While Greece and its political issues are at the top of the agenda, life as we know it, continues normally here on Zakynthos. It’s a special day for celebration anyway!
Today it is the celebration of Saint Peter and Paul.
Of course all those who take their names from these two Saints will be celebrating their namedays, too.
A tradition that many Zakynthians may remember that took place at their local church on this day would be the hanging of the first stalks of our famous Zante Black Currant, the farmers would search their vineyards for the right one, the one that was just turning a little red and carefully cut it and take it to the church to decorate the doorways. As told by a friend of mine there was no real meaning to this, perhaps at the time to bless their crops and hope that it would be a good year. Apart from that the history of these two saints goes way back in Zakynthian tradition, especially for the Greek Orthodox church.
On the 29th June of every year our Orthodox Church celebrates the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. So important is this celebration in the Orthodox Church that it is marked by a preparatory fasting period – called the fast of the apostles – beginning from the Monday after Pentecost and lasting until the eve of the feast day of Sts Peter and Paul. Following the practise of the early Church, where the first Christians would commemorate departed saints by celebrating the Divine Eucharist on top of their tombs, we too, nearly two thousand years later follow that same tradition. We too continue to this day to celebrate the feast days of saints by celebrating the Divine Liturgy over the altar of the Church of the particular saint to which the Church is dedicated. The reason for this is that the altar of every Church is said to be symbolic of saints’ tombs in that every consecrated Church has relics of saints within the altar.
One may quite justifiably ask why these two apostles in particular are celebrated on the same day. Peter was one of the twelve whereas Paul was not. From the Biblical evidence that we have we know that Peter’s ministerial outlook was very different from Paul’s. At the council of Jerusalem (48AD), great problems had arisen in the Church from a large influx of Gentile converts and these saints had different opinions as to how they should be received.
Yet we find that not only are they celebrated on the same day, but even icons of Sts Peter and Paul portray these two major apostles embracing each other.
Xronia Polla to all whose names are Peter, Pedro, Paul, Pauline/a Petrina