the Lord shall arise above the heavens, he shall be mounted on a cloud, and the wing of the wind shall be his swift steed; and, clad in light, he shall dart from pole to pole across the heavens, giving his gifts to the children of men.'[11] Thou thyself, O Paul, art this cloud, this wing of the wind bearing the Bridegroom's message unto the nations; yea, thou wast expressly chosen from on high to teach the Gentiles, as those pillars of the Church, Peter, James, and John, have attested.[12] How beautiful were thy feet when, having quitted Sion, thou didst appear on our mountains and didst cry out to the Gentiles: ‘ Thy God shall reign!'[13] How sweet thy voice when it murmured in the ear of the poor forsaken one the heavenly call: ‘Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline the ear of thy heart'![14] How tender the pity thou didst evince towards her who had long lived a stranger to the Covenant, without promise, without a God in this world![15]

But afar off was she who was to be brought so near to the Lord Jesus, that he and she should form but one body! Thou didst experience, in this immense labour, both the pains of childbirth and the cares of a mother giving the breast to her new-born babe; thou hadst to bear the tedious delay of the growth of the bride, to guard her from every defilement, to inure her gradually to the dazzling light of the Spouse; until at last, rooted and founded in charity, and having reached unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ, she might indeed be his glory, and be filled by him unto all the plenitude of God. But what a toil to bring up this new creation from the original slime, to the throne of the heavenly Adam, at the right hand of the Father! Oftentimes repulsed, betrayed, put in chains, misunderstood in the most delicate sentiments of thine apostolic heart, thou hadst naught for thy salary save untold anguish and suffering. Yet fatigue, watchings, hunger, cold, nakedness, abandonment, open violence, perfidious attacks, perils of all kinds, far from abating, only excited thy zeal: joy superabounded in thee; for these sufferings were the filling up of those which Jesus had endured to purchase that alliance so long desired by eternal Wisdom. After his example, thou too hadst but one end, whither tended all thy strength and all thy gentleness: along the dusty Roman roads, or tempest-tossed in the depth of the sea; in the city or the desert; borne aloft on ecstatic wing into the third heavens, or bowed beneath the whips of the Jews and the sword of Nero; everywhere bearing the embassy of Christ, thou didst boldly defy alike life and death, powers of earth and powers of heaven, to stay the might of the Lord or his love, whereby thou wast upheld in thy vast enterprise. Then, as if aware by anticipation of the amazement that would be excited by these enthusiastic outpourings of thy great soul, thou didst utter this sublime cry: 'Would to God that you could bear with some little of my folly: but do bear with me, for I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ!'[16]

Yesterday, O Paul, thy work was ended. Having given all, thou at length gavest thyself. The sword that struck off thy head accomplished Christ's triumph, as thou hadst predicted. Peter's death fixes the throne of the Spouse in its predestined place. But to thee is the bride, the Gentile world, indebted for being now able, as she sits at the right hand of the Spouse, to turn to the rival Synagogue, exclaiming: 'I am black, but beautiful, daughters of Jerusalem; therefore hath the King loved me and chosen me to be his queen!'[17]

Praise be to thee, O apostle, now and for ever! Eternity itself will not suffice to exhaust the gratitude of the nations. Accomplish thy work in each one of us during all ages. Do not allow this mystical body to suffer loss in any of her members. Uphold and brace against despondency the preachers of the sacred Word, all those who by the pen, or by any title whatsoever, are continuing thy work of light. Multiply those valiant apostles who are ever narrowing upon our globe the boundaries of darkness. Thou didst promise to remain with us, to be ever watchful of faith's progress in souls, and to cause the pure delights of divine union to be ever developing there. Keep thy promise; because of thy going away to Jesus, thy word is none the less plighted to those who, like ourselves, could not know thee here below. For to those who have not seen thy face in the flesh thou hast left, in one of thine immortal Epistles, the assurance that thou wilt take care that their hearts be comforted, being instructed in charity, and unto all riches of fullness of understanding, unto the knowledge of the mystery of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.[18]

During this season of the sacred cycle, the reign of the Holy Spirit who formeth saints,[19] grant that Christians of goodwill may be brought to understand how, by their Baptism, they are put in possession of that sublime vocation which is often imagined to be the happy lot of but a chosen few. Would that they could seize this grand yet very simple idea, which thou hast given, of the mystery wherein is contained the absolute and universal principle of Christian life:[20] that, having been buried with Jesus under the waters, and thereby incorporated with him, they are necessarily bound by every right and title to become saints, to aim at union with Jesus in his life since they have been granted union with him in his death. Ye are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God![21]these were the words addressed by thee to our forefathers. Repeat them to us likewise, for thou didst give them as a truth intended for all without distinction! Suffer not, O Doctor of the Gentiles, that the light grow dim among us, to the great detriment of the Lord and of his bride.

[1] Menæa, June 30.
[2] Gen. xlix 27.
[3] The following is mainly borrowed from Dom Guéranger in his work: Sainte Cécile et la société romaine aux deux premiers siècles, as was likewise the passage concerning St Peter, see pp. 348-355
[4] Sermon sur l’units.
[5] De fuga sua, xviii.
[6] Homil. viii.
[7] 2 Tim.
[8] Cant. iv 8.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Rom. x 14.
[11] Resp. of Matins Ascen.
[12] Gal. ii 7-9.
[13] Isa. lii 7.
[14] Ps. xliv ii.
[15] Eph. ii 12. The sequel is strung together freely, from this and his other Epistles.
[16] 2 Cor. xi 1, 2.
[17] Cant. i 4; iv 8.
[18] Col. ii 2, 3.
[19] Rom. viii.
[20] Ibid. vi.
[21] Col. iii 3.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

SIMON, son of John, lovest thou me?' Behold the hour when the answer which the Son of Man exacted of the fisher of Galilee re-echoes from the seven hills and fills the whole earth. Peter no longer dreads the triple interrogation of his Lord. Since that fatal night wherein, after the first cockcrow, the prince of the apostles had denied his Master, tears have not ceased to furrow the cheeks of the Vicar of Christ; at last the day has come when his tears shall be dried! From that gibbet to which, at his own request, the humble disciple has been nailed head downwards, his bounding heart repeats the protestation which, ever since the scene enacted on the brink of Lake Tiberias, has been silently wearing his life away: ‘Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee!'[1]

Sacred day, on which the oblation of the first of Pontiffs assures to the West the rights of supreme priesthood! Day of triumph, in which the effusion of a generous life-blood wins for God the conquest of the Roman soil; in which, upon the cross of his representative, the divine Spouse concludes his eternal alliance with the queen of nations.

This tribute of death was unknown to Levi; this dower of blood was never exacted of Aaron by Jehovah: for who is it that would die for a slave? The Synagogue was no bride![2] Love is the sign which distinguishes this age of the new dispensation from the law of servitude. Powerless, sunk in cringing fear, the Jewish priest could but sprinkle with the blood of victims substituted for himself the horns of the figurative altar. At once both Priest and Victim, Jesus expects more of those whom he calls to a participation in the sacred prerogative which makes him Pontiff for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.[3] ‘I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth,' thus saith he to these men whom he raised above angels at the Last Supper; ‘ but I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you.[4] As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love.'[5]

In the case of a priest admitted into partnership with the eternal Pontiff, love is not complete, except when it extends itself to the whole of mankind ransomed by the great Sacrifice. This entails upon him more than the obligation common to all Christians of loving one another as fellow-members of one Head; for, by his priesthood, he forms part of that Head, and by this very title charity should assume in him something in depth and character of the love which the divine Head bears towards his members. But more than this: what if to the power he possesses of immolating Christ, to the duty incumbent on him of the joint offering of himself likewise in the secret of the Mysteries, the plenitude of the pontificate be added, imposing the public mission of giving to the Church the support she needs, that fecundity which the heavenly Spouse exacts of her? According to the doctrine expressed from the earliest ages by the Popes, the Councils and the fathers, the Holy Ghost adapts him to his sublime role by fully identifying his love with that of the Spouse, whose obligations he fulfils, whose rights he exercises. Then, likewise, according to the same teaching, there stands before him the precept of the apostle; from throne to throne of all the bishops, whether of East or West, the angels of the Churches pass on the word: 'Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.'[6]

Such is the divine reality of these mysterious nuptials, that every age of sacred history has blasted with the name of adultery the irregular abandonment of the Church first espoused. So much is exacted by this sublime union, that none may be called to it who is not already abiding steadfast on the lofty summit of perfection; for a bishop must ever hold himself ready to justify in his own person that supreme degree of charity of which our Lord saith: 'Greater love than this no man hath, that he lay down his life for his friends.'[7] Nor does the difference between the hireling and the true shepherd end there;[8] this readiness of the Pontiff to defend unto death the Church confided to him, to wash away even in his own blood every stain that disfigures the beauty of this bride,[9] is itself the guarantee of that contract whereby he is wedded to this chosen one of the Son of God, and it is the just price of those purest of joys reserved to him. ‘These things have I spoken to you,' saith our Lord, when instituting the Testament of the new Alliance, 'that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled.'[10]

If such should be the privileges and obligations of the bishop of each Church, how much more so in the case of the universal Pastor! When regenerated man was confided to Simon, son of John, by the Incarnate God, his chief care was, in the first place, to make sure that he would indeed be the Vicar of his love;[11] that, having received more than the rest, he would love more than all of them;[12] that, being the inheritor of the love of Jesus for his own who were in the world, he would love, as he had done, even to the end.[13] For this reason Peter's martyrdom is foretold in the Gospel immediately after our Lord has confirmed him in his office of chief Pastor of the flock; Pontiff-King, he must follow, even to the Cross, the supreme Ruler of the Church.[14]

The feasts of his two Chairs, that of Antioch and that of Rome, have recalled to our minds the sovereignty whereby he presides over the government of the whole world, and the infallibility of the doctrine which he distributes as food to the whole flock; but these two feasts, and the primacy to which they bear witness in the sacred cycle, call for that completion and further sanction afforded by the teachings included in to-day's festival. Just as the power received by the Man-God from his Father[15]and the full communication made by him of this power to the visible Head of his Church had for their end the consummation of glory, the one object of the thrice -holy God in the whole of his work;[16] so likewise all jurisdiction, ail teaching, all ministry here below, says St Paul, has for end the consummation of the saints,[17] which is but one with the consummation of this sovereign glory; and the sanctity of the creature and the glory of God, Creator and Saviour, taken together, find their full expression only in the Sacrifice which embraces both Shepherd and flock in the same holocaust.

It was for this final end of all pontificate, of all hierarchy, that Peter, from the day of Jesus' Ascension, traversed the earth. At Joppa, when he was beginning his apostolic labours, a mysterious hunger seized him: ‘Arise, Peter; kill and eat,' said the Spirit; and at the same hour, in symbolic vision, were presented before his gaze all the animals of earth and all the birds of heaven.[18]This was the Gentile world which he must join to the remnant of Israel on the divine banquet-board. Vicar of the Word, he must share his vast hunger; his preaching, like a two-edged sword, will strike down whole nations before him; his charity, like a devouring fire, will assimilate to itself the peoples; realizing his title of Head, the day will come when as true Head of the world he will have formed (from all mankind, become now a prey to his avidity) the body of Christ in his own person. Then like a new Isaac, or rather, a very Christ, he will behold rising before him the mountain where the Lord seeth,[19] awaiting the oblation.

The future has now become the present, and as on Good Friday we know what will take place. The scene is one of triumph, for on this occasion the crime of deicide is absent, and the odour of sacrifice rises from earth to heaven as an odour of sweetness and joy. Divinized by virtue of the adorable Victim of Calvary, it might indeed be said, this day, that earth is able now to stand alone. Simple son of Adam by nature, and yet nevertheless true Sovereign Pontiff, Peter advances bearing the world; his own sacrifice is to complete that of the Man-God, with whose dignity he is invested;[20] inseparable from her visible Head, the Church likewise invests him with her own glory.[21] When the cross was lifted up on Good Friday, darkness fell at noon to hide her tears, but today she sings for joy of ‘the beautiful light of eternity which floods with sacred fires this day which opens to the guilty a free path to heaven.'[22] What more could she say of the Sacrifice of Jesus himself? But this is because, by the power of this other cross which is rising up, Babylon becomes to-day the holy city. Although Sion is cursed for having crucified her Saviour, Rome can commit no crime that will prevail against the fact fixed for ever at this hour, even though she reject Christ and pour out the blood of his martyrs in her streets like water. The cross of Peter has transferred to her all the rights of the cross of Jesus; leaving to the Jews the curse, she now becomes the true Jerusalem.

Such being the meaning of this day, it is not surprising that eternal Wisdom should enhance it still further, by joining the sacrifice of Paul to that of Peter. More than any other, Paul advanced by his preachings the building up of the body of Christ.[23]If on this day holy Church has attained such full development as to be able to offer herself, in the person of her visible Head, as a sweetsmelling Sacrifice, who better than Paul may deservedly perfect the oblation, furnishing from his own veins the sacred libation?[24] The bride having attained fullness of age,[25] his own work is likewise ended.[26] Inseparable from Peter in his labours by faith and love, he will accompany him also in death;[27] both quit this earth, leaving her to the gladness of the divine nuptials sealed in their blood, whilst they ascend together to that eternal abode wherein that union is consummated.[28]




After the great solemnities of the movable cycle and the feast of St John the Baptist, none is more ancient, nor more universal in the Church, than that of the two princes of the apostles. From the beginning Rome celebrated their triumph on the day which saw them go up from earth to heaven, June 29. Her practice prevailed, at a very early date, over the custom of several other countries, which put the apostles' feast towards the close of December. It was a beautiful thought which inspired the placing of these fathers of the Christian people in the cortège of Emmanuel at his entry into this world. But to-day’s teachings have intrinsically an important preponderance in the economy of Christian dogma; they are the completion of the whole work of the Son of God; the cross of Peter fixes the Church in her stability, and marks out for the divine Spirit the immutable centre of his operations. Rome was well inspired when, leaving to the beloved disciple the honour of presiding over his brethren at the crib of the Infant God, she maintained the solemn memory of the princes of the apostles upon the day chosen by God himself to consummate their labours and to crown both their life and the whole cycle of mysteries.

