St. Andrew, the first disciple

St AndrewToday is the feast day of St. Andrew, “the first called”. Andrew was among one among the twelve Apostles and lived at Bethsaida, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He has the privilege of being Jesus‘ very first disciple. Andrew was a disciple of Jesus’ cousin, St. John the Baptist and was witness to Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan. After John announced Jesus’ “messiah-ship”, Andrew approached Jesus and asked Him where He lived and Jesus invited him to come and find out. Andrew immediately went in search of his brother Simon, telling him that he had met the Messiah. He brought his brother to see Jesus, who renamed him Peter. That is the story as presented in the Gospel of John. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that after His baptism, Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and calls to Him fishermen that He finds tending their nets. He calls to them with the famous line of making them into “fishers of men”. [An interesting note: in both Gospel accounts, Jesus’ ministry begins at Bethsaida after His baptism and the selection of His first four disciples, all fishermen. In both Gospels, the first two are Andrew and his brother (Simon) Peter but John tells us the next two are Philip and Nathanael (aka Bartholomew); Matthew tells us that the next two are the sons of Zebedee, James and John.]

After Pentacost, Andrew traveled northeastward to do his share of spreading the “good news”. He preached along the Black Sea as well as the Volga and Dnieper rivers; he even made it as far as Kiev. He is also the legendary founder of the Church of Byzantium (Patriarchate of Constantinople). The apocryphal Acts of Andrew and the Gospel of Andrew recount a little of his adventures during his travels. His exploits are fairly generic for the genre: he raises the dead, calms storms, heals the blind, survives wild beasts and even defeats armies single-handed.  Among the most amusing episodes has Andrew rescue a boy from his incestuous mother after which she causes him legal trouble and he is liberated by an earthquake. There is another apocryphal text called the Acts of Andrew and Matthias in which Jesus and Andrew rescue Matthias from a tribe of cannibals (no joke, like action heroes). Matthias was the man elected to replace Judas Iscariot among the twelve.   

On November 30th year 60, at the order of the The Martyrdom of St. Andrew - Bartolome Esteban Murillo Roman governor, Andrew was martyred at Patras (in modern Greece). He was bound to an ‘X’-shaped cross (saltire) from where he preached to a crowd for three days before finally expiring. He is the patron of Greece, Ukraine, Russia and Romania. Most famously, he is the patron of Scotland, which celebrates his feast day as their national holiday.

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