Elizabeth Lev’s occasional column for Zenit News Service is a must read for anyone who appreciates philosophy’s “three transcendentals” — truth, goodness, and beauty. Lev teaches Christian art and architecture at Duquesne University’s Rome campus, and she weaves the history and art of Rome into her dispatches. This week she takes notice of the rich surroundings at last Sunday’s Mass for the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Basilica, as Pope Benedict and Patriarch Batholomew drew on the “shared tradition” of sacred images during their homilies.

Over their heads soared Michelangelo’s dome, with the words of Christ to Peter shimmering in the sunlight: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build by Church” (Matthew 16:18).

From one of the piers supporting the massive dome, the statue of St. Andrew by Francis Duquesnoy faced the two men. Brother to Peter and the first to be called, St. Andrew died in Greece after having spent his last years spreading the Gospel through the Eastern Empire.

One could imagine his joy as he saw the spiritual leader of millions from the lands where he suffered and died reunited with the successor of his brother. Following the Liturgy of the Word, Bartholomew I took a seat near the tribune of St. Andrew.

Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I both drew upon the shared tradition of images in the two Churches during the Mass.

Bartholomew I’s homily gave us a glimpse of Eastern art. Speaking of the icons that are part of the celebrations for this feast day, he described an image of Sts. Peter and Paul exchanging a fraternal embrace.

The patriarch commented that the icon reflects the traditional story recounting the martyrdom of the two saints. When sentenced to their deaths, he reflected, Sts. Peter and Paul exchanged the kiss of peace one last time as St. Paul said: “’Peace be with you, foundation of the Church and pastor of the sheep and lambs of our Lord.’

“Peter then said to Paul: ‘Go in peace, preacher of good morals, mediator, leader and solace of righteous people.’”

The patriarch then addressed Benedict XVI saying, “It is indeed this kiss that we have come to exchange with you, Your Holiness, emphasizing the ardent desire and love in Christ, things which are closely related to each other.”

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