Today is the feast of the preeminent Apostles Peter and Paul. Before you are ancient icons of Sts. Peter and Paul, taken from an ancient iconostasis. These icons were desecrated, split in pieces, broken, chopped up with axes, but the Lord granted the sacred things to be restored.
Sts. Peter and Paul are great apostles! We read a wonderful Gospel today, telling about how the Apostle Peter, the first of all the Apostles, recognized the divinity of the Savior and confessed when Christ asked him how he believed. Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God! And Christ said: Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell, that is, the forces of evil, shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is why the Apostle Peter is depicted in ancient iconography with symbolic keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, to the gates of Paradise, in his hands.
The Apostle Peter! Like all of us, he traversed the path of falls, and trials, and a lack of faith when he denied his Teacher. But at the same time, through repentance he returned again to his Teacher; through repentance he again became the preeminent Apostle of the Church of Christ. The Catholics appropriate for themselves the primacy of the Apostle Peter—our Peter! God told the pope that he is the successor of Peter—this is a Catholic lie. The Apostle Peter doesn’t belong to the Catholic church, although he founded the Church in Rome together with the Apostle Paul. St. Peter belongs to the entire universal Church! And the Lord gave the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to the entire universal Church, and made Peter the rock of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
The Catholics are renegades; they broke away, they went into schism from the Mother Church, they became graceless, and they lost the Apostle Peter, the rock of the faith, and the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. They perish in their superstitions, in lies, in spiritual delusion even to this day. Now, unfortunately, theologians endlessly debate about whether Catholics will be saved, since there are millions of them. I once told you the words of St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), when he was slyly asked: “Tell me, Vladyka, will the Catholics be saved?” St. Ignatius smiled, understanding their cunning, for they wanted to accuse him (as the Savior once was) of inciting religious strife. And St. Ignatius said wisely: “Whether Catholics will be saved or not, I don’t know, but if I were to convert to Catholicism, I know I would perish; I would not be saved.” See how wisely, without reproach, the saint answered, making it clear that there is demonic delusion there—this papal pride, infallibility—and that, unfortunately, of course, there won’t be any salvation there.
Photo: tsn.ua The Apostle Peter doesn’t belong to the Roman Catholic church, but the entire Holy, CATHOLIC, and Apostolic Church! The holy Apostle Peter is the adornment, glory, and praise of the entire Church! He is the rock of faith for all of us, the model of a holy life! What wonderful instructions he gives in his catholic epistles. How wisely he, having lived a difficult life, instructs all people by his own example. How he cares for everyone. What sermons he first began to deliver about Christianity, about the Lord Jesus Christ. And after the Ascension of the Lord, the Apostle Peter announced the word of God to the entire world. And he ended his life as a martyr in Rome. He wasn’t afraid of anything—neither threats, nor torments, but before his death he became afraid. When they condemned him to death by crucifixion upon a cross, as a non-Roman, as a disciple of Christ, the Apostle Peter was afraid, begging on his knees before his death, “I accept the crucifixion, only I am not worthy to die like my Teacher and Savior Jesus Christ. Hang me upside down on the cross.” The hearts of the executioners’ faltered, and they fulfilled the dying request of this amazing elder and hung him upside down. And so, having preached the word of God without fear, he ended his life as a martyr.
The Apostle Paul—the terrible persecutor Saul! A hater of Christianity, he couldn’t stand the teachings of Christ; he hated and betrayed Christians to torment. He himself even participated in the martyrdom of the Archdeacon and Protomartyr Stephen, watching the clothes of the Jews who stoned him. He didn’t act, but he watched. The example of the brave death of this young archdeacon wasn’t in vain for Saul—he was dying and praying for his enemies-executioners: “God, forgive them! They don’t know what they’re doing.” For some reason, these words sunk in, and the seed of faith was sown in the heart of Saul, and he left the site of the execution of Archdeacon Stephen changed, disconcerted.
