Saturday, November 10, 2007

Where Peter Is, There Is The Church

“Wherever Peter does not speak, only the opinions of men find utterance—and the apostles are silent. But Jesus Christ did not commend the vague and contradictory opinions of the mob or the silence of his chosen disciples; it was the unwavering, decisive, and authoritative utterance of Simon Bar-Jona upon which he set the seal of his approval. This utterance which satisfied our Lord clearly needed no human ratification; it possessed absolute validity etiam sine consensu Ecclesiae. It was not by means of a general consultation but (as Jesus Christ himself bore witness) with the direct assistance of the heavenly Father that Peter formulated the fundamental dogma of our religion; and his word defined the faith of Christians by its own inherent power, not by the consent of others—ex sese, non autem ex consensu Ecclasiae.

In contrast to the uncertain opinions of men, the word of Peter represents the stability and unity of the true faith; in contrast to the narrow national ideas of the Messiah to which the apostles gave utterance, his word expresses the messianic idea in its absolute and universal form. The idea of the Messiah which had sprung from the soil of Jewish national consciousness is already in the visions of the post-exilic prophets growing too large for these limits. But the true meaning of these mysterious and enigmatic visions was hardly divined by the inspired writers themselves, while Jewish public opinion remained exclusively nationalistic and could see no more in Christ than a great national prophet such as Elijah, Jeremiah, or John the Baptist, or at the most an all-powerful dictator, liberator, and leader of the chosen people such as Moses or David. This was the highest idea that the mob which followed Jesus held of him; and we know that even his chosen disciples shared these popular notions up to the end of his earthly life (cf. Luke 24:19-21).

Only in Peter’s confession does the messianic idea emerge, freed from all its nationalistic trappings and invested for the first time in its final and universal form. ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matt. 16:16). Here is no question of a national king or prophet; the Messiah is not a second Moses or David. From this time on, he bears the unique name of him who, though he is the God of Israel, is nonetheless the God of all nations. Peter’s confession transcended Jewish nationalism and inaugurated the universal Church of the New Covenant.

This is yet one more reason why Peter should be the foundation of Christendom and why the supreme hierarchical authority, which of itself has ever maintained the universal or international character of the Church, should be the true heir of Peter and the actual possessor of all those privileges conferred by Christ upon the prince of the apostles.”

-Vladimir Soloviev in The Russian Church and the Papacy.

No comments: