November 30 – Andrew the Apostle

Andrew the Apostle, the First-Called (I cent.) was the brother of Simon Peter the first Pope of Rome. His name comes from the Greek Ἀνδρέας, “Andreas,” meaning “manly” or “brave.” He is also called Ο Πρωτοκλητος, or “the first-called,” because his phone number was at the top of Jesus’ Rolodex. Of course I kid. Because he was the first apostle to be called by our Lord. In John’s Gospel, the disciples of John the Forerunning Baptist were standing around, doing whatever it was disciples did, when Jesus walked by. John pointed to him and said, “Lamb of God at twelve o’clock!” Immediately a detachment (of two) broke off the main wing and flew after him. Andrew (for he was one of them) said, “I gotta tell Peter about this!” He ran and found the future pope and dragged him to where our Lord was staying. “Messiah at twelve o’clock!” he said.

In Matthew’s gospel, our Lord sees Andrew and Peter fishing and calls them to be fishers of men. Andrew gets a couple of mentions further along in the Gospels. It is he, for instance, who finds the boy with the basket of loaves and fishes in the Feeding of the 5,000, which tells you that even after he hung up his nets, he was still catching fish. Do you suppose if he had been a goatherd, he would have found a boy with a basket of goat jerky? Don’t be absurd.

After our Lord went up and the Holy Spirit came down (as admirably recounted in Luke’s Gospel and its sequel The Acts of the Apostles: A History in Twenty-Eight Chapters), Andrew was chosen to take the gospel northeastward. It is told in the East that he made it as far as Kyiv (Kiev), or where it would one day be, and set up a cross, telling his disciple, “This hill. Future city.” (If he found the caves, we are not told so.) The legend has him continuing to the future site of Novgorod and saying much the same thing (perhaps adding “great” between “future” and “city”), before returning to Rome and thence to the tiny city of Byzantium, where he founded a church. For this reason he is the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Some call this city “Istanbul” now, but not loudly at a Greek festival, if they know what’s good for them.

In all his wanderings, Andrew performed many healing miracles. In Patras, for instance, we know the names of many of the illustrious citizens he healed from various ailments. Or rather, I do. He preached the Gospel to the prefect of that city, but Aegeatos (for that was his name), remained unmoved. When he had had enough, he ordered that Andrew be crucified. (“Being annoying” was a capital offense in those days.)

Andrew was tied up on a cross (no nails; apparently this would make him die more slowly). For a few days he taught the people who crowded around his feet. “This could get ugly,” Aegeatos thought, so he ordered the apostle taken down lest a riot break out. But when the soldiers came to untie him, they suddenly found that their hands had proclaimed a work stoppage. A searing and presumably Uncreated Light illuminated the saint’s body, and when everybody could see again, he was dead. Maximilla, Aegeatos’ wife (one of the healees), had the body taken down and buried with honor. According to Jerome it was later moved to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. Andrew’s relics now reside in Patras and numerous other places, including Edinburgh and Warsaw. His head is in one of the four central pillars (we’re not telling which) in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, and that symbol, called the Cross of St. Andrew (in heraldry, “saltire”), appears on the flag of Scotland, of which (with myriad other places as well as fishermen and ropemakers) Andrew is the patron saint.