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.
THE THIRTIETH DAY OF THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER
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 river, 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. Andrew knew from the books of the prophets that Jesus was truly the long-awaited Messiah, so he hurried to find his brother Simon Peter, to whom he declared, "We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ!" He then led Peter to Jesus. Afterwards, while he was fishing with Peter off the shore of the Sea of Galilee and Jesus called 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 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 holy Apostles, received the Holy Spirit, Who descended on him in the form of a tongue of fire. When the holy 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 (Greece), Achaia, Amisus, Trebizond, 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.
Especially great sufferings befell Saint Andrew in the city of Sinope. There the people cast him to the ground, bound him hand and foot, and dragged him about, beating him with switches and stoning him all the while. Although they severed his fingers and shattered his teeth, he was made completely whole by the grace of his Savior and Teacher. After leaving that city, St. Andrew continued on his way to Neo-Caesarea, Samosata, and the countries of the Alans, Abchasians, Zychians, and Bosporians. From there he sailed to Byzantium, where he was the first to preach Christ. He instructed many in the faith there, ordained presbyters, and consecrated as bishop Stachys, whom Saint Paul mentions in his Epistle to the Romans.
Then, returning to the apostolic labor of spreading the Gospel of Christ, St. Andrew passed through Pontus, the lands bordering the Black Sea, Scythia, and the Chersonese. By God's providence he reached the river Dnieper in the land of Russia, and halting beneath the hills of Kiev, said to those with him, "Do you see these hills? Believe me: on them the grace of God will shine, and a mighty city will rise. God will cause many churches to be built here and will enlighten the future land of Russia with Holy Baptism." As he climbed the hills, the Saint blessed them, and he set up a cross, prophesying that the people who dwelt there would receive the faith from the apostolic see which he had established in Byzantium.
After passing through towns in the north, in the region where Novgorod the Great now stands, St. Andrew continued on to Rome and Epirus. Then he returned to Thrace where he confirmed the Christians in the faith, appointing bishops and teachers for them. Having traveled through many other lands, he reached the Peloponnesus, and entering the city of Patras, a city of Achaia, lodged with an honorable man named Sosius, whom he raised up from his bed of sickness. As a result of this miracle, St. Andrew succeeded in converting the entire city of Patras to Christ in a short time. The holy Apostle also restored the health of Maximillia, wife of the Proconsul Aegeates. After her healing, she also came to believe in Christ. Likewise, the wise Statocles, the Proconsul's brother, and many others were healed when the holy Apostle laid his hands on them. Because of this, Aegeates became very angry, seized the holy Apostle, and commanded that he be crucified. Concerning these things the presbyters (priests) and deacons of the land of Achaia wrote the following:
"We, the presbyters and deacons of the Church of Achaia, write to all churches of the East, West, South, and North to tell of the Passion of the Holy Apostle Andrew, which we beheld with our own eyes. Peace be unto you and to all who believe in the one God, perfect in Trinity: the true, unbegotten Father; the true begotten Son; and the true Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son! This is the faith we were taught by the holy Andrew, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, whose suffering we beheld and wish to relate, as much as we are able.
Aegeates ordered that St. Andrew be imprisoned. Learning of this, a multitude of people assembled, intending to slay Aegeates and to release the holy Apostle from the dungeon, but Saint Andrew admonished them, saying, "Do not exchange the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ for diabolical tumult, for when our Lord was delivered over to death, He showed patience in every respect. He did not argue, nor cry out, nor did His voice sound in the streets; therefore, you also ought to remain silent and calm. Not only do I forbid you to hinder my martyrdom, but I exhort you to prepare yourselves, as good athletes and warriors of Christ, for the persecutors' threats and to ready your bodies for wounds. If you cannot help but feel fear of torments, fear those that have no end. The threats of men are like smoke, which vanishes immediately after it appears. If you must fear sufferings, fear those that, once they begin, have no end. Transitory sufferings are easily borne, if they are not severe, and if they are very grievous, they come quickly to an end, releasing the soul from the body. But terrible are the eternal torments in that place where there is unceasing weeping, wailing, and lamentation, where Aegeates, who has no fear of everlasting tortures, is bound! Prepare yourselves to endure temporary sufferings so that you may be translated to the place where you will ever rejoice and flourish and reign with Christ."
"Saint Andrew passed the entire night teaching the people. The next morning the Proconsul Aegeates sat on his judgment seat and ordered that Saint Andrew be brought before him. He said to the holy Apostle, 'Do you agree to cease your foolish preaching of Christ, that you may enjoy the present life with us? It is utter insanity to surrender yourself to torture and fire voluntarily.'"
"Answered the Saint, 'I would much prefer to see you believe in Christ and reject the idols. This would bring me true joy! It was Christ that sent me to this land, and I have gained many people for Him here.'"
"Aegeates then commanded that the Saint be stretched out and beaten. St. Andrew's floggers were divided into groups of three, each of which thrashed him seven times. After this the Saint was returned to the judge, who urged him, 'Hearken unto me, Andrew, and do not let your blood be shed uselessly! If you refuse to obey me, I will have you crucified.'"
"Saint Andrew answered, 'I am the slave of the Cross of Jesus Christ. I do not fear death by crucifixion, but desire it! Yet even after you have tried my endurance, you can escape eternal torment by believing in Christ. I grieve more over your perdition than over my sufferings, for my tribulations will end in a day, or two days at most, but your sufferings will not cease even after a thousand years. Therefore, do not kindle for yourself everlasting fire or add to the torments that await you.'"
