February 22, 2021 – Monday, Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle
Fr. Manoling Thomas, CSsR
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/022221.cfm)
Last February 13th, Saturday, part of the celebration of the Lunar New Year, by the Chinese, was the practice of paying respects to their ancestors. This used to be called the “ancestor worship”. But those Chinese who embraced Christianity re- named it to “veneration of the ancestors”. We Catholics venerate and honor the “saints”, those who have gone ahead of us; and have now entered the Kingdom of God. We set aside November 1st, as a day for them!
Today’s feast originated from the ancient Roman practice of remembering departed family members. Part of the celebration was a formal meal. An empty chair was reserved during the meal, to represent the ancestors. This ancient Roman practice was “Christianized” after the spread and legalization of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. This feast originated in the 4th century.
The “veneration of the chair of Peter” became an occasion for remembering the apostle Peter as “the ancestor in faith” of the Christian community in Rome. Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that this celebration highlights the “privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation.”
Peter was chosen by Christ to be the “shepherd of Christ’s flock” [Jn. 21: 15-17]. Jesus called Peter to be “the rock” on which Jesus’ church would be built. [Mt. 16: 18-19]. Peter, in the 1st Reading, advised the other Church elders on how to care for the “flock entrusted to their care.” [1 Pet. 5:1-4].
The chair represents the authority of St. Peter and his successors. The chair represents the unity of the Church founded on the Apostle Peter.