Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Friday, November 18, 2005

To the Threshold of the Apostles' Tombs

Saints Peter and Paul, the twin pillars of the Church, whose blood enobled the Church of Rome has long been commemorated together. Although their primary Feast day is on the 29th of June, on this day, we mark the dedication of their Basilicas in Rome, one on the Mons Vaticanus and the other by the Via Ostiense, outside the walls of the Eternal City. These churches are built over the tombs of St Peter and St Paul, respectively, and fascinating archaelogical excavations have verified the fact that they are indeed buried in these places.

However, there is a lesser known fact. The heads of the apostles are actually in the reliquary above the baldachino (below) of the Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of Rome, which is the Mother and Head of all churches and Roman law holds that where the head is, there is the legal burial site. Nevertheless, the bodies of these martyred Princes of the Church are buried in the ancient catacombs beneath the altars of St Peter's Basilica and St Paul's Outside-the-Walls. It is the dedication of these memorial churches that we mark today and in so doing, we go on a spiritual pilgrimage ad limina apostolorum.

But in fact, by visiting either basilica, one actually visits both men. As Fr Engelbert Kirschbaum SJ explains: "For Rome and the Romans, Peter and Paul are inseparable. Both were founders of their faith and thereby founded their own unique position in the Roman world. Both shed their blood in Rome; Rome provided their last resting place... Where Peter is, there is Paul; and where Paul, also Peter. Everything develops with its inner logic from this deeply Christian and profoundly Roman idea: their heads, the noblest portion of their mortal remains, are the treasure of the Lateran, mother church of Christendom; equal halves of the other relics are likewise the pride and glory of the two other most important of Rome's shrines, St Peter's and St Paul's."

The Office Hymn, 'Iam bone pastor, Petre', uniquely provided for today in the new Liturgia Horarum, celebrates these men. The hymn is translated, although not metrically, thus by Fr Martin D. O'Keefe, SJ:

"Goodly shepherd, Peter most blest,
In your mercy receive now the prayers
Of those who call upon you,
And loose the bonds of their sins
By the power you have been given,
That power which you use
At your sole command,
To close or open
The gates of Heaven for all.

And you, teacher most renowned,
Paul the great,
Show us how we should live on earth;
Strive to transport us to heaven
In our thoughts at least,
Until that which is perfect
Be accorded us in full measure,
And that which we have
But imperfectly achieved
Be banished far away."

May this be our prayer today as we honour these great witnesses to the one true faith in Christ Jesus. May all who are drawn to the churches whose dedication we mark today be likewise dedicated to the service, glory and honour of the Living God. Amen.


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