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 LIFE OF THE HOLY APOSTLE ANDREW (Part II)
"Speak of these things to those who wish to hear you!" Aegeates said when Andrew concluded. 'But if you do not sacrifice to the gods, I will have you beaten with staves and the crucified upon the cross which you so glorify.'
"Andrew responded, 'Every day I offer to the One True, Omnipotent God not the smoke of incense, nor the flesh of bullocks, nor the blood of goats, but the spotless Lamb Who was offered in sacrifice upon the altar of the Cross. All The faithful partake of His Most Pure Body and Blood, but the sacrificed Lamb remains whole and alive.'
"How can this be?" mocked Aegeates.
"If you wish to understand," answered Andrew, 'become a disciple.'
"Said Aegeates, 'I will extract knowledge of it from you by torture!"
"The Apostle declared, 'I am amazed that you, a learned man, speak so foolishly. Do you suppose that you can learn God's mysteries by torturing me? I have already explained to you the mystery of the Cross. If you wish to believe in Christ, the Son of God, Who was crucified by the Jews, I will repeat how it is that He was slain and yet lives, was sacrificed and is eaten, but still remains alive and whole in His Kingdom.'
"Aegeates then became very angry and ordered that Andrew be imprisoned. 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 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 commanded that the Saint be stretched out and beaten. 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, 'Listen to 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 suffering 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. Saint 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. About twenty thousand people stood watching, among whom was Stratocles, Aegeates' brother.
"On the second day of Saint 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 Saint Andrew down; but when Saint 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 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 out 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 has 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 prayed, a light resembling lightning flashed upon him from heaven in the sight of all. So brilliantly did it shine around him that the corruptible eye 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 departed and went to stand in the Light of the Lord.
"Maximillia, the chaste, holy, and noble wife of the Proconsul, who had 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, in the city of Patras in Achaia, Greece, where, even till the present day, many blessings are bestowed on the faithful Christians through the prayers of the Holy Apostle. The feat 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. Unto Him be glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Many years later, the holy relics of the Holy Apostle Andrew were translated to Constantinople by the holy Martyr Artemius, at the behest of the Emperor, Saint Constantine the Great. They were placed 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 Holy Apostles, beneath the sacred table of oblation.
Through the prayers of Thine Apostle, O Christ God. confirm Thy faithful in Orthodoxy, and save us! Amen. (Source: The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints. Translated from the Slavonic edition published by the Christian Printshop of the Transfiguration Alms-House in Moscow in the year 1914 from the original compiled by Saint Demetrius of Rostov and published in Kiev.)
Saint John Chrysostom wrote the following on the Holy Apostles: "Astonishing are the methods of which they make use; new and previously unseen their gear. With them, preaching replaces the rod; their recollections of Christ, the fishing-line; the might of grace, the hook; miracles, bait; and the heavens from which they cast their line, the rock at the water's edge. Their ship is the holy altar; instead of fish, their catch is kings. They do not spread a net but the Gospel. Their work is guided by Divine grace, not by the rules of the fishing trade. They are not helmsmen of ships on the sea but men's guides in life, and the seine, the sweep-net they always employ, is the Cross."
By learning, and becoming familiar, with the lives of the Saints of our Holy Orthodox Christian Church, one is inspired, encouraged, strengthened, and willing to imitate them. Christians today are confused and perplexed on who Christ the Lord is, and of His Divine Gospel. It is clear, when readings the lives of the Saints, that it takes personal faith, commitment, sacrifice, love, trust, obedience, repentance, humility, prayer, worship, kindness and the willingness to take up our individual cross.
I urge all of you to study the lives of the Saints of our Holy Church and to truly emulate their virtuous and holy example and life.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God