Peter was the son of Jonah and the brother of Andrew, the First-Called. He was of the Tribe of Simeon from the town of Bethsaida. He was a fisherman and, at first, was called Simon but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas or Peter: "And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, He said, You are Simon the son of Jonah: you shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a rock" (John 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to clearly express faith in the Lord Jesus saying: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). His love for the Lord was great and his faith in the Lord gradually strengthened. When the Lord was brought to trial, Peter denied Him three times but after only one glance into the face of the Lord, Peter's soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter appears as a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. Following one of his sermons in Jerusalem, three-thousand souls converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, throughout Illyria and Italy. Peter worked many powerful miracles; he healed the sick, resurrected the dead; the sick were healed even from his shadow. He had a great struggle with Simon the Magician who proclaimed himself as god but in reality Simon was a servant of Satan. Finally, Peter shamed and defeated him. By order of the evil Emperor Nero, Simon's friend, Peter was condemned to death. Installing Linus as Bishop of Rome, counseling and comforting the flock of Christ, Peter proceeded joyfully to his death. Seeing the cross before him, he begged his executioners to crucify him upside down for he considered himself unworthy to die as did his Lord. Thus the great servant of the Great Lord reposed and received the wreath of eternal glory.
Paul was born in Tarsus of the tribe of Benjamin. At first he was called Saul, studied under Gamaliel, and was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christianity. He was miraculously converted to the Christian Faith by the Lord Himself Who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was baptized by the Apostle Ananias, was called Paul and numbered in the service of the great apostles. With a fiery zeal, Paul preached the Gospel everywhere from the borders of Arabia to Spain, among the Jews and among the Gentiles. He received the title "Apostle to the Gentiles." As horrible as his sufferings were, so much more was his super-human patience. Throughout all the years of his preaching Paul, from day to day, hung as one on a weak thread between life and death. Since he fulfilled all days and nights with labor and suffering for Christ, since he organized the Church in many places and since he attained such a degree of perfection he was able to say: "It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero at the same time as the Apostle Peter.
Saint Leo the Great on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
Blessed Augustine's Sermon on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
Saint Gregory Palamas' Homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
HYMN OF PRAISE: SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
Unlearned and learned but equal in spirit
And in the love of God, as strong as angels,
Peter a simple man, Paul educated
Both illumined, by the grace of the Spirit,
Two flaming candles, unquenchable candles,
Towering and beautiful, two brilliant stars.
Traversed the earth and spread the light
Nothing did they take, to men they gave all,
Completely poor, the world they enriched,
Prisoners and servants, conquered the entire world,
With the teaching of Christ, enriched the world,
With a new weapon, conquered the entire world:
By humility and peace and meekness blessed,
Prayer and fasting and mercy powerful.
When to them, that stormy day, arrived the stormy night
Bloodthirsty Nero, their life cut short.
But when the ruler of the world, a command issued
And to suffering, gave over Peter and Paul
The world was theirs and not his [Nero's] anymore,
By death, the apostles gained the Kingdom.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Foremost of the Apostles and teachers of the world, intercede ye with the Master of all that He grant peace to the world and great mercy to our souls.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
O Lord, receive unto the enjoyment of Your good things and Your rest, the steadfast preachers of Godly words, the pinnacle of Your Disciples. Receive their pain and death above every sacrifice, for You alone know the hearts of men.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Today Christ the Rock glorifies with highest honor the rock of Faith and leader of the Apostles, together with Paul and the company of the twelve, whose memory we celebrate with eagerness of faith, giving glory to the one who gave glory to them!