LITURGY for TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY - February 22 and 23, 2000
Tuesday, February 22, 2000
First Reading: 1 Peter 4: 1-4
Responsorial: Psalm 23: 1-6
Gospel Reading: Matthew 15: 13-19
Feast of the Chair of Peter
This feast, designated for February 22, commemorates the first service in Rome by the first Pope in Rome - Saint Peter who established the see of Antioch. He is said to have sat on a portable chair that ultimately became the "chair of Peter" and which is a liturgical emphasis on the apostolic succession, the episcopacy within Holy Mother Church and the unbroken line of pontiffs since Peter. The chair is preserved in the Vatican with evidence of this being the authentic chair dating back to the second century. It was officially made a feast day in the Roman Calendar in 394 to coincide with the day the Romans commemorated their deceased. It was first celebrated at the old St. Peter's Basilica in Rome during the middle of the fifth century, preceded by an all night vigil with the Holy Father present. In the eighth century the Franks moved the feast to January 21 while the rest of Europe virtually ignored the feast altogether. However, at the beginning of the eleventh century it was revived and observed on February 22 where it has been fixed ever since.
The Chair of Peter is actually three chairs; one a ceremonial portable wood chair in St. Peter's Basilica that many believe was first used by the Apostle Saint Peter to declare the Divinity of Jesus after he had arrived in Rome. That chair is located behind the main altar below the great circular window depicting the Holy Spirit. Another is built into the wall in the marble apse which is not usable but symbolic of the apostolic succession, hierarchy and authority of the Church. The third is a bronze replica by the sculptor Bernini of Peter sitting in the chair. This is located jutting out from one of the four great pillars supporting the dome and is to the right of the main altar near the entrance to the crypt below. The feast was first established by Pope Saint Mark who also instituted the Pallium and published the first Roman calendar of religious feastdays. As early as 394 there were two feasts commemorating the Chair of Peter, one celebrated on January 18 which was celebrated in France until the eight century, and the February 22nd feast focused on Peter founding the See of Antioch. In the 11th century it was extended to the universal Church, some say by Pope Saint Leo IX who transferred the feast for the See of Rome to February 22nd and eliminated the Antioch reference because of the Eastern Schism which occurred during his pontificate.
Wednesday, February 23, 2000
First Reading: James 4: 13-17
Responsorial: Psalm 49: 2-3, 6-11
Gospel Reading: Mark 9: 38-40
Feast of Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr
Consecrated bishop of Smyrna by Saint John the Apostle, the holy Saint Polycarp staunchly defended the faith in the face of heresy, particularly Valentinianism and Marcionism. Born around 69 A.D. he dedicated his life to upholding the new Christian faith and preaching everywhere he went. Towards the end of his life when he was in his eighties, he traveled to Rome during the papacy of Pope Anicetus, the eleventh in the line of Peter. There Pope and bishop discussed a mutual date for Easter but could not come to an agreement and parted ways deciding each should celebrate it the way they had been doing it. Before he left Rome Polycarp was captured by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and thrown into prison. Refusing to sacrifice to the gods, acknowledge the divinity of Aurelius and reject his faith, Polycarp was ordered to be burned at the stake. But as they flames seared up and around him, they miraculously did not touch him. Furious, the Emperor ordered the soldiers to spear him to death. There in Rome on February 23, he gave up the ghost. Historians gage his death anywhere between 155 and 165, because of his association with Anicetus who was pontiff during those years. Many regard Polycarp as the chief link between the apostolic age, when he knew some of the apostles such as John, to the age of the great Christian Writers in Roman Asia which evolved late in the second century. They consider his Martyrium Polycarpi the first and oldest authentic example of the Acts of the Martyrs.