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Saint Peter's Chains

Lammas Day

The Apostle Peter was put in prison for the Name of the Lord Jesus, and bound with Chains; and that not once only, nor in one place, but several times, and in divers places. In the Acts of the Apostles we read how, immediately after Pentecost, he and the Apostle John went up to the temple together: and there, at the temple gate, he healed the lame man; and afterwards, whilst he was speaking to the people, he and John were taken by the Jewish priests, out of envy, and put in hold, that is, in Chains, unto the next day. And when they were brought forth, on the morrow, Peter shewed such constancy in his witness to Christ, along with John, that the rulers themselves could not but admire the fearless boldness of these Apostles whom they esteemed as unlearned and ignorant men. And the faith of all those who heard of this matter was in such wise strengthened by the apostolic witness, and Peter's Chains, that the number of believers increased to five thousand. [Acts of the Apostles, chapters 3 an 4]

It was not so long a time after, when all kind of diseases were healed by the shadow of Peter only, passing by, that he was taken again, and with the other Apostles was put into the common prison, at the command of the high priests and Sadducees, and thus a second time he was bound with Chains. But the Angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors and sent the Apostles forth to preach Christ, despite the prohibition of men. Whereupon Peter and the other Apostles were apprehended, and brought before the Council, and condemned to be beaten, in an attempt to make them obey men rather than God. [Acts of the Apostles, chapter 5] The third time whereof we have record of Peter's Chains is after the death of James, when Herod perceived that the murder of this Apostle was not displeasing to the Jews, and so proceeded to take Peter also, and had him bound with two Chains, and kept in prison under the ward of four quaternions of soldiers. Wherefrom he was again wondrously delivered by an Angel. [Acts of the Apostles, chapter 12]

Lastly, when he suffered martyrdom at Rome, he was kept in the Mamertine prison, and is said to have been bound in Chains by the command of Nero, which Chains have been held in special honour by the Church from the first ages. Further, Arator, Subdeacon of the Roman Church in the sixth century, wrote that the Chains wherewith Peter was bound at Jerusalem, or certainly some of them, were preserved at Rome in his own time, and consequently the veneration of Peter's Chains greatly increased: especially when, as we learn from other records of the Church in Rome, a basilica was built by the younger Eudoxia, wife of Valentinian III, on the Esquiline Hill, under the name of Saint Peter in Chains. This temple, or a re-building of it, was dedicated on August 1st, whence the day was placed in the Kalendar as the Feast of Saint Peter's Chains, afterwards called in England Lammas Day, from the custom of offering loaves of bread made from the first-gathered grain of the year, in thanksgiving for the beginning of the harvest. And, because of his Chains, this holy Apostle is often invoked for those in bondage.

Collect

O GOD, who didst deliver thy holy Apostle Saint Peter from his bonds and suffer him to depart unhurt: vouchsafe, we pray thee; to deliver us from the bonds of our sins, and of thy mercy preserve us from all evil. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 1346-1347, 1350

Additional Information:

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