This past Saturday was the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. In the reading for the feast we sampled from Peter’s sufferings (Acts 12:1-11). In the passage Peter is in Jail for preaching the Gospel and an angel is sent to rescue him.
There is a certain level of detail in the angel’s instructions to Peter that serve as a kind of picture of the life of faith. In particular, the following words of the angel come to mind:
Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by Peter in the jail, and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.”
Note then five fundamentals for faith from the words of the Angel:
Rise – The angel says to Peter, “Get up”. This is a call to rise from death, to rise from despairing and doubt, to stand up! Every Christian must die to sin and rise, ready to walk with God.
The text also indicates that a bright light shown in the cell. Here is a symbol for our baptism which the Eastern Churches call “illumination.” In our baptism we arose and saw light.
The chains and dark prison symbolize our condition before baptism. But as Peter arises the chains fall from his wrists and his liberation from the darkness of the prison is at hand. And this symbolizes what arising in baptism has done for us.
Restrain – The angel then tells Peter to put on his belt (cincture), which is traditionally a sign of chastity and self-control. The Christian life cannot be riddled with unchasteness or other excesses of this world (e.g., greed, gluttony, intemperance). These hinder the journey; they weigh us down. And thus, we too are given the instruction to tighten our belt.
Ready – Peter is also told to put on his sandals. This is a symbol of readiness to make a journey. When I was a child, my mother would often signal me by saying, “Put on your shoes and get ready to go.” Christians must be ready to make the journey with their feet shod with the gospel of peace, with their shoes on and ready to set out on the great pilgrimage with Jesus to Heaven. The pilgrimage goes up over the hill of Calvary and into glory. Put on your shoes and get ready to go!
Righteous – Peter is then told to put on his cloak. In Scripture, the robe is often equated with righteousness. For example, the book of Revelation says that it was given to the bride to be clothed in fine linen. The text goes on to say that the linen robe is the righteousness of the saints (Rev 19:8). There is also the parable of the wedding guests, one of whom was not properly clothed, and was therefore thrown out (Mat 22:11). Thus the instruction of the angel reminds us that every Christian is to be clothed in righteousness, and is to be careful to keep this robe, given by God, unsoiled by the things of this world.
Run – Finally, the angel commands, “Follow me.” In other words, run the race of faith. Toward the end of his life, St. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). Jesus told His disciples, simply, “Follow me.”
Here then are five fundamentals of faith, as taught by an angel.
Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Five Fundamentals of Faith Straight from the Words of an Angel