The Orthodox Pages



15th May 2008































































































During our talks from November last year to February, we had a series of talks on the history of the Church. Some of the talks were interesting, but others which dealt with the various heresies were very heavy and tiring on the mind. I have been asked to do another series of talks but thankfully this time the talks will be of lighter nature and should be easier to digest. I have been asked to talk on the lives of the saints and especially the Apostles and what happened to them after the resurrection of Christ and the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Where did they go, who did they preach to, how were they received, and where were they martyred. For some of the Apostles like Peter and Paul, most of our information is drawn from the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, but for others our information has to rely on tradition which was passed down and recorded by the early Christian writers. The information we have for most of the Apostles is not enough to cover the time we allocate for the talks so we will probably look at at least 2, 3, or even 4 saints at a time.
Today I thought it would be appropriate to begin with St. Andrew for two reasons: 1) our Church and parish is dedicated to St. Andrew, 2) because he is called St. Andrew the First-called, a title attributed to him for being the first of the Apostles to follow Christ. From the Gospel we are told that Andrew was the brother of Peter and came from the village Bethsaida on the western shore of Lake Gennesaret. Andrew, unlike his brother Simon Peter, chose not to marry and remained in his virginity until his death. By trade, both brothers were fishermen and were devout Jews waiting for the Coming of the Messiah. When the holy Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist began his ministry, proclaiming his message of repentance in the Jordan valley, Andrew heard of him and left everything to follow him and became his disciple.
One day Jesus came to be baptized by John. When John saw the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove and heard the voice of the father testify to who Jesus was, he said: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.” His disciples probably didn’t hear him or were not near enough to see who it was, but the next day John was standing with Andrew and John the Theologian and saw Jesus passing by and pointed him out to them telling them that Jesus was the Lamb of God. At this testimony of their master, Andrew and John left the Baptist and followed Jesus. They didn’t as yet realize that Jesus was the Saviour and Son of God, and probably had no intention in their minds of become his disciples, but they felt drawn to him in a way they couldn’t explain. After conversing with him, Andrew was convinced that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, whom he himself and all of Israel had waited for so many centuries. Unable to contain his joy, he hurried home and told Peter: “We have found the Messiah” and then brought Peter to Jesus. Andrew then was the first to follow and recognize Jesus as the Messiah and is rightly called Andrew the First-called.
The Gospels mention Andrew on other occasions, but our main interest is to see what happened to him after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. After receiving with the other Apostles, the fulness of the Grace of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, he was allotted to preach the Gospel around the coasts of Euxinus Pontus known today as the Black Sea. From the account of his life we are told that he first went to Amisus in Pontus (now Northern Turkey) on the southern shore of the Black Sea, where he converted a large number of Jews, and healed all kinds of disease by the power of God. Proceeding along the coast to Trebizond, he preached the word as far as the region of Lazica in the Caucasus before returning to Jerusalem for Easter. This we can say was his first Journey.
Many places have local traditions that Andrew passed through their lands and we have no reason to suggest that he didn’t. We have one such tradition in Cyprus. Travelling from Jerusalem to Northern Turkey via Cyprus would in fact be a shorter route than going through Syria and Cappadocia to reach Pontus. Cypriot tradition says that Andrew reached Cyprus near Karpasia and then travelled towards the most extreme point of the North-East Peninsula in the hope of finding a boat that would take him across to Cilicia (Southern Turkey). As he waited, he saw a ship coming from Salamis which came very close to the pointed cape. The Captain saw Andrew making signals and realized that he wanted to board. He let down a small rowing boat with two sailors and soon Andrew was on board the main ship. The captain raised the sails and the ship was on its way. In a short time they reached the small islands called Kleides which look more like big rocks in the sea and on which today can be found a lighthouse to guide the ships away from the rocks. At this very point, there was a sudden calmness and the wind stopped blowing. The Ship was stranded there for three days and they run out of water. The captain asked Andrew if he knew where they could find water on the mainland and Andrew told him that there was a spring nearby. Two sailors set off to find the spring where Andrew had told them. They searched all day but couldn’t find it and returned without water. The captain was angry with Andrew because he thought he had been lying about the spring and threatened to cast him overboard into the sea unless he went with them to show them the exact spot. When the Saint reached land, he knelt and prayed for God’s help and in a short time they found the spring. They filled their vessels and returned to the ship. On the Ship was also the captain’s young son who was blind after losing his sight four years ago. On returning to the ship, Andrew gave the boy some fresh water to drink and also told him to wash his face with the same water. The boy did as Andrew bid him and immediately started to shout for his father. The captain run to see what was wrong only to discover that his son was shouting for joy because he could now see. The boy explained how Andrew gave him the water and told him to wash his face and that as soon as he did his sight was restored to him. Everyone on the ship held Andrew as a saint and after hearing him preach about Jesus they all believed and were baptized.
