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In with the Old, In with the New

Fr. Chrysostom

The feast of the blessed apostle Andrew stands on the border between two liturgical years. His is either the last feast day of one year or the first feast day of the next. As such he is in a particularly good position to fulfill the words of the Lord, “Every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his treasury both the new and the old.”

What is old, though it opens the new year, is the age of prophecy. It was Andrew who was one of the two disciples to whom St. John the Baptist testified, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” All the prophets before John had foretold the coming of Christ from afar, but John is rightly called the greatest of the Old Testament prophets because he testified to what he saw with his own eyes. So much was this man identified with his mission that the gospel says of him quite literally, “He was not the light, but to testify to the light.” The grammar is clear: This man’s identity is a purpose clause, entirely wrapped up with giving witness to Jesus, in life and in death.

What is new, though it closes the previous year, is not suffering for the sake of Christ—many in the Old Testament had done that: Isaiah was sawn in two; Jeremiah was stoned to death; John himself was beheaded. No, what was new was desiring and embracing one’s cross with joy. Before Christ words like these were absolutely unheard: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church.” “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The cross is the throne of Christ the King and the sign to appear in the sky on the last day.

From John, Andrew learned the humility of a preacher: “'Who are you?' 'I am not the Christ.' 'Are you the prophet?' 'No. I am "the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'” whose sandals strap I am not worthy to untie.'” From Christ, Andrew learned all-consuming zeal for the passion: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!”

After Pentecost Andrew disseminated the faith of Christ in Scythia, and then Epirus and even barbarian Thrace, and finally in Patras in Greece. There the proconsul Ægeas, deluded by demons into preferring himself as the judge of men rather than having Christ as the Judge of all, threatened Andrew and tried to persuade him to sacrifice to the gods. But Andrew replied, “I daily offer to Almighty God, who is one and true, neither the flesh of bulls nor the blood of goats, but the immaculate Lamb, whose flesh the whole throng of believers afterwards consumes—the Lamb, who has been sacrificed yet who remains whole and alive.” Not surprisingly, the proconsul Ægeas threw Andrew into prison, where he would easily have been freed by the people but that he begged them not to impede his approaching palm of martyrdom which he so greatly desired.

Brought again before Ægeas, Andrew rebuked his impiety and extolled the cross of Christ until the proconsul could bear it no longer, but commanded the apostle to be crucified in imitation of the death of the Savior. When from afar Andrew caught sight of the X-shaped cross prepared for him, he cried out, “O good cross, who received glory from the limbs of the Lord, so long desired, ardently loved, unceasingly sought for, and finally ready for the soul that longs for you, take me from among men and restore me to my Master, so that he who redeemed me through you may receive me through you, as well.”

Then, like the man that his name proclaims him, Andrew hung on the cross for two grueling days, never ceasing to proclaim the Christian faith until his soul departed to him whose death Andrew had longed to imitate. May we in our turn so dedicate our lives to testifying to Christ Jesus that we too will share in his cross and, like St. Andrew and through his intercession, enjoy his glory forever. Amen.

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