Holy Apostles

In the Name of the Father and of the Son And of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The commemoration of Sts. Peter and Paul today and all of the Holy Apostles is an occasion for all of us to share in rejoicing and each of us who celebrate these beloved men, reap great benefit. “The memory of the just is praised”, says the wise Solomon, and again “When the righteous is praised the people will rejoice.” If a lamp is lit at night, its light shines for the service and enjoyment of everyone present. Similarly, through such commemorations, each saint's God-pleasing course, his blessed end, and the grace bestowed on him by God, because of the purity of his life, bring spiritual joy and benefit to the whole congregation, like a bright flaming torch set in our midst! By commemorating the noble deeds of the saints, we offer them that praise, which, on the one hand we owe them for the good they did our Ancestors, but which, on the other, is also fitting for us at the present time, on account of the help they give us now.

Saint Gregory Palamas, in his homily on Sts. Peter and Paul has this to say: When we call to mind what the saints accomplished we add nothing good to their deeds. How could we, given that we are not even competent to depict their virtue as it really is? For the sake of the sublime rewards promised by God, they strove honorably to the limit of human nature and showed us a way of life that was equally sublime. We certainly do not augment their treasures by praising them – not at all! But we do increase their bounty to us by looking up towards them as lanterns aglow with divine light, and by understanding better and welcoming the beautifying power which comes from them. And, if we commemorate the saints with such praise and appropriate songs, how much more should we celebrate the memory of Peter and Paul, the supreme Leaders of the pre-eminent company of the Apostles? They are the fathers and guides of all Christians: Apostles, martyrs, holy ascetics, priests, hierarchs, pastors and teachers. As chief shepherds and master builders of our common godliness and virtue, they tend and teach us all, like lights in the world holding forth the word of life. Their brightness excels that of the other radiantly pious and virtuous saints as the sun outshines the stars! And so, we have these two men set before us today as our examples. And we see their importance in the life of our Church by the fast we keep during our summer months. The Fathers of the Church tell us that the Apostles fast is given to help reign us back in after the Paschal feasting season, and to prepare our hearts for this glorious feast of Peter and Paul, and all of the Holy Apostles.

It is fitting for us to remember these two men who fought long and hard in the battle between good and evil. Peter lost faith under trial and deserted the path of righteousness; but his faith returned, and he testified to numerous people of the glorious mercy of God. Paul persecuted the faithful, but then found his way to the path of God. Seven times he was chained, exiled, and stoned, yet he remained true to his vocation as a herald of the gospel across the world, and his noble faith became famous from the East to the West. First he was Saul; afterwards Paul; in the beginning he was proud; afterwards humble. The persecutor was cast down; the Preacher raised up. The name of pride changed to humility; for Paul means “little.” He talked to rulers and to peasants with equal respect and passion, desiring only to open their heart to God’s truth. Both Peter and Paul are wonderful examples to us of how wickedness can be overcome, and righteousness reign: and both are now taken up the Holy Place, which is their just reward.

And, what can we say about all of the Holy Apostles of the Lord, whom the Lord has granted us to have as our patrons. The Holy Fathers say that all of the Holy Apostles received this way of life from Christ and made it their own, renouncing the world in response to His call, disregarding fatherland, relatives and possessions. At once they adopted a harsh and strenuous way of life, facing every kind of adversity, affliction, they were tormented, harassed,… naked, lacking even necessities; and finally they met death boldly, imitating their Teacher faithfully in all things. Thus through their actions they left behind a true image of the highest way of life. And in their way of life, we find also our path for the way of life. These are our patrons dear brothers and sisters and we should take their lives seriously as we consider what they did and how they lived on this earth for Christ and for their fellow man. Perhaps we do not find ourselves naked or lacking necessities as they did. However, we can strive to be humble in our own manner of dress, seeking to live according to necessity and less in want and desire. Perhaps we do not find ourselves tormented as they were, but we can be true to the martyrdom of our own life, especially in our marriage or with our children and we can bear the infirmities of those around us here in our own parish. Perhaps we do not find ourselves adopting a strenuous way of life as they did, but we can strive to say our prayers every day and to keep the fasts of the Church as our health permits, and to work hard in our homes and in our occupations, being honest and good stewards of what we have been given. Perhaps we have not been called to leave our own fatherland and forsake all relatives to follow Christ, but we can strive to keep the commandments of Christ to not love father or mother or brother or sister more than Christ – to make Him the center of our lives. Perhaps we have not been called to the Holy Priesthood or to be a Hierarch in the Church or to teach, but we can be true to our own calling, whatever it may be, and to remember that the highest calling for each and every one of us, is the calling we have been called to by God. We can all, no matter what life we are living, find great encouragement from the holy lives of the Apostles and from their sufferings. Because they are our patrons, we have a wonderful opportunity to build a relationship with them, by praying to them, reading their epistles, and reading their lives. Just as we make efforts to those around us to pursue friendship in this world, so too, when we pray to the saints, we seek to find a relationship with them, and when we seek in this way, we will not be disappointed. They hear our prayers and speak to us through the Holy Spirit and they intercede for all of us especially as our Holy Patrons. When we ask for their prayers, we will share in the grace they obtained through their holy sufferings and this grace will aid us as we work to discern the will of God in our own lives. By their holy prayers, may God have mercy on us and save us. AMEN.