As the first to be called by Jesus Christ into his service, St. Andrew commands a reverence a degree greater than those who have followed. For this reason, St. Andrew is called Protokletos, or "First-called."
St. Andrew, like his brother St. Peter, was a fisherman, a toiler with net and boat recognised in the Psalms of the Old Testament as one of those "who go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep." His love of the sea stemmed from his love of the Creator who made it, and the perils of the sea which he challenged daily forged the character with which he boldly assailed the seas of ignorance and paganism in the sacred trust that had been placed in his keeping.
St. Andrew, who lived in the Holy Land in the ancient city of Bethsaida, accepted Christ with all his heart and after a discipleship with St. John the Baptist went forth to become one of the greatest missionaries in all history. When the apostles drew lots to determine their sphere of labour for the Saviour, St. Andrew exulted in his mission to preach in Asia Minor, part of Greece, and an area along the coast of the Black Sea, including its gateway, the city now known as Istanbul, or Constantinople.
Wherever St. Andrew went he attracted throngs of people who thirsted for a spiritual knowledge. His message of deliverance was so eloquently convincing, even to hostile minds, that he is credited with having converted countless thousands to Christianity in a day when mass media did not exist. As an apostle, his only tools were his power of oratory and his love for Jesus, and his only press agent was the word of mouth of those privileged to hear his homilies.
St. Andrew came to Jerusalem for the First Synod of the Apostles, about 50 AD, another historic first for him and the other apostles, some of whom he had not yet met. There he rejoiced in joining the great St. Peter together with those but for whom Christianity might never have become the glorious human experience it is today. Out of the Synod, the apostles went forth with renewed vigour to establish the ecclesiastical system.
St. Andrew alone is credited with having set up parishes throughout Asia Minor, in Pontos, Bithynia, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, Scythia (Russia, where he is still regarded as patron saint) and in the capital city of Byzantium. It was in Byzantium that St. Andrew ordained Stachys as first bishop of Byzantium (later Constantinople), thereby establishing an unbroken line of 270 patriarchs down to the present day Patriarch Bartholomeos 1st. From Byzantium, St. Andrew went on to more glory through his compelling oratory and power of healing through Jesus Christ. He eventually found himself in Achaia, in the city of Patras, where he was to suffer death.
St. Andrew committed the grave crime in the eyes of the state of converting Maximilla, wife of the ruler Aigeates, to Christianity. Despite the fact that he was then eighty years old, it was ordered that he be put to death by being nailed upside down to an X-shaped cross. After three days of agony on this vile device, St. Andrew died. The great fisherman had cast his net for Christ for the last time. St. Andrew's remains were brought to Constantinople two hundred years later and in 1460 his head was given to the pope. On 7 October 1964, in an ecumenical gesture, the head was returned to the people of Patras by the pope.
The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called
Apostle Andrew was the son of Jonah and brother of Peter, born in Bethsaida, Galilee and a fisherman by profession. This northern part of the Holy Land was famous for its fertility and beautiful landscapes. People living there were good-humored and hospitable; there were many Greeks in Galilee and Galileans got on very well with them, some spoke Greek and even had Greek names. Andrew is a Greek name, it means "manly."
When St. John the Baptist started preaching on the banks of Jordan River, Andrew together with John, son of Zebedee (who also came from Bethesda) followed him hoping to find answers to his spiritual quest in the teachings of the prophet. Many people started to believe that it was maybe St. John the Baptist who was the expected Messiah, but he explained to people that he was not the Messiah; he was sent to only prepare the way for Him. At that time our Lord, Jesus Christ came to River Jordan for St. John to baptize Him. Pointing at Him St. John the Baptist said: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes the away the sins of the world" (Jn. 1:29). On hearing those words Andrew and John followed Jesus. When Jesus saw them he asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi (Teacher), where are you staying?" "Come," he replied, "and you will see" and from that time on they became His disciples. On the same day Apostle Andrew went to see his brother Simon Peter and told him, "We have found the Messiah." Thus Peter joined Christ’s disciples.
Andrew who was the first Apostle to follow Christ was called "the first-called." He was at Christ’s side during all the time of His serving humanity. After The Savior’s Resurrection he was honored, together with other apostles, to meet Him. On the Mount of Olives he was a witness of the Lord’s ascension to heaven upon giving them His blessing.
After The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles, they cast lots to see what countries they would go to preach the Gospel. It fell to the lot of the first of Christ’s apostles, St. Andrew, to preach the Gospel in Byzantium and Thrace, then in the lands along the Danube, in Russia (the land of Scythia at the time) and around the Black Sea, and finally in Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, where he suffered. In Byzantium, he installed St. Stachys as its first bishop; in Kiev he raised the Cross on high and prophesied a Christian future for the Russian people: he said, "These hills will be blessed by the Lord and a great city would be erected here. The Lord will enlighten this land with holy baptism and many churches will appear here." In Thrace, Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, he brought many people to the Faith and gave them bishops and priests.
After Apostle Andrew returned to Greece he stopped in the city of Patras, situated near the Corinthian bay. There he performed many wonders in the name of Christ, he healed people with laying on hands and brought many to the Lord, among whom was the lady Maximilla who believed in Christ with all the zeal she had and became the apostle’s disciple. Many citizens of Patras came to the faith, and among them were the brother and the wife of the imperial governor, Aegeatus, who was seized with hatred for Apostle Andrew and sentenced him to crucifixion. Apostle Andrew was not in the least intimidated by the sentence. The governor Aegeatus did not believe the Apostle’s preaching and declared his teaching insane. Then he ordered to crucify him so that the Apostle would be tortured longer. St. Andrew was tied to the X shaped cross without being nailed through hands and feet in order not to let him die sooner. The unjust sentence evoked indignation among people but it remained in force all the same. While Andrew was still alive on the cross, the Apostle of Christ taught the Christians who were gathered round him about the spiritual value and power of the Savior’s sufferings on the Cross.
The people wanted to take him down from the cross, but he would not let them. Finally, the Apostle prayed to God and a strange radiance surrounded him. This light lasted for half an hour and, when it disappeared, the Apostle gave his holy soul into God’s hands. Thus the Apostle, who first of the twelve Great Apostles came to know the Lord and followed Him, finished his earthly course. St. Andrew suffered for his Lord as a martyr in the year 62. His relics were translated to Constantinople, but his head was later taken to Rome and one hand to Moscow.
Since Christianity came to Russia from Byzantium whose bishops consider themselves successors of Apostle Andrew, the church of Russia also believes that it is Apostle Andrew’s scion. That was why Andrew the-first-called was commemorated in pre-Revolutionary Russia so reverently. In honor of Apostle Andrew the emperor Peter the first instituted the state’s first and highest award which was granted to dignitaries. From the time of the emperor Peter, the Russian fleet has won many a victory under the Andrew’s flag – a blue X shaped cross on a white background.
Troparion, Tone 4: