Today, the Church celebrates the memory of St. Andrew the First-Called. The name Andrew means “manly”, and the Holy Apostle Andrew lived up to his name.
Having reached maturity, he left his parents’ plentiful house and joined the ranks of St. John the Baptist’s disciples.
Many Israelites were waiting for the Messiah and imagined Him as a hero who would free his people from the yoke of foreign nations and establish an invincible Jewish kingdom. This is what they expected from John the Baptist when he was speaking of the Messiah. To their disappointment, however, John urged them to be baptized and to repent, to be humble, to purify their hearts. He prophesied that the coming Messiah would not be a national hero, but the Redeemer, the spiritual reformer of humankind, who would open to the people their lost path towards joy and the unity of all in God.
Andrew, alien to the legalistic leaven of the Pharisees, heard the words of the Forerunner, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who will bear the sins of the world”, immediately followed Jesus, called him a Teacher and stayed with Him all day. Thus, Andrew, the son of Jonah the fisherman, became the first disciple of the Son of God. He invited to Christ his brother Simon, to whom Jesus gave the name of Cephas-Peter.
It wasn’t the final selection of Andrew and Peter yet. After their first meeting with Christ, they returned to their village of origin and, reflecting on the Divine Teacher, went fishing with their father in the Sea of Galilee. Having spent forty days in the desert and having been tempted by the devil, Christ returned to the sea to teach the people and heal the sick. On one of those days, He saw Simon Peter and Andrew throwing their nets into the sea again, and said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you catchers of men.” Without hesitation, both Simon Peter and Andrew left their nets, abandoned their father, and accepted the call for a worldwide apostolic ministry.
The Apostle Andrew, who is always focused, insightful, determined and courageous, speaks in the Gospels on particularly important and important matters.
“The hour has come to glorify the Son of Man… Whoever serves Me, let him follow Me.” When Andrew heard these words of Christ, he knew that he would not hesitate to follow the Divine Teacher – both in His crucifixion and in His evangelism. The commandment of the Ascended One, “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” prompted Apostle Andrew to go with the Good News of the Crucified and Risen One to those nations who were least likely to have any other preachers come to them.
Andrew visited Ephesus, accompanied Mary on Mount Athos, preached in Asia Minor, in the Greek regions of the Roman Empire, in the Scythian cities of the Caucasus, in Georgia, and in Kherson. He visited the vast areas of the Great Scythia – the present-day southern Russia, and reached the Kiev Heights, where he erected the Holy Cross, telling his companions that “the grace of God will shine on these mountains”, and even made it to the North of Russia, where the wondrous Valaam would later be located. In this way, our Russian land was illuminated with the light of Christ by the First-Called Apostle Andrew, a witness of the entire earthly life of our Savior, His suffering for the human race, and His Resurrection. The Church of Christ in Russia traces its origins back to Apostle Andrew.
The apostle Andrew finished his life on earth as a martyr. The Apostle Andrew looked at his X-shaped cross and exclaimed, “Rejoice, the Cross that Christ made holy… You used to be scary to people but now you are loved and accepted with pleasure… Therefore, I approach you with joy… Take me from the world of men and deliver me to my Teacher so that the One who redeemed me with you may receive me through you.”
“Obedience is better than sacrifice,” the Old Testament prophets said. Our Lord Jesus Christ blessed the feat of obedience with His whole life, “having been obedient even unto the death on the cross.” Saint Andrew, the Apostle of our homeland, who is the guardian of the suffering Russian Church and the patron saint of our faithful people, gives us an example of such obedience to God.
Let us resort to his and our New Martyrs of Russia’s prayerful intercession with a fervent heartfelt prayer: may the Almighty God revive the Orthodox Russia through the resurrection of Christ in our hearts and in the hearts of all our troubled people, thanks to Christ the Savior, to whom Andrew the First-Called led our distant ancestors for the first time. Amen.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds