Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. O holy Apostles, and all Saints, Intercede for us To be delivered from dangers and sorrows; For we have You as fervent Intercessors In the present of the Savior.
Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen
In your compassion we take refuge, O Theotokos, Do not overlook our requests and circumstances, But deliver us from dangers, For You are the only pure, the only Blessed.
THE SYNAXIS OF THE HOLY TWELVE APOSTLES
by Rev. Father George Mastrantonis
The Chosen Originators
Jesus Christ endowed His Church with Himself and His divine Message. He handed it down to His disciples, who constituted His Church. Jesus Christ selected from among them Twelve Apostles to carry on with authority His Gospel, and He sent them to preach it and to baptize converts all over the world:
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (St. Matthew 28:19-20).
The Holy Apostles organized the converts into groups called Churches. To these Churches the Holy Apostles handed down the treasure of the new Gospel, their eyewitness account of the Logos (Word) as they actually saw it take place, preserving it forever through the Church. This is the Gospel-The Tradition in the broad sense of the word-which we cherish today. Taking the Truth from the Apostles, the Orthodox Church is an "Apostolic" Church; it has its roots in the Apostolic ministry and succession, the apostolic Faith and Creed, and the Apostolic word and Scriptures by which the Holy Apostles and their immediate successors defended the Orthodox Faith and kept it undefiled against heresies and persecutions.
But who are these blessed Apostles who were chosen to hand down the new Gospel and establish the Church to which we belong today? Who empowered them to preach the Gospel and disregard all the threats which endangered and, in the end, took their lives? Who are these mighty personalities who were the instrumental figures behind the worldwide movement which has changed the pace of life of men thereafter?
Sometimes the voice of the past is the clearest and most vivid guide for the minds and hearts of men of today, taking them out of the confused values of this life. Sometimes the lives and deeds of men of the past are unforgettable and stand as light posts to illuminate the road for a future achievement. They stand as unshakable rocks on which the waves of disappointment of life lose their force and disappear. The Holy Apostles of Christ are both the rocks and the light posts for our life. To them, our ancestors in the Christian heritage and faith, this pamphlet is humbly dedicated, that both the writer and the reader might imitate their devotion and work and appreciate their convictions in Christ, "in Whom they lived and moved and had their being" (Acts 17:28).
The Greek word "apostle" conveys to us the meaning of messenger, delegate, envoy or collector of tribute paid to the temple service. In the Gospels the Twelve were simply to be Christ's envoys. As Jesus was sent by His Father, so the Apostles were sent by Jesus. Jesus Christ used contemporary terms for "apostle" and gave it His own content and interpretation stressing the idea of being "sent," which means that an Apostle is a man with a mission throughout his entire life.
Jesus Christ Himself gave the title "Apostle" to the Twelve in St. Luke 6:13 and St. Mark 3:14, "Whom he also named apostles." The term "apostle" ("απόστολος" or apostolos" in Greek; a derivative from "apostellein", meaning "to send") signifies a special mission. An apostle is the commissioner of the person who sent him. Therefore, the term apostle is more definite than the term messenger (in Greek "angelos"). The apostle does not merely transmit a message, but he works to put it into practice among the recipients, both to let them understand it aright and to apply its contents in their faith and life.
Jesus "Called" His Apostles
The First Approach
Some of the Twelve Apostles were disciples of the Forerunner of Christ, Saint John the Baptist. They were acquainted with the Scripture and the expectations of their master. When Saint John the Baptist was "looking upon Jesus as He walked, he said, "Behold the Lamb of God" (St. John 1:36). Saint Andrew, one of Saint John's disciples, with another, "heard Him speak, and they followed Jesus" (v. 37). They followed Him without asking.
Thus the Apostolic Church began. It was through their own efforts to find out and discover the truth for themselves. They persisted, and "came and saw where He (Jesus) dwelt, and abode with Him that day" (v. 39).
They had a long audience with Jesus. What did they discuss? We do not know. What we do know is that they came out of this sanctuary with, a definite faith in Him. He was the One they were expecting. Saint Andrew felt the impulse to express his belief to others. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah", which means Christ, and "he brought him to Jesus" (v. 42). Saint Andrew's act stands as an example for every disciple and apostle thereafter. First, the pure desire to seek the Truth; second, acquaintance with revelation and obedience to it; third, acceptance and conviction of the Truth, and then a full confession and proclamation of the faith. These acts make the Church a growing and moving entity.
