• Saint Andrew the First Called Apostle of our Lord

    On November 30th, the Orthodox Church celebrates Saint Andrew the First Called Apostle of our Lord.

    Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Romania.

    Andrew the Apostle was one of Christ’s twelve disciples. He came from Bethsaida, a town located on the western bank of Lake Tiberias. He worked in the family business run by his father, Jonah, which was based on the rich fishing to be had in the lake. From their occupation, we can deduce that they were a prosperous and well-to-do family.

    Some people have the impression that the disciples were poor and illiterate fishermen. But being fishermen did not prevent them from receiving some education, which, in those days, was not a profession. People could do manual work and still be educated. Fisherman was not necessarily equivalent to illiterate. Saint Paul was highly educated, but was still a tent-maker.

    Andrew and his brother Peter were disciples of Saint John the Baptist and followed his teachings. It was he who pointed out the Lord to them, saying: “Behold, the Lamb of God”. They were so impressed that they followed Jesus; not to become His disciples, but to talk to Him and to acquire personal experience of the Person Whom their own teacher said was superior to him. They talked in private, in a house where the Lord was staying, though we have no information as to what was said. All we know is that Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter was one of the two who had heard John and followed Him. This was a first acquaintance. As we know from the Gospels, the Lord did not begin His public ministry until after the arrest and imprisonment of the Forerunner.

    The actual call of Andrew and Peter came on the banks of Lake Tiberias, with the words “Come after me and I will make you fishers of people. And they left their nets and followed Him”. Andrew was called first by the Lord, hence his title “First-Called”. In the New Testament, Andrew is present at the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, at the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, and at the encounter between the Lord and the pagan Greeks. Saint Mark the Evangelist presents Saint Andrew, together with three others disciples, as asking the Lord when the prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem would be fulfilled. We have information concerning Saint Andrew’s activities from the apocryphal Gospels, Acts and Martyria, which describe them in the style of a novel.

    The information above was used by Church authors, who mention that Saint Andrew preached the Gospel in Scythia. The Russians link the spread of Christianity there with the First-Called Disciple. Church sources in the 4th century tell of his activity in Epirus and his martyrdom in Achaia.

    Saint Andrew was considered the founder of the Church of Byzantium, later to become the Great Church of Christ, and that, in fact, he consecrated Stachys, one of the Seventy Apostles, to be its first bishop.

    At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the memory of the holy Saint Apostle Andrew has been observed with a Patriarchal and Synodal Liturgy since 1759 because, in an encyclical of 8/11/1759, the then Patriarch, Serafeim II (1757-1760), established a festal celebration of the saint’s day.

    Saint Andrew is considered the patron saint of Patras, because of his activities and his martyr’s death. He drew to Christ Maximilla, the wife of the Roman proconsul Aegeatus, and it was she who buried the saint’s relics, assisted by Bishop Stratoklis, whom Saint Andrew had consecrated Bishop of Old Patras. Many years later, in the year 357, his sacred relics were transferred to Constantinople- though probably not in their entirety- and were deposited in the church of the Holy Apostles. Emperor Basil I the Macedonian returned the honourable skull to Patras and it remained there till 1460. Thomas Palaiologos then took it to Italy, after the capture of the Peloponnesus by the Turks. He presented it to Pope Pius II, who deposited it in the church of Saint Andrew which had been built in Rome. In 1964, the holy skull was returned to Patras and is now housed in the magnificent church which was built in honour of the city’s patron saint.

    On the Holy Mountain, there is a magnificent feast at the Skete of Saint Andrew (the Seraï, near Karyes), which belongs to the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi.

    In Cyprus, the Apostle Andrew is particularly popular. The monastery of Karpasia, in the occupied territories, links him to its history and tradition. In the first century, the saint passed through the region where the monastery is built and struck a spring of holy water. At some later stage, the blind child of a sea captain was cured and the latter had a church built in honour of the apostle. Today’s monastery has been well-known since 1855 when Fr. Ioannis Diakou, from Rizokarpaso, who is considered to be the founder, built the new church which was inaugurated by Archbishop Sofronios on 15 August, 1867.

