The Council of Chalcedon stated, “Peter has spoken thus through Leo.” Some weeks ago, the Church recognized the feast day of the Chair of St. Peter on its liturgical calendar. A great day this was to be appreciative of the longevity of the Catholic Church that still maintains the founding of the Bishop of Rome as the head of the Church here on earth.
I mentioned to a close friend some years ago, when I was Protestant, that Protestantism needed a person to represent the whole, someone to combat the aggressive forces of secularism of the New Atheists and overall guide the Church in truth. “Not the pope…Catholicism isn’t true and the pope has too much power” is what I remarked. Who exactly was going to be this leader I assumed we needed? Unbeknownst to me, the leader was right under my nose. The leader who had already condemned moral relativism in an encyclical, Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth”).
It is Christ who only tells Peter to “Feed my lambs and tend my sheep.” This is important because this is how we get to establish Peter’s primacy among the twelve. Not only does the Gospels make this point, but it was well established in the early church that Peter was the apostle who the Church was founded on and maintained a primacy among the other apostles.
In fact, in Stephen Ray’s book Upon This Rock, he lists Fathers from all ages in the first five centuries that recognized Peter as the head of the Church. I like how Cyprian of Carthage put it in his letter, “There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one Chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering.” (Cyprian, Letter 43 (40), 5, c].
To some, many think the Church is strictly invisible without any need for a visible Church. However, if the Church is truly Christ’s Body, there will be both an earthly and divine aspect to it. Just as Christ has two complete natures, divine and human. Moreover, how does one get excommunicated from an invisible body?
In addition, if this Church is visible, it must have a leader. Some might object by saying “Jesus is the head of the Church.” This is true. However, God is the ruler of all nations and governments, but yet there exist presidents and prime ministers across the globe. Their authority doesn’t subvert the authority of God’s. Even God used a pagan Persian King to demonstrate who is ultimately sovereign over all nations (2 Chron. 36: 23). To have a Church without a visible leader would be disastrous. No one to maintain order, dispute heresies, or schisms. We see this kind of authority exercised in the Council of Chalcedon in the opening verse.
What’s really amazing is no other denomination can claim a succession of Peter’s chair, but the Catholic church. As St. Ambrose said, “Where Peter is, there is the Church; where the Church is, there is no death, but eternal life.”
The Chair of St. Peter demonstrates the longevity of the Catholic church that has been maintained for 2000 years in an unbroken link of successors to the Bishop of Rome. Some have been exceptionally well, while some have been downright horrible!
Where the Chair is, there it encompasses what the Nicene Creed would claim is the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” The Chair of Peter serves as a way for us to keep in mind Christ’s authority handed to Peter when he told him to “feed his lambs..feed my sheep” (Joh 21:15-17). A role was given to Peter to fulfill as a leader and guide of the Church when Jesus would ascend. Today, we can observe the pope still carrying the mission of feeding and guiding the flock
Overall, much to be thankful for regarding this amazing historic truth in the calendar year! Simply amazing to be one of the longest running institutions.
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