My beloved spiritual children 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.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Holy Apostle Andrew. Fourth Tone
As first of the Apostles to be called, O Andrew, brother of him (Peter) who was foremost, beseech the Master of all to grant the world peace and our souls great mercy.
Kontakion Hymn of the Holy Apostle Andrew. Second Tone
Let us praise the namesake of bravery, the divinely eloquent and first to be called of the Disciples of Christ, the kinsman of Peter. As he called out to him in days of old, so now he calls to us, "come, we have) found Him for Whom we yearned."
THE LABORS AND PASSION OF THE HOLY APOSTLE ANDREW THE FIRST-CALLED
Saint Andrew, the First-Called Apostle of Christ, was a native of the city of Bethsaida, the son of a Hebrew named Jonah and brother of the holy chief of the Apostles Peter. Disdaining the vanity of this world and preferring virginity to wedlock, he did not wish to marry, and having heard that the Holy Forerunner and Baptist John was preaching repentance by the Jordan, he forsook all things and became his disciple. When his teacher pointed to Jesus as He passed by, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, (St. John, ch. 1) Andrew and another disciple, whom many believe to have been the Evangelist John (who wrote these things in his Gospel), left the Baptist and followed Christ. Saint Andrew knew from the books of the Prophets that Jesus was truly the long-awaited Messiah, so he hurried to his brother Simon Peter, to whom he declared, "We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ!" He then led St. Peter to Jesus. Afterwards, while he was fishing with Peter off the shore of the Sea of Galilee and Jesus called to them, saying, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (St. Matthew, ch. 4), Andrew dropped his nets and without delay obeyed the Lord's summons, following Christ together with his brother Peter. Thus St. Andrew is known as the First-Called because he became a follower of Jesus Christ before any of the other Apostles.
After the Lord's voluntary Passion and Resurrection, Saint Andrew, like the other Apostles, received the Holy Spirit, Who descended on him in the form of a tongue of fire. When the Apostles divided the countries of the earth among themselves, it fell to Saint Andrew to spread the Gospel in the lands of Bithynia, and the Propontis, in Chalcedon, Byzantium, Thrace, Macedonia, and as far as the Black Sea and the Danube, as well as in Thessaly, Hellas, Achaia, Amisus, Trebizonda, Heraclea, and Amastris. Saint Andrew did not merely pass through these lands and cities; he underwent numerous afflictions in every place where he preached Christ. Strengthened by the Lord's All-Powerful succor, he gladly endured every misfortune.
Saint Andrew preached in different parts of Georgia. The Mother of God is considered the principal protector and intercessor of Georgia since the country was first allocated to her to preach in. Though later, on the will of God, she gave her icon to the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called and dispatched him to preach the Gospel in Georgia. Saint Andrew went to the land keeping the Mantle of the Prophet Elijah, brought to Mtskheta by the Jews persecuted by Nabuchododonsor in the 6th century, and the seamless Chiton of Christ, greatest holy relic of the entire Christendom, also brought here by the Mtskheta Jews after crucifixion of Christ.
At that time there were two kingdoms on the territory of Georgia. Saint Andrew preached in different parts of Georgia. After preaching and baptizing people there, he left the Holy Mother of God's holy icon in Atskveri Village. The holy icon used to be kept at Atskveri Cathedral Church for many centuries.
Saint Andrew preached the Gospel together with Saint Simon of Canaan in Western Georgia.
In Byzantium, he appointed Saint Stachys as its first bishop; in Kiev, he planted a Cross on a high place and prophesied a bright Christian future for the Russian people; throughout Thrace, Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, he converted multitudes of people to the Faith and ordained bishops and priests for them. In the city of Patras, Greece, he performed many miracles in the name of Christ, and won many over to the Lord. Among the new faithful were the brother and wife of the Proconsul Aegeates. Angered at this, Aegeates subjected Saint Andrew to torture and then crucified him. While the Holy Apostle of Christ was still alive on the cross, he gave beneficial instructions to the Christians who had gathered around. The people wanted to take him down from the cross but he refused to let them. Then the Holy Apostle prayed to God and an extraordinary light encompassed him. This brilliant illumination lasted for half an hour, and when it disappeared, the Holy Apostle gave up his holy soul to God. Thus, the First-Called Apostle, the first of the Twelve Great Apostles to know the Lord and follow Him, finished his earthly course. Saint Andrew suffered for his Lord in the year 62 AD. His holy relics were taken to Constantinople by the Holy Martyr Artemius, at the behest of the Emperor Constantine the Great. They were place together with the remains of Saint Luke the Evangelist and Saint Timothy, the disciple of the Holy Apostle Paul, in the most splendid Church of the Apostles, beneath the sacred table of oblation.