Fully to-day do the heavens declare the glory of God, as David expresses it; to-day they show us the course of the Spouse completed on the eternal hills.[29] Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night revealeth the deep secret.[30] From north and south of the new Sion, from either side of her stream, Peter and Paul waft one to other, as a farewell song, as a sacred epithalamium, the good word;[31] sublime that echo, sonorous its power, still sounding throughout the whole earth,[32] and yet to resound as long as the world lasts. These two torches of salvation blend their flames above the palaces of ancient Rome; the passing darkness of their death, that night of which the psalmist sings, now concentrates light for ever in the midst of the queen city. Beside the throne of the Bridegroom fixed for ever on the seven hills,[33] the Gentile world, now become the bride, is resplendent in glory,[34] all fair in that peerless purity which she derives from their blood, united to that of the Son of God.

But we must not forget, on so great a day, those other messengers sent forth by the divine householder, who watered earth’s highways with their sweat and with their blood while they hastened the triumph and the gathering in of the guests invited to the marriage feast.[35] It is due to them that the law of grace is now definitely promulgated thoughout all nations, and that in every language and upon every shore the good tidings have been sounded.[36] Thus the festival of St Peter, completed by the more special memory of St Paul his comrade in death, has been from earliest times regarded as the festival likewise of the whole apostolic college. In primitive times it seemed impossible to dream of separating from their glorious leader any of those whom our Lord had so intimately joined together in the responsibility of one common work. In course of time, however, particular solemnities were successively consecrated to each one of the apostles, and so the feast of June 29 was more exclusively attributed to the two princes whose martyrdom rendered this day illustrious. Moreover, the Roman Church, thinking it impossible fittingly to honour both of these on the same day, deferred till the morrow her more explicit praises of the doctor of the Gentiles. She thus became more free to concentrate the demonstrations of her devoted enthusiasm upon him whom even the Greek Church herself styles in every form, the corypheus of the blessed choir of apostles.[37] These remarks seem needed for the clear understanding of the Office which is about to follow.

The antiphons and capitulum of First Vespers take us back to the opening days of the apostolic ministry. They place us in the midst of those which immediately follow the descent of the Holy Ghost. Peter and John go up together to the temple of Jerusalem. Calvary's sacrifice has put an end to its figurative oblations; nevertheless, it still continues to be a place of prayer, pleasing to heaven, on account of its grand memories. At the door of the sacred edifice, a man lame from his birth begs an alms of the apostles. Peter, lacking both silver and gold, exerts in his favour the power of healing which he possesses in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The Synagogue yields no more to the miracles of the disciple than she did to those of the Master; she will not be converted; and presently a new Herod, wishing to please the Jews, finds no better means of doing so than putting to death James, the brother of John, and imprisoning Peter. But the angel of the Lord comes down into the prison where he is sleeping, on the eve of the day fixed for his death; the angel bids him arise, put on his garments and follow him. The apostle, set free, proclaims the reality of that which at first he thought but a dream. He departs from Jerusalem, now irreparably the accursed city, and throughout the Gentile world into whose midst he has entered, is verified the prophecy: Tu es Petrus (thou art Peter), and upon this rock I will build my Church.[38]

Ant. Petrus et Joannes ascendebant in templum ad horam orationis nonam.
Ant. Peter and John went up to the temple at the ninth hour of prayer.

Ps. Dixit Dominus, p. 35.

Ant. Argentum et aurum non est mihi: quod autem habeo, hoc tibi do.
Ant. Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give unto thee.

Ps. Confitebor tibi Domine, p. 37.

Ant. Dixit angelus ad Petrum: Circumda tibi vestimentum tuum et sequere me.
Ant. The angel said to Peter: Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.

Ps. Beatus vir, p. 38.

Ant. Misit Dominus angelum suum, et liberavit me de manu Herodis. Alleluia.
Ant. The Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod. Alleluia.

Ps. Laudate pueri, p. 39.

Ant. Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam.
Ant. Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.

Ps. Laudate Dominum omnes gentes, p. 234.

(Acts xii)

Misit Herodes rex manus ut affligeret quosdam de Ecclesia. Occidit autem Jacobum fratrem Joannis gladio. Videns autem quia placeret Judæis, apposuit ut apprehenderet et Petrum.
Herod the king stretched out his hand to afflict some of the Church; and he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also.

Although touched up in the seventeenth century according to the taste of that age, the hymn which here follows magnificently expresses the glories of this day. This song of triumph was composed by Elpis, a Sicilian lady, aunt of the martyr St Placid and wife of the senator Boethius, the most illustrious representative of the gens Anicia, had not that family given to the Church at the same period the great St Benedict. The third strophe, which in majestic strain hails the queen city, is taken (with a few modifications) from another poem attributed to St Paulinus of Aquileia, and was added to the work of Elpis by the immortal Pontiff St Pius V.


Decora lux æternitatis, auream
Diem beatis irrigavit ignibus,
Apostolorum quæ coronat principes,
Reisque in astra liberam pandit viam.

Mundi magister atque cœli janitor,
Romæ parentes, arbitrique gentium,
Per ensis ille, hic per crucis victor necem,
Vitæ senatum laureati possident.

O Roma felix, quæ duorum principum
Es consecrata glorioso sanguine,
Horum cruore purpurata cæteras
Excellis orbis una pulchritudines.

Sit Trinitati sempiterna gloria,
Honor, potestas atque jubilatio,
In unitate quæ gubernat omnia.
Per universa sæculorum sæcula.

Lo! beauteous light eternal floods
with sacred fires this golden day,
which crowns the princes of apostles
and opens out unto the guilty a free path to heaven.

The teacher of the whole earth, as well as the doorkeeper of heaven,
both of them fathers of Rome and judges of nations,
each a victor of death, the one by the sword, the other by the cross:
laurel-crowned, both take their seats in the senate of eternal life.

O happy Rome, by noble gore of princes
twain art thou now consecrated;
empurpled by the blood of such as these,
thou alone dost surpass in beauty all the rest of the earth.

To the Trinity in Unity
that governeth all things
through ages of ages, may there be
eternal glory, honour, power, and jubilation.


℣. In omnem terram exivit sonus eorum.
℟. Et in fines orbis terrae verba eorum.

℣. Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth.
℟. And their words unto the ends of the world.


Antiphon of the Magnificat

Tu es pastor ovium, princeps apostolorum, tibi traditæ sunt claves regni cœlorum.
Thou art the shepherd of the sheep, O prince of the apostles, to thee were delivered the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

The Canticle, Magnificat, p. 43.


Deus, qui hodiernam diem apostolorum tuorum Petri et Pauli martyrio consecrasti: da Ecclesiæ tuæ, eorum in omnibus sequi præceptum, per quos religionis sumpsit exordium. Per Dominum.
O God, who hast consecrated this day by the martyrdom of thine apostles Peter and Paul; grant to thy Church that she may in all things follow their instruction by whom she received the faith. Through our Lord, etc.

The feast of every apostle during the year was formerly a day of obligation. The holy See in many instances having removed this precept wished to compensate for it by ordering a commemoration to be made of all the holy apostles, in the Mass and Office of the festival of SS Peter and Paul. This may be considered, in some sense, a return to the ancient custom which treated the feast of the Head of the apostolic college as that of all the apostles. As it is no longer used we omit it.

The sun is bending towards the horizon. The Church is about to resume her chants, and to begin the sacred vigil which will be continued until morning with all the pomp and continuity of the greatest solemnities. In heart, at least, let us keep watch with her. This night is the last during which the visible Head given to her by the Spouse is fulfilling his ministry of prayer and suffering in Nero's dungeons; so much the less, therefore, will she leave him, and so much the more eager is she to spend herself in extolling his greatness. When the daystar appears in the East, lighting up the seven hills whereon the queen of nations is seated, the hour of sacrifice will have sounded for the Vicar of the Man-God. Let us prepare to form a part of his cortège, by recalling the historic details of the glorious drama and the facts which led to it.

Since the terrible persecution of the year 64, Rome had become for Peter a sojourn fraught with peril, and he remembered how his Master had said to him, when appointing him shepherd of both lambs and sheep: 'Follow thou me.'[40] The apostle, therefore, awaited the day when he must mingle his blood with that of so many thousands of Christians, whom he had initiated into the faith and whose father he truly was. But before quitting earth, Peter must triumph over Simon the magician, his base antagonist. This heresiarch did not content himself with seducing souls by his perverse doctrines; he sought even to mimic Peter in the prodigies operated by him. He proclaimed that on a certain day he would fly in the air. The report of this novelty quickly spread through Rome, and the people were full of the prospect of such a marvellous sight. If we are to believe Dion Chrysostom, Nero entertained the magician at his court, and moreover decided to honour the spectacle with his presence. Accordingly, the royal lodge was erected upon the via sacra. Here the attempted flight was to take place. The impostor's pride, however, was doomed to suffer. 'Scarcely had this Icarus begun to poise his flight,' says Suetonius, 'than he fell close to Nero's lodge, which was bathed in his blood.'[41] The Samaritan juggler had set himself up, in Rome itself, as the rival of Christ's Vicar, and writers of Christian antiquity agree in attributing his downfall to the prayers of St Peter.

The failure of the heresiarch was in the eyes of the people a stain upon the emperor's character, and if illwill were united to curiosity, attention would be attracted towards Peter in a way that might prove disastrous. Also there was the 'peril of false brethren' mentioned by St Paul. This is a danger inevitable in a society as large as that of the Christians, where the association of widely differing characters is bound to cause friction, and discontent is aroused in the minds of the less educated on account of the choice of those placed in positions of trust or special confidence. This accounts for certain statements made by St Clement in a letter to the Corinthians. He was an eyewitness of the apostle's martyrdom, and says that rivalries and jealousies contributed largely to bring about his condemnation by the authorities, whose suspicions concerning 'this Jew' had been steadily increasing.

The filial devotedness of the Christians of Rome took alarm, and they implored St Peter to elude the danger for a while by instant flight. Although he would have much preferred to suffer, says St Ambrose,[42] Peter set out along the Appian Way. Just as he reached the Capuan gate, Christ suddenly appeared to him as if about to enter the city. 'Lord, whither goest thou?' cried out the apostle. 'To Rome,' Christ replied, ‘to be there crucified again.' The disciple understood his Master; he at once retraced his steps, having now no thought but to await his hour of martyrdom. This Gospel-like scene expresses the sequel of our Lord's designs upon the venerable old man. With a view to founding the Christian Church in unity, he had extended to his disciple his own prophetic name of the rock, or stone, Petrus; now he was about to make him his participator even unto the cross itself. Rome, having replaced Jerusalem, must likewise have her Calvary.

In his flight Peter dropped from his leg a bandlet, which a disciple picked up with much respect. A monument was afterwards raised on the spot where this incident occurred: it is now the Church of SS Nereus and Achilles, anciently called Titulus fasciolœ, the Title of the bandlet. According to the designs of Providence, the humble fasciola was to recall the memory of that momentous meeting at the gates of Rome, where Christ in person stood face to face with his apostle, the visible Head of his Church, and announced that the hour of his sacrifice on the cross was at hand.

From that moment Peter set everything in order, with a view to his approaching end. It was at this time he wrote his second Epistle, which is his last testament and loving farewell to the Church. Therein he declares that the close of his life is near, and compares his body to a temporary shelter, a tent which one takes down to journey farther on. 'The laying away of this my tabernacle is at hand, according as our Lord Jesus Christ also hath signified to me.'[43] These words are evidently an allusion to the apparition on the Appian Way. But before quitting this world Peter provided for the transmission of his pastoral charge and for the needs of holy Church, now about to be widowed of her visible Head. To this he refers in these words: 'And I will do my endeavour, that after my decease, you may also often have whereby you may keep a memory of these things.'[44]

Into whose hands are those keys to pass, which he received from Christ as a sign of his dominion over the whole flock? Linus had been for more than ten years the auxiliary of the holy apostle in the midst of the Christians of Rome; the still further increase of the faithful induced Peter to give Linus a colleague in the person of Cletus; yet on neither of these two did the choice of Peter fall at this solemn moment in which he was about to fulfil the promise, contained in his farewell letter, of providing for the continuance of his ministry. Clement, whose nobility of birth recommended him to the consideration of the Romans, whilst at the same time his zeal and learning merited the esteem of the faithful, was the one on whom the prince of the apostles fixed his choice. During these last days still remaining to him, Peter imposed hands on Clement, and having invested him with the episcopal character, enthroned him in his own Chair, declaring his intention to have him for his successor. These facts, related in the Liber Pontificalis, are confirmed by the testimony of Tertullian and St Epiphanius.

Thus the quality of bishop of Rome entailed that of universal pastor; and Peter must needs leave the heritage of the divine keys to him who should next occupy the See which he held at the moment of death. So had Christ ordained; and a heavenly inspiration had led Peter to choose Rome for his last station, that long before had been prepared by Providence for universal empire. Hence, at the moment when the supremacy of Peter passed to one of his disciples, no astonishment was manifested in the Church. It was well known that the Primacy was and must necessarily be a local heritage, and none ignored the fact that Rome herself was that spot chosen by Peter long years before. Nor after Peter's death did it ever occur to the mind of any of the Christians to seek the centre of holy Church either at Jerusalem, or at Alexandria, or at Antioch, or elsewhere.

The Christians in Rome made great account of the paternal devotedness he had lavished on their city. Hence their alarms, to which the apostle once consented to yield. St Peter's epistles, so redolent of affection, bear witness to the tenderness of soul with which he was gifted to a very high degree. He is ever the shepherd devoted to his sheep, fearing, above all else, a domineering tone; he is ever the Vicar offering himself, so that nothing may transpire save the dignity and rights of him whom he represents. This exquisite modesty was further increased in Peter, by the remembrance which haunts his whole life, as ancient writers say, of the sin he once committed, and which he continued to deplore up to the closing days of extreme old age. Faithful ever to that transcending love of which his divine Master had required him to make a triple affirmation before confiding to him the care of his flock, he endured unflinchingly the immense labours of his office of fisher of men. One circumstance of his life, which relates to this its closing period, reveals most touchingly the devotedness wherewith he clung to him who had vouchsafed both to call him to follow him and to pardon his inconstancy. Clement of Alexandria has preserved this detail as follows.[45]

Before being called to the apostolate, Peter had lived in the conjugal state: from that time forth his wife became his sister; she nevertheless continued in his company, following him about from place to place, in his various journeys, in order to render him service.[46] She was in Rome while Nero's persecution was raging, and the honour of martyrdom thus sought her out. Peter watched her as she stepped forth on her way to triumph, and at that moment his solicitude broke out in this one exclamation: 'Oh! bethink thee of the Lord.' These two Galileans had seen the Lord, had received him into their house, had made him their guest at table. Since then the divine Pastor had suffered on the cross, had risen again, had ascended into heaven, leaving the care of his flock to the fisherman of Lake Genesareth. What else, then, would Peter have his wife do at this moment but recall such sweet memories, and run forward to him whom she had known here below in his human features, and who was now about to crown her hidden life with immortal glory!

