The Proper of the Saints in the Roman Missal opens with St. Andrew, because, although his Feast sometimes occurs before the holy season of Advent has begun, it frequently happens that we have entered Advent when the memory of this great Apostle has to be celebrated by the Church. This Feast is therefore destined to terminate with solemnity the cycle which is at its close, or to add luster to the new one which has just begun. It seems, indeed, fitting that the Christian year should begin and end with the Cross, which has merited for us each of the years that it has pleased the divine goodness to grant us, and which is to appear, on the last day, in the clouds of Heaven, as the seal put on time.
We should remember that St. Andrew is the Apostle of the Cross. To St. Peter, Jesus has given firmness of faith; to St. John, warmth of love; the mission of St. Andrew is to represent the Cross of his divine Master. Now it is by these three—faith, love, and the Cross, that the Church renders Herself worthy of Her Spouse. Everything She has or is, bears this three-fold character. Hence it is that after the two Apostles just named, there is none who hold such a prominent place in the universal Liturgy as St. Andrew.
But let us read the life of this glorious fisherman of the lake of Genesareth, who was afterwards to be the successor of Christ Himself, and the companion of his brother St. Peter, on the tree of the Cross. The Church has compiled it from the ancient Acts of the martyrdom of the holy Apostle, drawn up by the priests of the Church of Patras, which was founded by the Saint. The authenticity of this venerable piece has been contested by Protestants, inasmuch as it makes mention of several things which would militate against them—including the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Holy Eucharist. Their sentiment has been adopted by several critics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. On the other hand, these Acts have been accepted by a far greater number of Catholic writers of eminence; amongst whom may be mentioned the great Baronius, Labbe, Noel Alexander, Gallandus, Lumper, Morcelli, etc. The Churches, too, of both east and west, which have inserted these Acts in their respective Offices of St. Andrew, are of some authority, as is also St. Bernard, who has made them the groundwork of his three admirable sermons on St. Andrew:
St. Andrew the Apostle, born at Bethsaida, a town of Galilee, was a brother of St. Peter, and disciple of St. John the Baptist. Having heard his master say, speaking of Christ: Behold the Lamb of God! he followed Jesus, and brought to Him his brother also. When, afterwards, he was fishing with his brother in the sea of Galilee, they were both called, before any of the other Apostles, by Our Lord, Who, passing by, said to them: Come after Me; I will make you to be fishers of men. Without delay, they left their nets and followed Him. After the Passion and Resurrection, St. Andrew went to spread the Faith of Christ in Scythia in Europe, which was the province assigned to him; then he travelled through Epirus and Thrace, and by his teaching and miracles converted innumerable souls to Christ. Afterwards, having reached Patras in Achaia, he persuaded many in that city to embrace the truth of the Gospel. Finding that the proconsul Aegeas resisted the preaching of the Gospel, he most freely upbraided him for that he, who desired to be considered as a judge of men, should be so far deceived by devils as not to acknowledge Christ to be God, the Judge of all.
Then Aegeas being angry, said: Cease to boast of this Christ, Whom such words as these kept not from being crucified by the Jews. But finding that St. Andrew continued boldly preaching that Christ had offered Himself to be crucified for the salvation of mankind, he interrupted him by an impious speech, and at length exhorted him to look to his own interest and sacrifice to the gods. St. Andrew answered him: I offer up every day to almighty God, Who is one and true, not the flesh of oxen, nor the blood of goats, but the spotless Lamb upon the altar; of Whose flesh the whole multitude of the faithful eat, and the Lamb that is sacrificed remains whole and living. Whereupon Aegeas being exceedingly angry, ordered him to be thrust into prison, whence the people would have easily freed St. Andrew, had he not himself appeased the multitude, begging of them, with most earnest entreaty, that they would not keep him from the long-desired crown of martyrdom, to which he was hastening.
Not long after this, he was brought before the tribunal; where he began to extol the mystery of the Cross, and rebuke the judge for his impiety. Aegeas, no longer able to contain himself on hearing these words, ordered him to be raised on a cross, and so to die like Christ. St. Andrew, having been brought to the place of execution, seeing the cross at some distance, began to cry out: O good cross, made beautiful by the Body of my Lord! so long desired, so anxiously sought after, and now at last ready for my soul to enjoy! take me from amidst men, and restore me to my Master; that by thee He may receive me, Who by thee redeemed me. He was therefore fastened to the cross, on which he hung alive two days, preaching without cessation the Faith of Christ: after which he passed to Him, Whose death he had so coveted. The priests and deacons of Achaia, who wrote his passion, attest that all the things which they have recorded were heard and seen by them. His relics were first translated to Constantinople under the Emperor Constantius, and afterwards to Amalfi. During the Pontificate of Pius II, the head was taken to Rome, and placed in the Basilica of St. Peter.
