Saturday, January 16, 2016

Venerating Peter's Chains

Today’s Epistle Reading: Acts of the Apostles 12:1-11 - ABOUT THAT TIME, Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church. The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, "Get up quickly." And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, "Wrap your mantle around you and follow me." And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. And Peter came to himself, and said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."
Today the Church venerates the very chains that held Saint Peter in prison. Some may wonder why the Church would venerate anything physical let alone prison chains. The Book of Acts teaches that even the shadow of Saint Peter was known for its healing miracles. “And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” (Acts 5.14-16) If Peter’s shadow, why not the chains which participated in his miraculous release from prison?

To this some may argue that the various stories of handkerchiefs and shadows are legends that cannot be proven. Others would say that it is only the power of God that heals. It is true that ONLY the power of God heals and performs miracles, but history and the Church has witnessed that God often works His miracles through these holy objects. If venerating these holy objects helps us experience God’s grace, which He brought into creation through His Baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit, then may it be blessed by long as we never lose sight of the FACT that it is faith in God that accomplishes any good thing. Remember it isn't about being right; it is about being healthy.

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