St. Paul became a Christian in Syria. St. Peter exercised his authority in Syria before he traveled to Rome. The word “Christian” entered the vocabulary of the human race in Syria.
St. Luke? Syrian.
Know anybody named Damien, Dorothy, Felix, Iggy, Rufus, or Sergio? Then you know someone named after a Syrian saint.
And, 1,606 years ago tomorrow, another Syrian saint entered his eternal reward. The Holy Doctor whose relics and statue adorn St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and whose relics also receive devout visits at Christ our Savior Cathedral in Moscow.
St. John Chrysostom.
Here’s what he said on Easter Sunday morning, around the year AD 400:
Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
The splendors of the city of Antioch on the Orontes River amazed the ancient world. Owing to the vagaries of history, very few relics of the city remain.
The Baltimore Museum of Art participated in an achaeological dig in Antioch in the 1930’s. They unearthed some mosaics. A few of them are displayed on the walls of the BMA courtyard, including the striding lion above.
Another heirloom of the lost city has been handed down to us in a different way, namely, by succession.
Some 1,974 years ago today, St. Peter assumed the oversight of the church where the name “Christian” was first uttered, and was seated on his ‘chair.’ After seven years in Antioch, Peter went to Rome, where he assumed the presidency of the church on January 18.
There is some dispute about these particular dates. Also, some of our separated Christian brethren in the East claim that their patriarchs are the true successors of St. Peter, occupying his Antiochene cathedra.
The “chair” of Peter is a magnificent synecdoche referring to the supreme pastoral office in the Church. May God grant its occupant, Pope Benedict XVI, health and long years. And may his many saintly predecessors intercede for us.
…Ten years ago today, I venerated St. Peter’s tomb alongside the newly created Cardinal, Theodore McCarrick! I served his Mass at the Altar off the Chair!