Communion of Chair of Saint Peter

Matthew 16:18

Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.

Haydock

Verse 18. Kagw. And I say to thee, and tell thee why I before declared, (John i. 42.) that thou shouldst be called Peter, for thou art constituted the rock upon which, as a foundation, I will build my Church, and that so firmly, as not to suffer the gates (i.e. the powers) of hell to prevail against its foundation; because if they overturn its foundation, (i.e. thee and thy successors) they will overturn also the Church that rests upon it. Christ therefore here promises to Peter, that he and his successors should be to the end, as long as the Church should last, its supreme pastors and princes. T. — In the Syriac tongue, which is that which Jesus Christ spoke, there is no difference of genders, as there is in Latin, between petra, a rock, and Petrus, Peter; hence, in the original language, the allusion was both more natural and more simple. V. — Thou art Peter; and upon this (i.e. upon thee, according to the literal and general exposition of the ancient Fathers) I will build my church. It is true S. Augustine, in one or two places, thus expounds these words, and upon this rock, (i.e. upon myself:) or upon this rock, which Peter hath confessed: yet he owns that he had also given the other interpretation, by which Peter himself was the rock. Some Fathers have also expounded it, upon the faith, which Peter confessed; but then they take not faith, as separated from the person of Peter, but on Peter, as holding the true faith. No one questions but that Christ himself is the great foundation-stone, the chief corner-stone, as S. Paul tells the Ephesians; (C. ii, v. 20.) but it is also certain, that all the apostles may be called foundation-stones of the Church, as represented Apoc. xxi. 14. In the mean time, S. Peter (called therefore Cephas, a rock) was the first and chief foundation-stone among the apostles, on whom Christ promised to build his Church. Wi. — Thou art Peter, &c. As S. Peter, by divine revelation, here made a solemn profession of his faith of the divinity of Christ, so in recompense of this faith and profession, our Lord here declares to him the dignity to which he is pleased to raise him: viz. that he, to whom he had already given the name of Peter, signifying a rock, (John i. 42.) should be a rock indeed, of invincible strength, for the support of the building of the church; in which building he should be next to Christ himself, the chief foundation-stone, in quality of chief pastor, ruler, and governor; and should have accordingly all fulness of ecclesiastical power, signified by the keys of the kingdom of heaven. — Upon this rock, &c. The words of Christ to Peter, spoken in the vulgar language of the Jews, which our Lord made use of, were the same as if he had said in English, Thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build my church. So that, by the plain course of the words, Peter is here declared to be the rock, upon which the church was to be built; Christ himself being both the principal foundation and founder of the same. Where also note, that Christ by building his house, that is, his Church, upon a rock, has thereby secured it against all storms and floods, like the wise builder. Matt. vii. 24, 25. — The gates of hell, &c. That is, the powers of darkness, and whatever Satan can do, either by himself or his agents. For as the Church is here likened to a house, or fortress, built on a rock; so the adverse powers are likened to a contrary house or fortress, the gates of which, i.e. the whole strength, and all the efforts it can make, will never be able to prevail over the city or Church of Christ. By this promise we are fully assured, that neither idolatry, heresy, nor any pernicious error whatsoever shall at any time prevail over the Church of Christ. Ch. — The gates, in the Oriental style, signify the powers; thus, to this day, we designate the Ottoman or Turkish empire by the Ottoman port. The princes were wont to hold their courts at the gates of the city. V.

Denzinger

149: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

From the epistles of the Synod "Repletum est gaudio"
to Leo the Pope, at the beginning of November, 451

For if where two or three are gathered together in His name, there He says He is in the midst of them, how great an intimacy did He show with regard to the five hundred and twenty consecrated men, who preferred to both native land and to labor the knowledge of confession for Him. Over these you ruled as a head over the members, among those holding office, displaying your good will.

149 [The more ancient version.]: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

From the epistles of the Synod "Repletum est gaudio"
to Leo the Pope, at the beginning of November, 451

For if where two or three are gathered together in his name, there he says he is in the midst of them [cf. Matt. 18:20], how great an intimacy will He show in regard to the five hundred and twenty priests, who have preferred to both native land and to labor the knowledge of confession for Him. Over these you ruled as a head over the members, among those holding office, displaying your good will.

