The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Antioch, where the disciples were first entitled “Christians.” The Chair/Throne or Cathedra itself is a relic conserved in St Peter’s Basilica although it seems not to be the original Chair. The Chair which was enclosed in a sculpted gilt bronze casing designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and constructed between 1647 and 1653 is a later Chair.
Saint Peter, before he went to Rome, founded the See of Antioch is attested by Eusebius, Origen, St Clemnt, St Jerome, St Innocent, Pope Gelasius, in his Roman Council, St John Chrysostom and others.
It was right and just that the Prince of the Apostles should take this City under his particular care and inspection, which was then the Capital of the East and in which, the Faith took roots, so early and so deeply, as to give birth in it, to the name of Christians.
St Chrysostom says, that St Peter made there a long stay while St Gregory the Great says, that St Peter was the Bishop of Antioch for seven years – not that he resided there permanently but only that he had a particular care over that Church. If he sat for twenty-five years at Rome, the date of his establishing his Chair at Antioch. must be within three years after our Saviour’s Ascension; for in that supposition, he must have gone to Rome in the second year of Claudius.
The festival of St Peter’s Chair in general, Natale Petri de Cathedrâ, is marked on this day in the most ancient calendar extant, made in the time of Pope Liberius, about the year 354. It also occurs in Gregory’s Sacramentary and in all the Martyrologies. It was kept in France in the sixth century, as appears from the Council of Tours and from that of Le Conte.
In the first ages ,it was customary, especially in the East, for every Christian to keep the Anniversary of his Baptism, on which he renewed his Baptismal Vows and gave thanks to God for his Heavenly Adoption: this they called their spiritual Birth-day – worthy indeed of renewal in our times! The Bishop,s in like manner, kept the Anniversary of their own Consecration, as appears from four sermons of St Leo on the Anniversary of his accession or assumption to the Pontifical dignity and this was frequently continued by the people after their decease, out of respect and love for their memory. St Leo says, we ought to celebrate the Chair of St Peter with no less joy than the day of his Martyrdom, for, as in this, he was exalted to a Throne of glory in Heaven, so, by the former, he was installed as Head of the Church on earth.
On this festival we are especially bound to adore and thank the Divine Goodness for the establishment and propagation of His Church and earnestly to pray, that in His Mercy, He may preserve the same, that His Name may be glorified by all nations and by all hearts, to the boundaries of the earth, for His Divine honour and the salvation of souls, framed to His Divine Image and the price of his adorable Blood.
The Church of Christ is His spiritual Kingdom – He is not only the Architect and Founder but continues to govern it and by His Spirit, to animate its members to the end of the world, as its invisible Head: although He has left in St Peter and his successors, a Vicar, or lieutenant, as a visible head, with an established hierarchy for its exterior government.
If we love Him and desire His honour, can we cease weeping and praying, that by His sweet Omnipotent grace, He may subdue all the enemies of His Church, both inside it and without it, converting to it all infidels and apostates? In its very bosom, sinners fight against Him! Although these continue as His members, they are dead members because He lives not in them by His grace and charity, reigns not in their hearts, animates them not with His Spirit. He will indeed always live by grace and sanctity in many members of His Mystical Body, fighting against the heretics and apostates who seek the destruction of His Church.
Let us pray that by the destruction of the tyranny of sin, all souls may subject themselves to the reign of His Holy Love.
Good Jesus! for Your mercy’s sake, hear us in this prayer, above all other petitions, never suffer us to be separated from You by forfeiting your holy love: may we remain always rooted and grounded in Your charity, as is the will of Your Father. Amen.