My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 30th of November
Our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates
the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called of
Andrew, the First-called holy Apostle of Christ, was the son of a Jew named Jonah and the brother of the holy preeminent Apostle Peter. He was a native of the Galilaean town of Bethsaida. Disdaining the vanity of the world and preferring virginity to matrimony, he declined to enter into wedlock; and, hearing that the holy Forerunner John was preaching repentance by the river Jordan, he left everything, went to him, and became his disciple. Andrew beheld the holy Forerunner while he was pointing to Jesus as He passed by and saying, "Behold, the Lamb of God (John 1;36). Saint Andrew, together with another disciple of the Forerunner (whom many consider having been the Evangelist John), left the Forerunner and followed after Christ. He sought out his brother Simon Peter and said to him, "We have found the Messiah (which is, being interpreted, the Christ) [John 1:41]. and brought him to Jesus. Afterward, when he was fishing with Peter off the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus called to them saying, "Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men [Matthew 4:19]. Andrew, immediately leaving his nets when he heard the Lord’s summons, followed after Christ with his brother Peter [Matthew 4:20]. Andrew is known as the First-called because he became a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ before any of the other Apostles.
After the Lord’s voluntary Passion and His Resurrection, the holy Andrew, with the rest of the Apostles, received the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, there appeared to the Disciples tongues, as if of fire, being distributed among them, it fell to him by lot to spread the Gospel in Bithynia, the Propontis, Chalcedon, Byzantium, Thrace, and Macedonia, all the way to the Black Sea, and the River Danube, as well as in Thessaly, Hellas, Achaia, Amisos, Trebizond, Herakleia, and Amastris. Saint Andrew passed through these lands and cities, preaching the Christian Faith. In each city, he had to endure much affliction and pain, but, fortified by the omnipotent help of God, he joyfully bore all such tribulations for Christ’s sake.
The holy Apostle undertook Apostolic labors and endured pangs in the spreading of the Gospel of Christ. He passed on through Pontus, the seaboard of the Black Sea. Scythia, and the Chersonese. By God’s Providence, he reached the River Dnieper in the land of Russia, and halting upon the shore beneath the hills of Kyiv, he lay down to rest. When he arose from sleep in the morning, he said to his disciples who had accompanied him, "Believe me on these hills the grace of God will shine forth. There will be a great city here, and the Lord will raise many churches in this place and enlighten all of the Russian lands with Holy Baptism." And ascending the hills, the Saint BLESSED THEM AND SET UP A CROSS, PROPHESYING THAT THE PEOPLE WHO DWELT THERE WOULD RECEIVE THE FAITH FROM THE APOSTOLIC SEE HE HAD ESTABLISHED IN BYZANTIUM.
Passing through the Russian cities which lay to the North, where Novgorod the Great now stands, he went on to visit Rome. Then he made his way to the Greek land of Epirus and eventually arrived in Thrace, firmly establishing the Christian in the Faith and ordaining bishops and leaders for them. After passing through many lands, he reached the Peloponneos, and, entering the Achaian city of Patras, he lodged with a certain respected man by the name of Sosios. He raised him up from his bed of sickness, and afterward, he converted the whole city of Patras to Christ.
While in the city of Patras the holy Apostle Andrew healed Maximilla, the wife of the Proconsul Aegeates from a grievous affliction of the eyes by placing his hand upon her and restored her to health. Aegeates brought forth a great sum of money and laid it at the feet of the Saint. The Apostle, however, refused the money. He desired only the repentance of the people of Achaia and Patras. He said to Aegeates, "Our Teacher said, ‘Freely ye received, freely give’ [Matthew 10:8]."
Shortly thereafter, the aforementioned Proconusu Aegeates went to Rome to appear before Caesar to submit a report of his administration and to recieve further orders. Upon his returned from Rome he discovered that his wife Maximilla had converted to Christianity by the holy Apostle. The Proconsul ordered his guard to arrest the Saint, while he considered what manner of death he should inflict upon him.
In Aegeates’ absence, Stratocles, his brother journeyd to Patras to act as administrator. Traveling with him was a trusted servant whom he loved as a brother but who suffered a violent epileptic seizure, brought on by the activity of the demons. This greatly distressed Stratocles, and he began to weep, for no physician was able to help him. When his sister-in-law Maximilla learned of this, said to him, "we have here in this city a foreign doctor, by the name of Andrew, who heals every sickness, and charges no fee and mentioned to him how he curred her. The wise and learned Stratocles of Athens summoned the Saint, and as soon as the holy Apostle entered his house–behold the miracle!–the demons departed and the servant recovered his health. When Stratocles and Maximilla beheld this miracle, they wanted no time disavowing their former impiety, and they glorified the True God and became Christians. They were baptized by the holy Apostle Andrew and cleaved unto him inseparably, desiring to hear his every word and teaching on the Christian Faith.