The moment for entering into this same glory came at last for Peter himself. 'When thou shalt be old,' his Master had mysteriously said to him, 'thou shalt stretch forth thy hands and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not.'[47] So Peter was to attain an advanced age; like his Master, he must stretch forth his arms upon a cross; he must know captivity and the weight of chains with which a foreigner's hand will load him; he must be subjected to death, in its violent form, from which nature recoils, and drink the chalice from which even his divine Master himself prayed to be spared. But, like his Master also, he will arise strong in the divine aid, and will press forward to the cross. Lo! this oracle is about to be accomplished to the letter.

On the day fixed by God’s decree, pagan power gave orders for the apostle’s arrest. Details are wanting as to the judicial procedure which followed, but the constant tradition of the Roman Church is that he was incarcerated in the Mamertine prison. By this name is known the dungeon constructed at the foot of the Capitoline hill by Ancus Martius, and afterwards completed by Servius Tullius, whence it is also called Carcer Tullianus. Two outer staircases, called ‘the steps of sighs,’ led to this frightful den. An upper dungeon gave immediate entrance to that which was to receive the prisoner and never to deliver him up alive, unless he were destined to a public execution. To be put into this horrible place, he had to be let down by cords, through an opening above, and by the same was he finally drawn up again, whether dead or alive. The vaulting of this lower dungeon was high, and its darkness was utter and horrible, so that it was an easy task to guard a captive detained there, especially if he were laden with chains.

On the twenty-ninth of June, in the year sixty-seven, Peter was at length drawn up to be led to death. According to Roman law, he must first be subjected to the scourge, the usual prelude to capital punishment. An escort of soldiers conducted the apostle to his place of martyrdom, outside the city walls, as the laws required. Peter was marched to execution, followed by a large number of the faithful, drawn by affection along his path, and for his sake defying every peril.

Beyond the Tiber, facing the Campus Martius, there stretches a vast plain, which is reached by the bridge named the Triumphal, whereby the city is put in communication with the Via Triumphalis and the Via Cornelia, both of which roads lead to the north. From the river-side the plain is bounded on the left by the Janiculum, and beyond that, in the background, by the Vatican hills, whose chain continues along to the right in the form of an amphitheatre. Along the bank of the Tiber the land is occupied by immense gardens, which three years previously had been made by Nero the scene of the principal immolation of the Christians, just at this same season also. To the west of the Vatican plain, and beyond Nero's gardens, was a circus of vast extent, usually called by his name, although in reality it owes its origin to Caligula, who placed in its centre an obelisk which he had transported from Egypt. Outside the circus, towards its farthest end, rose a temple to Apollo, the protector of the public games. At the other end the declivity of the Vatican hills begins, and about the middle, facing the obelisk, was planted a turpentine tree well known to the people. The spot fixed upon for Peter's execution was close to this tree. There, likewise, was his tomb already dug. No other spot in all Rome could be more suitable for so august a purpose. From remotest ages, something mysterious had hovered over the Vatican. An old oak, said by the most ancient traditions to be anterior to the foundation of Rome, was there held in great reverence. There was much talk of oracles heard in this place. Moreover, where could a more choice resting-place be found for this old man who had just conquered Rome than a mound beneath this venerated soil, opening upon the Triumphal Way and the Cornelian Way, thus uniting the memories of victorious Rome and the name of the Cornelii, which had now become inseparable from that of Peter?

There is something supremely grand in the taking possession of these places by the Vicar of the Man-God. The apostle, having reached the spot and come up to the instrument of death, implored of his executioners to set him thereon, not in the usual way, but head downwards, in order, said he, that the servant be not seen in the position once taken by the Master. His request was granted; and Christian tradition, in all ages, renders testimony to this fact which adds further evidence to the deep humility of so great an apostle. Peter, with outstretched arms, prayed for the city, prayed for the whole world, while his blood flowed down upon that Roman soil, the conquest of which he had just achieved. At this moment Rome became for ever the new Jerusalem. When the apostle had gone through the whole round of his sufferings, he expired; but he was to live again in each one of his successors to the end of time.



The crowd is pressing more than usual, clad in festal garb; tell me, my friend, what means this concourse? All Rome is swaying to and fro, mad as it were with joy. Because this day recalls the memory of a triumph the most gorgeous: Peter and Paul, both of them victors in death sublime, have ennobled this day with their blood. Tiber, henceforth sacred since he flows betwixt their tombs set on either bank, was witness of the cross and of the sword. Double trophy, double riches, claiming homage of the queen city; double solemnity on one day! Wherefore, behold the people of Romulus in two streams crossing one another athwart the city! Let us hasten our steps that we may be able to share in the two feasts; let us lose not one of these sacred hymns. First let us pursue the way which leads to the Adrian bridge; yonder gilded roofs mark the spot where Peter reposes. There, at early dawn, the Pontiff offers his first vows. Hastening on and reaching the left bank, he comes presently to Paul's tomb, there to offer once again the holy Sacrifice. So remember, thus is honoured this twice sacred day.[48]

It is Prudentius, the great Christian poet of the fourth century who, in the above words, bears witness to the enthusiasm wherewith the solemnity of the apostles was celebrated at Rome in his time. Theodoret[49] and St Asterius of Amasea[50] tell us that the piety of the faithful on this feast was not less demonstrated in such distant Churches as those of Syria and Asia. In the codes which bear their name, Theodosius and Justinian lay down or repeat the prohibition of toil or trade, of lawsuits or profane shows, on the day of the martyrdom of the apostles, the ‘masters of Christendom.'[51] In this respect even schism and heresy have not been suffered in the East to prevail over gratitude and love. Nearer home, in the very midst of the ruin brought about by the pretended reform in Protestant England, the Book of Common Prayer still marks this feast of June 29, and a fast on its vigil. Nevertheless, by a strange phenomenon, little in keeping with the tendencies of the 'Establishment,' St Paul is discarded on this day, leaving all the festal honours to St Peter, whose successor is the bishop of Rome; the Anglican calendar retains no memory of St Paul except the feast of his Conversion, January 25.

The poem of Prudentius, cited above, brings to light in a certain degree the difficulty formerly experienced by the Roman people, in order not to lose any part of the double station proper to this day. The distance was great indeed from the Vatican basilica to that on the Ostian Way; and the two streams of people, to which the poet alludes, prove significantly that a great number of pilgrims, from the impossibility of their being present at both Masses, were reduced to the necessity of making choice of one or other. Added to this difficulty, let us remember that the preceding night had not been without fatigue, if at that same period, as certainly was the case in later ages, the Matins of the apostles, begun at dusk, had been followed by those of the martyrs at the first cock-crow.[52] St Gregory the Great, wishing therefore to spare his people and clergy an accumulation of services which turned rather to the detriment than to the increase of honour paid to the two princes of the apostles, put off till the next day the station on the Ostian Way, with its solemn commemoration of the doctor of the Gentiles. Consequently, it is not surprising that, except the collect common to the two apostles, the formulas chanted at the Mass which is about to follow relate exclusively to St Peter. This Mass was formerly only the first of the day—namely, the one which was celebrated in the early morning at the tomb of the Vicar of the Man-God.

The bride is all brilliant to-day, gorgeously arrayed in sacred purple twice dyed[53] in the one stream of generous blood. Whilst the Pontiff is advancing to the altar, encircled by the divers Orders of holy Church forming his noble cortège, the choir of singers intones the antiphon of the Introit, alternating it with several verses of Psalm cxxxviii. This psalm, which is to be found farther on at second Vespers, is chosen in honour of the holy apostles, chiefly on account of the words of its seventeenth verse: 'To me thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honourable: their principality is exceedingly strengthened.'


Nunc scio vere quia misit Dominus angelum suum: et eripuit me de manu Herodis, et de omni exspectatione plebis Judæorum.

Ps. Domine, probasti me, et cognovisti me: tu cognovisti sessionem meam et resurrectionem meam. ℣. Gloria Patri. Nunc scio.
Now I know in very deed, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

Ps. Lord, thou hast proved me and known me: thou hast known my sitting down and my rising up. ℣. Glory, etc. Now I know.

The collect, which is repeated in each of the Hours of the divine Office, is the principal formula chosen by the Church for each day. Here her leading thought is always to be found. That which follows shows us that it is certainly the Church's intention, on this day, to celebrate conjointly the two princes of the apostles, and to render to both unitedly the tribute of her devoted gratitude.


Deus, qui hodiernam diem apostolorum tuorum Petri et Pauli martyrio consecrasti: da Ecclesiæ tuæ, eorum in omnibus sequi præceptum, per quos religionis sumpsit exordium. Per Dominum.
O God, who hast consecrated this day by the martyrdom of thine apostles Peter and Paul; grant to thy Church that she may in all things follow their instruction by whom she received the faith. Through our Lord, etc.


Lectio Actuum Apostolorum.

Cap. xii.

In diebus illis: Misit Herodes rex manus, ut affligeret quosdam de Ecclesia. Occidit autem Jacobum fratrem Joannis gladio. Videns autem quia placeret Judæis, apposuit ut apprehenderet et Petrum. Erant autem dies Azymorum. Quem cum apprehendisset, misit in carcerem, tradens quatuor quatemionibus militum custodiendum, volens post Pascha producere eum populo. Et Petrus quidem servabatur in carcere. Oratio autem fiebat sine intermissione ab Ecclesia ad Deum pro eo. Cum autem producturus eum esset Herodes, in ipsa nocte erat Petrus dormiens inter duos milites, vinctus catenis duabus: et custodes ante ostium custodiebant carcerem. Et ecce angelus Domini adstitit, et lumen refulsit in habitaculo; percussoque latere Petri, excitavit eum, dicens: Surge velociter. Et ceciderunt catenæ de manibus ejus. Dixit autem angelus ad eum; Præcingere, et calcea te caligas tuas. Et fecit sic. Et dixit illi: Circumda tibi vestimentum tuum, et sequere me. Et exiens sequebatur eum, et nesciebat quia verum est, quod fiebat per angelum: existimabat autem se visum videre. Transeuntes autem primam et secundam custodiam, venerunt ad portam ferream, quæ ducit ad civitatem, quæ ultro aperta est eis. Et exeuntes processerunt vicum unum: et continuo discessit angelus ab eo. Et Petrus ad se reversus, dixit: Nunc scio vere quia misit Dominus angelum suum, et eripuit me de manu Herodis, et de omni exspectatione plebis Judæorum.
Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.

Ch. xii.

In those days, Herod the king stretched forth his hands to afflict some of the Church: and he killed James the brother of John with the sword; and seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also. Now it was in the days of the Azymes: and when he had apprehended him, he cast him into prison, delivering him to four files of soldiers to be kept, intending after the Pasch to bring him forth to the people. Peter, therefore, was kept in prison; but prayer was made without ceasing by the Church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains; and the keepers before the door kept the prison: and behold an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shined in the room; and he, striking Peter on the side, raised him up, saying: Arise quickly; and the chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said to him: Gird thyself and put on thy sandals. And he did so. And he said to him: Cast thy garment about thee and follow me: and going out he followed him: and he knew not that it was true which was done by the angel: but he thought he saw a vision. And passing through the first and second ward, they came to the iron gate that leadeth to the city, which of itself opened to them; and going out, they passed on through one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. And Peter coming to himself said: Now I know in very deed that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

It would be difficult to insist more than does to-day's liturgy on the episode of Peter's captivity in Jerusalem. Several antiphons and all the capitula of this Office are drawn from thence; the Introit has just sung the same; and the Epistle gives in full the history of the event in which the Church is particularly interested on this feast. The secret of her preference can easily be divined. This festival celebrates the fact that Peter's death confirms the queen of the Gentile world in her august prerogatives of sovereign lady, mother and bride; but the startingpoint of all this greatness was the solemn moment in which the Vicar of the Man-God, shaking the dust from his feet[54] over Jerusalem, turned his face westwards, and transferred to Rome those rights which the Synagogue had repudiated. It was on quitting Herod's prison that all this happened. ‘And going out of the city,' says the Acts, ‘he went into another place.'[55] This other place, according to the testimony of history and tradition, is no other than Rome, then about to become the new Sion, where Simon Peter arrived some weeks afterwards. Thus, catching up the angel's word, the Gentile Church sings this night in one of her responsories at Matins: 'Peter, arise, and put on thy garments: gird thee with strength to save the nations; for the chains have fallen from off thy hands.'[56]

Just as in bygone days Jesus slept in the bark that was on the point of sinking, so Peter was sleeping quietly on the eve of the day fixed for his death. Tempests and dangers of all kinds are not spared, in the course of ages, to Peter's successors. But never is there seen in the bark of holy Church the dire dismay which held aghast the companions of our Lord in that vessel, tossed as it was by the wild hurricane. Faith was then lacking in the breasts of the disciples, and its absence caused their terror.[57] Since the descent of the Holy Ghost, however, this precious faith, whence all other gifts flow, can never be lost in the Church. It is faith that imparts to superiors the calmness of their divine Master; faith maintains in the hearts of the Christian people that uninterrupted prayer, and humble confidence which silently triumphs over the world and the elements, even over God himself. Should the bark of Peter near the abyss, should the Pilot himself seem to sleep, never will holy Church imitate the disciples in the storm of Lake Genesareth. Never will she set herself up as judge of the due means and moments for divine Providence, nor deem it lawful for her to find fault with him who is watching over all: remembering that she possesses within her a better and a surer means than any other of bringing to a solution, without display or commotion, the most extreme crises; never ignoring that if intercessory prayer does not falter, the angel of the Lord will surely come at the given hour to awaken Peter and break his chains asunder.

Oh! how far more powerful are a few souls that in their unobtrusive simplicity know how to pray, than all the policy and all the soldiers of a thousand Herods put together! The small community assembled in the house of Mary, mother of Mark,[58] were few indeed in number; but thence, day by day and night by night, arose one continual prayer; fortunately, that fatal naturalism was unknown there, which, under the specious pretext of not tempting God, refrains from asking of him the impossible, whenever there is question of the Church's interests. This pest of naturalism is a domestic enemy harder far to grapple with, at a critical moment, than the crisis itself! To be sure, the precautions taken by Herod Agrippa not to suffer his prisoner to escape his hands do credit to his prudence, and certainly it was an impossible thing asked for by holy Church, when she begged the deliverance of Peter at such a moment: so much so, indeed, that even those who were praying, when their prayers were heard, did not at first believe their own eyes! But the prevailing force of their strength was just in that—namely, to hope against all hope[59]—for what they themselves knew to be holy foolishness;[60] that is to say, to submit in prayer the judgement of reason to the sole view of faith!

The Gradual recalls the power promised, in the sacred epithalamium,[61] to the companions and sons of the Bridegroom; they, too, have beheld numerous sons replacing the fathers whom they quitted in order to follow Jesus.

The Alleluia Verse hails the rock (Petrus) that supports the Church, on this glad day whereon it is fixed for ever in its predestined place.


Constitues eos principes super omnem terram: memores erunt nominis tui, Domine.
℣. Pro patribus tuis nati sunt tibi filii: propterea populi confitebuntur tibi.
Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. Tu es Petrus, et super hane petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam.
Thou shalt make them princes over all the earth; they shall remember thy name, O Lord.
℣. Instead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee: therefore shall people praise thee.
Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.


Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Cap. xvi.

In illo tempore: Venit Jesus in partes Cæsareæ Philippi: et interrogabat discipulos suos, dicens: Quem dicunt homines esse Filiura hominis? At illi dixerunt: alii Joannem Baptistam, alii autem Eliam, alii vero Jeremiam, aut unum ex Prophetis. Dicit illis Jesus: Vos autem quem me esse dicitis? Respondens Simon Petrus, dixit: Tu es Christus Filius Dei vivi. Respondens autem Jesus, dixit ei: Beatus es, Simon Bar-Jona: quia caro et sanguis non revelavit tibi, sed Pater meus qui in cœlis est. Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portae inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam. Et tibi dabo claves regni cœlorum. Et quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in cœlis: et quodeumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in cœlis.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Ch. xvi.

At that time Jesus came into the quarters of Cesarea Philippi, and he asked his disciples saying. Whom do men say that the Son of Man is? But they said; Some, John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, the son of the living God. And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven: and I say to thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build ray Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

In the Epistle, Rome has celebrated the day on which Juda's obstinacy in rejecting the Vicar of the Man-God won for the Gentile Church the honours of the bride. See how in joyous gratitude she now recalls the memory of that moment when first earth hailed the Spouse by his divine title: ‘Thou art Christ, Son of the living God!' O happy word awaited for centuries, for which John the Baptist has been preparing the bride! But the Precursor himself had quitted the world before its accents awakened an echo on earth too long dormant. He was to bring the Word and the Church face to face; after that he was to disappear, as indeed he did, leaving the bride to the spontaneity of her own effusions. Now is not the pure gold of the Divinity wherewith his Head is adorned the first of the Beloved's excellences pointed out by the bride in the sacred Canticle?[62] Thus, therefore, does she speak on the plains of Cesarea Philippi; and her organ is Simon Bar-Jona, who, for having thus rendered her heart's full utterance, remains for ever the mouth of holy Church.

Faith and love with one accord, hereupon, constitute Peter ‘supreme and most ancient summit of theologians,' as St Denys calls him in his book of the Divine Names.[63] First, verily, both in order of time and in plenitude of dogma, he solved the problem, the insoluble formula of which had stretched to the utmost the theology of prophetic times. ‘The words of him that gathereth the peoples,' said the Wise Man, 'the words of the son of him who scattereth truths; the vision which the man spoke with whom God is, and who being strengthened by God abiding with him said: I have learned not wisdom. . . . Who hath ascended up into heaven, and descended, so that he may know the name of him who made the earth? And what is the name of his Son? Who can tell it?'[64] Then, after this mysterious exordium, leading up to the mysterious question, the Wise Man, without pursuing it further, concludes with a confiding though timid reserve: 'Every word of God is fire-tried: he is a buckler to them that hope in him. Add not anything to his words, lest thou be reproved and found a liar.'[65]

What then, O Peter, art thou more wise than Solomon? And can that which the Holy Ghost declared to be above all science, be confided as a secret to a poor fisherman? It is so, however. None knoweth the Father but the Son;[66] yet the Father himself hath revealed to Simon the mystery of his Son, and the word which attests it may not be gainsaid. For that word is no lying addition to divine dogma: it is the oracle of heaven, which, passing through human lips, raises its happy interpreters above the level of mere flesh and blood. Like Christ, whose Vicar it causes him to become, his one mission is to be heaven's faithful echo here below,[67] transmitting to men only what he has received:[68] the Word of the Father.[69] Here we have the entire mystery of the Church, at once of heaven and of earth, and against which hell may not prevail.

The sacrificial rites are progressing in majestic splendour. While the basilica is still re-echoing with the sublime accents of the Credo which the apostles preached and which rests on Peter, the Church arises bearing her gifts to the altar. At the sight of this long file of peoples and kings succeeding one another in the dim mist of ages, paying fealty on this day to the crucified fisherman, the choir resumes, to a new melody, the verse of the psalm which has already in the Gradual hailed the supereminence of that princedom created by Christ for the messengers of his love.


Constitues eos principes super omnem terram: memores erunt nominis tui, Domine, in omni progenie et generatione.
Thou shalt make them princes over all the earth: they shall remember thy name, O Lord, throughout all generations.

Earth's gifts have no intrinsic worth whereby to merit the acceptance of heaven. Therefore, the Church, in her Secret, begs the intervention of apostolic prayer to render her offering pleasing in God's sight. This prayer of the apostles is, not only on this day but always, our sure refuge and the remedy of our miseries. This same idea is also expressed in the beautiful Preface which follows. The eternal Shepherd could never abandon his flock; but he continues to guard it by means of the blessed apostles, who are themselves shepherds likewise, and guides in his place of the Christian people.


Hostias, Domine, quas nomini tuo sacrandas offerimus, apostolica prosequatur oratio: per quam nos expiari tribuas et defendi. Per Dominum.
May the prayer of thine apostles, O Lord, accompany the Sacrifice which we offer to thy name; and by the same prayer grant us to be purified and defended. Through, etc.

Preface of Apostles

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare: te, Domine, suppliciter exorare, ut gregem tuum, Pastor æterne, non deseras, sed per beatos apostolos tuos continua protectione custodias. Utiisdem rectoribus gubernetur, quos operis tui vicarios eidem contulisti præesse pastores. Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia cœlestis exercitus, hymnum gloriæ tuæ canimus, sine fine dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, humbly to beseech thee, that thou, O Lord, our eternal Shepherd, wouldst not forsake thy flock, but keep it under thy continual protection, by thy blessed apostles. That it may be governed by those whom thou hast appointed its vicars and pastors. And therefore with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominations, and with all the heavenly host, we sing an everlasting hymn to thy glory, saying: Holy, etc.

The Church enjoys a taste, in the sacred Banquet, of the close relation there is between the mystery of love and the grand Catholic unity founded upon the rock. She therefore sings:


Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam.
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.

The Postcommunion returns to the thought of the immense power contained in apostolic prayer, since it is the safeguard and very bulwark of Christians who are fed upon this heavenly food.


Quos cœlesti, Domine, alimento satiasti, apostolicis intercessionibus abomni adversitate custodi. Per Dominum.
Preserve, O Lord, from all adversity, by the intercession of thy apostles, those whom thou hast fed with heavenly nourishment. Through, etc.




The greatest of days for the Eternal City is drawing to a close; the solemn Office of Vespers is once more gathering the faithful around the tomb, where the Vicar of the Man-God reposes after his toilsome sacrifice. No more of labour, of prisons, of chains, in the Church's song: the work is done; Peter has ended his militant life; nothing remains of the thousand phases through which his life had passed, nor of the combat that terminated it, but the eternal triumph. Therefore, the liturgy of Vespers returns no more, as it did yesterday and this morning, to those glorious episodes in the history of Simon Bar-Jona, which were but preliminaries of the final victory won upon this day. The Office celebrates results acquired, and hails them in all their imposing and immutable grandeur. By extension, the five psalms which follow, with their antiphons, have become those of the second Vespers common to all the apostles; but they primarily refer to Peter and his illustrious companion Paul.

Peter, passing beyond the veil with the offering of his own blood, this day confirms his high priesthood for all eternity, thus becoming a most perfect likeness of Jesus Christ the Sovereign High Priest. The Church of earth sings in unison with that of heaven these words in his honour:

Ant. Juravit Dominus, et non pœnitebit eum: Tu es sacerdos in æternum.
Ant. The Lord hath sworn and he will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever.

Ps. Dixit Dominus, p. 35.

As the new Pontiff enters, invested in the priesthood, not of Aaron, but of Christ their supreme Head, the celestial hierarchies open their ranks, hailing his principality which equals theirs.

Ant. Collocet eum Dominus cum principibus populi sui.
Ant. Let the Lord place him with the princes of his people.

Ps. Laudate pueri, p. 39.

With still more reason than when quitting Herod's prison, Peter may now exclaim to his Lord: 'Thou hast broken my chains,' And forthwith, entering upon his function of eternal high priest, in union with Jesus Christ, he adds: 'I will sacrifice unto thee the sacrifice of praise.'

Ant. Dirupisti, Domine, vincula mea: tibi sacrificabo hostiam laudis.
Ant. O Lord, thou hast broken my bonds: I will sacrifice unto thee the sacrifice of praise.

Psalm 115

Credidi, propter quod locutus sum: ego autem humiliatus sum nimis.
Ego dixi in excessu meo: Omnis homo mendax.
Quid retribuam Domino: pro omnibus quæ retribuit mihi?
Calicem salutaris accipiam: et nomen Domini invocabo.
Vota mea Domino reddam coram omni populo ejus: pretiosa in conspectu Domini mors sanctorum ejus.
O Domine, quia ego servus tuus: ego servus tuus, et filius ancillæ tuæ.
Dirupisti vincula mea: tibi sacrificabo hostiam laudis, et nomen Domini invocabo.
Vota mea Domino reddam in conspectu omnis popuii ejus, in atriis domus Domini in medio tui Jerusalem.
ANT. Dirupisti, Domine, vincula mea: tibi sacrificabo hostiam laudis.
I have believed, therefore have I spoken: but I have been humbled exceedingly.
I said in my excess: Every man is a liar.
What shall I render unto the Lord for all the things that he hath rendered unto me?
I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord before all his people; precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
O Lord, for I am thy servant: I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid.
Thou hast broken my bonds: I will sacrifice unto thee the sacrifice of praise, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the sight of all his people: in the courts of the house of the Lord, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.
ANT. O Lord, thou hast broken my bonds; I will sacrifice unto thee the sacrifice of praise.

The encouragement offered by this feast is meant for all of us: we who sow at present in tears may promise ourselves a day wherein we shall reap in joy. Peter and Paul suffered more than we along life's road.

Ant. Euntes ibant et flebant, mittentes semina sua.
Ant. Going they went and wept, casting their seed.

Psalm 125

In convertendo Dominus captivitatem Sion: facti sumus sicut consolati.
Tunc repletum est gaudio os nostrum: et lingua nostra exsultatione.
Tunc dicent inter gentes: Magnificavit Dominus facere cum eis.
Magnificavit Dominus facere nobiscum: facti sumus lætantes.
Converte, Domine, captivitatem nostram: sicut torrens in austro.
Qui seminant in lacrymis: in exsultatione metent.
Euntes ibant et flebant: mittentes semina sua.
When the Lord brought back the captivity of Sion: we became like men that are comforted.
Then was our mouth filled with gladness: and our tongue with joy.
Then shall they say among the Gentiles: The Lord hath done great things for them.
The Lord hath done great things for us: we are become joyful.
Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as a stream in the south.
They that sow in tears: shall reap in joy.
They went forth on their way and wept: casting their seed.

For our two apostles a day whose sun knoweth no setting hath arisen; after the fatiguing march, after all those tears, lo! now rest eternal in the power and glory of God himself! For that God, who already called them his friends even here below,[70] now gives them, in virtue of this title, a participation in all his goods.

Ant. Confortatus est principals eorum, et honorati sunt amici tui, Deus.
Ant. Their principality is strengthened, and thy friends, O God, are made honourable.