    The tradition of the saltire in relation to Saint Andrew is of Western origin, from the 12th/13th centuries. Because of the translation of his relics to Sicily in the 11th century, he is considered the protector of the island.

    All the martyrologies accept 30 November as the date of Saint Andrew’s death, though the year is unknown. It is likely that he was put to death in the last years of the reign of Nero, after the execution of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

    Through the prayers of Your Apostle, Christ our God, have mercy upon us. Amen!

    Alexandros Christodoulou

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  • The Entrance into the Temple

    It seems thousands of years removed from us, but it was not so very long ago that life was marked out by religious feasts. Although everyone went to church, not everyone, of course, knew the exact contents of each celebration. For many, perhaps even the majority, the feast was above all an opportunity to get a good sleep, eat well, drink and relax. And nevertheless, I think that each person felt, if not fully consciously, that something transcendent and radiant broke into life with each feast, bringing an encounter with a world of different realities, a reminder of something forgotten, of something drowned out by the routine, emptiness and weariness of daily life.

    Consider the very names of the feasts: Entrance into the Temple, Nativity, Epiphany, Presentation, Transfiguration. These words alone, in their solemnity, their unrelatedness to daily life and their mysterious beauty awakened some forgotten memory, invited, pointed to something. The feast was a kind of longing sigh for a lost but beckoning beauty, a sigh for some other way of living.

    Our modern world, however, has become monotonous and feastless. Even our secular holidays are unable to hide this settling ash of sadness and hopelessness, for the essence of celebration is this breaking in, this experience of being caught up into a different reality, into a world of spiritual beauty and light. If, however, this reality does not exist, if fundamentally there is nothing to celebrate, then no manner of artificial uplift will be capable of creating a feast.

    Here we have the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple. Its subject is very simple: a little girl is brought by her parents to the temple in Jerusalem. There is nothing particularly remarkable about this, since at that time it was a generally accepted custom and many parents brought their children to the temple as a sign of bringing them into contact with God, of giving their lives ultimate purpose and meaning, of illumining them from within through the light of higher experience.

    But on this occasion, as the service for the day recounts, they lead the child to the “Holy of Holies,” to the place where no one except the priests are allowed to go, the mystical inner sanctum of the temple. The girl’s name is Mary. She is the future mother of Jesus Christ, the one through whom, as Christians believe, God himself came into the world to join the human race, to share its life and reveal its divine content. Are these just fairy tales? Or is something given to us and disclosed here, something directly related to our life, which perhaps cannot be expressed in everyday human speech?

    Here was this magnificent, massive, solemn temple, the glory of Jerusalem. And for centuries it was only there, behind those heavy walls, that a person could come into contact with God. Now, however, the priest takes Mary by the hand, leads her into the most sacred part of the Temple and we sing that “The most pure Temple of the Savior is led into the temple of the Lord.” Later in the Gospels Christ said, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” but as the Evangelist added, “He spoke of the temple of His Body” (Jn 2: 19, 21).

    The meaning of all these events, words and recollections is simple: from now on man himself becomes the temple. No stone temple, no altar, but man — his soul, body and life — is the sacred and divine heart of the world, its “holy of holies.” One temple, Mary — living and human — is led into a temple made of stone, and from within brings to completion its significance and meaning.

    With this event religion, and life even more so, undergoes a complete shift in balance. What now enters the world is a teaching that puts nothing higher than man, for God Himself takes on human form to reveal man’s vocation and meaning as divine. From this moment onward man is free. Nothing stands over him, for the very world is his as a gift from God to fulfill his divine destiny.

    From the moment the Virgin Mary entered “the Holy of Holies,” life itself became the Temple. And when we celebrate her Entrance into the Temple, we celebrate man’s divine meaning and the brightness of his high calling. These cannot be washed away or uprooted from human memory.

    Source: Pemptousia

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