May 28, 2015

Saint Andrew the Fool for Christ as a Model for our Lives

St. Andrew the Fool for Christ (Feast Day - May 28)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

"Fool for Christ" is a category of saintly personalities who had many spiritual gifts, in particular the special gift of foolishness for Christ. They were not fools, or crazy, but they pretended to be so in order not to be praised and glorified by people for the spiritual gifts and miracles they displayed. They had deep humility, great love for God and people, and in a special way they helped those who were benevolent to be healed of their passions, and guided them on the path of progress and salvation.

Foolishness is a spiritual gift, which is given by God to those who have fiery zeal and ardent love for God, as well as the ability to tread this path until the end. Surely, however, what assists them in this task is their character. They mock the world, namely the worldly mindset, and the devil, who hates them to death. And they do this in order to substantially help people, and liberate them from being dominated by the passions and the devil, using various means, which in the eyes of "reasonable" people seem absurd.

Saint Andrew came from Scythia and lived during the reign of Leo VI the Wise (886-912). From his childhood he was sold as a slave to a general in the East who was pious and virtuous, who loved him and raised him as his own child. He even sent him to school to study sacred letters. He studied the lives of the saints, and especially loved the martyrs and wanted to imitate their zeal and love for Christ. Thus he was a lover of God and lover of people. Whatever he had he would distribute to the poor, which often left him naked and hungry. But God comforted him, and made him worthy of lofty spiritual visions and great gifts.

We will now briefly refer to a few events in his life to show the pastoral methods of the saints.

- Saint Andrew had the habit of praying in the sacred temples or in deserted places, at times when people were busy and would not pay attention to him. One morning, at dawn, he went to pray in the sacred temple of the Panagia and the gates were closed. Upon doing the cross over the main gate, it opened immediately. A young man who happened to be passing by and saw him said: "This is a servant of God whom we idiots call crazy. And how many other such servants of God are there that no one knows about!" Saint Andrew called for him to come near, he appropriately admonished him and taught him how to walk in life, in order to progress and be saved. Also, he told him not to reveal to anyone what he saw until after his death, otherwise he would face a great temptation.

- It was a great blessing of God for Epiphanios, a young virtuous man, to come to know Saint Andrew. Epiphanios, because he had inner purity, realized that this was a Saint and not someone crazy or demon possessed, as others called him. In the life of Saint Andrew incidents from their meetings are recorded, as well as the lofty theological analyses of the Saint, which were responses to the queries of Epiphanios. Whenever Epiphanios had a problem he would flee to Saint Andrew, who gave him solutions, and he would protect him from temptations and the attacks of the devil. In one of their meetings Epiphanios bent to kiss his hand, then the Saint knelt before him and said: "Bless me, Master!" Then he advised him how to shepherd his reasonable flock, which was by trusting in Christ through the Church. And indeed Epiphanios became the Patriarch of Constantinople forty years later.

- One day as Andrew was wandering the streets he met a monk whom people considered pious and virtuous. Saint Andrew, however, with his spiritual gifts, understood that this monk was avaricious, because he saw the demon of avarice wrapped around his neck, and his guardian angel sadly abandoned him. This monk would exploit the mystery of confession in order to become rich by receiving gifts from those he would confess. And as much as he increased in wealth it seemed as if he was a monk dedicated to gold rather than Christ. Saint Andrew approached him and with his therapeutic words tried to lead him to repentance and salvation. He said to him, among other things, the following: "I sense great sorrow for your sake and unbearable suffering. How has it happened that you went from being a friend of God to a friend of the devil? You who had wings like the Seraphim, why have you uprooted them and handed them to Satan? You who had a brilliant countenance, how have you become darkened? ... How did you become a friend of the dragon of avarice? What do you want with gold, brother? Why have you gathered it? Why do you love it? How did you gain it to cause your destruction? ... Others hunger and thirst, others die from the cold, and you see your wealth increase and you rejoice? Are these signs of repentance? Is this your monastic life? ... I heard the Lord frown upon you and say: 'My kingdom is for the merciful.' ... If you disobey my words I will tell the devil to trouble you. Then you will become a laughing stock not only in the city, but throughout the world." With what the monk heard he was moved. He asked the Saint to pray for him and promised that he would strive with all his strength for his correction. He was finally redeemed from the shackles of the demon of avarice and rediscovered the true purpose of his life.

The reasonable craziness of the fools for Christ, heals the unreasonable craziness of the life of the passions, the life of hypocrisy and arrogance.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Άγιος Ανδρέας ο διά Χριστόν σαλός", April 2013. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.