Psalm 138

Domine, probasti me et cognovisti me: tu cognovisti sessionem meam et resurrectionem meam.
Intellexisti cogitationes meas delonge: semitam meam et funiculum meum investigasti.
Et omnes vias meas prævidisti: quia non est sermo in lingua mea.
Ecce, Domine, tu cognovisti omnia, novissima et antiqua: tu formasti me, et posuisti super me manum tuam.
Mirabilis facta est scientia tua ex me: confortata est, et non potero ad eam.
Quo ibo a spiritu tuo? et quo a facie tua fugiam?
Si ascendero in cœlum, tu illic es; si descendero in infernum, ades.
Si sumpsero pennas meas diluculo: et habita vero in extremis maris:
Venientes autem venient cum exsultatione: portantes manipulos suos.
ANT. Euntes ibant et fiebant, mittentes semina sua.
Etenim illuc manus tua deducet me: et tenebit me dextera tua.
Et dixi: Forsitan tenebræ conculcabunt me: et nox illuminatio mea in deliciis meis.
Quia tenebræ non obscurabuntur a te, et nox sicut dies illuminabitur: sicut tenebræ ejus, ita et lumen ejus.
Quia tu possedisti renes meos: suscepisti me de utero matris meæ.
Confitebor tibi quia terribiliter magnificatus es: mirabilia opera tua, et anima mea cognoscit nimis.
Non est occultatum os meum a te, quod fecisti in occulto: et substantia mea in inferioribus terræ.
Imperfectum meum viderunt oculi tui, et in libro tuo omnes scribentur: dies formabuntur, et nemo in eis.
Mihi autem nimis honorificati sunt amici tui, Deus: nimis confortatus est principatus eorum.
Dinumerabo eos, et super arenam multiplicabuntur: exsurrexi, et adhuc sum tecum.
Si occideris, Deus, peccatores: viri sanguinum, declinate a me.
Quia dicitis in cogitatione: accipient in vanitate civitates tuas.
Nonne qui oderunt te, Domine, oderam? et super inimicos tuos tabescebam?
Perfecto odio oderam illos: et inimici facti sunt mihi.
Proba me. Deus, et scito cor meum: interroga me et cognosce semitas meas.
Et vide si via iniquitatis in me est: et deduc me in via aeterna.
ANT. Confortatus est principatus eorum, et honorati sunt amici tui Deus.
O Lord, thou hast proved me and known me: thou hast known my sitting down and my rising up.
Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off: my path and my line thou hast searched out.
And thou hast foreseen all my ways: for there is no speech in my tongue.
Behold, O Lord, thou hast known all things, the newest and those of old: thou hast formed me and hast laid thine hand upon me.
Thy knowledge is become wonderful to me: it is high, and I cannot reach to it.
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face?
If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present.
If I take my wings early in the morning: and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea:
But returning they shall come with joyful ness: carrying their sheaves with them.
ANT. Going they went and wept, casting their seed.
Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.
And I said, perhaps darkness shall cover me: and night shall be my light in my pleasures.
But darkness shall not be dark to thee, and night shall be light as the day: the darkness and the light thereof are alike to thee.
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast protected me from my mother's womb.
I will praise thee, for thou art fearfully magnified: wonderful are thy works, and my soul knoweth them right well.
My bone is not hid from thee, which thou hast made in secret: and my substance in the lower parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my imperfect being, and in thy book all shall be written: days shall be formed and no one in them.
But to me thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honourable: their principality is exceedingly strengthened.
I will remember them, and they shall be multiplied above the sand: I rose up and am still with thee.
If thou wilt slay the wicked, O God; ye men of blood depart from me.
Because you say in thought to Satan the prince of this world: They shall receive thy cities in vain.
Have I not hated them, O Lord, that hated thee, and pined away because of thine enemies?
I have hated them with a perfect hatred: and they are become as enemies unto me.
Prove me, O God, and know my heart: examine me, and know my paths.
And see if there be in me the way of iniquity: and lead me in the way eternal.
ANT. Their principality is strengthened, and thy friends O God, are made honourable.

The capitulum and hymn are the same as at first Vespers, p. 314. The Church then, in the versicle, brings prominently before us the divine knowledge which the apostles received and communicated to earth.

℣. Annuntiaverunt opera Dei.
℟. Et facta ejus intellexerunt.
℣. They declared the works of God.
℟. And understood his doings.

The following antiphon is a worthy crown to all these songs consecrated by the queen of the nations to the honour of her two princes. The melody to which it is set is admirably suited to the triumphal events which render this day so nobly illustrious in heaven and on earth.

Antiphon of the Magnficat

Hodie Simon Petrus ascendit crucis patibulum, alleluia: hodie clavicularius regni gaudens migravit ad Christum: hodie Paulus apostolus, lumen orbis terræ, inclinato capite pro Christi nomine martyrio coronatus est, alleluia.
This day Simon Peter ascended the gibbet of the cross, alleluia. This day the keeper of heaven's keys went on his way to Christ with joy. This day the apostle Paul, the light of the world, laying down his head for the name of Christ, was crowned with martyrdom, alleluia.

The Canticle, Magnificat, p. 43.


Deus qui hodiernam diem apostolorum tuorum Petri et Pauli martyrio consecrasti da ecclesiæ tuæ eorum in omnibus sequi præceptum, per quos religionis sumpsit exordium. Per Dominum.
O God, who hast consecrated this day by the martyrdom of thine apostles Peter and Paul; grant to thy Church that she may in all things follow their instruction by whom she received the faith. Through our Lord, etc.

We here couple with the above glorious Magnificat antiphon another which was deservedly prized by our forefathers for its beauty.


Dum duceretur Petrus apostolus ad crucem, repletus gaudio magno, dixit: Non sum dignus ita esse in cruce, sicut Dominus meus, qui de Spiritu Sancto conceptus est, me autem de limo terræ ipse formavit: nam crux mea caput meum in terra debet ostendere. At illi verterunt crucem, et pedes ejus sursum confixerunt, manus vero deorsum. Dum esset Petrus in cruce, venit turba multa maledicens Cæsarem, et fecerunt planctum magnum ante crucem. Petrus exhortabatur eos de cruce, dicens: Nolite flere, sed gaudete mecum, quia ego hodie vado vobis parare locum. Et cum hoc dixisset, ait: Gratias tibi ago, Pastor bone, guia oves quas tradidisti mihi compatiuntur mecum: peto namque ut participentur mecum de gratia tua in sempiternum.
When Peter the apostle was being led to the cross, filled with great joy he exclaimed: I am not worthy to be so fixed upon the cross as was my Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, whereas he formed me out of the slime of the earth; even so should my cross point my head downwards to the earth. Therefore did they reverse the cross, and crucify his feet upwards and his hands downwards. Whilst Peter was hanging on the cross, a crowd gathered around him, cursing Cæsar and making much wailing before the cross. Peter exhorted them from the cross, saying: 'Weep not, but rejoice with me, because this day I go to prepare a place for you.' And when he had said this, he added: 'I give thanks to thee, O Good Shepherd, because the sheep that thou didst confide to me suffer together with me: lo! now I beseech thee that they may be participators with me also in thy grace for ever.'

We must here set before the reader the entire poem from which the strophe O Roma felix is taken. The fourth and fifth strophes of this same hymn are used on the two feasts of St. Peter's Chair and on that of his Chains.

Felix per omnes festum mundi cardines
Apostolorum præpollet alacriter
Petri beati, Paulique sanctissimi,
Quos Christus almo consecravit sanguine,
Ecclesiarum deputavit principes.

Hi sunt olivæ duæ coram Domino
Et candelabra luce radiantia,
Præclara cœli duo luminaria,
Fortia solvunt peccatorum vincula,
Portas Olympi reserant fidelibus.

Habent supernas potestatem claudere
Sermone sedes, pandere splendentia
Limina poli super alta sidera,
Linguæ eorum claves cœli factæ sunt,
Larvas repellunt ultra mundi limitem.

Petrus beatus catenarum laqueos
Christo jubente rupit mirabiliter,
Custos ovilis et doctor Ecclesiæ,
Pastorque gregis, conservator omnium,
Arcet luporum truculentam rabiem.

Quodcumque vinclis super terram strinxerit
Erit in astris religatum fortiter,
Et quod resolvit in terris arbitrio
Erit solutum super cœli radium,
In fine mundi judex erit sæculi.

Non impar Paulus huic, doctor gentium,
Electionis templum sacratissimium,
In morte compar, in corona particeps.
Ambo lucernæ et decus Ecclesiæ
In orbe claro corascant vibramine.

O Roma felix, quæ tantorum principum
Es purpurata pretioso sanguine,
Excellis omnem mundi pulchritudinem,
Non laude tua, sed sanctorum meritis,
Quos cruentatis jugulasti gladiis.

Vos ergo modo, gloriosi martyres,
Petre beate, Paule mundi lilium,
Cœlestis aulæ triumphales milites,
Precibus almis vestris nos ab omnibus
Munite malis, ferte super æthera.

Gloria Patri per immensa sæcula,
Sit tibi. Nate, decus et imperium,
Honor, potestas, Sanctoque Spiritui:
Sit Trinitati salus individua,
Per infinita sæculorum sæcula.

From end to end of earth,
excelleth in gladsomeness
this happy feast of blessed Peter and most holy Paul,
apostles, whom Christ in his precious Blood
did consecrate and depute to be princes of the Church.

Two olives these, before the Lord,
and candlesticks radiant all with light,
two brilliant luminaries these of heaven;
they burst asunder stoutest bonds of sins,
and throw open to the faithful the gates of heaven.

Potent they, to close by word alone abodes supernal,
or to open wide heaven's refulgent portals,
yonder, above the stars;
their tongues are made to be keys of heaven;
they drive off, beyond earth’s utmost limits, ghosts and spectres.

Blessed Peter, by Christ's behest,
doth wondrously burst all bonds of chains:
keeper of the fold is he, and teacher of the Church;
shepherd too of the flock; guardian of all things,
he withholds the savage rage of wolves.

Whatsoever on earth he may with fetters bind
shall in heaven be all tightly bound;
and what, on earth, by his free will,
he may loose, shall be loosed in heaven.
At the end of the world, judge shall he be of all the universe.

Nor less than he is Paul, doctor of the Gentiles,
most sacred temple of election, his compeer in death,
his sharer in the crown:
both of them lights and adornments of the Church;
with rays resplendent they light up the whole earth.

O happy Rome, that art empurpled
with the precious blood of such great princes!
It is not by thine own glory that thou surpassest all the beauty of the world,
but by the merits of these holy ones
whom thou didst immolate with thy bloodstained sword.

Ye then, O glorious martyrs,
Peter the blessed, and Paul the lily of the world,
triumphant warriors of the heavenly court,
by your peerless prayers defend us from all evil
and bear us up yonder, beyond the ethereal skies.

Glory be to the Father, through endless ages:
to thee, O Son, beauty, empire, honour, power,
as likewise to the Holy Ghost.
Hail to the undivided Trinity,
through countless ages of ages.


We shall return, during the ensuing days, to the formulas of homage paid by the West to her two princes. It behoves us now to turn our ear for a while to the sweet accents of the Eastern Churches; let us lovingly answer to these echoes of the primitive faith, which, by happy inconsistency, have not been stifled even in mouths poisoned by schism. Let us first listen to the Syrian Church inebriated with the generous blood of these two clusters of rich grapes, with which, trodden this day in Nero's winepress, the whole earth has been saturated. She blends the perfume of her praises with the fragrance that curls from these two golden censers; she hails these two witnesses of the Spouse, to whom the Sulamitess is indebted for the end put to her loneliness.[71] Then, striving to particularize the singular merits of each, she extols Peter, the foundation-stone of the Church, head of his brethren, Peter who feeds both sheep and lambs and teaches to all the divine Alleluia.

Let us study the following hymn and prayer of the night Office. Exquisite indeed is their beauty, despite the impious Eutyches, to whom is chiefly due that separation which holds aloof from mother Church nations so fitted to be her glory.

Noctis Cantus

Simonem piscatorem Christus piscatus est; inde pro piscibus, Simon piscatur homines ad vitam. Rete in Romani laxavit atque reduxit: leænam ligavit ut ovem et adduxit ad Ecclesiam, idolaque statim horruit ista, fictilibus valedicens et Salvatoris crucem adorans. Benedictus qui apostolos elegit, et illorum memoriam amplificavit.
Quam dulcis vox Jesu Simoni principi de sacerdoto dicentis: Ecce constitui te super domum meam, et thesaurum meum cœleste tibi committo, sublimium claves et abyssi. Te ligante, ligabo et ego: te solvente, solvam tecum; pro peccatoribus si deprecatus fueris, audieris.

Si diligis me, Simon BarJona, pasce oves meas: fractos sana fide, ægros restitue medicina cœlorum, cruce abige lupos, agnos congregans ad ovile vitæ; et clamabunt in excelsis agmina cœli: Benedictus qui Ecclesiam suam magnificavit.
Coram eo qui vos elegit, apostoli, state supplices et deprecamini: schismata cessent in Ecclesia, litesque fratrum; etenim sophistæ undique circumeunt, disceptantes, obscurantesque fidem. Ecclesia, Domine, in qua verbum tuum evangelizatum est, sit sane caminus probans sermones, sicut fornax aurum experitur; sacerdotesque caste decantent: Benedictus qui Ecclesiam suam magnificavit.
Simon the fisherman has been himself caught in the net of Christ; henceforth, men even as fish are caught by Simon, who brings them to life. O’er Rome herself hath he cast his net, and hath drawn it up filled; the lioness hath he bound like a sheep, leading her to the Church; and she presently, taking idols in horror, hath turned her back upon molten things, to adore the cross of the Redeemer. Blessed is he, who chose the apostles and made their name illustrious.
How sweet the voice of Jesus, to Simon the prince, when of the priesthood he said: ‘ Behold, I appoint thee over all my house, and to thee I commit my heavenly treasure, the keys likewise of the high places and of the abyss. What thou dost bind, that do I bind also; what thou dost loose, that do I loose together with thee; if thou pray for sinners, thou shalt be heard.

'If thou love me, Simon son of John, feed my sheep; by faith make whole that which is broken; by heavenly medicines heal the sick; by the cross, drive off the wolves, gathering the lambs into the sheepfold of life; then will the celestial hosts cry out from on high: Blessed is he who hath magnified his Church!'
Before him who hath chosen you, O apostles, stand as suppliants and implore: that schisms may cease in the Church, and strifes among brethren; for lo! sophists are prowling round about us, yea and deceivers, obscuring faith. Let thy Church, O Lord, in which is thy Gospel word, be as a crucible to try their words, even as gold is proved in the furnace; and let thy priests chastely sing forth: 'Blessed is he who hath magnified his Church!’

The Armenian Church joins her voice to the concert. In her Charagan, or collection of hymns, she gives the following in honour of the princes of the apostles.

Petri et Pauli Canon

Lætatur hodie memoriam celebrans apostolorum Ecclesia sancta Dei, supra petram fidei firmiter aedificata quam ornarunt monilibus pretiosis ad honorem Verbi hominis. Quorum alter, Patre revelante desursum, ineffabilem Unigeniti naturam confessus est, indeque beatus gratia, meruit petra fieri contra quam portæ inferi non prævalebunt: alter, licet in terra degens, inventus est superasse angelorum legiones absque corpore volantum, dignus nempe quem divina Sapientia raperet ad tabernacula cœli.

