The last day of November is the feast of Saint Andrew.   It also coincides with the beginning of Advent, the start of the new Church year.  This is appropriate as Andrew was the first disciple chosen by Jesus.  He was the brother of Peter, a fisherman from Capernaum in Galilee which was Jesus’ HQ for his mission of preaching and healing.   John’s Gospel describes his calling.

Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist and was with him when his master said of Jesus “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36).  Immediately, Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus, who said to them “What are you seeking?”.  When they asked where he was living, Jesus invited them to “Come and see”.  They spent the rest of the day in his company.  It was Andrew who introduced Simon to Jesus, who gave him the new name of Peter.

The fact that he was the first disciple called by Jesus is also significant for another reason.  The earliest Christian church – the Orthodox – have him as their first Church leader while we Catholics claim Peter.  Byzantine tradition (based on John 1:40), speaks of Andrew as PROTOKLETOS or “first called”.  Early church records recount that he carried out his mission in the area around the Black Sea while the most ancient written tradition links him with Greece.

After the fall of Constantinople to the Muslims in 1204, his body was taken to Amalfi, off the Italian coast.  His head was taken to Rome in the 15th century where it was greatly treasured and revered.  In September 1964, Pope Paul VI returned it to Greece as an act of respect towards the Greek Orthodox Church.  Yet another tradition speaks of a translation of his relics to Scotland in the 8th century.  They were supposedly taken to a place in Fife later known as the town of St Andrew where a church was built in his honour.   Hence the dedication of Scotland to St Andrew’s patronage since c750AD.

Saint Andrew

The tradition that the cross on which he was crucified was formed like an X can be traced only as far back as the 13th century.  In the Union Flag, it is this “Cross of Saint Andrew” (saltire), which represents Scotland.

The feast of St Andrew has been universal from the 6th century.  Since then there have been numerous churches dedicated to him throughout Europe.  Hexham and Rochester were the first of over 600 such church dedications in medieval England.  St Andrew is also the patron saint of Russia and there is a tradition, in Georgia, that he was the first to preach the Christian message there.  He may also have travelled to Syria and even Armenia, which claims to be the first country in the world to have adopted the Christian faith as its national religion.
Enough said.  Here endeth the history lesson!

Fr. Gerry McFlynn

Author Fr. Gerry McFlynn

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