– Monday of the 1st Week of Lent (The Chair of Peter) –
‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church …’ [Mt 16:17-18]
Today’s feast is a celebration of the papal authority given to lead and guide the Church as the body of Christ. It is a gift that holds us in continuity with our brothers and sisters who have walked the path of faith before us. The ‘chair’ is the symbol of authority to teach and lead, from where the bishop presides. ‘Cathedral’ literally means ‘the place of the chair’.
It begins with Peter. The act of faith expressed by Peter was in some sense, miraculous. Others had experienced Jesus but, for whatever reason, it is Peter who can locate the words and articulate them. Only the Holy Spirit can bring a person to this understanding.
It was St Thomas Aquinas who famously wrote: ‘To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.’ Ultimately, our faith defies the words we use to describe it. Aquinas spent his life explaining and writing about the different aspects of our faith as clearly and logically as anyone can possibly do. Then one day, after a profound experience of prayer, he stopped writing. He later said, ‘Everything that I have written seems like straw to me compared to those things that I have seen and have been revealed to me.’ An experience of God will ultimately render human words and explanations silent.
Human wisdom, as invaluable as it is, will falter when it comes to comprehending God. Whatever we know about God, we know because God has let it be known. This is what we mean by Revelation.
By Shane Dwyer