Domine, qui supra cæteros apostolos a te electos, designasti beatum Petrum fidei caput et fundamentum Ecclesiæ; qui vocatione superna vas electionis evexisti ad apostolatum, ut gentiles, absconditum mysterium Christi revelans, ipse vocaret ad salutem: qui per hos electos, ambo lumina mundi, tuam solidasti Ecclesiam: ipsis deprecantibus, Christe, miserere nobis.
Gladsome is the holy Church of God this day, firmly built up as she is on the rock of faith, the while she hails the apostles who have adorned her with precious necklaces in honour of the Word made Flesh. One of whom, enlightened by the Father from on high, hath proclaimed the ineffable nature of the Only-Begotten, and therefore blessed by grace, hath merited to be made the rock against which the gates of hell cannot prevail: the other, although yet a sojourner on earth, hath been found soaring beyond the angelic legions in their incorporeal flight, and therefore indeed worthy that divine Wisdom should ravish him unto the heavenly tabernacles.

O Lord, who from amongst all the other apostles chosen by thee hast singled out blessed Peter to be the head of faith and foundation of the Church; O thou, who by a divine call didst raise up the vessel of election unto the apostolate, so that revealing unto him the hidden mystery of Christ, he himself might call the Gentiles to salvation: O thou who by these two chosen ones, these two luminaries of earth, hast consolidated thy Church; by their intercession, do thou, O Christ, have mercy on us.

Lack of space will not permit us to continue the citation any further. Still we cannot resist gathering a few pearls from the boundless sea in which the Greek liturgy is wont to revel. Besides, it is worth our while to prove how, notwithstanding more than one fraudulent alteration, Byzantium up to this very day in her liturgical texts condemns her own schism; Peter is still proclaimed by her the rock and foundation of faith, the sovereign basis, the prince and premier of the apostles, the governor and head of the Church, the bearer of the keys both of grace and of the heavenly kingdom.[72]

Mensis Junii Die xxix
(In festivitate sanctorumillustrium et maxime memorabilium apostolorum ac majorum coryphœorum Petri et Pauli.)

Gaudia dedisti Ecclesiæ, Deus hominum amator, in tuis sacris apostolis: in qua summopere coruscant spirituales faces, Petrus et Paulus, astra veluti mentium, quorum radiis perfunditur orbis, quibus illuminasti occidentalium obscuritatem, Jesu potentissime, nostrarum salvator animarum.

Dedisti stabilitatem tuæ, Domine, Ecclesiæ, in Petri soliditate et Pauli scientia ac splendenti sapientia. Petre, illustrium coryphæe apostolorum, tu fidei petra; eximie Paule, tu ecclesiarum doctor et lumen: divino coram throno adstantes, pro nobis ad Christum intercedite.

Christi discipulos, coryphaeos illos Petrum et Paulum, ab universo orbe fauste celebremus. O Petre, tu lapis et basis; tu quoque, Paule, vas electionis. Ambo quasi sub eodem Christi jugo, traxerunt omnes ad Dei agnitionem, gentes nimirum et civitates et insulas. Lapis fidei, deliciæ orbis, confirmate ovile quod vestro acquisivistis magisterio.

Petre, qui pascis oves, ovilis tui pecora tuere ex lupo fraudulento; exime servos tuos a funestis casibus: te enim apud Deum omnes acquisivimus patronum vigilem, et gaudio in te perfusi salvamur.

Paule, fax orbis, os incomparabile Christi viventis Dei, qui, solis instar, omnes fines perlustras per tuum divinæ fidei præconium: solve a peccatorum vinculis eos qui te ex amore appellant, teque tuis confisi præsidiis æmulantur.

Te, Roma, beatam voco; tibi plausus, adoratio, gloria, hymnorumque concentus: in te enim habentur corpora coryphæorum: in te virorum qui magna lumina sunt, divinæ doctrinæ; vasorum incorruptibilium sacræ exuviæ. Dux apostolorum excelsissime, summe præses et regis ærarii dispensator, omnium basis fidelium, Ecclesiæ catholicæ soliditas, crepido, sigillum et corona, Petre Christum amans, in optima pascua deduc oves, herbosum in campum age agnos.
Joy hast thou given to thy Church, in thy holy apostles, O God, thou lover of men! In their midst, Peter and Paul stand out magnificently resplendent, blazing like two spiritual torches, or like two intellectual stars, whose rays are shed over the whole earth, whereby thou hast illumined the darkness of the West, O thou potent Jesus, Redeemer of our souls.

Thou hast bestowed stability upon thy Church, O Lord, by the solidity of the rock, Peter, and by the knowledge and splendid wisdom of Paul. O Peter, thou famous corypheus of apostles, thou rock of faith; and thou, O admirable Paul, thou doctor and light of Churches: standing before the divine throne, do ye intercede for us with Christ.

Let us blithely hail, throughout the whole universe, these disciples of Christ, these two coryphei, Peter and Paul: O Peter, the foundation-stone and rock; and thou also, O Paul, vessel of election. Both of you, as it were, under the one yoke of Christ, did bring all to the confession of God, to wit, nations, cities, islands. Foundation-stone of faith, delight of the world, confirm the sheep-fold ye have won over to Christ, your Ruler.

Peter, thou who dost feed the sheep, protect the flocks of thy fold from the fraudulent wolf; keep thy servants from dire falls: for thee have we obtained from God to be our vigilant protector, and we are made safe by our joy in thee.

Paul, torch of the earth, incomparable mouth of Christ, the living God, who like to a sun dost illumine the uttermost bounds by thy preaching of divine faith, burst the chains of sins for those who call upon thee in love, and who would fain imitate thee, confiding in thy protection.

Blessed do I call thee, O Rome; to thee be praise, honour, glory, and concert of hymns: for in thee are preserved the bodies of the two coryphei; in thee the divine doctrines of men, who are such great luminaries; sacred remains of incorruptible vessels. O most excellent leader of apostles, chief president, and dispenser of the royal treasurehouse, foundation-stone of ail the faithful, solidity, plinth, seal, and crown of the Catholic Church, O Peter, thou lover of Christ, lead thy sheep to the best of pastures, put thy lambs in the grassy field.

O Peter, we also hail thy glorious tomb! Well does it behove us, thy chosen sons of the West, to celebrate with faith and love the glories of this day. If all nations are moved at the tidings of thy triumphant death; if all tongues proclaim that from Rome the law of the Lord must come forth unto the whole world; is it not because thy death has turned Babylon into that city of divine oracles hailed by the son of Amos in his prophecy?[73] Is it not because the mountain prepared in distant ages to bear the house of the Lord comes forth from the mist and stands in full daylight before all peoples? The site of the new Sion is for ever fixed; for on this day is the corner-stone laid;[74] and Jerusalem is to have no other foundation than this tried and precious stone.

O Peter, on thee must we build; for we wish to be dwellers in the holy city. We will follow our Lord's counsel,[75] by raising our structure upon the rock, so that it may resist the storm, and may become an eternal abode. Our gratitude to thee, who hast vouchsafed to uphold us, is all the greater, since our senseless age tries to build a new social edifice on the shifting sands of public opinion, and therefore accomplishes nothing except ruin and confusion! Is the stone rejected by our modem architects any the less the head of the comer? And does not its strength appear in the fact (as it is written) that, having rejected and cast it aside, they stumble against it and are hurt, yea broken?[76]

Standing erect amid these ruins, firm upon the foundation, the rock against which the gates of hell cannot prevail, we have all the more right to extol this day, on which the Lord hath, as the psalmist says, established the earth.[77] The Lord did indeed manifest his greatness when he cast the vast orbs into space, and poised them by laws so marvellous that the mere discovery thereof does honour to science; but his reign, his beauty, his power, are far more stupendous when he lays the basis prepared by him to support that temple of which a myriad worlds scarcely deserve to be called the pavement. Of this immortal day did eternal Wisdom sing, when divinely foretasting its pure delights, and preluding our gladness, he thus led on our happy chorus: ' When the mountains with their huge bulk were being established, and when the earth was being balanced on its poles, when he established the sky above and poised the fountains of waters, when he laid the foundations of the earth, I was with him forming all things; and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times, playing in the world, for my delights are to be with the children of men.'[78]

Now that eternal Wisdom is raising upon thee, O Peter, the house of her mysterious delights,[79] where else could we possibly find her, or be inebriated with her chalice, or advance in her love? Now that Jesus hath returned to heaven, and given us thee to hold his place, is it not henceforth from thee that we have the words of eternal life?[80] In thee is continued the mystery of the Word made Flesh and dwelling amongst us. Our religion and love of our Lord are incomplete if they do not acknowledge thee as his Vicar. Thou thyself having joined the Son of Man at the right hand of the Father, the cultus paid to thee on account of thy divine prerogatives reaches thy successors in whom thou continuest to live: a real cultus extending to Christ in his Vicar, and which consequently cannot possibly be fitted into a subtle distinction between the See of Peter and him who occupies it. In the Roman Pontiff, thou art ever, O Peter, the one sole shepherd and support of the world. If our Lord hath said, 'No man cometh to the Father but by me,'[81] we also know that none can reach the Lord save by thee. How could the rights of the Son of God, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls,[82] suffer through such homage paid by a grateful earth unto thee? We cannot celebrate thy greatness without at once turning our thoughts to him, likewise, of whom thou art a sensible sign, an august sacrament. Thou seemest to say to us, as heretofore unto our fathers by the inscription on thine ancient statue: contemplate god the word, the stone divinely cut in gold, upon word, the stone divinely cut in gold, upon which being formly foxed i cannot be shaken![83]

[1] St John xxi 15-17.
[2] Gal. iv 22-31.
[3] Ps. cix 4.
[4] St John XV 15.
[5] Ibid. 9.
[6] Eph. v 25, 26.
[7] St John xv 13.
[8] Ibid. x 11-18.
[9] Eph. v 27.
[10] St John xv 11.
[11] Amb. In Luc. x.
[12] St Luke vii 47; St John xxi 15.
[13] St John xiii x.
[14] Ibid. xxi 18-22.
[15] St Matt. xxviii 18.
[16] St John xvii 4.
[17] Eph. iv 12.
[18] Acts x 9-16.
[19] Gen. xxii 14.
[20] Col. i 24.
[21] 1 Cor. xi 7.
[22] Hymn of Vespers.
[23] Eph. iv 12.
[24] Col. i 24; 2 Cor. xii 15.
[25] Eph. iv 13.
[26] 2 Cor. xi 2.
[27] Ant. Oct. Apost. ad Benedictus.
[28] 2 Cor. v.
[29] Ps. xviii 2-6.
[30] Ibid. 3.
[31] Ps. xliv 2.
[32] Ibid. xviii 4, 5.
[33] Ibid. xliv 7, 10.
[34] Eph. v 27.
[35] St Matt. xxii 8-10.
[36] Ps. xviii 4, 5.
[37] Patres, Concil. et Liturg., passim.
[38] Matt. xvi 18.
[39] In the monastic breviary the ancient version is retained as follows. It is preceded by:
℟. brev. Constitues eos principes * Super omnem terram. Constitues.
℣. Memores erunt nominis tui Domine. * Super. Gloria Patri, etc. Constitues.
Aurea luce et decore roseo Lux lucis omne perfudisti saculum Decorans cœlos inclyto martyrio Hac sacra die, quæ dat reis veniam.
Janitor cœli, Doctor orbis pariter, Judices sæcli, vera mundi lumina:
Per crucem alter, alter ense triumphans Vit senatum laureati possident.
O felix Roma, qua tantorum principum
Es purpurata pretioso sanguine!
Non laude tua, sed ipsorum meritis Excellis omnem mundi pulchritudinem.
Sit Trinitati sempiterna gloria, Honor, potestas, atque jubilatio,
In unitate, cui manet imperium Ex tunc et modo per aterna sæcula. Amen.
[40] St John xxi.
[41] In Neron. xii.
[42] Contra Auxent.
[43] 2 St Peter i 14.
[44] Ibid. 15.
[45] Stromat. vii.
[46] 1 Cor. ix.
[47] St John xx.
[48] Prudent. Peristeph. Hymn. xii.
[49] Græc. aff. cur. Disput. viii.
[50] Homil. viii
[51] Cod. Theod. Lib. xv, tit. v, leg. 5.
[52] Thomasius, Distributio psalm. ad Opus Dei juxta antiquior. psall. morem Eccl. Rom.
[53] Exod. xxv 4, etc.
[54] St Luke x 11.
[55] Acts xii 17.
[56] Respons. 2 II Noct.
[57] St Mark iv 40.
[58] Acts xii 12.
[59] Rom. iv 18.
[60] Acts xii 14, 15. Currens nuntiavit stare Petrum ante januam; at illi dixerunt ad eam; Insanis.
[61] Ps. xliv.
[62] Cant. v 11; 1 Cor. xi 3.
[63] Dionys. De div. Nom. III 2.
[64] Prov. xxx 1-4.
[65] Prov. xxx 5, 6.
[66] St Matt. xi 27.
[67] St John xv 15.
[68] Ibid. xvii 18.
[69] Ibid. 14.
[70] St John xv 14, 15.
[71] passim
[72] Menæa, passing
[73] Isa. ii 1-5.
[74] Isa. xxviii 16.
[75] St Matt. vii 24-27.
[76] 1 Pet. ii 6-8.
[77] Ps. xcii 2.
[78] Prov. viii.
[79] Ibid. ix.
[80] St John. vi 69.
[81] Ibid. xiv 6.
[82] 1 Pet. ii 25.
[83] Deum Verbum intuemini, auro divinitus sculptam petram, in qua stabilitus non concutior.—Dom Mabillon, Vetera analecta, t. iv.


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

JOHN the Baptist, placed on the confines of the two Testaments, closes the prophetic age, the reign of hope, and opens the era of faith which possesses the long-expected God, though as yet without beholding him in his Divinity. Thus even before the octave is ended wherein we pay our homage to the son of Zachary, the confession of the apostles is added to the Precursor's testimony to the Word the Light. Tomorrow all heaven will re-echo with the solemn protestation first heard at Caesarea Philippi: 'Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God;' and Simon Bar-Jona, because of this oracle uttered by him, will be the chosen Rock, supporting the divine structure, the Church. To-morrow he will die, sealing this glorious declaration with his blood; but he will yet live on, in the person of each Roman Pontiff, that he may thus guard this precious testimony in all its integrity, even to the day when faith will give place to the eternal vision. Coupled with Peter in his labours, the Doctor of the Gentiles shares his triumph this day; and Rome, more indebted to these two princes than to all her stout warriors of old, who laid the world prostrate at her feet, beholds their double victory fix for ever upon her noble brow the diadem of spiritual royalty.

