The Feast of St. Andrew, the First of the Apostles
The beginning of Advent marks the beginning of the Church Year for the vast majority of Christendom that follows the cycle and seasons of the Church Year centered on the lectionary. With the beginning of the Church Year, it is fitting that the first Feast day of the year belongs to St. Andrew the Apostle, brother of Simon Peter.
Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist before being called by Jesus. It is possible that he witnessed the baptism of our Lord in the River Jordan, and was there drawn to the presence of God in the flesh by the witness of the Father and the Spirit. It was he who brought Peter to see Jesus, and they were later called as the fishermen, to leave their nets, and everything behind to follow Jesus.
Andrew was named one of the twelve Apostles by Christ. In the lists of the Apostles, he is among the first four mentioned. Not much is known about his work and mission following Christ’s ascension. Andrew is generally thought to have died a martyr’s death on an X shaped cross. Hence, the symbol of St. Andrew is an X shaped cross on a field of blue. His death is said to have taken place during the reign of Nero on November 30, 60 A. D. in Patras, Geece.
There is some controversy over the remains of St. Andrew. In 357 A. D., Andrew’s remains were said to have been moved from Patras to the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople, where they remained until the thirteenth century when the French took Constantinople. Cardinal Capua moved the remains of Andrew to the cathedral of Amalfi in Italy. The Scots on the other hand claim that the bones of St. Andrew are bones are in Scotland. In any event, a Greek monk at Patras, St. Regulus, or Rule as he is commonly known, and keeper of the relics of St. Andrew at Patras, is said to have received a vision to move the relics including the bones of St. Andrew to Scotland c. 732. Another story has the Bishop of Hexham, a collector of relics, removing the bones from Greece to Scotland around the same time. The church of St. Rule, and eventually the cathedral of St. Andrew were built and were said to have housed the remains of the Apostle until the time of the Reformation when they were said to have been destroyed by Calvinists. Of course, St. Andrew, Scotland is now famous for its golf course.
All that aside — it makes for a interesting history lesson — what we do know for sure is that Andrew was the first Apostle called by Christ, and the entire Church, both East and West, celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30 each year. It is a small symbol of unity that binds the church together at the begining of the Church Year.