After Saints Andrew and Peter and John, "one of the two", Jesus found St. Philip in Galilee, and called him to His crew; St. Phillip not only followed Him, but stated his conviction to Nathaniel, we have found Him of Whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote...come and see" (St. John 1:45, 46), and Nathaniel saw Him and believed in Him: "You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel," he exclaimed in words to be echoed by millions in the generations to come.
One day passed and five promising people were His devoted companions. Christ was no longer alone-except at His agony, and on the Cross.
Walking along the shore of the "sea of Galilee", which actually is a lake, Jesus met again the two brothers, Simon and Andrew, who were casting their nets. He commanded them now to follow Him and become fishers of men. At the same time and place Jesus found James and his brother John, fishers at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He called them to follow Him. All obeyed instantly (St. Mark 1:16-20). Jesus called Matthew, Levi, in the same way (St. Mark 2:16; St. Matthew 9:9) in Capernaum. He was a collector of taxes, probably of the customhouse of this city. Matthew left this position, bade farewell to his fellow officials and followed the Lord. What a challenge for us today-for the merchants and the while collar workers! They left work and home, pleasures and habits; they discarded the dreams of their youth and on the ruins built firmly a new fortress of defense and appeal. They demonstrated that an immutable conviction in the living God can move mountains.
What was the intention for calling these disciples? They were to capture men instead of fish, once they had passed through a period of training. He did not send them immediately on a special mission. The disciples were to take intensive training in divine attitudes, in the new interpretation of the Scriptures and in obedience to the Lord. They were invited to meet the new standards of moral life and to grow in courage to spread the Gospel and nourish its growth in mankind. The loyal Eleven have proven themselves worthy of the Mission. They have changed the orbit of the world in the Name of Jesus.
What was our Lord's aim in selecting His special group? Saint Mark states that the purpose was that they might be with Him so He might send them forth to proclaim the approach of the Kingdom of God, and so He could endow them with the power to heal and to exercise. Saint Mark (3:14, 15) records:
"He ordained twelve that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach and to have power to heal sickness and to cast out devils."
But the Lord's aim was more than that. It is described by Him on the eve of His death. He expected them to be His envoys on earth. Their supreme duty was to bear witness to Him; to teach the world how He lived, what He said, what He wrought. Jesus prayed for them: "As Thou have sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world" (St. John 17:18).
Christ "Sent" His Apostles
The Apostles spent less than three years with their Master. He called them "that they might be with Him" (St. Mark 3:14) to be trained and educated, and them "that He might send them forth to preach" the Gospel and minister unto the people. Their work between these two stages is in agreement. It has been changed only in the stages of advancement. But what a change! From pupils they became teachers; from followers of Christ, they became leaders, bringing people to Christ. They started as disciples and in three years advanced as Apostles. They visible Guide, their Lord, became the invisible One, "The Spirit of Jesus" (Acts 1:6, 7), always present as He was before.
Jesus Christ selected them after devoting one night in prayer for their ministry. After their training, Jesus prayed for them and their future, even up to a few moments before the arrest. The prayer was recorded by one of His Apostles. He empowered them with the Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost. The mighty Spirit as "tongues of fire" descended on the Apostles and transfigured their doubts and fears and attitudes in such a marvelous way that they became heralds of the new mission.
Their chief duty was to bear witness to the Savior Jesus Christ. His life, teaching, and atoning work, and especially to bear witness to Christ's Resurrection, "a witness to His Resurrection", "proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead." "And with great power the Apostles gave their testimony to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 1:22; 4:2, 23).
The ministry of the Holy Apostles was guided and blessed, and they were aware of this. They felt the presence of Christ and the companionship of the Holy Spirit in every step and turn of their work. Also, they were aware of their appointment. They were not presenting themselves, but were representing the Lord as Prophet, Priest, and King, with authority and effectiveness. They appointed their successors and thus established the special priesthood of the Church. In the Orthodox Church there is no ordination of deacon, priest and bishop without referring to the Holy Apostles through the lists of names of predecessors. Thus, the Apostolic Succession is very important not only for the teaching of the Church, but also for its sanctification. It is accepted in the Orthodox Church that the Bishops of the Church are the successors to the Apostles.