171: The Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff

ST. HORMISDAS 514-523
"Libellus professionis fidei" 
added to the epistle
"Inter ea quae" 
to the bishops of Spain, 
April 2, 517

[Our] first safety is to guard the rule of the right faith and to deviate in no wise from the ordinances of the Fathers; because we cannot pass over the statement of our Lord Jesus Christ who said: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church” . . . [Matt. 16:18]. These [words] which were spoken, are proved by the effects of the deeds, because in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved without stain. Desiring not to be separated from this hope and faith and following the ordinances of the Fathers, we anathematize all heresies, especially the heretic Nestorius, who at one time was bishop of the city of Constantinople, condemned in the Council of EPHESUS by the blessed CELESTINE, Pope of the City of Rome, and by the venerable man Cyril, high priest of the City of Alexandria. Similiarly anathematizing both Eutyches and Dioscorus of Alexandria condemned in the holy Synod of CHALCEDON [see n. 148] which we follow and embrace, which following the sacred Council of NICEA proclaimed the apostolic faith, we detest both Timothy the parricide, surnamed the Cat, and likewise his disciple and follower in all things, Peter of Alexandria. We condemn, too, and anathematize Acacius, formerly bishop of Constantinople, who was condemned by the Apostolic See, their confederate and follower, or those who remained in the society of their communion, because Acacius justly merited a sentence in condemnation like theirs in whose communion he mingled. No less do we condemn Peter of Antioch with his followers, and the followers of all mentioned above.

Catena Aurea

13. When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14. And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16. And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

GLOSS. (non occ.) As soon as the Lord had taken His disciples out of the teaching of the Pharisees, He then suitably proceeds to lay deep the foundations of the Gospel doctrine; and to give this the greater solemnity, it is introduced by the name of the place, When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. liv.) He adds ‘of Philip,’ to distinguish it from the other Cæsarea, of Strato. And He asks this question in the former place, leading His disciples far out of the way of the Jews, that being set free from all fear, they might say freely what was in their mind.

JEROME. This Philip was the brother of Herod, the tetrarch of Ituræa, and the region of Trachonitis, who gave to the city, which is now called Panæas, the name of Cæsarea in honour of Tiberius Cæsar.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) When about to confirm the disciples in the faith, He would first take away from their minds the errors and opinions of others, whence it follows, And he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?

ORIGEN. Christ puts this question to His disciples, that from their answer we may learn that there were at that time among the Jews various opinions concerning Christ; and to the end that we should always investigate what opinion men may form of us; that if any ill be said of us, we may cut off the occasions of it; or if any good, we may multiply the occasions of it.

GLOSS. (non occ.) So by this instance of the Apostles, the followers of the Bishops are instructed, that whatever opinions they may hear out of doors concerning their Bishops, they should tell them to them.

JEROME. Beautifully is the question put, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is? For they who speak of the Son of Man, are men: but they who understood His divine nature are called not men but Gods.

CHRYSOSTOM. He says not, Whom do the Scribes and Pharisees say that I am? but, Whom do men say that I am? searching into the minds of the common people, which were not perverted to evil. For though their opinion concerning Christ was much below what it ought to have been, yet it was free from wilful wickedness; but the opinion of the Pharisees concerning Christ was full of much malice.

HILARY. By asking, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is? He implied that something ought to be thought respecting Him beyond what appeared, for He was the Son of Man. And in thus enquiring after men’s opinion respecting Himself, we are not to think that He made confession of Himself; for that which He asked for was something concealed, to which the faith of believers ought to extend itself. We must hold that form of confession, that we so mention the Son of God as not to forget the Son of Man, for the one without the other offers us no hope of salvation; and therefore He said emphatically, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?

JEROME. He says not, Whom, do men say that I am? but, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is? that He should not seem to ask ostentatiously concerning Himself. Observe, that wherever the Old Testament has ‘Son of Man,’ the phrase in the Hebrew is ‘Son of Adam,’

ORIGEN. Then the disciples recount the divers opinions of the Jews relating to Christ; And they said, Some say John the Baptist, following Herod’s opinion; others Elias, (vid. Matt. 14:2.) supposing either that Elias had gone through a second birth, or that having continued alive in the body, He had at this time appeared; others Jeremias, whom the Lord had ordained to be Prophet among the Gentiles, not understanding that Jeremias was a type of Christ; or one of the Prophets, in a like way, because of those things which God spoke to them through the Prophets, yet they were not fulfilled in them, but in Christ.

