Monday, November 30, 2009

St. Andrew, the first apostle

Today (November 30) is the feast of St. Andrew, the first disciple of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Liturgically, it is the day that determines when Advent begins, as the first Sunday in Advent is the day closet to St. Andrew's day.

We are first introduced to Andrew in John 1:35-42. "The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to Him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.  He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ).  He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, as said, "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (Which means Peter). (Revised Standard Version)

After Pentecost, many believe that Andrew went to Greece to preach the Gospel becoming the leader of the Christians stretching from Greece to what is today Istanbul in Turkey.  He was crucified in Achaia by order of the Roman Governor Aegeas during the reign of Emperor Nero.  He was tied, not nailed, to the "X" shaped cross in order to prolong his sufferings.  Bernard of Clairvaux, in a sermon he preached on this day in the year 1153, recorded Andrew as saying as he was being led to the cross, "O Cross long desired and now offered to my soul's desires! I come to you full of joy and assurance. Receive me then with gladness, for I am the disciple of Him who hung from your arms."  Tradition records that Andrew preached the Gospel for two days straight while on the cross, succumbing to death on the third day.  After his death, he was buried near Byzantium, which became Constantinople and is now Istanbul.

Many stories abound of what happened to his remains, but ultimately, they are reported to have been taken to what is today Scotland.  St. Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland as his "X" shaped cross is prominent on their flag.  Ultimately, his cross was adopted by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to remember the Scottish roots of the founders, Thomas and Alexander Campbell.  St. Andrew is the patron saint of fishermen, as he was a fisherman, and of the laity.  As the Disciples of Christ have a strong practice of ministry for the laity, the reasons to use his cross was further strengthened.

A Prayer for today: Lord, in your kindness hear our prayers.  You called Andrew to preach the Gospel and guide your Church in faith and courage. May his life and witness so empower us to speak the Truth with tender boldness.  Remember the ministry of all the faithful and guide the laity of your Church to claim their baptismal ministry to preach the Gospel, visit the sick and imprisoned and care for the poor.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

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