20 January 2011

Confession of St. Peter (January 18)

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed  in heaven.”  Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.     Matthew 16: 13-20

Confession of St. Peter, Bas Relief from the Vatican Museum,  4th c. sarcophagus

Christ_Handing_the_Keys_to_St._Peter_by_Pietro_Perugino.jpg (775×480)
Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter Pietro Perugino (1448-1523)

St. Peter, 13th-century fresco fragment
Earliest icon of St. Peter, 4th century
Other relevant art:
Church of Santa Costanza mosaic (5th-7th c.) Jesus gives Peter the Kingdom of Heaven
Apostle St. Peter El Greco (1541-1614)

See also Duccio, Bassano, Fra Angelico, Tissot, Le Nain, von Honthorst, Mola, Raphael, and Rembrandt for other depictions of Peter.  I had a hard time finding depictions of the actual confession of St. Peter.  Caravaggio has a nice Crucifixion of St. Peter, which can be compared to his famous Conversion of St. Paul (which we celebrate on the 25th). 

Couldn't find any coloring pages.  I just had my kids draw a picture as I read the account.  For those of you with older kids (junior high or high school age) this short Bible passage can open a number of theological discussions.  For example, much Renaissance art focuses on Peter receiving the Keys, and not on his confession.  You could talk about why this might be, given the time period, and geo-political source of much of Renaissance art, and the different understandings of "keys" in different  Christian traditions.  You could also talk to older students about the different interpretations of "upon this Rock I will build my church," and why Lutherans confess that the Rock is Peter's confession of Who Christ is.  And then there's Confession and Absolution....so much theology to talk about!!

Does anyone know the history of how this festival developed?  There are not a lot of traditions surrounding the day, perhaps because it is centered on words and not a personality or event.  Is this a Lutheran innovation to the calendar, like moving the Transfiguration to Epiphany?


  1. This is a name day for one of our kids, which makes it particularly treasured in our house. It would have been even nicer if the kid in question had been born on this day, which happened to be his due date. Not terribly far-fetched, since two of our children did manage to be born on their name days.

  2. Oooh...you just gave me a topic to post on. Thanks! What do you do in your house to mark name days?

  3. We're not always very formal with the days proper since we have so much birthday/baptism birthday/name day overlap, but the kids naturally identify with the saints whose names they share. Last year all the Sunday school kids were asked to draw and color a Bible story on a quilt square, and all of our kids did "their" person. We're also building icon collections for them based on their names. Each of them has a Bible name and a church history name, so they have two people. On the saint day that isn't their first name, we call them by the saint name and everybody has fun with that--is this still making sense?

  4. Here is a resource for commemorating saint's days for kids. Not that it's free :) Maybe a place to print off a picture for the child of the saint being commemorated?


    Rebekah - Nice system you guys have - makes me a little sad. If I'd have considered that option I could have had a little Athanasius and Polycarp by now.