I love these old-school line drawings often found in pre-Vatican II prayer books, hymnals, etc. They’re simple and beautiful and are typically filled with teaching points! This one is no exception and will be a great choice for our May topic of Apostolic Succession.
The main center panel is a depiction of two major encounters Jesus had with Peter:
- One is the conversation from John 21:15-17 (and on to verse 19, if you want) where Jesus tells him to “Feed my lambs” and “Tend my sheep.”
- The other is from Matthew 16:15-19 where Jesus gives Peter the symbolic keys to the kingdom.
If you want to keep your prayer table simple, cut off the side panels and just use the center section for your prayer table art. It really is the perfect accompaniment to the classroom lesson and there’s no end to the conversation it could jump-start along the lines of “Why Peter?” and “Who are the sheep?” and “What do the keys mean?”
If you did want to go deeper though, the side panels are filled with Old Testament references foretelling the Papacy.
- The first quote on the left is from Isaiah 22, where God is talking about a man who serves as prime minister to the king: “I will give him the key of David’s house to bear upon his shoulders; none may shut when he opens, none open when he shuts”. The prime minister of the Kingdom of Israel had the same power as the king and had the authority of “keys” to bind and loose, to act in the name of the king. When Christ gave Peter the power to bind and loose, he was clearly calling to mind the imagery of the king-prime minister relationship.
- The quote on the right is from Ezechiel 34: “They shall have a single shepherd to tend all of them now; who should tend them but my servant David? He shall be their shepherd, and I, the Lord, will be their God, now that he rules them on earth; such is my divine promise to them.” The Church reads this as David being a forerunner for Peter, as the ruler of God’s people on earth while God reigns in heaven.
- The other images relate to other types for the papacy.
- In the upper left, Leviticus 21 discusses the Jewish High Priest “whose brow has been anointed with the holy oil, and his hands consecrated for the priestly office, who wears the sacred vestments . . .”
- In the upper right, Peter is compared with King Cyrus, the Babylonian king who helped to rebuild the Temple at the end of the Babylonian captivity.
- In the lower right, Peter is again compared with the high priest. God is rebuking the priests of Israel, and talking of replacing them with more faithful priests. This quote from Ch 2 says, “Afterwards, I will find myself a priest that shall be a faithful interpreter of my mind and will; I will endow him, too, with a faithful posterity, to enjoy the favor of the king I have anointed.” Peter is deemed to be that “faithful priest” in the Church’s spiritual interpretation of that text.
- In the lower left, the quote is taken from III Esdras, a non-canonical Old Testament book.
You can find the original version here. (I just spiffed it up a bit to print.)
And thanks to John for coming to my rescue on the Latin. (You’re the best!)