Feast of St. Andrew
King’s College Chapel, Halifax
November 30th, 2017
“And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.”
The Feast of St. Andrew points us at once both to ends and to beginnings.
Compared to the calendar new year, which so often feels firmly rooted in winter, the change in the liturgical calendar that we are about to experience from Trinitytide into a new church year, often feels as though we are stuck between two worlds, seasonally and spiritually.
We have, it feels, one foot firmly planted in what remains of this last year, and one is creeping over the threshold into Advent and the new year.
We are not quite at the end of this year, but already we feel it. The birth pangs that accompany the end of one year, mingled with the anticipation and perhaps even excitement of what follows Advent. Something new; a beginning in which is also an end.
This month has been a time, too, when the end seems very present to us. We begin by celebrating in quick succession All Saints’ and All Souls’; a vision of what our true end looks like, followed by a reminder that we aren’t yet there.
And so how fitting it is that November ends with Andrew, the protokletos, the first called; whose Festal day can fall either before the end of the year, as it does today, or often just after the end, at the beginning of the next.
Even the Gospel for the Sunday Next Before Advent, which you have no doubt heard this week, recalls Andrew and the story of his being called to follow Christ from being a follower of John the Baptist.
Of Andrew, fairly little is known.
We know that he was a native of Bethsaida, a fisherman and son of a fisherman, brother to Simon Peter, and a fellow disciple of John the Baptist alongside John the Evangelist.
He was the first called to become a disciple of Jesus, a story which we heard in the Gospel for the Sunday Next Before Advent, “John the Baptist stood, with two of his disciples, and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, ‘behold the Lamb of God!’ And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.”
But that he later returned to his life as a fisherman, to be called once again by Jesus to give it all up and give himself wholly to discipleship, “And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.”
It is believed Andrew was martyred under the reign of the Emperor Nero around the year 60, having been crucified on an X-shaped cross.
In this season of ends, a season of diminishing light, of the diminishing Trinitytide, Andrew and the readings that remember him now, in these end times, all point to the beginnings which follow.
In the Gospel for this week we see the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s prophecy of the coming of the Lamb of God, and the fulfillment of what he told his own disciples, “…this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Here at the end of John the Baptist’s ministry is a new beginning in Andrew, the first called and the first missionary, as the first to be told of coming of Christ was Andrew’s own brother, “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother, Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah (which is being interpreted, the Christ).”
John Baptist goes out with no last words, no blaze of glory, no final statement. His life snuffed out by Herod. His decrease we experience beautifully and symbolically by the darkening of our days until shortly before the birth of Christ when daylight begins to increase once more.
But in the midst of the darkness of these end times, amid diminishing and decrease we see Andrew, poised on the threshold of the new year pointing us, as all the Saints do, towards the one brighter and greater than he.
We see in Andrew’s first missionary act to his own brother a diminishing and an increase; we hear little of Andrew after that, but Peter becomes the rock upon which Christ will establish his church.
Andrew shows us that all things have their end in Christ. No end, whether of a ministry like John’s or a livelihood like Andrew and Peter remains simply an end, but finds its fulfillment in and through Christ.
The Feast of Andrew heralds in the season of Advent, a season in which we will turn ourselves to fasting, repentance, and anticipation.
It is only through this repentance that we can be truly emptied of our wills and all other barriers that keep us from receiving Christ when he comes.
It is only through being emptied of our will the way that Andrew was emptied of his at his calling, that we can let go of our all our treasures, for the sake of the beauty that is God.
“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.”