ONE OF THE MOST REVERED New Testament figures in the Christian East is the Apostle Andrew the First Called. His title comes from the first mention of him in the Gospel of John: “The next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), ‘where are You staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour). One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:35-42).
As disciples of John the Baptist, Andrew and Peter were among those with a firmer faith, ready to make a deeper commitment to God in their lives. And so when they next encountered Jesus back home in their adopted home town of Capernaum (the Gospel calls Andrew a native of Bethsaida), the result should not strike us as odd. “Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Matthew 4:18-20).
While Peter, James and John came to be the foremost of Christ’s closest followers, Andrew had a prominent place as well.
In the Gospel of John he appears as a kind of go-to person for Jesus, bringing people to Him and presumably keeping the crowds at bay. It was Andrew who reported to Jesus about the lad with the five loaves and two fish. When Jesus and His disciples had arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover we are told that, “Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus” (John 12:20-22). Since both Philip and Andrew had Greek names – not unusual in Galilee since the second or third century BC – it was perhaps natural that these Greek pilgrims approached them.
St Andrew and the Early Church
After Pentecost, at which he was present, there is no further mention of Andrew in the New Testament. Our next reference to this apostle in in Eusebius’ History of the Church 3, 1 written in the fourth century. There he quotes Origen as saying that Andrew brought the Gospel to Scythia.
The region known as Scythia in the ancient world corresponds to portions of today’s nations of Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine. For this reason Churches in these nations have a particular devotion to St. Andrew. Ukrainians, for example hold that St Andrew planted a cross on the site of the future city of Kiev, prophesying that a great Christian center would be established there in time. The Primary Chronicle of the eleventh-century Monk Nestor added that St. Andrew’s apostolic preaching took him as far as Novgorod, making him apostle to Russia as well.
Another city claiming a connection with St Andrew is Constantinople. Founded in the fourth century by St Constantine the Great, this city was built on the site of the earlier town of Byzantium. A work entitled On the Seventy Apostles of Christ and attributed to Hippolytus of Rome (+ 235) identified Stachys, one of the Lord’s seventy disciples as the first bishop of Byzantium. Later tradition held that Stachys was given leadership of the Church at Byzantium by St. Andrew. Thus the Church of Constantinople would claim to be founded by an apostle like the other Apostolic Churches (Jerusalem, Antioch, etc.).
Death of St Andrew
According to the second-century Acts of Andrew, the apostle was martyred in Patras, an important center in central Greece, then capital of the province of Achaia. Seized by order of the proconsul Aegeates for converting his wife, St Andrew was condemned to be crucified. According to the Acts, St. Andrew spoke to the bystanders from the cross, saying: “Listen to us rather who hang here for the Lord’s sake and are about to depart out of this body. Renounce all the lusts of the world, spit upon the worship of abominable idols and establish your minds as men believing in Christ.”
The tradition that St Andrew asked to be crucified on an X-shaped cross because he was unworthy of being placed on a cross like Christ’s is of later origin, probably in imitation of St. Peter.
The relics of St. Andrew were preserved by the Christians in Patras. In 357 they were taken to Constantinople by order of Emperor Constantius and interred in the Church of the Holy Apostles, built by his father, St Constantine, to house the remains of all the apostles. The saint’s skull was returned to Patras by Emperor Basil I (867-886).
The relics remaining in Constantinople were taken to Italy when the city was sacked by the Crusaders in 1204. When the present St Peter’s Basilica was constructed in the sixteenth century they were encased in one of the great columns surrounding the altar. In 1964 Pope Paul VI had the relics removed and returned to Patras, the first of many such ecumenical gestures in recent years. In 1980 fragments of the cross of St Andrew, venerated in Marseilles since the Crusades, were also returned. They are enshrined together with the relics in the Cathedral of St Andrew, the largest church in the Balkans.
St. Andrew Today
In recent years St. Andrew has become an important focus in the growing friendship between Rome and Constantinople. Since 1969 a delegation from the Roman Catholic Church has visited Constantinople each November to participate in the feast of St Andrew, patron of the Byzantine Church. Every June a Greek Orthodox delegation has traveled to Rome for its patronal feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Several times these delegations have been led by the Pope of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Renouncing the catching of fish, you became a fisher of men with the rod of divine preaching and the hook of faith, O illustrious Apostle, who fished the whole assembly of the nations up from the depths of error. You are the brother of Peter, whose voice went out to instruct the whole world. O Andrew, do not cease to intercede for us, the faithful, who celebrate your sacred memory with their whole heart.
Seeing the God you loved walking in the flesh on earth, O first-called of His eye-witnesses, you cried out to your brother, full of joy: “Simon, we have found the One whom we love!” Then you spoke to the Savior in the words of David: “Like the deer that yearns for living streams, so my soul is thirsting for You, O Christ our God!” Loving Him ever more deeply, you joined Him by means of the Cross, as a true disciple imitating His passion; since you share His glory, ceaselessly pray to Him for our souls.