In the meantime the wind grew stronger and the ship sailed to its destination. Later, on hearing of Andrew’s death on the Cross, the Captain prayed and vowed that he would return to the place where Andrew found the water and build a small chapel dedicated to the saint. After many years the captain built the Church as promised and also placed there an Icon of the Saint. When other captains who heard the story passed by the cape, known today as “Apostolos Andreas Cape” they would stop and venerate the icon and offer their gifts to the saint. After many years a new Church was built in place of the first and was surrounded with monastic cells for monks. Over the years, the Church and buildings underwent many repairs and rebuilding. According to the inscription above the North door, the present Church and buildings were consecrated in 1867 by Archbishop Sophronius. Three metres below the present Church is an older Church built in the 15th century and accessible by stone steps. Although a monastery, St. Andrew’s never had a large community of monks, but it was well known not only in Cyprus but also abroad and received thousands of pilgrims every year. Until the Turkish invasion of 1974, it was one of the most revered places in Cyprus.
But returning to Andrew’s second journey, we are told that he set out for Ephesus with Saint John the Theologian and spent some time evangelizing the western parts of Asia Minor. Making his way up the coast to the Propontis, and Bithynia, he spread the word in the cities of Nicaea, Nicomedia, Chalcedon, Heraclea Pontica and Amastris. He was constantly attacked by fanatical supporters of pagan cults and by sophists (philosophical thinkers) who challenged him with their arguments. Saint Andrew managed to confuse both parties by his wisdom and miracles.
On reaching Sinope, he taught the word of the gospel to the people, but was also tested by many afflications. Whilst in Sinope, he heard that the Apostle Matthias had also passed through that way and had been imprisoned. Andrew found Matthias and after praying for his release, the chains fell from him and the cell door opened. This infuriated the pagans and they set out to deal with Andrew for interfering in their affairs. They threw him on the ground and pelted him with stones, beat him, stretched his hands and legs, pierced and cut him, hit him with sticks and even cut of one of his fingers. He was then taken a great distant outside of the city and left for dead. But the Lord appeared to him and healed him of his wounds and encouraged him to continue with his preaching. Like his Master, the Lamb of God, who came on earth to suffer and to take away the sins of the world, Andrew sought neither to flee nor to defend himself, but bore everything with patience. He returned to the city and showed himself before them, whole without any wound or signs of beatings. Seeing his steadfastness and forbearance, and the many miracles that he did, the people of Sinope repented, asked his forgiveness and received holy Baptism. After he had established a bishop and priests at Sinope, Andrew returned again to Amisus and Trebizond, which he had already evangelized, in order to confirm them in the faith. From there he went back to the Propontis to the cities of Neocaesaria and Samosata where he refuted the pagan sophists and then made his way once more to Jerusalem for the Apostolic council, at which the Apostles decided how the Gentiles were to be received into the Church (Acts 15).
After the feast of Easter, Andrew went with Matthias and Thaddeus and other disciples as far as the borders of Mesopotamia, where he left them in order to preach the Good News in the barbarous lands to the north of the Black Sea (now the Crimea and Southern Ukraine).
According to Russian tradition Andrew must have travelled through the lands of Bithynia and Thrace which he had already Evangelized, went north until he reached the River Danube and then went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, and along the River Dniepr and reached the place where the city of Kiev now stands. Andrew stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those disciples that were with him: "See these hills? Upon these hills shall shine forth the beneficence of God, and there will be a great city here, and God shall raise up many churches." The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land of the Varangians and again returned to Thrace, where in the small village of Byzantium, the future Constantinople, he founded the first Church of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew links the mother Church of Constantinople, with her daughter, the Russian Church.
