Saturday, August 16, 2008


He is Peter
(the Latin translation of this post)

I have been thinking for a long time about considering Church History, and many important arguments about how to get Christians together to debate on fair ground have circulated in places such as here. But in a sense I'm even more interested in asking whether or how a reading of the Bible itself is altered when one is a Catholic Christian. Since a big difference is about the matter of the Pope, I thought it would be interesting to read the letters of Saint Peter and see how beginning a period of time meditating on that portion of Scripture with the knowledge that he is who Catholics claim that he is, the first Pope. As the picture above shows, Tradition also states that he was martyred via crucifixion, but did not esteem himself worthy of being crucified as His Lord was. And so legend has it that he faced the Cross with his head pointing towards the ground.

But what of the greater legend, that he was the first among the bishops? Does a reading of God's word point us in that direction? In sitting down with Peter's two epistles I will say that I was not overwhelmed by this notion. For a while I was slightly unhappy about this experience. Sure, maybe Peter was slightly more humble than the typical conception of a Pope, and so his writings were not overpoweringly emphatic about his position. But was there no glimmer of the truth of his primacy from Scripture? That was when I realized that there are other books in the Bible, and when I turned to the Book of Acts and the Gospels, I found myself overwhelmed. As I hope to explain in coming posts, these portions of Scripture (and even those letters by St. Peter himself) resonate with my newly gained perspective that for there to be unity, the Body of Christ on earth has been given a leader.

Be sure to prod me if I do not update on this, but as I said, this is just the beginning of my journey assimilating my love of the Bible with a love of the Church that gave me those pages. The scrolls that were copied by monks and the councils that stated what the canon was have lived in my heart largely in an abstract sense, and as they are becoming more concrete I look forward to sharing other new ways in which my completion in the faith has led to a more complete grasp of His word.

Or maybe some of you think this is an unnecessary addition. I hope to show that this is not the case, as elements of God's word are examined from the Catholic perspective. For now, my eyes are turned towards the one who turned his gaze upside down. The Church turned the world upside down, and may it continue to turn us all upside down when we are walking on our own notions, for then we will see rightly. As Chesterton put the matter in his biography of St. Francis of Assisi,

If a man saw the world upside down, with all the trees and towers hanging head downwards as in a pool, one effect would be to emphasize the idea of dependence. There is a Latin and literal connection; for the very word dependence only means hanging. It would make vivid the Scriptural text which says that God has hanged the world upon nothing. If St. Francis had seen, in one of his strange dreams, the town of Assisi upside down, it need not have differed in a single detail from itself except in being entirely the other way round. But the point is this: that whereas to the normal eye the large masonry of its walls or the massive foundations of its watchtowers and its high citadel would make it seem safer and more permanent, the moment it was turned over the very same weight would make it seem more helpless and more in peril...Instead of being merely proud of his strong city because it could not be moved, he would be thankful to God Almighty that it had not been dropped; he would be thankful to God for not dropping the whole cosmos like a vast crystal to be shattered into falling stars. Perhaps St. Peter saw the world so, when he was crucified head-downwards.
It is commonly in a somewhat cynical sense that men have said, "Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed." It was in a wholly happy and enthusiastic sense that St. Francis said, "Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything." It was by this most deliberate idea of starting from zero, from the dark nothingness of his own deserts, that he did come to enjoy even earthly things as few people have enjoyed them; and they are in themselves the best working example of the idea. For there is no way in which a man can earn a star or deserve a sunset...."

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