"In Synope (Pontos, St. Andrew) prayed for the imprisoned Matthias, his chains fell from him, and the cell door opened. The people beat St. Andrew, breaking his teeth and cutting his fingers, and left him for dead in dung heap; Jesus appeared to him and healed him, telling him to be of good cheer. When the people saw him the next day, they were amazed and believed."
The Tradition of Saint Andrew in Cyprus.
In of his tours, tradition holds it that the Saint came to the island of Cyprus. The boat, which was traveling to Antioch from Joppa, shortly before passing the well-known cape and islands of the Apostle Andrew, known by the name "Keys" [Kleides]" had to stop there in a small harbor, because the wind lull. Over the last few days the water had disappeared. One morning, the master came to the island looking to find water, and he brought with him the Holy Apostle. Unfortunately there was no water anywhere. At some point, when they arrived in the middle of the two churches which exist today, the old and new, that is built a little higher, the Saint knelt in front of a dry rock and prayed to God to send water. He was seeking the miracle so that all those there would believe in Christ. Later he got up, signed the rock with the sign of the Cross and the miracle happened. From the root of the rock immediately came a spring of water, which runs until today in a pit of the old church and from there goes and comes from fountain near the sea. It is well-known Holy Water. The blessed water, which refreshed them, but also many others, whole myriads, who partook with faith and were cooled and consoled. First among these was the blind child of the captain.
He was one of the people on the boat who was brought by his father. He was born blind and grew up in a permanent darkness. He had never seen the light. Trees, plants, and animals he struggled to know by touch. That day, when the sailors returned with the bag full of water and explained how it was found on the island, a sweet light of hope lit in the heart of the poor child. Maybe this water, he thought, which emerged from the dry rocks after the prayer of that strange fellow, could grant him the light that he sought? Having come about miraculously, perhaps it could provide miracles. With this faith and deep hope the child asked for some water. He drank. He was burning from thirst. The Holy Apostle, who was there, rushed and gave the child a container full of the cool water. But the children preferred instead of cooling his lips with the water to wash his face with it. And miracle of miracles! Once the cool water hit the bulbs of the eyes of the child, the chronic darkness began to fall apart. And a light, cheerful light, began to wash the things around...
-"Father, father", the child began to shout then [ψαχουλεύοντας] and ran to find his father. And the captain who was startled by the voice of the child ran to the place where he heard the voice. When he reached the child he stopped, bent down and opened his arms.
-My child, what are you trying to say?-the father asked with terror.
-I see my father, I see! Look at me, I see the sea, people, the sails of our boat inflated. Father, the blessed water which that old man gave me to drink and wash, that granted me what I was seeking. My light, Father..."
After a short break that ended in tears and sobbing gratitude the captain stood up and said:
-'Child, go and find the pappouli [old man] you were talking about, so we can thank him for what he gave us!'
-"Not me"; said the Holy Apostle who approached. "Everyone should thank Christ. He gave us the water. He healed the child. He is the True God, Who became man and came to the world to save us!"
And the Holy Apostle, who everyone gazed on with admiration, began to speak and to teach the new religion. The end of the speech was very fruitful. All those who heard believed and were baptized. First was the captain with his child, who took the name Andreas. And then all the other passengers and some fishermen who were there. They all believed in Christ proclaimed to them by the Apostle and were baptized.
The Martyrdom of St. Andrew the First-called in Patras.
The Holy Skull (Kara) of the First-called seems to have remained in Patras. But when the Turks were to occupy the city in 1460, then Thomas Paleologos, brother of the last emperor Constantine Paleologos and last Master of Moria, took the valuable heirloom and moved it to Italy. There it was placed in the church of Saint Peter in Rome, where it remained until 1964. On September 26th of that year, a delegation from Pope Paul transferred from Rome the precious treasure and delivered it to its rightful owner, the Church of Patras. The Holy Skull of the First-called, after request of the Archdiocese of Cyprus in 1967 for a few days and thousands of Cypriots then, young and old, men and women, started from all four corners of the island and went to venerate the Holy Skull of Saint Andrew and show deep and pious reverence and gratitude for what he had provided the island.
Through the holy intercession of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-called, have mercy on us, O Lord, and save us. Amen.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God