At Byzantium he founded a Church dedicated to the Mother of God, and ordained the Apostle Stachys, one of the Seventy Apostles, as the first Bishop of Byzantium. Andrew then journeyed on through Thrace, Macedonia and Thessaly and as far as the city of Patras in the Peloponnese. There he stayed in the house of a certain Sosias, who was very ill. On entering the house, Andrew healed him from his disease. The people of Patra heard of the miracle and came to hear him preach the word of God. Hearing him preach and being witnesses to other miracles, in a very short time a great many in Patras believed in Christ and there was soon a large community of Christians in the city.
At Patras Andrew also healed Maximilla, the Proconsul’s wife, of an incurable illness, and so brought her to the faith. Aegeates the Proconsul wanted to show his gratitude to Andrew and offered him gold for his services. Andrew refused the gold and told Aegeates that he didn’t heal Maximilla for a reward, but for sake of Jesus Christ. At some time, the Proconsul had to leave for Rome and in his place as deputy was his brother Stratocles. One of his servant was very ill and Andrew healed him. Seeing this Stratocles was converted and together with Maximilla was baptized and became a Christian.
On his return, Aegeates was enraged at the conversions to the Christian Faith by members of his own family and ordered his wife to return to her old faith of worshipping the idol gods. She refused and so Aegeates had the Apostle arrested and cast into prison. Maximilla and Stratocles visited him in the prison and after giving them his blessing, he ordained Stratocles as Bishop of Patras. Some days later the Apostle was condemned to be crucified. The crucifixion was carried out on an X-shaped cross with the body of the Apostle upside down so that he saw neither the earth nor his executioners, but only the sky which he glorified as the heaven in which he would meet his Lord. Instead of nailing him to the cross, which was the normal procedure in crucifixions, Aegeates had him tied to the cross so that he would live longer and suffer more. Twenty thousand of the faithful stood by and mourned. Even then, Andrew taught them and exhorted them to endure temporary sufferings for the kingdom of heaven. Many of the faithful demonstrated against Aegeates and fearing the mob would attack him, he run to have Andrew taken down from the Cross. Andrew though was joyful that he was to imitate Christ even in the way in which he was to die for Him. He told Aegeates that it would be better to try and save himself from his disbelief than save him from the cross, but it was not too late, he too could still become a Christian. As for himself he said that he had already seen Jesus and he would not allow himself to be removed from the cross. Many tried to undo the knots, but their hands all became numb. Andrew blessed his faithful for the last time and suddenly, a heavenly light illumined Andrew and the cross for about half an hour. When it left, Andrew had given up his spirit.
His body was tenderly removed from the cross by Bishop Stratocles and Maximilla, and buried with all of the honour befitting the Apostle. With his own money, Bishop Stratocles built the cathedral church over the place of the Apostle’s martyrdom. Soon countless numbers of Christians made their way to Patras to pay reverence to the grave of St. Andrew. Aegeates realized that the man he had put to death was truly a holy man of God and repented for his unjust decision and killed himself by jumping off a cliff.
Many years later, on 3 March 357, the precious relics of the Apostle were brought from Patras to Constantinople by Saint Artemius at the command of the Emperor Constantius, the son of Saint Constantine. They were placed with those of Saint Luke and Saint Timothy in the new Church of the Holy Apostles. Saint Andrew was returned to the City that had first heard the message of Jesus Christ from his lips. Thus he became in death, as well as in life, the founder of the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople. To calm the fury of the people of Patras, who were against the removal of the relics from their city, Constantius promised them an irrigation system by channeling water from Mount Voida into the city. Thus St. Andrew was also responsible for Patras’ drinking water.
Five hundred years later, St. Andrew’s relics came back to Patras, sent by the Emperor Basil I the Macedonian (867-86). In 1460, on the eve of the Turkish invasion of the Peloponnese, Thomas Palaeologus, the Despot of Morea, presented them to Pius II, Pope of Rome. The skull of the Apostle was formally returned to Patras on 26 September 1964, to the great joy of the faithful. Today, in the Church of St. Andrew in Patras, one can see and venerate the X shaped cross where the Apostle gave up his last breath.