The Orthodox Church, upholds the Creed in which, for centuries, the beliefs of the Orthodox Christian Faith have been stated. In the ninth article of the Creed the Church is defined as "one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic". One for its unique Lord; Holy for its sanctification; catholic as preserving for all ("katholou") the whole truth, and Apostolic through its establishment by the Holy Apostles, whereby Scripture and Tradition refers to the Apostles and, through them, to Christ. The Church is the bulwark of the Truth because the Holy Apostles who established the Church trained and appointed its "Proestos" (religious leaders) and bequeathed to it the oral and written teachings. The Holy Apostles exercised in worship and prayer, in preaching and pastoral work, the New Testament of the Lord. By them and through them the believers of the Church, in the past and the present, rejoice in learning the atoning truth and will of the Living God.
The personal life of the Holy Apostles is not very well known. For some of them we know nothing except names. But their work remains for generations to come. It was their intention to carry on the Lord's work and will, rather than their own. From the fruits of their work we visualize their character and intentions.
Following is a biographical note in brief on each of the Holy Apostles. The names are taken from the list according to Saint Luke 6:12:
Simon, Peter. Born in Galilee, he was a fisherman and was named by Jesus Christ "Cephas" (in Greek, Peter), and called to be a fisher of men, an Apostle. He was present at the Transfiguration and at the Agony of Christ. When he professed his belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord promised that "Thou art Peter and on this rock will I build My Church", meaning on the rock of faith in the Savior. After the Ascension, St. Peter took the leadership of the Apostles. He spoke on the day of Pentecost and was the first to perform a miracle in the name of Jesus. Saint Peter is the founder of the Church of Antioch. He probably went to Rome and was crucified head downward during the reign of Nero (54-68 A.D.)
Andrew the First-Called. A disciple of Saint John the Baptist, Andrew heard him refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Andrew asked for an audience and saw Jesus for a day, then proclaimed, "We have found the Messiah." Eusebius the historian in his Church History states that Saint Andrew later went to Scythia. According to tradition he was martyred at Patras, Greece, crucified on an X-shaped cross, which since has become known as Saint Andrew's cross. He is regarded as being connected with the writing of Saint John's Gospel. According to tradition, he is the founder of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
James (the Greater). He was the son of Zebedee. He, with his elder brother John and with Peter, constituted the privileged group-the inner circle of the disciples. Saint James was present at the Transfiguration and the Agony in Gethsemane. His zeal was ardent and he and his brother were named by the Lord "Boanerges", which means "sons of thunder". Saint James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I in A.D. 44, the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom.
John. He was one of the inner circle with Saints Peter and James. The son of Zebedee and is the author of the Fourth Gospel, the Book of Revelation and three Catholic Epistles. He was imprisoned with Saint Peter and later appeared in the Sanhedrin. Saint John was sent with Saint Peter to Samaria, where they prayed that the converts might receive the Holy Spirit. In Jerusalem, he was present at the Council of the Apostles. Saint John was "one of the two" with Saint Andrew who first had an audience with the Lord. He was the one "whom Jesus loved" and was reclined on his bosom at the Mystic Supper.
Jesus from His Cross entrusted His Holy Mother to Saint John at the foot of the Cross. He was the one who ran with St. Peter to the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection, and who recognized the Risen Lord at the Sea of Tiberius, where our Lord spoke to him the words that he would not die (St. John 21:7). According to tradition, he went to Asia Minor and settled in Ephesus. Later he was exiled to the island of Patmos, Greece or the island of the Apocalypse.
Phillip. He is the Apostle from Bethsaida who obeyed the call of Jesus and led Nathanael to Christ. At the feeding of the 5,000 people, Jesus said to Phillip to buy bread, and Phillip answered Him, "Two hundred denarri would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." Phillip on another occasion asked Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father" and Jesus retorted, "Yet you do not know Me Phillip?" Saint Phillip the Apostle should not be confused with Phillip, one of the Seven Deacons. The Apostle Phillip preached the Gospel in Asia and suffered crucifixion, according to tradition.
(to be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God