The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul


I must begin by confessing that I told a lie in my column a couple of weeks ago. Well, more a misleading statement!
I said that the liturgical colour of green would not be evident in our churches for the first two Sundays of Ordinary Time because they were celebrated as Trinity Sunday and the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ respectively. White is the liturgical colour for these two days.
Astute readers will notice however that the vestments and hangings used in the church this Sunday are still not green, three weeks after Pentecost and the start of Ordinary Time. That is because this year the 29th June falls on a Sunday, and 29th June is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. As a solemnity, it 'outranks' a Sunday of Ordinary Time and so replaces the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time that would normally be celebrated on this day. Because Peter and Paul are martyrs, the liturgical colour for their feast is red.
Someone asked me recently how I carry all this sort of ('useless'?) information around in my head. Well I don't! I rely on my trusty Ordo. It was because I didn't look far enough ahead that I was unaware that we had three Sunday feasts in a row.
The solemnity of Peter and Paul is really the feast of the Founding Fathers of the Church. Because it has such a long history, it is one of the few feasts that are celebrated on the same date in the Eastern and Western calendars. It is one of the ten holy days of obligation in the universal calendar from which local days of obligation are selected.
History shows that the feast was probably first celebrated in Rome in 258 and spread rapidly throughout the west, including Africa, as Augustine mentions it in several of his sermons. Many churches were built in honour of Peter and Paul in Italy, Spain, and Gaul, and later in Canterbury, England.
The high esteem given to this feast in Rome is shown by the fact that the Leonine Sacramentary from the 5th and 6th centuries contains no less than 28 formularies for the Mass and that it was given its own octave. The pope celebrated twice: first in St Peter's Basilica and then at St Paul outside the walls. Both saints were honoured each time.
In the seventh century, the feast was divided over two days, June 29 for Peter and June 30 for Paul, but the Missal of Paul VI returned to the ancient tradition of one feast on 29 June.
Peter and Paul are the two 'pillars ' of the church, Peter the great shepherd of Christ's flock, and Paul the zealous missionary who spread the good news and founded ecclesial communities in all parts of the world.
Each in his chosen way gathered into unity
the one family of Christ.
Both shared a martyr's death
and are praised throughout the world.
(Preface of Peter and Paul, apostles)

Elizabeth Harrington