Friday, November 30, 2012

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

The Golden Legend is perhaps the most famous hagiography of the brother of St. Peter, but it is probably notable more for its glamour and pious romantic spirit than for the kind of historical fact we now take for granted. Before we begin a study of this great man, then, let us recapitulate certain things we do know about him:

  • He was the first Apostle;
  • He was the brother of St. Peter, our first Pope;
  • He introduced his brother to Our Lord;
  • He was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland;
  • He was martyred on an X-shaped cross, commonly known today as a saltire, or … St. Andrew’s Cross; and
  • Legend has it that he preached for two days on that cross before expiring.

Like his brother, Simon Peter, he was a fisherman. He became a disciple of the great St. John the Baptist, but when John pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Andrew understood that Jesus was greater. At once he left John to follow the Divine Master. Jesus knew that Andrew was walking behind him, and turning back, He asked, “What do you seek?” When Andrew answered that he would like to know where Jesus lived, Our Lord replied, “Come and see.” Andrew had been only a little time with Jesus when he realized that this was truly the Messiah. From then on, he decided to follow Jesus.

Andrew was thus the first disciple of Christ. Next, Andrew brought his brother Simon (St. Peter) to Jesus and Jesus received him too as His disciple. At first the two brothers continued to carry on their fishing trade and family affairs, but later, the Lord called them to stay with Him. He promised to make them fishers of men, and this time, they left their nets for good. It was at this point also that James and John were called, and Andrew appeared with them and his brother at the head of the list of the twelve apostles. It was he who brought to our Lord the boy with the five barley loaves and two fishes at the feeding of the five thousand; and he and Philip told our Lord of the gentiles who had come asking if they might see him.

It is believed that after Our Lord ascended into Heaven, St. Andrew went to Greece to preach the gospel. We have various accounts of the later life of St. Andrew, but they are fragmentary and mainly not dependable. The Christian historian Eusebius tells us that he preached in Scythia. St. Gregory Nazianzen says that he went to Epirus, St. Jerome that he was in Achaia — and there seems a genuine tradition that he was indeed in Greece.

The medieval tradition that he finally arrived at Constantinople and founded a church there is apparently unfounded, and the details of his martyrdom are equally uncertain. He is said to have incurred the enmity of the proconsul at Patras in Achaia, and to have been bound to a cross, where he remained two or three days preaching to the people who came to watch him, before he died.

His connection with Russia is based on a tradition that in his missionary journeys he preached in that country, reaching the city of Kiev in what is now the Ukraine, which was the center of the conversion of Russia in the eleventh century. Legend connects him with Scotland; it says that in the fourth century the guardian of the relics of Andrew at Patras was told in a dream to take part of them to a place that would be shown to him. He was led to what is now St. Andrews in Scotland; he built there a church and preached to the heathen people.

The St. Andrew’s cross –“saltire” or X-shaped cross of Scottish heraldry, often supposed to have been the form of cross on which Andrew was martyred — does not, in fact, seem to have been associated with the saint before the fourteenth century. He is said to have been put to death on the X cross, to which he was tied, not nailed. He lived two days in that state of suffering, still preaching to the people who gathered around their beloved Apostle.

Rev. Alban Butler of course has more information. His Lives of the SaintsWith Reflections for Every Day in the Year” is the shorter; the full-length edition naturally goes into significantly more detail.


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