| ||Simon Peter, was the closest of all the Apostles to Christ. He followed Jesus everywhere. However, during Christ’s most difficult time, Holy Week, Peter denied him three times. Saint Peter and Saint Paul, became the founding fathers of the Church. Simon (surnamed Peter) was a simple fisherman in Galilee when Christ called him to be “fishers of men”. In Matthew 16:18-49 Christ says to Peter, “You are rock and on this rock, I will build my church and I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven.” This icon depicts Peter, The Rock, upon which the church was founded.
St. Paul, originally known as Saul of Tsarsus, was born into a Jewish family. He was a practicing Jew, a Roman citizen, and St. Paul was a tent maker during his early life in Jerusalem. He inherited his Roman citizenship from his Father. While in Jerusalem St. Paul studied under the respected Rabbi Ganaliel and was a strict Pharisee. He became a fanatical persecutor of Christians. The fervor of St. Paul’s efforts to persecute the Christians is evident by his granting consent to the stoning of St. Stephen. According to Acts, as St. Paul was on his way to Damascus in pursuit of the heretics he was blinded by a bright light and heard a voice saying “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? I am Jesus…”(Acts 9:1-22). This event resulted in Saul’s conversion to Christianity. He became a true disciple of Christ and he took the name of Paul. He spent the remainder of his life spreading the word of Christ and in building and strengthening Christian communities around the world.
The church recognizes St. Paul, along with St. Peter, as a principle founder of the Christian Church. St. Paul wrote fourteen epistles that describe his and St. Peter’s work in building the Christian Church. The epistles were addressed to various Christian communities around the Christian world, (Rome, Corinth, Thesolonia, Galatia, Ephesus, etc.), and they served to educate, inspire, strengthen, and unite the Christian communities.
The icon of St. Paul is commonly found in the Deisis row of the iconostasis in the Eastern Church. St. Paul’s image is drawn in either full or half-length and he is often holding a gospel. St. Paul’s figure looks towards the central icon of Christ in the Deisis row. The icon of St. Peter is placed in the same row on the opposite side of Christ, both equidistant from the image of Christ. The feast day for St. Paul, along with St. Peter, is June 29.|