In the Western tradition, Saint Andrew is especially venerated as the patron of Scotland. Saint Rule, a native of Patras, is said to have brought a part of the precious relics of the Apostle to Scotland in obedience to a vision. He founded a church in Fife at the place now called St Andrews, which became a centre of evangelization and pilgrimage. In the Middle Ages, there were more than eight hundred churches in Scotland dedicated to the First-called of the Apostles. The Cross of Saint Andrew also adorns the British flag where it was placed after the union of Scotland and England.
We still have some time and so I thought I could say something about our other Saint here in Mesa Geitonia. I mean of course St. John the Baptist whose chapel we use for our English services. In fact what we now call the chapel was until the 1950s the main Church of Mesa Geitonia which then was only a small village. As the village began to grow and become part of Limassol the locals needed a bigger Church and so work began on St. Andrew’s Church in 1953.
We know about John’s conception and birth from the Gospel according to St. Luke and all the Gospels mention his activities in the wilderness where he preached repentance and baptized the people that came to him. I’m sure you have all read how he baptized Christ, was arrested by Herod and then as a gift to Herodias daughter Salome after she danced for him, had John beheaded in prison. If you don’t, then you desperately need to read up on the Gospels. The Gospels tell us that when John was beheaded, his disciples came and took his body and buried it in a tomb. What the Gospels don’t tell us is what happened to his head?
According to Tradition, when John’s head was taken before Herod to give to Salome, his mouth opened once more and proclaimed: “Herod, you should not have the wife of your brother Philip.” Salome took the platter with the head of St John and gave it to her mother. The frenzied Herodias repeatedly stabbed the tongue of the prophet with a needle and buried his holy head in a unclean place where she would from time to time go to tread on the earth to satisfy her hatred for him. But John’s head did not stay there for long; Joanna the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, saw where Herodias buried it. This good and God-fearing Joanna could not bear that the head of the godly man should remain in an unworthy place, so she secretly dug it up, put it in an earthen vessel, took it to Jerusalem and buried it on the Mount of Olives, where Herod had a parcel of land.
After many years, this property passed into the possession of a government official who became a monk with the name of Innocent. He built a church and a cell there. When he started to dig the foundation, he found an earthen pot containing a head which, it was revealed to him secretly, was that of the Baptist. Innocent recognized its great holiness from the signs of grace emanating from it. This event is known as the First Finding of the Head. Innocent preserved it with great piety, but fearful that the holy relic might be abused by unbelievers, before his own death he again hid it in that same place, where it was found. Upon his death the church fell into ruin and was destroyed.
The head was found again in the fourth century after John the Baptist appeared twice to two monks travelling on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and revealing to them the location of his venerable head. The monks uncovered the holy relic and, placing it into a sack of camel-hair, they proceeded homewards. Along the way they encountered an unnamed potter and gave him the precious burden to carry. Not knowing what he was carrying, the potter continued on his way. But the holy Forerunner appeared to him and ordered him to flee from the careless and lazy monks, with what he held in his hands. The potter concealed himself from the monks and at home he preserved the venerable head with reverence. Before his death he placed it in a water jug and gave it to his sister.
By God’s providence, the wonder-working head went from hand to hand, disappearing into the darkness of forgetfulness. There are varied accounts as to what happened to the head, but all from unreliable sources. During the Saracen raids we are told that it was transferred to Komana and during the iconoclastic persecution it was hidden in the ground for safekeeping. In about 850 after the veneration of icons was restored, Patriarch Ignatius (847-857) saw in a vision the place where the head of St John the Forerunner was hidden. The patriarch communicated this to the emperor, who sent a delegation to Komana. There indeed they found the head of the Baptist, not as the first time, in an earthen vessel, but in one made of silver. The holy relic was taken to Constantinople where it was received with great joy by the Emperor, the Patriarch and all the Orthodox people. The First and Second Findings are commemorated on 24th February and the Third Finding on 25th May.
Many miracles were performed by the head of the Forerunner. It is interesting to note that, while he was alive, John didn’t perform even a single miracle, but to his relics was given the blessed power of working many miracles.
There is also a story of what happened to Salome. While crossing the River Sikoris in winter, she fell through the ice. The ice gave way in such a way that her body was in the water, but her head was trapped above the ice. One can say that it was similar to how she once had danced with her feet upon the ground, but now she was helplessly dancing in the icy water. Eventually the sharp ice cut through her neck. Her corpse was not found, but they brought the head to Herod and Herodias, as they had once brought them the head of St John the Baptist.