PETER and PAUL (29th June, d.67AD)
Most Christian readers ought to be familiar with these two “Princes of the Apostles”, whose joint feast day was celebrated this last Monday, and is regarded as the fourth most important feast of the Church after Pascha, Nativity, and the Dormition of the Theotokos. Peter, one of the original twelve Apostles of Christ, is regarded as the leader of the twelve, a passionate firebrand of a man who, like his fellow Apostles, preached in numerous places, but especially in Antioch, where he is regarded as the first Bishop of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, which survives to this day. There is, however, actually no record of him being Bishop of Rome, a position which Irenaus says was first occupied by Linus on Peter’s appointment and consecration. Nevertheless, he, with Paul, is regarded as the founder of the Roman Church, and both the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Antioch are said to sit in “the See (or seat) of Peter”.
Paul, made an Apostle by revelation of Christ on the road to Damascus from Jerusalem, similarly needs no introduction. The boldest and most widely travelled of all the Apostles, and “the Apostle to the Gentiles”, Paul wrote the bulk of the New Testament epistles. He and Peter were both martyred under Nero around the same time – Peter by being crucified upside down on Vatican hill, and Paul by beheading (denoting his privilege as a Roman citizen).
COSMAS and DAMIAN of Rome, Holy Unmercenaries (1st July, d.284AD)
Cosmas and Damian were brother physicians, whom God granted supernatural powers of healing, and through this they won many people over in favour of Christ. They are called “unmercenary”, because they accepted no payment for their treatment, and told the sick that it was not their own power that healed, but Christ’s.
The authorities arrested several Christians for refusing to give up the location of the brothers. Hearing this, they offered to turn themselves in in exchange for their release. Brought before the Emperor Carinus and put on trial, the Emperor was suddenly struck blind, however, the brothers healed him and restored his sight. Having been subject to this miracle, the Emperor had no choice but to release them.
The brothers were martyred, not by the Roman authorities, but by their own teacher of medicine, who was driven by envy of their gifts, and lured them into the mountains on the pretense of finding medicinal herbs before killing them both.