Preparing for the Feast – Confession of Saint Peter

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter, which means that I’m busy trying to dig up something interesting to say about the saint and the feast.  Peter is great, of course, and many things can be said about him, but this morning I’m in pursuit of the beautiful and the miraculous.  So here are some resources that have less to do with the moment that Peter confessed that Jesus was Lord, and more to do just with the man himself.

A story from Jacobus de Voragine’s The Golden Legend:

In the church of Saint Peter, where his bones rest, was a man of great holiness and of meekness named Gentian, and there came a maid into the church which was cripple, and drew her body and legs after her with her hands, and when she had long required and prayed Saint Peter for health, he appeared to her in a vision, and said to her: Go to Gentian, my servant, and he shall restore thy health. Then began she to creep here and there through the church, and enquired who was Gentian, and suddenly it happed that he came to her that him sought, and she said to him: The holy apostle Saint Peter sent me to thee that thou shouldest make me whole and deliver me from my disease, and he answered: If thou be sent to me from him, arise thou anon and go on thy feet. And he took her by the hand and anon she was all whole, in such wise as she felt nothing of her grief nor malady, and then she thanked God and Saint Peter. 

Here’s a link to a wonderful Denise Levertov poem about Peter’s misadventure in Acts 12, when he is arrested and then released in the night by an angel:

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15368

Much of the other poetry I looked at has to do with Peter’s position as guardian of the gates of heaven, and I’ve been wondering why this theme leaves me entirely cold.  Maybe  it’s because I want to understand Peter as a person, and not a kind of mute warden of the gates who I have to beg to let me in.  Peter is the person who denied Christ, and, according to tradition, tried to flee from his own crucifixion, meeting Christ on the road out of Rome and asking him the famous question: “Domine, quo vadis?”  This means “Lord, where are you going?” and Christ’s answer to Peter was that he was going to Rome to be crucified a second time – an answer that guilted Peter into turning around and accepting his fate.  That’s a good story, but I’ve wondering about the moment of confession itself, the moment in Matthew 16 when Peter asserts that Jesus is the Messiah.  Almost as soon as Peter makes his confession, Jesus starts talking about his coming trial and death.  It’s as if Peter’s confession has set the plot in motion.  So I’m wondering if he regrets it – if he regrets outing Christ and if he feels responsible for everything that comes afterwards.

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4 responses to “Preparing for the Feast – Confession of Saint Peter

  1. My advice, look at the story in all of the synoptic gospels. Do not try to analyze it but simply listen, and then listen some more.
    An Episcopal Priest

  2. I believe that God used Peter to open the eyes of His followers.Jesus was the anointed one and he was going to die for them and for all people who believed in Him.I feel that Peter loved Jesus and the truth had to be known. Jesus proceeding in telling the disciples what was about to happen, I feel that Jesus was preparing them. They had forgotten what the Old Testament said about a Messiah coming. The song, ,’Bridge over troubled waters’ came to mind just came to my mind.. Jesus was the bridge and the people were the troubed waters. I don’t think that Peter regretted what he said because in the end, the Son shined after three days and brought hope.. I like your questions, Karl because it makes me want to dig deeper. Sometimes I view myself as a Peter. And as far as the keys to heaven, I thought that Jesus was the one holding the key to heaven which is stated in Rev. All the disciples had been given the keys but Jesus holds the main key.

    • You’re right, Evy, that Peter was probably happy with his confession in the end, and that it certainly had to happen. But I’m thinking about the moment of confession itself, and what follows right after it in Matthew. Soon after, at the Transfiguration, Peter says “It’s good for us to be here,” and then suggests that they set-up tents and just stay there at the top of the mountain. I think it’s because he doesn’t like all this talk about Jesus going to Jerusalem and dying – in fact we know he doesn’t, because he objects to it, which leads to the famous “Get behind me Satan” line. So I think that, in the short run, he regrets his confession, just like many of us regretting having said certain things that lead to consequences that we don’t like. The gift and the power that Peter brings is the capacity (or maybe just luck) to stick with Jesus and see events through to their end. We often run away from the things that we’ve started, and Peter does a bit of running, but never very far, and he always comes back.

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