When Aegeates imprisoned Saint Andrew, Stratocles took Maximilla and they hastened to the prison, where the holy one was kept under guard. Upon entering Saint Andrew’s cell they fell at the Saint’s feet, imploring the Apostle to strengthen and support them in the True Faith of Christ. The holy Andrew exhorted them at length, and, afterward, he ordained Stratocles as Bishop of Old Patras. He then blessed them and sent them on their way in peace.
Aegeates commanded that the Saint be stretched out and beaten. And when those who beat him, three at a time, had alternated seven times, the holy one was set on his feet and brought before the judge. And the judge said to him, ‘Listen to me, O Andrew, and shed not thy blood in vain, for if thou wilt not obey me, I will crucify thee on a cross.’
To this the holy Andrew answered, ‘I am a slave of the Cross of Christ; and I desire death on a cross. That cast escape everlasting torment if, having tested my endurance, thou wilt believe in Christ; for I grieve over thy damnation more than my own sufferings. My sufferings shall end in a day, or two days at best; but thy sufferings shall not come to an end, even after a thousand years. Therefore, do not increase thy torments; kindle not for thyself everlasting fire.’
Enraged, Aegeates ordered that the holy Apostle Andrew be crucified on a cross, his hands and feet bound. He, at first, did not wish him affixed by nails, lest he should die in but a short time; for he thought that by hanging him bound, he might subject him to greater tortures. When the servants of the tyrant brought him to the place of crucifixion, the people assembled, crying out, "Wherein has this righteous man and friend of God sinned? Why are they leading him to crucifixion? But Andrew besought the people not to hinder his suffering. When he reached the place where he was to be crucified, espying at some distance the cross being prepared for him, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Hail, O cross sanctified by the flesh of Christ and adorned by His members as with pearls! Until the Lord was crucified upon thee, thuoo wast a thing abhorrent to men; but now they love thee and embrace thee with yearning… Accept me with glandness, for I am a disciple of Him Who was lifted up on thee… Take me from among men and give me to my Teacher, that, through thee, He Who redeemed me throough thee may receive me."
Saying this he removed his clothing and gave it to the torturers. They lifted him up on the cross, nailing and binding his hands and feet with cords, and thus they crucified him head-downward and suspended him. Around him stood a multitude of the people, about 20,000 of them… Afterward, the people went to the home of Aegeates, crying out to be taken down from the cross. Already the second dasy on the cross, he still teaches the truth. Aegeates fearing the people, wnt straightway with them to take Andrew down from the cross. But Andrew, seeing Aegeates, said, "…if thou hast come only to take me down from the cross, I do not wish to be taken from the cross alive; for I already see my King; I already worship Him; I already stand before Him. Yet I suffer for thee, because the everlastin perdition prepared for thee awaits thee. Take care of thyself while thou mayest, lest thou shouldest desire to begin when thou art no longer able to do so.’
When the servants went to unfasten him from the cross, they were unable to touch him. Indeed, a great many other people, one after another, tried to untie him, but were unable, because their hands became numb. Saint prayed to the Lord, "…O Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit in peace, for the time has come for me to go to Thee and look upon Thee Whom I have so ardently desired! Receive me, O Good Teacher, and do not permit me to be taken down over-soon from the cross, before Thou reeived my spirit!’
When he said this, a light like lightning from heaven illumined him in the sight of all, and shined round about him, so that the eye of corrupt man was unable to look upon him. This heavenly Light shined round him for the space of half an hour, and when the light departed, the holy Apostle Andrew surrendered his spirit and departed, amid brilliant Light, to stand before the Lord.
Maximilla, a woman of noble lineage, who lived a virtuous and holy life, when Andrew had departed to the Lord, took down his body with great honor. She embalmed it with costly ointments and laid it in the tomb in which she herself had intended to be interred.
When many years had passed, the holy relics of the Apostle Andrew were translated by the Martyr Artemios to Constantinople, commemorated by the holy Church on the 20th of October, a the command of the holy Emperor Constantine the Great, and enshrined with those of the holy Evangelist Luke, and Saint Timothy, the disciple of the holy Apostle Paul, in the most splendid Church of the Apostles, within the sacred table of oblation.
Through the prayers of Thine Apostle Andrew, O Christ God, do Thou establish Thy
faithful servants in Orthodoxy, and save us all. Amen. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George