JEROME. It was as easy for the multitudes to be wrong in supposing Him to be Elias and Jeremias, as Herod in supposing Him to be John the Baptist; whence I wonder that some interpreters should have sought for the causes of these several errors.

CHRYSOSTOM. The disciples having recounted the opinion of the common people, He then by a second question invites them to higher thoughts concerning Him, and therefore it follows, Jesus saith unto them, Whom say ye that I am? You who are with Me always, and have seen greater miracles than the multitudes, ought not to agree in the opinion of the multitudes. For this reason He did not put this question to them at the commencement of His preaching, but after He had done many signs; then also He spoke many things to them concerning His Deity.

JEROME. Observe how by this connexion of the discourse the Apostles are not styled men but Gods. For when He had said, Whom say ye that the Son of Man is? Ho adds, Whom say ye that I am? as much as to say, They being men think of Me as man, ye who are Gods, whom do you think Me?

RABANUS. He enquires the opinions of His disciples and of those without, not because He was ignorant of them; His disciples He asks, that He may reward with due reward their confession of a right faith, and the opinions of those without He enquires, that having the wrong opinions first set forth, it might be proved that the disciples had received the truth of their confession not from common opinion, but out of the hidden treasure of the Lord’s revelation.

CHRYSOSTOM. When the Lord enquires concerning the opinion of the multitudes, all the disciples answer; but when all the disciples are asked, Peter as the mouth and head1 of the Apostles answers for all, as it follows, Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.

ORIGEN. Peter denied that Jesus was any of those things which the Jews supposed, by his confession, Thou art the Christ, which the Jews were ignorant of; but he added what was more, the Son of the living God, (Ezek. 33:11.) who had said by his Prophets, I live, saith the Lord. And therefore was He called the living Lord, but in a more especial manner as being eminent above all that had life; for He alone has immortality, and is the fount of life, wherefore He is rightly called God the Father; for He is life as it were flowing out of a fountain, who said, I am the life. (John 14:6.)

JEROME. He calls Him the living God, in comparison of those gods who are esteemed gods, but are dead; such, I mean, as Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, Hercules, and the other monsters of idols.

HILARY. This is the true and unalterable faith, that from God came forth God the Son, who has eternity out of the eternity of the Father. That this God took unto Him a body and was made man is a perfect confession. Thus He embraced all in that He here expresses both His nature and His name, in which is the sum of virtues.

RABANUS. And by a remarkable distinction it was that the Lord Himself puts forward the lowliness of the humanity which He had taken upon Him, while His disciple shews us the excellence of His divine eternity.

HILARY. This confession of Peter met a worthy reward, for that he had seen the Son of God in the man. Whence it follows, Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas, for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.

JEROME. This return Christ makes to the Apostle for the testimony which Peter had spoken concerning Him, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. The Lord said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonas? Why? Because flesh and blood has not revealed this unto thee, but My Father. That which flesh and blood could not reveal, was revealed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. By his confession then he obtains a title, which should signify that he had received a revelation from the Holy Spirit, whose son he shall also be called; for Barjonas in our tongue signifies The son of a dove. Others take it in the simple sense, that Peter is the son of Johnq, according to that question in another place, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? (John 21:15.) affirming that it is an error of the copyists in writing here Barjonas for Barjoannas, dropping one syllable. Now Joanna is interpreted ‘The grace of God.’ But either name has its mystical interpretation; the dove signifies the Holy Spirit; and the grace of God signifies the spiritual gift.

CHRYSOSTOM. It would be without meaning to say, Thou art the son of Jonas, unless he intended to shew that Christ is as naturally the Son of God, as Peter is the son of Jonas, that is, of the same substance as him that begot him.

JEROME. Compare what is here said, flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, with the Apostolic declaration, Immediately I was not content with flesh and blood, (Gal. 1:16.) meaning there by this expression the Jews; so that here also the same thing is shewn in different words, that not by the teaching of the Pharisees, but by the grace of God, Christ was revealed to him the Son of God.

HILARY. Otherwise; He is blessed, because to have looked and to have seen beyond human sight is matter of praise, not beholding that which is of flesh and blood, but seeing the Son of God by the revelation of the heavenly Father; and he was held worthy to be the first to acknowledge the divinity which was in Christ.

