And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
At Bible study last night, we watched a video in which Dr. Allen Hunt described his journey to the Vatican. (I immediately wanted to turn to everyone and yell, “I SAW THAT. I WAS JUST THERE!”) He spoke of visiting the tunnels beneath St. Peter’s Basilica (which I did not see, alas) and standing before the tomb of St. Peter.
The basilica is built right above the location of his tomb. Dr. Hunt said that, at that spot, you can look up and see the floor of the altar through slats in the ceiling. Which means the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica was built directly above his tomb.
“Upon this rock,” he quoted, “I will build my church.”
We’d just celebrated Mass in a side chapel at St. Peter’s. It was still too early for guided tours (they’re not permitted before 9:00 a.m., to give people prayer time), so we had time to wander the basilica on our own. I don’t think I fully grasped where I was, until I approached the altar. Beside it was a placard declaring it the site of St. Peter’s tomb. Beneath my feet was the place where Peter lay to rest. Peter of the Bible. An apostle of Jesus. The very one Jesus entrusted to tend his flock.
The rock of Peter himself, who guided those first Christians to the truth. And the literal rock of his tomb, on which the basilica bearing his name—the center of the Church itself—was constructed.
I don’t remember much from what followed in that video. But I remember Dr. Hunt looking up at the ceiling, like he was still standing on that first century ground beneath modern Rome. “Upon this rock,” he repeated, pointing downward, “I will build my church.” And he pointed to the sky.
And, yes, once we broke into smaller groups, I shared some of my photos of the Vatican.