Let us, then, recollect ourselves, preparing our hearts in union with holy Church, by faithfully observing this vigil. When the obligation of thus keeping up certain days of preparation previous to the festivals is strictly maintained by a people, it is a sign that faith is still living amongst them; it proves that they understand the greatness of that which the holy liturgy proposes to their homage. Christians in the West, we who make the glory of SS Peter and Paul our boast, let us remember the Lent in honour of the apostles begun by Greek schismatics on the close of the Paschal solemnities, and continued up to this day. The contrast between them and ourselves will be of a nature to stir up our fervour, and to control those tendencies wherein softness and ingratitude hold too large a share. If certain concessions have, for grave reasons, been reluctantly made by the Church, so that the fast of this vigil is no longer observed, let us see therein a double motive for holding fast to her precious tradition. Let us make up by fervour, thanksgiving and love, for the severity lacking in our observance, which is yet still maintained by so many Churches notwithstanding their schismatical separation from Rome.

The recital of the following beautiful formulas will help to inspire us with the spirit of the feast. The first is taken from the Gothic-Gallic Missal: it is the benediction which, according to the ancient rite used in France, was given to the people before the Communion on the feast of the apostles. The prayers which follow it are from the Leonine Sacramentary.

The Benediction

Deus, qui membris Ecclesiæ, velut gemellum lumen quo caveantur tenebræ, fecisti Petri lacrymas, Pauli litteras, coruscare,

℟. Amen.

Hanc plebem placitus inspice: qui cœlos facis aperire Petro in clave, Paulo in dogmate,

℟. Amen.

Ut præviantibus ducibus, illic grex possit accedere, quo pervenerunt pariter tam ille Pastor suspendio, quam iste Doctor per gladium in congresso. Per Dominum nostrum.
O God, who to keep the members of thy Church from darkness, hast made to shine forth, like twin fountains of light, the tears of Peter and the writings of Paul,

℟. Amen.

In thy clemency, look upon thy people, O thou who givest the heavens to be opened, by Peter with the key, and by Paul with the sword,

℟. Amen.

So that the leaders going first, thither may the flock at length come, whither have already arrived by one same step, both the Pastor by the gibbet, and the Teacher by the sword. Through our Lord, etc.


Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui ineffabili sacramento jus apostolici principatus in Romani nominis arce posuisti, unde se evangelica veritas per tota mundi regna diffunderet: præsta, ut quod in orbem terrarum eorum prædicatione manavit, christianæ devotionis sequatur universitas.

Præsta quæsumus Ecclesiæ tuæ, Domine, de tantis digne gaudere principibus, et illam sequi pia devotione doctrinam, qua delectos tibi greges sacris mysteriis imbuerunt. Per Dominum.
O almighty and eternal God, who by an ineffable mystery hast fixed the right of apostolic princedom on the proud summit of the name of Rome, whence evangelic truth may diffuse itself through all the earth: grant that what by their preaching hath percolated through the whole world all may follow with Christian devotedness.

Grant to thy Church, we beseech thee, O Lord, both worthily to rejoice at having such great princes, and to follow with loving devotion that teaching of theirs, whereby thy chosen flocks have been initiated into the sacred mysteries. Through our Lord, etc.



From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE octave of the Precursor has a still further increase of light in store for us. Let us imitate the Church, who once again concentrates her thoughts on the friend of the Bridegroom; she knows that hereby the Spouse himself will be the better understood. For according to the word of the best authorized princes of Christian doctrine: the bonds which link together Jesus Christ and John the Baptist are so close, that the one cannot be known without the other; and if life eternal consists in knowing Jesus Christ, so also a part of our salvation consists in knowing St John.'[1] The Precursor's mission raised him, as we have seen, above all other prophets and apostles. But personally, who and what was this herald whose dignity was shown to us, on his feast-day, by the sublimity of the message that he bore to the world? Did his private qualities, his personal sanctity, correspond with the eminence of the part allotted to him? That sovereign harmony which inspires the eternal decrees and presides over their execution forbids us to doubt it. When the Most High resolved to unite his Word to human nature, he pledged himself to clothe this created nature with qualities all divine, which would thereby permit him to treat with this new Adam as equal with equal, and to call him his Son. When to his well-beloved Son, whom he wished to be at the same time Son of Man, he determined to give a Mother, the gift of a purity in every way worthy of her august title was, from that moment, assured to this future Mother of God. Predestined before all ages to the most eminent service of the Son and the Mother, charged by the eternal Father with the mission of first discovering the Word hidden within our Lady's womb, of accrediting the Man-God, of betrothing him to the bride; could it possibly be that the holiness of John should, either in the designs of God or by his own fault, be less incomparably exalted than was his mission? Eternal Wisdom can never thus belie itself; and the unparalleled eulogy which Jesus made of his Precursor, shortly before John's death,[2] sufficiently shows that the graces held in reserve for this soul had fructified in all plenitude.

What must have been these graces which, at the very outset, show us John, three months previous to his birth, already established on summits of sanctity which the holiest persons scarcely attain in a whole lifetime! He soars far above the range of sense and reason, which in him have not yet been called into play. With that intellectual gaze which is unsurpassed, save by the face to face vision of the elect, he perceives God present before him in the flesh; in an ecstasy of adoration and love, his first act emulates that of the Seraphim. The plenitude of the Holy Ghost became from that moment the portion of this child of Zachary and Elizabeth; a plenitude so overflowing, that at once the mother, and soon afterwards the father likewise, were themselves filled with the exuberance that brimmed over from their son.[3]

He was the first, after our Lady, to recognize the Lamb of God, to give his love to the Bridegroom just come down from the eternal hills. He was the first, likewise, to penetrate the mystery of the divine and virginal maternity. Without separating the Son from the Mother, he had both adored Jesus and honoured Mary above all creatures. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb.[4] Unanimous tradition tells us that, when pronouncing these words, Elizabeth was but the organ and interpreter of her son. As witness of the Light, John begins with Mary, the first recipient of his testimony; to her is addressed, in praise and admiration, the first expression of the sentiments which animate him. Himself the angel, as the prophets style him, he takes up and completes Gabriel's salutation to the sweet Lady of heaven and earth.[5] It was the enthusiastic shout of his gratitude, fully enlightened as to Mary's part in the sanctification of the elect; the cry of his soul, on awaking to sanctity, at the first sound of the Virgin Mother's voice. It was for his sake that after the angel's visit she had crossed the mountains in great haste; but our Lady has yet other favours for John. Heretofore silent, before that seraph by whom she was sure to be understood, Mary now intones her divine canticle, whereby to God is given glory, and to John the comprehension of the ineffable mystery in all fullness. As she had sanctified her Son's Precursor, so the Mother of God next formed and instructed him. The Magnificat is the first lesson taught to Elizabeth's son: incomparable lesson of divine praise; a lesson which gives John the understanding of the whole Scriptures, the knowledge of the divine plan throughout ages. For the space of three months this marvellous education is continued in the angelic secrecy of still more hidden communications.

Well may we say, in our turn, and with more reason than did the Jews: ‘ What an one, think ye, shall this child be?'[6] She, who had been entrusted with the heavenly treasures, had kept in reserve for John the first outpouring of these floods of grace of which she had become the divine reservoir. The river which maketh glad the city of God[7] shall no more stay its course, carrying to every soul, until the end of time, its countless streamlets; but its first impetuous outburst, in all the might of its buoyant gush, bore down at once upon John; the fullness of its yet undivided flood rolled its vast waters to and fro over this one soul, as though they existed for no other. Who may measure these torrents? Who may tell their effect? Holy Church does not attempt to describe it; but lost in admiration at the sight of the mysterious growth of John beneath the astonished gaze of angels, losing sight of the feebleness of that infant body in face of the maturity of the soul which dwells within it, she exclaims on the glorious birthday of the Precursor: 'Great is the man whom Elizabeth hath brought forth! Elisabeth Zachariœ magnum virum genuitJoannem Baptistam prœcursorem Domini.'[8] The following sequence is taken from the ancient Missal of Lyons of 1530. The filial homage paid by the Lyonnese to St John the Baptist is well known. Their primatial church has the holy Precursor for its patron. In the year 1886 we beheld crowds as immense as in former times flocking to the famous jubilee granted by the Holy See to this ‘ Rome of the Gauls,' for those years wherein the feast of Corpus Christi coincides with the titular feast of June 24.


Elisabeth Zachariæ
Magnum virum in hac die
Gloriosa genuit.

Qui virtutum vas sincerum,
Inter natos mulierum
Principatum tenuit.

Nondum natus seusit regem
Nasciturum supra legem,
Sine viri semine.

Deum sensit in hac luce,
Tanquam nucleum in nuce,
Conditum in Virgine.

Quam beatus puer natus,
Salvatoris angelus,
Incarnati nobis dati
Verbi vox et bajulus!

Non præcedit fructus fiorem,
Sed flos fructum juxta morem,
Agri pleni dans odorem
Mentibus fidelium.

Viam parat et ostendit,
Ubi pedem non offendit
Qui per fidem comprehendit
Verum Dei Filium.

Lege vita sub angusta,
Mel sylvestre cum locusta
Cibum non abhorruit.

Camelorum tectus pilis,
In deserto quam exilis,
Quam bonus apparuit!

Verba sunt evangelistæ:
Lux non erat, inquit, iste,
Sed ut daret tibi, Christe,
Lucis testimonia.

Lux non erat, sed lucerna
Monstrans iter ad superna
Quibus sua pax æterna
Pollicetur gaudia.

Contemplemur omnes istum
Quem sperabat turba Christum,
Stupens ad prodigia.

Qui cervicem non erexit,
Nec se dignum intellexit
Domini corrigia.

A suo tempore,
Divino munere,
Cœlum vim patitur;

Et violentiæ cum pœnitentiæ
Fructu conceditur,
Gratis non merito.

Quem vates cæteri
Sub lege veteri
Canunt in tenebris,
In carne Dominum,
Figuris terminum,
Propheta celebris
Ostendit digito.

O quam sanctum, quam præclarum,
Qui viventium aquarum
Fontem Christum baptizavit,
Et lavantem cuncta lavit
In Jordanis flumine.

Ab offensis lava, Christe,
Præcursoris et Baptistæ
atalitia colentes:
Ex exaudi nos gementes
In hac solitudine.

Post arentem et australem,
Terram animæ dotalem
Petimus irriguam.

Ut manipulos portantes,
Veniamus exsultantes
Ad pacem perpetuam.

Elizabeth of Zachary,
on this glorious day,
hath given birth to a great man.

Who, a perfect vessel of virtues,
holds the first place amongst all
that are born of women.

Nor yet is he brought forth, when he perceives already the King
who is about to be born, in a manner surpassing nature's law,
without man's intercourse.

He perceives God here below,
like the almond in the nut,
hid within the Virgin.

Oh! how blessed is this newborn child,
the angel of the Redeemer,
the voice and bearer of the Word
who is given to us in the flesh.

The Fruit doth not precede the flower,
but, according to custom,
the flower the Fruit yielding the odour of a fertile field
to the minds of the faithful.

He prepares and shows the way,
wherein his foot will not stumble
who by faith embraceth
the true Son of God.

Subjected to an austere rule of life,
he abhors not wild honey
with locusts for his food.

Clad in camel's hair,
how poor is he in the desert,
yet how goodly did he appear!

Lo! the words of the evangelist:
‘This one,’ saith he, ‘ was not the Light,
but he was to give testimony of the Light
unto thee, O Christ.'

He was not the Light, but the lamp,
showing the road towards heaven’s heights,
unto those to whom eternal peace
promises its joys.

Let us all contemplate him
whom the crowd hoped to be the Christ,
struck at the wonders they saw in him.

He, on the contrary, raised not his head,
but deemed himself unworthy to loose the latchets
of the Lord’s shoes.

From this time forth,
by gift divine,
heaven suffereth violence;

and to violence together with fruits of penance,
it is granted;
yet not by right, but freely.

He whom the other prophets,
under the old law,
in darkness, sing,
that same Lord in the flesh
(figures being now at an end),
this renowned prophet
points out with his very finger.

Oh! how holy, how luminous
is he who baptized Christ,
the Fount of living waters;
and who laved in Jordan’s flood
him who cleanseth all.

O Christ, cleanse from their offences
those who celebrate the birthday of the Precursor and Baptist:
hearken also
to us sighing
in this solitude.

After this dry and parched place,
we ask as our soul's dower
a well watered land.

So that, bearing our sheaves,
we may come exultingly
unto perpetual peace.


[1] Bourdaloue, Sermon pour la Fete de S Jean Bapt.
[2] St Matt. xi.
[3] St Luke i 15, 41, 67.
[4] Ibid. i 42.
[5] St Luke i 28.
[6] ibid. i 66.
[7] Ps. xlv 5.
[8] Ant. i in Laud. et 2 Vesp.
[9] This seems to be an allusion to Axa’s petition addressed to her father, Caleb, at her husband’s suggestion. See Judg. i 15. [Note of Translator.]


From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

AMIDST the numerous sanctuaries which adorn the capital of the Christian universe, the church of Saints John and Paul has remained from the early date of its origin one of the chief centres of Roman piety. From the summit of the Cœlian Hill it towers over the Coliseum, the dependencies of which stretch subterraneously even as far as the cellarage of the house once inhabited by our saints. They, the last of the martyrs, completed the glorious crown offered to Christ by Rome, the chosen seat of his power. The conflict in which their blood was spilt consummated the triumph whose hour was sounded under Constantine, but which an offensive retaliation on the part of hell seemed about to compromise.

