St Peter’s Chair

‘But you,’ [Jesus] said, ‘who do you say that I am?’
Then Simon Peter spoke up.
‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the Living God.’

                                                    Matthew 16: 15-16

.       .      .

Occasionally I try to make out the gospel passage in Greek. Unfortunately, it has been so long since I bothered that usually I am delighted just to spot the odd word, and that often only by sounding it out. Today was pretty much the same. I had already glanced at the English, so I thought I knew what was coming: σὺ εἰ ὁ χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ …so far, so good–you are the Christ, the Son of God. But there on the next line, the bit I’d glanced past in the English and wasn’t really expecting: τοῦ ζῶντος. Rusty as my Greek is, I spotted that zeta (the squiggle at the beginning of the second word, in case you’re wondering) and the omega following it, and the word came back to me: ‘living’. 

And I had that experience that I long for when reading the gospel: it leapt out at me. The Living God. Peter’s affirmation of Jesus’ divinity made me sit up and take notice. Something new is happening here; the identity of Jesus is coming to light. This is who Jesus is, and that changes everything. Everything. What does it mean to realize, down to the very depths of your soul, that this is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? 

Lent can seem like puzzling over some Greek text. It isn’t always clear how this is going to help. But, like my weak attempts to make sense of this passage of Matthew’s gospel, it makes way for new light to dawn in us. Peering through the darkness that attends our every attempt to perceive God, hindered by the frailty of our minds and hearts, we are reaching out. Just when our hearts are most empty and our efforts seem most futile (just like my Greek!), God speaks His Light, and we are filled with His holy brightness. 
Teach my heart to yearn for you, O God. 

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