ORIGEN. It must be enquired in this place whether, when they were first sent out, the disciples knew that He was the Christ. For this speech shews that Peter then first confessed Him to be the Son of the living God. And look whether you can solve a question of this sort, by saying that to believe Jesus to be the Christ is less than to know Him; and so suppose that when they were sent to preach they believed that Jesus was the Christ, and afterwards as they made progress they knew Him to be so. Or must we answer thus; That then the Apostles had the beginnings of a knowledge of Christ, and knew some little concerning Him; and that they made progress afterwards in the knowledge of Him, so that they were able to receive the knowledge of Christ revealed by the Father, as Peter, who is here blessed, not only for that he says, Thou art the Christ, but much more for that he adds, the Son of the living God.

CHRYSOSTOM. And truly if Peter had not confessed that Christ was in a peculiar sense born of the Father, there had been no need of revelation; nor would he have been worthy of this blessing for confessing Christ to be one of many adopted sons; for before this they who were with Him in the ship had said, Truly thou art the Son of God. (John 1:49.) Nathanael also said, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God. Yet were not these blessed because they did not confess such sonship as does Peter here, but thought Him one among many, not in the true sense a son; or, if chief above all, yet not the substance of the Father. But see how the Father reveals the Son, and the Son the Father; from none other comes it to confess the Son than of the Father, and from none other to confess the Father than of the Son; so that from this place even it is manifest that the Son is of the same substance, and to be worshipped together with the Father. Christ then proceeds to shew that many would hereafter believe what Peter had now confessed, whence He adds, And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter,

JEROME. As much as to say, You have said to me, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God, therefore I say unto thee, not in a mere speech, and that goes not on into operation; but I say unto thee, and for Me to speak is to make it sor, that thou art Peter. For as from Christ proceeded that light to the Apostles, whereby they were called the light of the world, and those other names which were imposed upon them by the Lord, so upon Simon who believed in Christ the Rock, He bestowed the name of Peter (Rock.)

AUGUSTINE. (de Cons. Ev. ii. 53.) But let none suppose that Peter received that name here; he received it at no other time than where John relates that it was said unto him, Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted, Peter. (John 1:42.)

JEROME. And pursuing the metaphor of the rock, it is rightly said to him as follows: And upon this rock I will build my Church.

CHRYSOSTOM. That is, On this faith and confession I will build my Church. Herein shewing that many should believe what Peter had confessed, and raising his understanding, and making him His shepherd.

AUGUSTINE. (Retract. i. 21.) I have said in a certain place of the Apostle Peter, that it was on him, as on a rock, that the Church was built. But I know that since that I have often explained these words of the Lord, Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my Church, as meaning upon Him whom Peter had confessed in the words, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God; and so that Peter, taking his name from this rock, would represent the Church, which is built upon this rock. For it is not said to him, Thou art the rock, but, Thou art Peter. (1 Cor. 10:4.) But the rock was Christ, whom because Simon thus confessed, as the whole Church confesses Him, he was named Peter. Let the reader choose whether of these two opinions seems to him the more probable.

HILARY. But in this bestowing of a new name is a happy foundation of the Church, and a rock worthy of that building, which should break up the laws of hell, burst the gates of Tartarus, and all the shackles of death. And to shew the firmness of this Church thus built upon a rock, He adds, And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

GLOSS. (interlin.) That is, shall not separate it from the love and faith of Me.

JEROME. I suppose the gates of hell to mean vice and sin, or at least the doctrines of heretics by which men are ensnared and drawn into hell.

ORIGEN. But in heavenly things every spiritual sin is a gate of hell, to which are opposed the gates of righteousness.

RABANUS. The gates of hell are the torments and promises of the persecutors. Also, the evil works of the unbelievers, and vain conversation, are gates of hell, because they shew the path of destruction.

ORIGEN. He does not express what it is which they shall not prevail against, whether the rock on which He builds the Church, or the Church which He builds on the rock; but it is clear that neither against the rock nor against the Church will the gates of hell prevail.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA.s; According to this promise of the Lord, the Apostolic Church of Peter remains pure and spotless from all leading into error, or heretical fraud, above all Heads and Bishops, and Primates of Churches and people, with its own Pontiffs, with most abundant faith, and the authority of Peter. And while other Churches have to blush for the error of some of their members, this reigns alone immoveably established, enforcing silence, and stopping the mouths of all heretics; and wet, not drunken with the wine of pride, confess together with it the type of truth, and of the holy apostolic tradition.

JEROME. Let none think that this is said of death, implying that the Apostles should not be subject to the condition of death, when we see their martyrdoms so illustrious.

