The Deliverance of the Apostle Peter
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Carving of the angel leading the Apostle Peter out of prison

We read the story of Peter's deliverance in Acts 12:1-17. King Herod Agrippa I (grandson of Herod the Great, who tried to kill the infant Jesus (Matthew 2), nephew of Herod Antipas, who killed John the Baptist (Mark 6) and examined Jesus on Good Friday (Luke 23), and father of Herod Agrippa II, who heard the defense of Paul before Festus (Acts 25)), acting probably in 42 AD, put the Apostle James bar-Zebedee to death, and imprisoned Peter with the intent of killing him also. But as Peter slept, chained to guards, an angel jabbed him in the ribs and said, "Get up, get dressed, and follow me." He led Peter out of the prison and a few blocks away, and there left him. Peter went to a house where many Christians had gathered to pray for him, got an interesting reception, gave them a message for James, kinsman of Jesus and head of the Jerusalem community, and left Jerusalem for a while. Soon after (in 44 AD, at the age of 34), Herod died suddenly.

These events took place around Passover time, but to commemorate them then would be a distraction from the theme of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Our Lord. They are accordingly celebrated on 1 August, the anniversary of the dedication of a church which was said to possess a length of the chain with which Peter had been bound.

In English-speaking countries 1 August is also Lammas Day, or loaf-mass day, the festival of the first wheat harvest of the year, on which day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop. In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. The blessing of new fruits was performed annually in both the Eastern and Western Churches on the First, or alternately the Sixth, of August. The Sacramentary of Pope Gregory (d. 604) specifies the Sixth.

The custom of giving thanks for the harvest is undoubtedly older than Christianity, and probably loaves were offered in worship in Britain around 1 August before Christians took over the practice. Hence it is neither surprising nor particularly significant that the Wiccans have a harvest feast on 1 August. (Some critics say that this proves that Christianity is nothing but a collection of recycled pagan superstitions. I say that it is evidence that the climate of Britain, and therefore the usual time of harvests, was not altered by the coming of Christianity.)


Gracious Father, by whose hand your servant Simon Peter was most wonderfully delivered out of prison and from impending death: Grant us, in all the changes and chances of this mortal life, to dread nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care upon you, who care for us. When disasters lie ahead, help us to avoid them if we may, and to endure them if we must, knowing that we walk with him who endured all for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

written by James Kiefer