Saul went to Damascus. He was cruel, asking the Sanhedrin for permission to execute, kill, and destroy Christians! Damascus was terrified! Saul was coming with soldiers to slaughter all the Christians. And we heard today the Acts of the Apostles, how the Lord miraculously turned Saul to Himself on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, how the light shone, how he heard the voice from Heaven: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And Saul asked: Who art thou, Lord?—I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest. And the future Apostle Paul was blinded by the light. What to do? “Go, believe, be baptized, and you will be saved!” Saul’s Baptism and spiritual enlightenment took place in Damascus, when together with his bodily eyes, his spiritual eyes were also opened.
The Apostle Paul went throughout the whole world, preaching the word of God all around. How many persecutions, how many attacks were made on him, how many times he was tried and condemned to death! But God preserved him, and he fearlessly went and preached our Lord Jesus Christ, bearing the word of grace-filled consolation, and ordaining bishops, priests, and deacons of the holy Christian Church. And so, he ended his life as a martyr in Rome. They wanted to crucify him, but as a Roman citizen, they had no right to betray him to such a shameful death, so they beheaded him. And through his martyrdom, through the shedding of his blood, he atoned for his sin. Just as the Apostle Peter atoned for the sin of renunciation, so he atoned for the sin of persecuting the holy Christian faith. Having bravely completed the podvig of his life together with his friend the Apostle Peter, he entered into eternal life, into the Kingdom of Heaven.
These two Apostles are people just like us. Their lives are given to us without any sugary coating. Today hagiographies are written as though our modern ascetics were lowered already from Heaven in plastic bags, as if they were infallible, like the Pope of Rome. You read about the modern, twentieth-century elders—and where are their sinful lives? It’s all holiness, clairvoyance, such grace—walking around as saints since childhood.
But the lives of the Apostles Peter and Paul clearly tell us that they were people like us, who sinned and denied God, but through repentance cleansed their sins and became heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is real life. But what’s written in our present hagiographies—it’s a lie of the twentieth century. I’m afraid of these modern lives. You read… yes, if at least one sinful side was shown. If someone ends up writing about me, they’ll definitely say: He was rude, and proud, and everything else—that’s what I am. But I repent, I’m correcting myself. We have to write how it really is for our edification—that we are also sinners, but we are repenting and we hope in the mercy of God—“I am Thine, save me!”—repeating these words without end.
And grant us, O Lord, to know our infirmities, as the Apostles Peter and Paul, to fight with them, to repent, to amend our ways and not whine that we are dying—”I am Thine, save me!” Surely the Lord will save all who come to Him! After all, we are going to the Lord. Why have we come to stand here for eight hours? We have come to the Lord, and He calls all: Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest! We come to the church of God for this simple spiritual and mental peace. And May the Lord strengthen you, like the Apostles Peter and Paul, to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, to enter into the joy of our Lord and Savior, and never to be separated from our Savior. Never fall into despondency, into despair, but ever remember the wondrous words of the Prophet David, who constantly, several times a day, like the Jesus Prayer, would sigh and say: “I am Thine, save me.” Amen!
May you all have a blessed feast!
Thank God that He has granted us to reach the middle of the summer. And then comes autumn—harvest time. May God give us some bread to gather! The Lord has given us a good harvest. Only may He teach us fools, ready to gather from the field for the glory of God, that hunger might not overtake us. The Lord is merciful! And it’s been raining—a wonderful summer. But in the west,1 they’ve been soaked, flooded, for their lawlessness—villages were demolished for their lawlessness, for this fascist nationalism, this Banderism they’re trying to impose on us. They will be demolished and drowned for this demonic Philaretism.2 And the time will come when their demonic city3 will certainly go underground. Such times will come. And their memory will perish with a shout! And the true faith of Christ will remain an unshakeable rock until the end of the age! And no forces of evil, no schisms, no enmity, no Banderite satanists will ever shake the true Orthodox faith. We must know this firmly, although they will persecute us, hate us, and put us in prison like the Apostles. But Christ is the Victor, and we will defeat the devil. We must overcome with the help of God! This is the brief word of edification I give you on today’s feast of the global celebration of the memory of the holy preeminent Apostles Peter and Paul!