"Enraged, Aegeates ordered that Saint Andrew be crucified. He did not wish the Apostle to die quickly, but as slowly and painfully as possible, so he had his hands and feet tied to the cross rather than nailed to it.
"As the servants of the persecutor led the Saint to the place of execution, the people cried out, 'How has this righteous man, the friend of God, sinned? Why is he to be crucified?'"
"Andrew entreated the crowd not to hinder his suffering, and went to meet his end gladly, teaching the people without interruption. He caught sight of his cross from some distance away and cried out in 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, thou wast a thing abhorrent to men, but now they love thee and clasp thee with yearning, since the faithful know that thou art a token of great joy and that a rich reward is prepared for those who endure thee!...Long have I sought for thee, and now I have found thee, the desire of my heart. Take me from among men and convey me to my Teacher and Redeemer!'"
"After saying this, St. Andrew removed his clothing and gave it to his tormentors. Having bound his hands and feet to the cross with cords, they lifted him up. Abut twenty thousand people stood watching, among whom was Stratocles, Aegeates' brother. He cried out with the others, 'This holy man suffers unjustly!' But St. Andrew continued to strengthen those who believed in Christ and exhorted them to endure every transitory affliction, teaching them that no suffering can be compared with the reward earned by it.
"On the second day of St. Andrew's crucifixion, the crowd went to Aegeates' house and cried, 'Remove our good, kind, meek, and wise teacher from the cross! Such a holy and honorable man does not deserve to suffer! Though he has been hanging on the cross for two days, he still does not cease to teach the truth.'"
"Fearing the people, Aegeates hastened to take St. Andrew down; but when St. Andrew saw the Proconsul with his servants, he said, 'Why have you come here, Aegeates? If you wish to believe in Christ, the doors of grace will be opened to you, as I promised. But if you have come only to remove me from the cross, know that I do not wish to be brought down alive. Already I behold and worship my King; already I stand before Him...'"
"The servants could not succeed in untying the Saint. One after another, they tried to loose him, but were unable, because their hands at once became numb. Meanwhile, Saint Andrew cried with a loud voice, 'O Lord Jesus Christ, do not permit me to be taken down from the cross upon which I have been suspended for Thy name's sake! Receive me, O my Teacher, whom I love, Whom I know, Whom I confess, Whom I long to see, through Whom I have become what I am! O Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit in peace, for the time hath come for me to go to Thee, Whom I so wish to behold! Receive me, O good Teacher, and do not allow me to be taken down from the cross until Thou has accepted my spirit!' As Saint Andrew spoke, a light resembling lightning flashed upon him from heaven in the sight of all. So brilliantly did it shine around him that the corruptible eyes of man could not bear to gaze upon him. The heavenly light continued to shine for about half an hour, and when it vanished, the spirit of the Holy Apostle Andrew departed and went to stand in the Light of the Lord.
Saint Andrew the great and first-called Apostle was crucified on a cross in the shape of an "X," the first letter of "Christ" in Greek; this cross is also the symbol of Saint Andrew.
"Maximillia, the chaste, holy, and noble wife of the Proconsul, who has come to believe in Christ, learned that Saint Andrew had departed unto the Lord. She took down his body from the cross with great reverence, and anointing it with costly ointments, placed it in her own tomb.
"These things took place on the last day of the month of November of 62 A.D,, in the Greek city of Patras in Achaia, where, even till the present day, many blessings are bestowed on the people through the prayers of the holy Apostle Andrew. The fear of God came upon everyone living in the city, and there was no one there who did not believe in Christ, Who desires to save all men and to lead them to the knowledge of the Truth (1 Timothy, ch. 2). Unto Him be glory unto the ages of ages, Amen."
A few centuries later, under the Emperor Constantine the Great, the holy relics of the Holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to the city of Constantinople and place in the church of the Holy Apostles beside the holy relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and Saint Paul's disciple St. Timothy.
During the sack of Constantinople in the 13th century, the Crusaders of the Latin (Roman Catholic) church, took the holy relics of St. Andrew back to Italy. The holy relics, which consist of the small finger, part of the top of the cranium of St. Andrew and small parts of the cross. In 1964, as a gesture of good will, Pope Paul VI presented St. Andrew's skull (kara) back to the Greek Orthodox Church, and then in 1980, parts of the X-shaped cross. The holy relics of Saint Andrew are kept in the church of Saint Andrew at Patras, Greece in a special shrine, and are revered in a special ceremony every November 30th by the Orthodox Christians.
The new church of Saint Andrew erected in the city of Patras is in the Byzantine Basilica style, was founded by king George the 1st, and it was consecrated in 1974 by Metropolitan Nicodemus. The church of Saint Andrew of Patras is considered to be the largest church in the Balkans, and it can fit inside a total of 5,500 faithful.
Apolytikion of the Holy Apostle Andrew. Tone Four
Andrew, first-called of the Apostles and brother of the foremost disciple, entreat the Master of all to grant peace to the world and to our souls great mercy.
Kontakion of the Hholy Apostle. Tone Two
Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God, the namesake of courage, the first-called of the Savior's disciples and the brother of Peter. As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us: "Come, for we have found the One Whom the world desires!"
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.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God