Today I’m beginning a new series of posts providing a Visual Tour of the Saint Aelfric Chapel, from which I serve and host my little parish, Grace Anglican Church. My intention was to begin a couple weeks ago, on the first Wednesday of the year, and to make this a weekly entry on each Wednesday following, so there are two I’ve missed which I’ll make up between now and next Wednesday.
In the years leading up to the purchase of my family’s first house and the establishment of our own chapel space therein, I had dreamed and hoped for the opportunity to collect and gather a lineup of saints whose images and relevant quotes could adorn one of the walls. The chapel we’ve ended up with has not made that a feasible wish, but I found an alternative: the windows.
Now, this is a sort of a multi-layered pun. First of all, we have a window on either side of the bay, where the altar is located, and during Holy Communion I place a picture of a saint on both of those window sills. One is a picture of Saint Aelfric, the namesake and patron of this blog, the chapel, and my ministry in general. The other is rotated out between several different saints and images throughout the year. Now, many of those images are printings of traditional icons, which (as the Eastern Christians say) are “windows into heaven”. So we have windows in the windows, but for most of the week these pictures, sitting in their picture frames, are up on the altar.
Currently Saint Peter is up:
Saint Peter, is, of course, commonly considered the leader of the original twelve apostles, and generally recognized as the first Bishop of Antioch and then of Rome. He is thus a hugely significant figure for the Roman Church, who claim him and his patronage and (errantly) his primacy over all other apostolic sees. But he’s also a hugely significant figure in the New Testament itself, being the most active character in the Gospel books save for our Lord himself, as well as the author of two epistles.
As for me, St. Peter took on a special significance while I was attending seminary. In part, it was because one of my exegesis classes was on 1 Peter, and so I got to know him through his writing better than I did any other author. But also something that resonated with me was one of his last encounters with the risen Christ. The story is quoted on the picture (or “window”) above, and it’s from John 21:18-22. In that encounter, Jesus foretells the sort of death that Peter would eventually die. Peter, a relatable human to the core, looks over at John and asks “what about him?” as if he’s once again trying to compare himself to others. And Jesus gently retorts “what is that to you? You follow me.” As a human, it’s tempting to compare myself to others to evaluate my worth and my success. As a pastor and priest, it’s all the more tempting to compare myself to other ministers to measure my success and my worth. Jesus reminds Peter, and all pastors, that the fate of other pastors is not important – we all must follow him.
So Saint Peter’s window is up in the chapel for most of the month of January, in which we celebrate his marvelous confession of faith (today in fact) recorded in Matthew 16. As one of the most significant of the Church’s Saints, he’ll also cycle back in a second time for the month of June, in which we commemorate his martyrdom (alongside the martyrdom of Saint Paul, in our calendar).