To the Ends of the Earth

Orthodox Christian Missions

St. Andrew the First Called

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Commemorated November 30

George Alexandrou, a Greek journalist and writer, has done some remarkable research about St. Andrew, which he shared with Road to Emmaus in 2004. The following piece is an excerpt from that article, entitled “The Astonishing Missionary Journeys of the Apostle Andrew.”

RTE: Tell us now about St. Andrew himself. What have you learned about him?

GEORGE: If you compare the traditions from Kurdistan, Valaamo, Ethiopia and Persia, you see the same man. This is very important. You find exactly the same details about his character. I read these different traditions and say, “Yes, this is him. This is St. Andrew.” After reading many, many texts from all different parts of the world, I have a feeling for what is really him. I feel now if a text is living authority, passed down from people who knew him or not. He was not a common man, he was strange.

RTE: Do you mean strange or unique?

GEORGE: Unique, but strange as well. He had a habit of putting up big stone or iron crosses everywhere. He carried a huge staff with a cross. He was modest, he didn’t make a lot of disciples – just a few, in a few small circles.  He didn’t preach to huge crowds like Peter or Paul. St. Andrew gathered small companies, as would a geronda or a staretz.

Also, he had a sense of humor. For example, some of the sources say that when he first saw the saunas of the Slavs in what is now Novgorod he wrote letters to friends saying, “These Slavs are such strange people; they torture themselves with birch branches.” He was laughing about it. You cannot imagine him as a master of strictness. He was a humorous man, very humble, very easy. As a Mediterranean person he was surprised by these strange traditions.  Of course, he was also a man who had seen many things. He traveled with Lapp reindeer herders, with Huns, spoke to Greek philosophers, Russian merchants, knew Chinese bureaucrats, visited primitive tribes in northern Pakistan and Berbers in the deserts of the Sahara.

You can understand from this how much he knew and how great his store of practical wisdom must have been. Not only grace-filled wisdom from the Lord, but his worldly wisdom. Because he was humble, he could speak to all these people. He was not an invader, he was not an explorer, he lived as one of them. He fished with them, ate with them, farmed with them, traveled with them – by any means they had – on foot, by canoes or boats, horses, camels, reindeer, elephants. You can imagine what he must have seen.  The important thing is that because he was humble he shared their experience. If you aren’t humble, you cannot share another person’s experience, you can only report about them, but he was their equal and he gained their wisdom, and they gained his.

Apostle Andrew was so modest that he didn’t step forward with the triad of Peter, James, and John, although he was the “first-called.” The firstcalled, but he never went first. He only went first when he had something to ask from God. We have three examples of this from the gospels. One was on Holy Thursday when the Lord went to the temple, “there were certain Greeks among them that came to worship at the feast.” These Greeks came to Philip and asked if they could see Jesus. Philip didn’t know what to do with them so he told Andrew, and Andrew took him and went to the Lord.  He was not afraid to face God, and he knew Christ was God, he was the first to understand and follow him. He was also the first missionary, to his brother Peter. The second time is the miracle of the five loaves and the two fish. Andrew was the one who went to the Lord and said, “We have this problem. Aren’t you going to do something?” He was never in the forefront for himself, but when it was for other people, he demanded help from God. The third time was in the Gospel of St. Mark, where, with Peter, James, and John, Andrew asked the Lord about the signs of the end times.

In these old traditions from the second and third century, Andrew was so humble that he thought everyone he met was Christ Himself – the captain of the boat, the peddler on the dock. The apostles didn’t have the arrogance of the Greco-Romans, or even of the Jews. They were very humble people and could meet both barbarians and Greek philosophers. We know that the Apostle Andrew was not against Greek philosophy. He liked to speak to philosophers and he even had as a disciple the Greek mathematician and philosopher Stratocles, the first bishop of Patras. Stratocles was probably a former Pythagorean, because the Pythagoreans had connected mathematics and philosophy with a unique mysticism. This is the secret, I think, to understanding St. Andrew’s soul, that he was very modest and that he saw everyone as an icon of Christ.

The rest of the article can be found here.

The icon is from here.

Hat Tip to Orrologion for first posting this article.


Written by Stephen

November 30, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Posted in Saints

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