Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Holy Apostle Andrew, The First-Called

Saint Andrew, The First-Called,
Apostle To The Romanians.

Troparion - Tone 4

Andrew, first-called of the Apostles and brother of the foremost disciple, entreat the Master of all to grant peace to the world and to our souls great mercy.

Kontakion - Tone 2

Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God, the namesake of courage, the first-called of the Savior's disciples and the brother of Peter. As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us: "Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!"



By George Alexandrou


George Alexandrou: The question was if, by setting the various traditions side-by-side, I could trace St. Andrew’s travels with any probability. Our strongest evidence, and what we always hoped for, was early written commentary about the apostle’s visit to an area along with a separate, verified oral tradition from the same place that has been passed down until now. As I went on, I discovered that in time and geography the Kazakhstani tradition fit the Sogdiana tradition (modern Uzbekistan), the Sogdiana tradition fit into the Parthian tradition (Persia) and the Parthian tradition fit the Syriac tradition. It was like a train, one car after another, until I had only twenty years missing from St. Andrew’s return to the Black Sea from Valaamo until he went to Sinope – and from there to Patras in Achaia, to his martyrdom.

Reporter: Were you able to resolve those twenty years?

George Alexandrou: Yes, I found a local Romanian tradition that St. Andrew lived twenty years in a cave in Romania, in Dervent, and during this time he traveled through what is now Romania, Bulgaria and Moldavia. But the most incredible thing was that, according to the early Romanian traditions, the years he was there was the exact period I was missing from the other traditions. The most important thing is that these puzzle pieces – the separate local traditions of Bulgaria, Romania, Ethiopia, of the Aramaic people, the Syrians, the Copts, even the Greek and Roman church traditions all fit together, but you have to follow them step by step to recreate his life.


To the North

George Alexandrou: It was on his return south that he settled in Romania for twenty years. During that time he traveled in Moldavia and Bulgaria, on the Danube and along the coast of the Black Sea, but mostly he was in and around his cave in Dervent, Dobrogea, in southern Romania. St. Andrew’s Romanian cave is still kept as a holy place and Romanian Orthodox have gone there on pilgrimage for almost two thousand years. We also know the locations of other caves he lived in: in Pontus near the Black Sea (now Turkey), in Georgia, in Russia, in Romania, and in Loutraki near Corinth. It is all him, the same man.

Reporter: Why did he stay in Romania for so long?

George Alexandrou: I didn’t understand this myself at first, but it appears that he felt very close to the Romanians because they were monotheists. According to Flavius Josephus, their clerics were like Essenes. They were virgins, strict vegetarians who didn’t even eat fleshy vegetables, but only seeds and nuts like ascetics in the desert. Dacian society was very free, the women had a good, equal position there, not like Greco-Roman society, and the Dacians didn’t keep slaves. In fact, they were unique in the world at that time because they didn’t have slaves. According to Romanian traditions and archeological findings, the Dacians became Christian under St. Andrew himself in the first century. It is natural that he would have felt at home with the Dacian clergy and that they would have readily accepted him and converted. The Ethiopic tradition also describes St. Andrew as a very strict vegetarian. This is possible because, although most of the other apostles were married, both he and John the Evangelist were virgins. They had been disciples of St. John the Baptist and followed his hesychast tradition. They were the first monks and ascetics of the Christian world. Even in our Orthodox hymnography we remember St Andrew as being closely associated with St. John the Baptist. In Orthodoxy we have choices: we have vegetarian hermits, sometimes very strict, living only on bread and water all their lives, and we also have saintly kings who ate pork and beef. He was in Romania for twenty years and I think he loved this land more than anything after being with Christ. I believe that God allowed it as a consolation because he had been on such difficult missionary journeys. We have descriptions of places where he wasn’t welcome, where he was forced to leave and his despair over this. Things were often very difficult, particularly when he was in the Slavic lands where human sacrifice was still practiced. You can imagine, he was tired of living with this, and when he came to the Dacians, who had no slaves, where men and women were equal, where Jews and Greeks were accepted in the same manner, and where there were ascetic hermit-priests, you can understand how easily he fit in. He was able to teach, he was happy there. In fact, they thought that the religion he brought was not only better than theirs, but was a continuation of their old religion. They saw their native religion as a foreshadowing of Christianity. Twenty years is a long time, and you can understand why the Romanians remember more of him than any other tradition. From Romania there are traditions that he went to Cherson in the Crimea and from there to Sinope, to Macedonia, and preached a bit in Epirus (northern Greece and southern Albania). Although we have references from early texts that he preached in Epirus, we don’t have any local traditions there. The rest of the sites I’ve quoted are supported by both written texts and oral tradition.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Great, now I feel guilty about eating fleshy vegetables. You crazy Dacian ascetics! :)