Sts Peter and Paul 4th century Roman catacombsThe saints honored today reveal much about who we are as Christians. Remember Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles, and Peter as first bishop of Antioch before going to Rome to the first bishop there. Have you ever wondered why they go together? The image used here is an early 4th century image of  Peter and Paul together found in the catacombs of Rome. A friend, Fr Dustin Lyon, an orthodox priest friend offered the following detail on the apostles’ connection.

“[On icons] Peter and Paul exchange the kiss of peace. …The kiss of the first pope [bishop of Rome] and the ‘apostle of the people’ symbolizes the unity of the Church… It was a peace they had managed to establish at the Council of Jerusalem in the year 48, even though the former represented the Church of the Law (circumcised Jews) and the latter the Church of Grace (uncircumcised pagans). Yet at Antioch, when Peter avoids the Gentiles, Paul reprimands him, ‘I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned’ (Galatians 2:11). …They are both represented in all icons in which the apostles are gathered, even events at which Paul was not present.” (Alfredo Tradigo, Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004), pg. 267).

The great Augustine, bishop of Hippo teaches:

“This day has been made holy by the passion of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. We are, therefore, not talking about some obscure martyrs. ‘For their voice has gone forth to all the world, and to the ends of the earth their message.’ (Psalm 19:4) These martyrs realize what they taught: they pursued justice, the confessed the truth, they died for it… Both apostles share the same feast day, but these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching and their confession of faith.”