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:
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.