As we move into this season of Advent; a season marked by expectation, waiting, watching, and hoping; it seems appropriate that we would mark its beginning with a feast day.
Andrew the apostle was the brother of Simon Peter. He was born in the village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, and he and his brother were fishermen by trade, hence the meaningfulness of Jesus’ call to them to make them “fishers of humanity.” Our Orthodox sisters and brothers refer to Andrew as Protokletos, or ‘first-called.’ According to the Gospel of John, John the Baptist was standing with two of his disciples, Andrew and Peter. As Jesus was walking by, John exclaimed, “Here is the Lamb of God!” Andrew immediately began to follow Jesus, and urged his brother Simon to come and follow also. The story is well-known by us; Jesus says to Simon, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas (which is translated as Petros, or Peter).” That Peter is the “rock” upon whom Christ builds his church is common knowledge, but it seems that we forget that Andrew was the first one to offer this affirmation of Christ to Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” There is profound boldness in this statement.
Boldness, it seems, followed Andrew throughout his life. Throughout the gospels, Andrew can be seen at the feeding of the multitudes, the Last Supper, and the Resurrection. According to monastic readings, at the end of his life, Andrew was in the city of Patras in Achaia, relentlessly preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Infuriated by this, the proconsul of the city, Aegeas, ordered Andrew to cease saying these things about Jesus: “Boast no more of your Christ. He spoke as you do but his words did not help him, for he was crucified.” Andrew answered that Christ had delivered himself for the salvation of humankind. Enraged, Aegeas sent Andrew, bound, to prison, later sentencing him to be crucified like the Christ he so fervently preached. It is said that when he saw the cross upon which he was to be crucified he cried out, “How fervently I have loved you! How constantly I have sought you! And now that you have come to me, how my soul is attracted to you. Take me from here and unite me to my master, that as by you he redeemed me, so by you also he may take me to himself.” Then he was fastened to the cross, where he continued to live for two days, not ceasing to preach the faith of Christ. Finally he passed into the presence of Jesus, the likeness of whose death he had loved so well.
This boldness, this…fervor…is helpful to reflect on as we move into Advent. I think it takes a great deal of boldness to purposefully make time in our lives, a time commonly marked by the majority of our society by frantically rushing about getting ready for the big holiday of Christmas. Have you noticed how impatient it seems our world is? It feels like we’re so fixated on Christmas that we are so easily persuaded to blow right past the time we’re in presently. It seems that we’re unable to resist the temptation to mark the beginning of Christmas earlier and earlier every year.
Advent is a time of preparation, certainly, but might we also consider Advent as standing alone, not simply as a placeholder? Might we be so bold as to take this in-between time of Advent, and use it to carefully consider the significance of what will happen in a few short weeks? The utter significance of God coming to dwell with humanity is a weighty proposition. Be so bold as to sit with and reflect on that.
Questions for Reflection: What bold choices will you make to mark this season of Advent? What would your prayer to God be as you move into Advent? You could write it out, or draw it, or paint it, or build it, or…