No attack could be conceived more odious for the Church than that devised by the apostate Cæsar. Nero and Diocletian had violently and with hatred declared against the Incarnate God a war of sword and torture; and without recrimination, Christians by thousands had died, knowing that the testimony thus demanded was merely the order of things, just as it had been in the case of their august Head[1] before Pontius Pilate and upon the cross. But with the clever astuteness of a traitor, and the affected disdain of a false philosopher, Julian proposed to stifle Christianity by a progressive oppression, respectfully abhorrent of human blood. Merely to preclude Christians from public offices, and to prohibit them from holding chairs for the teaching of youth, that was all the apostate aimed at! However, the blood which he wanted to avoid shedding must flow, even though a hypocrite's hands be dyed therewith; for, according to the divine plan, bloodshed alone can bring extreme situations to an issue, and never was holy Church menaced with greater peril. They would now make a slave of her whom they had beheld still holding her royal liberty in face of executioners. They would now await the moment when, once enslaved, she would at last disappear of herself, in powerlessness and degradation. For this reason the bishops of that time found vent for their indignation in accents such as their predecessors had spared to princes whose brute violence was then inundating the empire with Christian blood. They now retorted upon the tyrant scorn for scorn; and the manifestations of contempt that consequently came showering in from every quarter upon the crowned fool completely unmasked at last his feigned moderation. Julian was now shown up as nothing but a common persecutor of the usual kind; blood flowed, the Church was rescued.

Thus is explained the gratitude which this noble bride of the Son of God has never ceased to manifest to the glorious martyrs we are celebrating to-day: for amidst the many generous Christians whose outspoken indignation brought about the solution of this terrible crisis, none is more illustrious than theirs. Julian was most anxious to count them amongst his confidants: with this view, he made use of every entreaty, as we learn from the breviary lessons; nor does it appear that he even made the renouncing of Jesus Christ a condition. Well then, it may be retorted, why not yield to the imperial whim? Could they not do so without wounding their conscience? Surely too much stiffness would be calculated to ill-dispose the prince, perhaps even fatally: whereas to listen to him would very likely have a soothing effect upon him; and might even bring him round to relax somewhat of those administrative trammels unfortunately imposed upon the Church by his prejudiced government. For aught one knew, the possible conversion of his soul, the return of so many of the misled who had followed him in his fall, might be the result! Should not such things as these deserve some consideration? Should they not impose, as a duty, some gentle handling? Such reasoning as this would doubtless appear to some people as wise policy. Such preoccupation for the apostate's salvation could easily have had nothing in it but what was inspired by zeal for the Church and for souls; and indeed the most exacting casuist could not find it a crime for John and Paul to dwell in a court where nothing was demanded of them contrary to the divine precepts. Nevertheless the two brothers resolved otherwise; to the course of soothing and reserve-making, they preferred that of the frank expression of their sentiments, and this boldness infuriated the tyrant and brought about their death. The Church has judged their case, and she considers they did well; hence, it is unlikely that the former path would have led them to a like degree of sanctity in God's sight.

The names of John and Paul inscribed on the sacred diptychs show well enough their credit in the eyes of the divine Victim, who never offers himself to the God Thrice-Holy without blending their memory with that of his own immolation. The enthusiasm excited by the noble attitude of these two valiant witnesses of the Lord still re-echoes in the antiphons and responsories proper to the feast. It was formerly preceded by a vigil and fast; together with the sanctuary which encloses their tomb, it may be said to date back to the time of their martyrdom. By a singular privilege mentioned in the Leonine Sacramentary, whilst so many other martyrs slept their sleep of peace outside the walls of the holy city, John and Paul reposed in Rome itself, the definitive conquest of which had been won for the God of armies by their gallant combat. The very same day of the year immediately succceeding their victorious death,[2] Julian fell dead, uttering against Heaven his cry of rage: 'Galilean, thou hast conquered!'

From the queen city of the universe their renown, passing beyond the mountains, shone forth almost as soon and with nearly equal splendour in Gaul. On his return from the scene of his own struggle in the cause of the divinity of Jesus Christ, Hilary of Poitiers at once propagated their cultus. The great bishop was called to our Lord scarcely five years after their martyrdom; but he had already found time to consecrate to their name the church in which his loving hands had laid his daughter Abra and her mother, and in which he too was to await with them the day of the resurrection. It was from this church of Saints John and Paul, named later on after St Hilary the Great, that Clovis on the eve of the battle of Vouillé beheld streaming towards him a mysterious light, presage of the victory which would result in the expulsion of Arianism from Gaul, and in the foundation of monarchical unity. These holy martyrs continued in after years to show the interest they took in the advancement of the kingdom of God by the Franks. When the disastrous issue of the Second Crusade was filling the soul of St Bernard with bitterness, who had preached it, they appeared to him, revived his courage, and manifested by what secrets the King of heaven had known how to draw his own glory out of events in which man saw only failure and disaster.[3]

Let us now read the simple and touching legend consecrated by the Church to the two brethren.

Joannes et Paulus fratres Romani, cum facultatibus a Constantia Constantini filia, cui pie fideliterque servierant, sibi relictis, Christi pauperes alerent; a Juliano apostata in numerum familiarium suorum invitati, liberenegaverunt se apud eum esse velle, qui a Jesu Christo defecisset. Quibus ille ad deliberandum decem dies præfinit, ut nisi ad eam diem ei adhærere, et Jovi sacrificare constituerint, sibi moriendum esse certo sciant.

Illi intra id tempus reliqua sua bona distribuerunt pauperibus, quo expeditiores ad Dominum migrare possent, et plures juvarent, a quibus in æterna tabernacula reciperentur. Die decima Terentianus prætoriae cohortis præfectus, ad eos missus, cum aliata Jovis effigie, ut eam venerarentur, imperatoris mandatum eis exponit: ut nisi Jovi cultum adhibeant, moriantur. Qui, ut erant orantes, responderunt, se pro Christi fide, quem Deum mente et ore venerabantur, non dubitanter mortem subituros.

At Terentianus, veritus ne, si publice interficerentur, populus commoveretur, domi ubi tunc erant, abscissis eorum capitibus sexto calendasJulii, secreto eos sepeliendos curavit: rumoremque sparsit, Joannem et Paulum in exilium ejectos esse. Verum eorum mors a spiritibus immundis, qui multorum Corpora vexabant, pervulgata est: in quibus Terentiani filius et ipse oppressus a dæmone, ad sepulchrum martyrum perductus, liberatus est. Quo miraculo et is in Christum credidit, et ejus pater Terentianus, a quo etiam horum beatorum martyrum vita scripta esse dicitur.
John and Paul, Roman brethren, fed the poor of Christ out of the riches left to them by Constantia, Constantine's daughter, whom they had faithfully and piously served. Being invited into the number of his familiars by Julian the Apostate, they boldly refused, declaring that they had no wish to be in company of one who had forsaken Jesus Christ. Whereupon, he gave them tendays for deliberation, at the end of which term they must know for certain they were to die unless they would consent to attach themselves to him and to sacrifice to Jupiter.

They, meanwhile, employed the time in distributing the remainder of their goods to the poor, so that they might the more quickly go to the Lord, and so as to assist more persons, through whose means they might be received into the eternal tabernacles. On the tenth day, Terentianus, prefect of the prætorian guard, was sent to them, bringing with him the statue of Jupiter, that they might worship it, and he expounded to them the emperor's mandate: to wit, that unless they would pay nomage to Jupiter, they must forthwith die. They, still continuing their prayer, replied that they hesitated not to suffer death for the faith of Christ, whom they with both mind and mouth did adore as God.

Now Terentianus was afraid lest there should ensue a popular tumult were they executed in public, so there and then, on the sixth of the Kalends of July, and in their own house, their heads being struck off, they were secretly buried; whilst the rumour was spread abroad that John and Paul had been sent into banishment. But their death was published by the unclean spirits that began to torment a number of persons whose bodies they possessed: amongst whom was the son of Terentianus who, being troubled by a devil, was led to the sepulchre of the martyrs and there freed. By the which miracle, both he and his father Terentianus believed in Christ; Terentianus himself, as it is said, afterwards wrote the history of their blessed martyrdom.

We give below the proper antiphons and responsories, of which we have spoken, which are to be found just as we now use them, with but few variations, in the most ancient responsorialia and antiphonaria which have come down to us. The person mentioned in one of these antiphons by the name of Gallicanus is a consul who was drawn to the faith and to a saintly life by the influence of the two brothers; he is named in yesterday's martyrology.

Antiphons And Responsories

Paulus et Joannes dixerunt Juliano: Nos unum Deum colimus, qui fecit cœlum et terram.

Paulus et Joannes dixerunt Terentiano: Si tuus dominus est Julianus, habeto pacem cum illo: nobis alius non est, nisi Dominus Jesus Christus.

Joannes et Paulus, agnoscentes tyrannidem Juliani, facultatibus suas pauperibus erogare cœperunt.
Sancti Spiritus et animæ justorum, hymnum dicite Deo. Alleluia.

Joannes et Paulus dixerunt ad Gallicanum: Fac votum Deo cœli, et eris Victor melius quam fuisti.
Paul and John said to Julian: We worship the one God who made heaven and earth.

Paul and John said to Terentianus: If thy lord be Julian, keep thou at peace with him: ours is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

John and Paul, perceiving the tyranny of Julian, began to distribute their riches among the poor.

Ye holy spirits and souls of the just, sing ye a hymn to God. Alleluia.

John and Paul said to Gallicanus: Make thy vow unto the God of heaven, and thou shalt be victor greater than thou hast ever been.

Antiphon of the Magnificat (1st Vespers)

Adstiterunt justi ante Dominum, et ab invicem non sunt separati: calicem Domini biberunt, et amici Dei appellati sunt.
The just stood before the Lord and were not separated from one another: they drank the chalice of the Lord, and they were called the friends of God.

Antiphon of the Magnificat (2nd Vespers)

Isti sunt duæ olivæ, et duo candelabra lucentia ante Dominum: habent potestatem claudere cælum nubibus, et aperire portas ejus, quia linguæeorum claves cœli factæ sunt.
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks giving light before the Lord: they have power to close heaven that the clouds rain not, and to open the gates thereof, for their tongues are made keys of heaven.

At the Benedictus

Isti sunt sancti, qui pro Christi amore minas hominum contempserunt: sancti martyres in regno cœlorum exsultant cum angelis: o quam pretiosa est mors sanctorum, qui assidue assistunt ante Dominum, et ab invicem non sunt separati.
These are the holy ones, who for Christ's love contemned the threats of men: in the kingdom of heaven the holy martyrs exult with the angels: oh! how precious is the death of the saints who constantly stand before the Lord, and are never separated from one another.

℟. Isti sunt duo viri misericordiæ, qui assistunt ante Dominum,
* Dominatorem universæ terræ.
℣. Isti sunt duæ olivæ, et duo candelabra lucentia ante Dominum,
* Dominatorem universæ terræ.

℟. Vidi conjunctos viros habentes splendidas vestes; et angelus Domini locutus est ad me, dicens:
* Isti sunt viri sancti, facti amici Dei.
℣ Vidi angelum Dei fortern, volantem per medium cœlum, voce magna clamantem et dicentem:
* Isti sunt viri sancti, facti amici Dei.
℟. These are two men of mercy, who stand before the Lord,
* the Sovereign of the whole earth.
℣. These are two olive trees and two candlesticks giving light before the Lord,
* the Sovereign of the whole earth.

℟. I saw men standing together clad in shining raiment; and the angel of the Lord spake unto me, saying:
* These men are holy, for they are made the friends of God.
℣. And I beheld a mighty angel of God flying through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, and saying:
* These men are holy, for they are made the friends of God.

Twofold is the triumph that thrills through heaven and twofold the gladness re-echoed on earth this day, whilst your outpoured blood proclaims the victory of the Son of God! Verily, by the martyrdom of the faithful does Christ triumph. The effusion of his Blood marked the defeat of the prince of this world; the blood of his mystical members possesses, alone and always, the power of establishing his reign. Contest has never been an evil for the Church militant; the noble bride of the God of armies delights in combat; for she knows her Spouse came upon earth to bring not peace but the sword.[4] Therefore, to the end of time will she hold up as an example to her sons your chivalrous courage and your bold frankness, which scorned to dissimulate your utter contempt for an apostate tyrant, or to suffer you to dwell for a moment on such considerations as might perhaps, had you listened to him at the first, have just saved your conscience together with life. Woe to the day wherein the deceptive mirage of guileful peace misleads minds; wherein, merely because sin does not stare them in the face, Christian souls stoop from the lofty standpoint of their Baptism, to compromises which even a pagan world would avoid. Glorious brethren! make the children of holy Church turn aside from that fatal error which would lead them to misconceptions of sacred traditions received by them in heritage. Maintain the sons of God at the full height of the noble sentiments demanded by their heavenly origin, by the throne that awaits them, by the divine Blood they daily drink; far from them be all such base notions as would be calculated to excite against their heavenly Father the blasphemies of the accursed city! Nowadays there has arisen a persecution not dissimilar to that in which you gained the crown; Julian's plan of action is once more in vogue; if these mimics of the apostate do not equal him in intelligence, they at least surpass him in hatred and hypocrisy. But God is no more wanting to his Church now than he was then; obtain for us the grace to do our part in resistance, as was done by you, and the victory will be the same.

Your very names, O John and Paul, remind us of the friend of the Bridegroom whose octave we are keeping; and of Paul of the Cross who revived, in the last century, heroism of sanctity in your very house on Monte Cœlio. Vouchsafe to unite your powerful protection to that which the Precursor exercises over the mother and mistress of all Churches, become by the very fact of her primacy the chief butt of the enemies’ attack; uphold the new militia raised by the necessity of the times, and entrusted with the guardianship both of your sacred remains and of those of its glorious founder. Remembering the power which the Church specially attributes to you, that of opening or shutting the floodgates of heaven, be pleased to bless our harvest nearly ripe for the sickle. Be propitious to our reapers and assuage their painful labour. Preserve from lightning man and his possessions, the home that shelters him, the beasts that serve him. Too often, ungrateful and forgetful man would indeed deserve to incur your wrath; but prove yourselves children of him who maketh his sun to rise upon the wicked as well as upon the good, and giveth his rain to fall alike upon the just and upon sinners.[5]

[1] 1 Tim. vi 13.
[2] June 26, 363.
[3] Bern., Ep. 386, al. 333, Joannis Casæ-Marii ad Bern.
[4] St Matt. x 34.
[5] St Matt. v 45.