Two Chairs, One Hope of Salvation

Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE
Feast of the Chair of St. Peter
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.It is a day wherein we should give thanks to God for the gift of the Petrine ministry to the Church and wherein we should pray and offer our Lenten sacrifices for the Holy Father.

If there was ever a moment in the third millennium when the Chair of Peter—the authority of Peter—needs to shine forth as a “throne of truth”[1] and hope, it is now.

But even if the Chair of Peter should crumble—and we know it cannot, because Christ promises us in today’s Gospel, the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it—but even if it could, we place our hope first and foremost in another Chair—the cross—”God’s chair in the world”[2]—as St. John Paul II puts it.

Peter may be the shepherd of the flock, but he himself admits that Christ is her Chief Shepherd (cf 1 Peter 5:4). As we hear in today’s Psalm,

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

And where did Christ show Himself as Chief Shepherd if not from the “chair of the Cross”? From it, He gave us his greatest lesson—a lesson that even Peter himself had to be reminded of as he sought to flee persecution in Rome[3]: that love requires fidelity to the end. True love accepts no compromise, but is even willing to give the ultimate gift of oneself.

For this reason, the Cross in our only hope—Ave Crux Spes Unica.  It is the anchor of St. Peter’s chair and the Church. Let us not forget this. As Pope Francis said in his homily two years ago today, “May our thought and our gaze be fixed on Jesus Christ, beginning and end of every action of the Church. He is the foundation and no one can place a different one (1 Corinthians 3:11). He is the “rock” on which we must build.” [4] I make this point not for the sake of placing a dialetic between the Chair of Peter and Christ, but I want us to see that Peter’s faith and teaching authority–represented by the cathedra–cannot fail precisely because Christ cannot fail—He did not fail, but loved us to the end.
We build our faith and our daily lives on the Paschal Mystery above all else—for it is the gift of the Father who is “rich in mercy”.  All good things come from the Father—the Petrine ministry itself comes from the Father—but the first and greatest gift is always Christ and Him crucified, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24).
As we draw near to this power and wisdom made flesh again in the Eucharist, let us beg the Father the grace of fidelity—to the Chair of Peter and the chair of the Cross.



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