The Greek Church was as fervent as any of the Churches of the west in celebrating the prerogatives and merits of St. Andrew. He was the more dear to it, because Constantinople considered him as her patron Apostle. It would, perhaps, be difficult for the Greeks to give any solid proofs of St. Andrew’s having founded, as they pretend, the Church of Byzantium; but this is certain, that Constantinople enjoyed, for many centuries, the possession of the precious treasure of the Saint's relics. They were translated to that city in the year 357, through the interest of the Emperor Constantius, who placed them in the Basilica of the Apostles built by his father Constantine. Later on, that is, about the middle of the sixth century, Justinian caused them to be translated a second time, but only from one part of the same Basilica to another.
The Church of Constantinople was at length deprived of the precious treasure of his relics. This happened in the year 1210, when the city was taken by the crusaders. Cardinal Peter of Capua, the legate of the Holy See, translated the body of St. Andrew into the Cathedral of Amalfi, a town in the kingdom of Naples, where it remains to this day, the glorious instrument of numberless miracles, and the object of the devout veneration of the people. It is well known how, at the same period, the most precious relics of the Greek Church came, by a visible judgment of God, into the possession of the Latins. Byzantium refused to accept those terrible warnings, and continued obstinate in her schism. She was still in possession of the head of the Holy Apostle, owing, no doubt, to this circumstance, that in the several translations which had been made, it had been kept in a separate reliquary by itself. When the Byzantine empire was destroyed by the Turks, Divine Providence so arranged events, as that the Church of Rome should be enriched with the magnificent relic. In 1462, the head of St. Andrew was, therefore, brought there by the celebrated Cardinal Bessarion; and on Palm Sunday, the 12th of April, the heroic Pope Pius II went in great pomp to meet it as far as the Milvian Bridge, and then placed it in the Basilica of St. Peter, on the Vatican, near the Confession of the Prince of the Apostles. At the sight of this venerable head, Pius II was transported with a religious enthusiasm, and before taking up the glorious relic in order to carry it into Rome, he pronounced the following magnificent address, which we give as a conclusion to this account of the Liturgy of the Feast of St. Andrew:
At length thou hast arrived, O most holy and venerable head of the saintly Apostle! The fury of the Turks has driven thee from thy resting-place, and thou art come as an exile to thy brother, the Prince of the Apostles. Thy brother will not fail thee; and by the will of God, the day will come when men shall say in thy praise: O happy banishment, which caused thee to receive such a welcome! Meanwhile, here shalt thou dwell with thy brother, and share in his honors.
This is Rome, the venerable city, which was dedicated by thy brother's precious blood. The people thou seest are they whom the blessed Apostle, thy most loving brother, and St. Paul, the vessel of election, regenerated unto Christ our Lord. Thus the Romans are thy kinsmen. They venerate, and honor, and love thee as their father's brother; nay, as their second father; and are confident of thy patronage in the presence of the great God.
O most blessed Apostle Andrew! thou preacher of the truth, and defender of the dogma of the most Holy Trinity! with what joy dost thou fill us on this day, whereon it is given us to behold thy sacred and venerable head, which deserved that, on the day of Pentecost, the holy Paraclete should rest upon it in the form of fire!
O ye Christians that visit Jerusalem out of reverence for your Savior, that there you may see the places where His feet have stood; lo! here is the throne of the Holy Ghost. Here sat the Spirit of the Lord. Here was seen the Third Person of the Trinity. Here were the eyes that so often saw Jesus in the flesh. This was the mouth that so often spoke to Jesus; and on these cheeks did that same Lord doubtless impress His sacred kisses.
O wondrous sanctuary, wherein dwelt charity, and kindness, and gentleness, and spiritual consolation. Who could look upon such venerable and precious relics of the Apostle of Christ and not be moved? and not be filled with tender devotion? and not shed tears for very joy? Yea, O most admirable Apostle Andrew! we rejoice, and are glad, and exult, at this thy coming, for we doubt not that thou thyself art present here, and bearest us company as we enter with thy head into the holy city.
The Turks are indeed our enemies, as being the enemies of the Christian religion: but in that they have been the occasion of thy coming amongst us, we are grateful to them. For what greater blessing could have befallen us than that we should be permitted to see thy most sacred head, and that our Rome should be filled with its fragrance! Oh! that we could welcome thee with the honors which are due to thee, and receive thee in a way becoming thy exceeding holiness! But accept our good will, and our sincere desires to honor thee, and suffer us now to touch thy relics with our unworthy hands, and, though sinners, to accompany thee within the walls of the city.
Enter, then, the holy city, and show thy love to her people. May thy coming be a boon to Christendom. May thy entrance be peaceful, and thy abode amongst us bring happiness and prosperity. Be thou our advocate in Heaven, and, together with the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, defend this city, and protect with thy love all Christian people; that, by thy intercession, the mercy of God may be upon us; and if His indignation be enkindled against us by reason of our manifold sins, let it fall upon the impious Turks and the pagan nations that blaspheme Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thus has the glory of St. Andrew been blended in Rome with that of St. Peter. But the Apostle of the Cross, whose Feast was heretofore kept in many churches with an octave, has also been chosen as patron of one of the kingdoms of the west. Scotland, when she was a Catholic country, had put herself under his protection. May he still exercise his protection over her, and, by his prayers, hasten her return to the true Faith!
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