ORIGEN. Wherefore if we, by the revelation of our Father who is in heaven, shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, having also our conversation in heaven, to us also shall be said, Thou art Peter; for every one is a Rock who is an imitator of Christ. But against whomsoever the gates of hell prevail, he is neither to be called a rock upon which Christ builds His Church; neither a Church, or part of the Church, which Christ builds upon a rock.

CHRYSOSTOM. Then He speaks of another honour of Peter, when He adds, And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; as much as to say, As the Father hath given thee to know Me, I also will give something unto thee, namely, the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

RABANUS. For as with a zeal beyond the others he had confessed the King of heaven, he is deservedly entrusted more than the others with the keys of the heavenly kingdom, that it might be clear to all, that without that confession and faith none ought to enter the kingdom of heaven. By the keys of the kingdom He means discernment1 and power; power, by which he binds and looses, discernment, by which he separates the worthy from the unworthy.

GLOSS. (interlin.) It follows, And whatsoever thou shalt bind; that is, whomsoever thou shalt judge unworthy of forgiveness while he lives, shall be judged unworthy with God; and whatsoever thou shalt loose, that is, whomsoever thou shalt judge worthy to be forgiven while he lives, shall obtain forgiveness of his sins from God.

ORIGEN. See how great power has that rock upon which the Church is built, that its sentences are to continue firm as though God gave sentence by it.

CHRYSOSTOM. See how Christ leads Peter to a high understanding concerning himself. These things that He here promises to give him, belong to God alone, namely to forgive sins, and to make the Church immoveable amidst the storms of so many persecutions and trials.

RABANUS. But this power of binding and loosing, though it seems given by the Lord to Peter alone, is indeed given also to the other Apostles, and is even now in the^ Bishops and Presbyters in every Church. (vid. Matt. 18:18.) But Peter received in a special manner the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and a supremacy of judicial power, that all the faithful throughout the world might understand that all who in any manner separate themselves from the unity of the faith, or from communion with him, such should neither be able to be loosed from the bonds of sin, nor to enter the gate of the heavenly kingdom.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) This power was committed specially to Peter, that we might thereby be invited to unity. For He therefore appointed him the head of the Apostles, that the Church might have one principal Vicar of Christ, to whom the different members of the Church should have recourse, if ever they should have dissensions among them. But if there were many heads in the Church, the bond of unity would be broken. Some say that the words upon earth denote that power was not given to men to bind and loose the dead, but the living; for he who should loose the dead would do this not upon earth, but after the earth.

SECOND COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE. (Concil. Con. ii. Collat. 8.) How is it that some do presume to say that these things are said only of the living? Know they not that the sentence of anathema is nothing else but separation? They are to be avoided who are held of grievous faults, whether they are among the living, or not. For it is always behoveful to fly from the wicked. Moreover there are divers letters read of Augustine of religious memory, who was of great renown among the African bishops, which affirmed that heretics ought to be anathematized even after death. (vid. Aug. Ep. 185. 4.) Such an ecclesiastical tradition other African Bishops also have preserved. And the Holy Roman Church also has anathematized some Bishops after death, although no accusation had been brought against their faith in their lifetimeu.

JEROME. Bishops and Presbyters; not understanding this passage, assume to themselves something of the lofty pretensions of the Pharisees, and suppose that they may either condemn the innocent, or absolve the guilty; whereas what will be enquired into before the Lord will be not the sentence of the Priests, but the life of him that is being judged. We read in Leviticus of the lepers, how they are commanded to shew themselves to the Priests, and if they have the leprosy, then they are made unclean by the Priest; not that the Priest makes them leprous and unclean, but that the Priest has knowledge of what is leprosy and what is not leprosy, and can discern who is clean, and who is unclean. In the same way then as there the Priest makes the leper unclean, here the Bishop or Presbyter binds or looses not those who are without sin, or guilt, but in discharge of his function when he has heard the varieties of their sins, he knows who is to be bound, and who loosed.

ORIGEN. Let him then be without blame who binds or looses another, that he may be found worthy to bind or loose in heaven. Moreover, to him who shall be able by his virtues to shut the gates of hell, are given in reward the keys of the kingdom of heaven. For every kind of virtue when any has begun to practise it, as it were opens itself before Him, the Lord, namely, opening it through His grace, so that the same virtue is found to be both the gate, and the key of the gate. But it may be that each virtue is itself the kingdom of heaven.

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