Saint Andrew was one of Jesus' twelve apostles, and the brother of Saint Peter. He is known as the "first-called", because the Gospel of John suggests he was one of the first to follow Jesus. After the Resurrection and Pentecost, Saint Andrew spread the gospel in Eastern Europe. Most significantly, he is believed to have founded the church at Byzantium. Thus the Archbishop of Constantinople, head of the Eastern Orthodox church, is considered to be a successor of Saint Andrew.
God is glorious in his saints!
Welcome to the Christian Saints Podcast. My name is dr Darren Ong, recording from Sepang in Malaysia. In this podcast, we explore the lives of the Christian saints, from the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. Today, we commemorate St Andrew the Apostle.
Saint Andrew is one of the twelve apostles, the brother of Saint Peter. He is known as the “first-called” (protokletos) due to this passage from the book of John 1, which portrays him as one of the earliest followers of Jesus:
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Saint Andrew is not mentioned in the Bible as much as his brother Saint Peter, but he plays a crucial supporting role in many events in the gospels. Very frequently, (as in the John passage we just read), he appears as someone who introduces others to Jesus. Let us read from an excerpt of a homily by Hugh Gilbert, Roman Catholic Bishop of Aberdeen, Scotland, given on St Andrew’s Day 2020. In this homily, Bishop Gilbert touches on this aspect of Saint Andrew’s character, someone who connects people with Jesus.
Who was he?
A 1st c. Jew, a Galilean, born in Bethsaida, son of a certain John or Jonas, brother of Simon Peter. Like him he was a fisherman by profession who, at the time the story opens, was living and working in partnership with him in the lakeside town of Capernaum.
And so it might have remained.
But this young man was sensitive to the plight of his people. He shared their sorrow and, like others, he looked for “the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25). He was on a quest and so became a disciple of John the Baptist.
And through John the Baptist, by the River Jordan, he met Jesus. “Behold, the Lamb of God”, said John. And Andrew and another disciple followed the pointing finger. “What are you looking for?” asked Jesus. “Rabbi, where are you staying?” “Come and see.” So, John chapter 1, verses 35 to 39. A little later, back in Galilee, Jesus walked past the two brothers casting their nets, and called them to follow him. They did immediately. “I will make you fishers of men”. So, Matthew chapter 4, verses 18 to 19. Andrew, then, is one of the first disciples. He is sometimes called the “protoclete”, Greek for “the first called”. In time he was appointed one of the twelve (cf. Mk 3:13ff.). Among them he seems to be one of the inner circle. In the four NT lists of the Twelve, he is always named second or fourth, one of the four closest disciples of Jesus. He was among the four who were privy to Jesus’ discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world (Mk 13).
There’s another strand too, noted especially by the Gospel of John. Andrew had the gift of bringing, introducing people to Jesus. He does not seem to have done this by great speeches or sermons, as a 1st c. tele-evangelist, so to speak. He did it simply, one to one or one with a few. After his meeting with Jesus, he tells his brother, “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41), and brings him to Jesus. And in that meeting, Simon becomes Cephas, the rock on which the Church is to be built. The rest is history. Later, in John chapter 6, St Andrew points out the boy with five loaves and two fish. By the power of Christ, this would feed a multitude. It presages the Eucharist. Later again, in John chapter 12, there were the Greeks who wanted “to see Jesus” at Passover time. They approached Philip, a Greek-speaker. Philip told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together tell Jesus. Again, he would lead them to Jesus who would see in them the future harvest of his death. Bringing his brother to Jesus, he was the first “home-missionary” (Jn 1). Bringing the Greeks, he was the first “foreign missionary” (Jn 12). It’s striking with what foundational events he connects: the call of Peter, the Eucharist, the conversion of the Gentiles.
Like the others, he must have run away at the time of Jesus’ arrest (cf. Mk 14:50). But like the others too, Judas aside, he was in the Upper Room that Easter Sunday evening (cf. Lk 24:36) and, with the others again, was filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1ff).
As to his life after Pentecost, his missionary course, there are many traditions. The one accorded most credence is that he evangelised in northern Greece and in what was then “Scythia”, now, among other places, the north-eastern Balkans and Ukraine, and was finally martyred in Patras, Achaea, on the western seaboard of Greece. A great Cathedral there honours his memory. Traditionally, he was martyred on a saltire cross. The Collect for the feast sums up these years in two words: praedicator, i.e. proclaimer, preacher, and rector, literally ruler, effectively pastor. In other words, he did what we presume all the apostles and early Christian missionaries did: gather and establish communities by preaching, creating small islands of faith in the Lord.
Church tradition holds that after the Resurrection and Pentecost, Andrew was sent to preach the gospel in Eastern Europe, in a region then called Scythia. It is believed he founded the church in what is today Constantinople – the Patriarch of Contantinople, the head of the Eastern Orthodox church is considered to be the successor of Saint Andrew.
Let us read an excerpt from the life of Saint Andrew, from the website of the OCA. We will read a passage focusing on his missionary journeys in Eastern Europe, and his eventual martyrdom there.
After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Saint Andrew went to the Eastern lands preaching the Word of God. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he reached the River Danube, went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, the Black Sea region and along the River Dniepr he climbed to the place where the city of Kiev now stands.
He stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those disciples that were with him: “See these hills? Upon these hills shall shine forth the beneficence of God, and there will be a great city here, and God shall raise up many churches.” The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land of the Varangians towards Rome for preaching, and again he returned to Thrace, where in the small village of Byzantium, the future Constantinople, he founded the Church of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew links the mother, the Church of Constantinople, with her daughter, the Russian Church.
On his journeys the First-Called Apostle endured many sufferings and torments from pagans: they cast him out of their cities and they beat him. In Sinope they pelted him with stones, but remaining unharmed, the persistent disciple of Christ continued to preach to people about the Savior. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the Lord worked miracles. By the labors of the holy Apostle Andrew, Christian Churches were established, for which he provided bishops and clergy. The final city to which the Apostle came was the city of Patra, where he was destined to suffer martyrdom.
The Lord worked many miracles through His disciple in Patra. The infirm were made whole, and the blind received their sight. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the illustrious citizen Sosios recovered from serious illness and Maximilla and Stratokles, the wife and brother of the governor of Patra, were healed. The miracles accomplished by the Apostle and his fiery speech enlightened almost all the citizens of the city of Patra with the true Faith.
Few pagans remained at Patra, but among them was the prefect of the city, Aegeatos. The Apostle Andrew repeatedly turned to him with the words of the Gospel. But even the miracles of the Apostle did not convince Aegeatos. The holy Apostle with love and humility appealed to his soul, striving to reveal to him the Christian mystery of life eternal, through the wonderworking power of the Holy Cross of the Lord. The angry Aegeatos gave orders to crucify the apostle. The pagan thought he might undo Saint Andrew’s preaching if he were to put him to death on the cross.
Saint Andrew the First-Called accepted the decision of the prefect with joy and with prayer to the Lord, and went willingly to the place of execution. In order to prolong the suffering of the saint, Aegeatos gave orders not to nail the saint’s hands and feet, but to tie them to the cross. For two days the apostle taught the citizens who gathered about. The people, in listening to him, with all their souls pitied him and tried to take Saint Andrew down from the cross. Fearing a riot of the people, Aegeatos gave orders to stop the execution. But the holy apostle began to pray that the Lord would grant him death on the cross. Just as the soldiers tried to take hold of the Apostle Andrew, they lost control of their hands. The crucified apostle, having given glory to God, said: “Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit.” Then a blazing ray of divine light illumined the cross and the martyr crucified upon it. When the light faded, the holy Apostle Andrew had already given up his holy soul to the Lord. Maximilla, the wife of the prefect, had the body of the saint taken down from the cross, and buried him with honor.
A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles beside the relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and Saint Paul’s disciple Saint Timothy.
Saint Andrew is thus an important saint today in those areas where he worked as missionary, in countries like Romania, Ukraine and Russia. He is also the patron saint of Scotland, although he likely never visited. His relics were brought to the town now known as St Andrews in Scotland. And there is a medieval legend about a Scottish king asking for St Andrews’ help during a difficult battle with the English, and Saint Andrew’s X-shaped cross appearing in the sky as confirmation that the battle would be won. Scotland’s flag, Saint Andrew’s cross on a blue background, is an allusion to this story. Let us hear a poem by Scottish poet George Mackay Brown, title Song for Saint Andrews’ day, about the spiritual significance of the saint to Scotland
Where were you, man
The night your brother sat, mocked
Among the soldiers and the servant girls?
I think Andrew was going like an otter
By secret paths, shoreward
Away from the terrible city
Out there, on an outcrop
Shaped like a skull
Go home along the coast,
Hide behind boat, rock, bothy
Be intent on the leap of a dolphin
Go north, still
Till lake water washes your feet
It is impossible
To wash words
Carved in the stone of the heart
Images cut deep there
Two fish on a hillside
The donkey, branches of olive and palm,
Wine casks at Cana
Fishermen with hands burned
From rasp of rope and rowlock
Out on the lake,
Who is the man in the last light,
At the fire-glimmer, on shore stones
Poaching fish in a pot?
It is the man they hooked
On the dead tree
Go, Andrew, take the fish image
To Rome and the cities
The star, the fish, the sun, the loaf, sacred images
They will make of you at last
A winter man
Tongueless, eyeless, no ear
Hearkening the shifts of tide, wind, shoal
The April fisherman
Rivet-gnarls on hands and feet
Where will he go now with his gladness?
The world is wide, to cast nets in
The Holy Spirit
Fills his coat like a sail
He speaks to fishermen on the Alpine lakes
He lingers by Belgian rivers
They listen, rough Breton fishermen
Minglings of sea-wit, laughter, gull-talk
6 Where are you taking me, Spiritus Sanctus?
On this cold ocean
I have seen the grandsons of Jonah’s whale
Gannet and bonxie
The small fish in silver armour, ‘herring’
Where are we bound, ruthless dove?
Well, I am content. This place will do
With sinners, saints, mostly
Gray minglings, like fish in a barrow.
Alba, Pictland, Scotia
The beach strewn with curraghs and sea-gear
They are bringing stones now
To be a house of Christ
I, Andrew, fisherman-doorkeeper
At home here, in a gray November end
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Andrew, first-called of the Apostles / and brother of the foremost disciple, / entreat the Master of all / to grant peace to the world / and to our souls great mercy.
Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God, / the namesake of courage, / the first-called of the Savior’s disciples / and the brother of Peter. / As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us: / “Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!”