Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saint Andrew: a Man's Man of God

Today is November 30, the Feast of Saint Andrew on the Eastern Orthodox calendar. 

 I was baptized in the Lutheran Church on August 28, 1966 under the name Keith Andrew. My twin is Kevin Alan. My parents gave him as a middle name the name of our paternal grandfather. I got a random name starting with 'A' so we'd have the same initials.

As a child this fact annoyed me a bit. He had a name of the family. I had, well, something else. It would take some years, but I came to cherish that "something else."

I was chrismated Orthodox on December 14, 2003 under the name Andrew. I had come to embrace the fact that this accidental middle name starting with 'A' was that of one of the Twelve Apostles. After I met my wife, a Romanian-American, I further learned that Andrew is the Patron of Romania, owing to a belief that the Apostle had preached there during his travels. 

Furthermore, since Romanian doesn't have the 'TH' sound, non-linguistically trained friends and family there kept pronouncing my first name as either Keet or Kees. So we decided, I would just be Andrei in Romania. 

So I've gone from resenting the name just a little to now having it as my full Orthodox identity.

On this Feast of St. Andrew, I'll share some thoughts on the Saint and also show you the place in Greece where I had the honor of venerating my namesake's relics.

First off, I have read some modern commentators that downplay the possibility that St. Andrew ever was in Romania, pointing out that it is attested "only by one source."

I can tell you that there are plenty of things we teach as history that are attested only by one source from ancient times. Without a compelling reason to distrust a source, the best methodology is to accept the report as probable.

But in this case, it isn't even really true that it's just one source. 

One source is quite early (200's AD) and specific. St. Hippolytus (On the end of the world, Ch. 49.2):

Andrew preached to the Scythians and Thracians, and was crucified, suspended on an olive tree, at Patrae, a town of Achaia; and there too he was buried.

But Eusebius quotes Origen (roughly contemporary to Hippolytus) as saying that Andrew preached among the Scythians (Church History 3.1). So the belief that Andrew had travelled to that vicinity was quite old and known from more than one testimony.

It is significant that Hippolytus describes Andrew preaching to the Thracians. Thracia includes the area of modern day Bulgaria. Dacia is roughly modern day Romania. In that time the range of the Scythians stretched from the area of Dubrogea in modern-day Romania all the way past the north shore of the Black Sea in the Ukraine and Russia.

So the fact that he mentions the Thracians indicates that Andrew didn't go to the Scythians via the eastern shore of the Black Sea. And if he then continued to the Scythians, he of course traversed land in present-day Romania. Along the way he would have encountered Tomis, a city situated at modern-day Constanta. Tomis had a sizable Greek speaking population, to which Andrew would certainly have preached.

Me at the Cave of St. Andrew in Romania
In Romania there is a cave considered the home of Andrew while he lived in Romania. The historical probability that this site is connected with the real St. Andrew is minimal. Local legends had said Andrew lived in a cave while in Romania. In 1940, a lawyer named Ion Dinu reported a dream in which the location of the cave was told to him. A monastery quickly started at the spot. I had the privilege to venerate the Saint at the spot. While I am certain of Andrew's passage through Romania, I venerated the cave as if it were an icon of Andrew's presence in Romania. My veneration of the Saint and his ministry in Romania does not require intellectual credence of that specific location.

The end of Hippolytus' account describes St. Andrew's martyrdom back in Greece, the city of Patrae in Achaia. In 1461, the Byzantine despot Thomas Palaiologos gave the head of St. Andrew to the Pope. But in 1964, as a goodwill gesture to the Orthodos, Pope Paul VI ordered the skull and all other relics of St. Andrew in Vatican custody to be returned to Patras. 

It was at the beautiful church there that I got the opportunity to venerate the relics of my namesake. Here I am in the summer of 2011 at the Basilica of St. Andrew in Patras.

A final thought about St. Andrew. I have the suspicion that Andrew is not really the name his father Jonah gave him. First off, why would this Palestinian Jew named Jonah name one son with a nice Hebrew name like Simon and then name another with a Greek name? Andrew is derived from the Greek Andreia (ἀνδρεία), manhood, valour.  So it means something like "manly one."
Wood from St. Andrew's Cross

I propose that Andrew (Ἀνδρέας) was a nickname given tothis disciple by Jesus, just as he nicknamed Andrew's brother Simon as Cephas (Κηφας)/Petros/The Rock (John 1:42). He also nicknamed the James and John, sons of Zebedee as Boanerges (Βοανηργες), Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). 

Jesus seems to have given nicknames to some of the disciples based on personal qualities they were exhibiting. Andrew exhibited a perceived manliness (culturally conditioned to his time) in his courage to introduce people to Jesus. It is Andrew who introduces his brother Simon to Jesus. (John 1:41-42). It is Andrew who introduces the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus (John 6:8). It is Andrew, with Phillip, who introduces Jesus to several Greeks who were interesting in Jesus' message (John 12:22).

So what was Andrew's real name? It's irrecoverable. And it ultimately doesn't matter. I'm proud to share this name with him. Pray for me, Saint Andrew.

The Kontakion of St. Andrew, November 30

Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God, the namesake of courage, the first-called of the Savior’s disciples and the brother of Peter. As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us: “Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!”

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