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M.S. Vat. Lat. 2639 - Miniated by Nicola da Bologna (1370)
Vatican Apostolic Library

Jesus is denied by Peter

V/. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
R/. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

From the Gospel according to Luke 22:54-62

Then they seized Jesus and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance; and when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a maid, seeing him as he sat in the light and gazing at him, said, "This man was with him." But he denied it, saying, "Woman, I do not know him." And a little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them." But Peter said, "Man, I am not." And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, "Certainly this man was also with him; for he is a Galilean." But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying." And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.


Let us go back to the night we had left behind when we entered the hall where Jesus’ first trial was taking place. The darkness and the cold are pierced by the flames of a brazier in the courtyard of the palace of the Sanhedrin. The servants and guards are holding out their hands to the warmth; their faces are lighted up. And three voices, one after another, speak out, and three hands point towards a face they recognize, the face of Peter.

The first is a woman’s voice. She is one of the maids in the palace; looking the disciple in the eye, she exclaims, "You too were with Jesus!" A man’s voice follows: "You are one of them!" Another man later makes the same accusation, after hearing Peter’s northern accent: "You were with him!". Faced with these declarations, the Apostle, as if in a desperate crescendo of self-defence, does not hesitate to lie: "I do not know Jesus! I am not one of his disciples! I don’t know what you are talking about!" The light of that brazier penetrates far beyond Peter’s face, it lays bare his wretched heart, his frailty, his selfishness, his fear. And yet only a few hours earlier, he had proclaimed, "Even though all fall away, I will not! … If I must die with you, I will not deny you!"[9]

* * *

The curtain, however, does not fall on this betrayal, as was the case with Judas. That night a noise pierces the silence of Jerusalem, but above all Peter’s own conscience: the sound of the cock crowing. Precisely at that moment Jesus comes forth from the tribunal that has condemned him. Luke describes the exchange of glances between Christ and Peter with a word in Greek that suggests a penetrating stare at someone’s face. But, as the Evangelist notes, this is not just any man who looks at another; it is "the Lord", whose eyes peer into the depths of the heart, into the deepest secrets of a person’s soul.

From the eyes of the Apostle fall tears of repentance. In his story are condensed countless stories of infidelity and conversion, of weakness and liberation. "I wept, and I believed!" – in these two simple words, centuries later, a convert [10] would compare his own experience to that of Peter, thus speaking for all of us who daily make petty betrayals, protecting ourselves with cowardly justifications, letting ourselves be overcome with base fears. But, like the Apostle, we too can take the road that brings us to Christ’s gaze and we can hear him give us the same charge: you, too, "once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers!" [11].



Pater noster, qui es in cślis:
sanctificetur nomen tuum;
adveniat regnum tuum;
fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cślo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne nos inducas in tentationem;
sed libera nos a malo.

Quś mśrebat et dolebat
pia mater, cum videbat
Nati pœnas incliti.


[9] Mark 14:29, 31.

[10] FRAN«OIS-REN… DE CHATEAUBRIAND, The Genius of Christianity (1802).

[11] Luke 22:32.

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