July 4 – Andrew of Crete; Elizabeth of Portugal

Andrew of Crete (ca. 650–712 or 726 or maybe even 740) was mute until he was seven years old, when he was miraculously healed upon receiving the Eucharist. At fourteen he moved to the Lavra* of St. Sabbas, whence he was plucked and archdeaconified by the Patricarch of Jerusalem (well, the locum tenens, meaning “crazy resident”). He was sent as representative of same to the Sixth Ecumenical Council (or Third Council of Constantinople, as it is known amongst its more intimate friends). This is the council, you will recall, that condemned Monothelitism, the heresy that claimed Jesus had only one will (I think I’ve about exhausted all the puns I can safely make on that one). After that he became archdeacon at Hagia Sophia, then bishop of Gortyna on Crete (no, not “Gotye” although he did compose the hit hymn “Some Martyr That I Used to Know”). (Okay, he didn’t.)

But it is indeed for his hymns, rather than his ecclesial offices, that he is best known. Andrew is credited with the invention of the Canon, which blew away (pun intended) shorter hymnodic (not to be confused with hypnotic) forms. The Canon comprises nine (or eight) short canticles, followed by a series of troparia (strophes (sort of)) on the day’s saint(s) or feast(s). His “Great Penitential Canon,” at 250 troparia the longest yet composed (no, that’s not a challenge), is sung during the Compline services in the first week of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church (and, I believe, the Byzantine Catholic rites). It mines the Old and New Testaments for verses and tropes urging the soul to repentance, which seems Lenten enough. Shorter (much shorter) canons are sung during Matins services year ’round. Andrew was also known as a forceful preacher—some of his sermons for specific church feasts survive, and indeed in some quarters positively thrive.

He was present at the conciliabulum (“since-discredited synod”) of 712, which overturned the aforementioned Sixth Ecumenical Council. When the conciliabulum itself was overturned[1], it was determined that he was there under duress, and all was forgiven. He died of unspecified “natural causes” on the island of Mytilene while on a layover en route to Crete from Constantinople. His relics found their way back to the capital, as relics sometimes do.

Hosea the Prophet (VIII cent. BC(E)) was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom, who (like most of the post-exilic prophets) prophesied a disastrous incursion of foreigners if the Israelites didn’t get their act together. His name means “Salvation,” or maybe “He saves,” or maybe “He helps.” You get the general idea. His book is included in the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible, and starts with a command from God to “take a wife of whoredom.” His chosen whoredomy wife was Gomer, who bore him multiple children, to which God commanded him to give strange, punny names. Example: Loammi, from the Hebrew “lo ammi” or “not my people,” which God said applied to the Israelites because they were such nogoodniks, for values of “nogoodniks” equaling “worshipers of other gods.” Although of course they may not have been Hosea’s children; she was a wife of whoredom, which is to say an adultress. God, in speaking with Hosea, hammered pretty hard on this point, comparing Gomer’s dalliances with Israel’s worship of other gods. “How does that make you feel?” He says between the lines. “That’s how you guys make me feel when you worship other gods.”

Some of Hosea’s prophetic utterances were taken by the early church to be messianic (i.e. apply to the Messiah, i.e. Jesus), such as “Out of Egypt I have called my son” (Hosea 11:1, Matt 2:15), and “In the third day he will raise us up” (Hosea 6:2).


[1] Strictly speaking it wasn’t a conciliabulum until after it was overturned, but logic shmogic.