Prepare Your Heart for Christmas
Advent always begins on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew. This season is a time of preparation for the birth of Our Lord at Christmas. Even though we might get caught in the busyness of the pre-Christmas rush, we need to slow down in order to fully appreciate this holy season and to grow closer to Jesus and Mary in the days leading to the celebration of the Nativity.
This eBook gives several ways to deepen our faith this season as we approach the miracle of the Incarnation. May you have a holy Advent as you prepare your heart for Christmas.
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St. Andrew became an Apostle when Jesus called him while he was fishing. According to the Gospel of John, he was the first Apostle that the Lord called to follow Him. We can read three separate accounts of this, in Matthew 4:18-20, Mark 1:16-17, and John 1:35-41. In the Gospel of Mark, he is mentioned along with the other eleven Apostles.
Andrew introduced his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. In John 1:41-42 we read of Andrew’s first encounter with Jesus, and then his immediately going to share the news with his brother.
He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
In Matthew 4:18-19 and Mark 1:16-17, Andrew and Simon Peter are shown as called by Christ at the same time, leaving out the intimate detail which John recalls in his Gospel about Andrew’s role in immediately bringing Peter to Jesus.
“He was truly a man of faith and hope. … Thus, Andrew enjoyed precious moments of intimacy with Jesus.” – Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 14 June 2006
After Jesus died, and persecution within Judea and Samaria impelled the Apostles to the mission to the Gentiles, tradition suggests that Andrew preached along the Black Sea as far as the Kievan Rus, in Greece and in Byzantium (Turkey). For this reason, the Orthodox Church centered in Constantinople considers Andrew its founder. Later, preaching in Greece, he would be martyred for his faith in Christ.
Tradition holds that St. Andrew died in Patras, Greece, in 60 or 62 A.D., crucified on an “X” shaped cross. He was killed in this manner because he said he was unworthy to be crucified like Our Lord. Later, sometime between 64 and 68 A.D., his brother Peter would be crucified upside down on Rome’s Vatican Hill for the same reason.
Originally, the relics of St. Andrew were kept in Patras in Greece, where Andrew was martyred. After the Emperor Constantine legalized the Faith in 313, he had all but Andrew’s head moved to Constantinople and placed in a church he had built, the Church of the Holy Apostles. Those relics remained there until the 4th Crusade (1206), when they were taken to Italy. In Italy, they were placed in the Cathedral of Amalfi, where they remain to this day.
About 500 years ago, the skull of St. Andrew was taken from Patras to the Vatican. In 1964, Pope Paul VI had it returned to the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Patras, as a gesture of good will.
Along with the symbol of an x-shaped cross, St. Andrew is symbolized by two crossed fish, representing the cross he was crucified on as well as his former profession of a fisherman.
“We have found the Messiah.” – Saint Andrew the Apostle
Andrew is the patron saint of fishermen because of his profession before becoming an Apostle, and of Greece, Russia and Patras, where he was believed to have gone to evangelize after Jesus’ Ascension. He has also been adopted as patron by numerous places, including Scotland and Alabama, whose flags contain his x-shaped cross.
In the early centuries of the Church, there was no formal process of canonization as there is today. Thus, neither St. Andrew, nor other early saints, were formally canonized. Rather, the evidence of Andrew’s close collaboration with Christ as witnessed in Gospels, his own holiness of life and mission, especially the manner of his death for Christ, was recognized by the Church’s bishops. This was done by memorializing him in the liturgy, entering his name into the “canon” (the Eucharistic Prayer) of the Mass, honoring him with a feast day. As an Apostle, he has the additional honor of being mentioned in every Mass, since the Apostles are all named in the Roman Canon, or First Eucharistic Prayer, used by the Latin Church.
“The Apostle Andrew … teaches us to follow Jesus with promptness (cf. Mt 4: 20; Mk 1: 18), to speak enthusiastically about him to those we meet, and especially, to cultivate a relationship of true familiarity with him, acutely aware that in him alone can we find the ultimate meaning of our life and death.” – Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 14 June 2006
The name “Andrew” is originally a Greek name. It is related to the ancient Greek meaning “man,” “manly,” or “brave/strong.” Pope Benedict comments on St. Andrew’s name in a General Audience:
The first striking characteristic of Andrew is his name: it is not Hebrew, as might have been expected, but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness in his family that cannot be ignored. We are in Galilee, where the Greek language and culture are quite present.
Saint Andrew is mentioned by name 12 times in the New Testament, mostly in a list together with the other Apostles and most often in the Gospel of Mark. The Scripture verses that mention him are as follows:
- Matthew 4:18, 10:2
- Mark 1:16, 29, 3:18, 13:3
- Luke 6:14
- John 1:40, 44, 6:8, 12:22
- Acts 1:13
He was the brother of the Apostle Simon Peter and first an Apostle of St. John the Baptist. Pope Benedict XVI meditates on this fact in a General Audience he gave on St. Andrew:
From the Fourth Gospel we know another important detail: Andrew had previously been a disciple of John the Baptist: and this shows us that he was a man who was searching, who shared in Israel's hope, who wanted to know better the word of the Lord, the presence of the Lord.
Videos About St. Andrew
In one of his general audiences, Pope Benedict XVI gave a catechesis on Saint Andrew and helps us contemplate his life a bit more:
He was truly a man of faith and hope; and one day he heard John the Baptist proclaiming Jesus as: "the Lamb of God" (Jn 1:36); so he was stirred, and with another unnamed disciple followed Jesus, the one whom John had called "the Lamb of God.” The Evangelist says that "they saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day..." (Jn 1:37-39).
Thus, Andrew enjoyed precious moments of intimacy with Jesus. The account continues with one important annotation: "One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus" (Jn 1:40-43), straightaway showing an unusual apostolic spirit.
From Saint Andrew, we learn to proclaim Christ to others when we encounter Him. Saint Andrew met Jesus and immediately went to his brother to tell him the good news; he couldn’t keep it to himself!