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July 4, 2017

Saint Andrew, Archbishop of Crete (+ 740)

St. Andrew of Crete (Feast Day - July 4)


By death your labors found a great crown,
Shepherd of Crete who labored the Great Canon.
On the fourth the arch-sacrificer Andrew was seized by his destiny.

Our Holy Father Andrew was born around 660 in the city of Damascus to pious and virtuous parents named George and Gregoria. Up until seven years of age the boy was mute and did not talk, which distressed his parents who believed he would be mute for the rest of his life. However, after going to church and communing the Holy Mysteries of Christ he found the gift of speech and began to speak. And from that time the lad began earnestly to study Holy Scripture and he received a thorough education.

At fifteen years of age Andrew surmised that it was not possible to be united with divine knowledge without being freed from earthly and material things. Therefore he besought his parents to have them dedicate him to God. His parents thus took him to Jerusalem and dedicated their son at the Life-Giving Tomb of the Savior, and he was happily received by Patriarch Theodore who made him his secretary. After ordaining the young Andrew a Reader then a Subdeacon, the Patriarch took care to have Andrew perfected in virtue and manhood under his spiritual guidance. By this Andrew reaped fruits a hundredfold, and accepted monastic tonsure at the Monastery of Savvas the Sanctified. After this the Patriarch made Andrew a Deacon then an Archdeacon. For the next ten years Andrew lived at the Monastery of Saint Savvas, where he surpassed all the elder monks in his austerity of life and practice of the virtues, and he became an example to all.

While at the Monastery of Saint Savvas, Andrew contemplated the fact that the hymns of the Church should pay more attention to the lessons of Holy Scripture, especially focusing on sin and repentance. Thus he was the first to compose canons for liturgical services, which are usually chanted during Matins. Previously, during Matins there were refrains between the scripture verses. Saint Andrew expanded these refrains into fully developed poetic Odes, each of which begins with the theme (Irmos) of the scriptural canticle, but then goes on to expound the theme of the feast being celebrated that day (whether of the Lord, the Theotokos, a saint, etc.).

His masterpiece, the Great Canon (also known as the Great Canon of Repentance), is the longest canon ever composed (250 strophes). It is written primarily in the first person, and goes chronologically through the entire Old and New Testaments drawing examples (both negative and positive) which it correlates to the need of the sinful soul for repentance and a humble return to God. It is divided into four parts (called methymony) which are chanted at Great Compline on the first four nights of Great Lent (one part per night); later, it is chanted in its entirety at Matins on Thursday of the fifth week of Great Lent.

Twenty-four canons are reputed to have been written by Saint Andrew of Crete in his lifetime, though others say they number fifty-eight. Of these, we can be more or less certain that he wrote fourteen, including: the canons for the Resurrection of Lazarus (chanted at Compline on the Saturday—i.e., Friday night—before Palm Sunday); the Conception of Saint Anna (Dec. 9); the Maccabean Martyrs (Aug. 1); Saint Ignatius of Antioch (Dec. 20), as well as four triodia, and no fewer than one hundred and seven irmoi, though some say it is more like six hundred and ninety.

Once, when Andrew was at the Holy Sepulchre, he was informed that Patriarch Theodore was near death. Upon the death of the Patriarch, Andrew became locum tenens, but due to his young age he had the aid of a steward in the governance and guardianship of ecclesiastical affairs. Meanwhile, Emperor Constantine IV Pogonatos summoned what became known as the Sixth Ecumenical Synod in the year 680, which was to take place in the imperial palace of Constantinople, and its purpose was to put an end to Monotheletism. This Synod lasted from November 680 to September 681. However, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem was not represented due to the death of the Patriarch, therefore Andrew was sent to represent Jerusalem, with two clergymen he selected. Following the Synod, the two clergymen returned to Jerusalem with news of the results, while Andrew remained in Constantinople.

It was the desire of Andrew at this time to retire to a monastery in Constantinople, but his fame had already spread, therefore he was appointed Archdeacon at the Great Church of Hagia Sophia. Afterwards, he was entrusted with the guardianship and management of the orphanage and hospice for the elderly. Occupied with feeding and caring for the orphans and the poor, he would allow them more grain than usual, and because their space was too crowded, he built a larger space for them to occupy. Gaining much esteem in his duties, at some point between 700-710 he was elevated to become the Metropolitan of Gortyna, which was in Crete.

Arriving in Crete, Andrew tirelessly and diligently shepherded his flock. He also exhorted his priests, comparing the priest to a mirror that is cleaned and, therefore, a good reflector, that is, they should reflect the rays of divine light which should shine upon others. Archbishop Andrew also established order in the monasteries and convents, by giving them statutes and instructions on how to conduct their lives and carry out their rules. He also rebuilt ruined churches, and built hospices for the elderly, orphans, sick, strangers and the poor. Andrew served all his spiritual children, encouraging, instructing and inciting all to struggle for their salvation by fleeing worldly temptations, keeping the commandments of God, and showing love towards all. In this he was a supreme example, for he strengthened the sick, consoled the sorrowing, refreshed the faint-hearted, defended the widows and orphans, helped the poor, nourished the hungry and covered the naked. Thus he provided for the spiritual and physical needs of all his flock.

We do not deem it excessive to mention a few miracles that the Saint wrought by the grace of God which dwelt in him, that we might exhibit his sanctity and boldness before God.

Once, an enemy fleet came along side the island of Crete to take captives and diminish the Saint's flock. The island was in a state of siege and blockaded, and the invaders were prepared to utilize all their war machines against its inhabitants. Nonetheless, when the Saint prayed, the barbarians were impelled to flee from fear without offering resistance, and as they fled the waves of the sea mounted and overtook those who came to enslave the Christians.

At another time, it was the start of summer, burning hot, and there was no rain. Therefore the sown seed began to shrivel and was in danger of withering altogether. On account of this drought, the people feared a famine, and they began to lose hope. Then the Saint called upon God with all his heart to grant the earth rain, and in a miraculous manner the rain immediately began to fall, which caused the seed to bring forth abundantly. From this the people felt relief and were encouraged.

One day his province was visited by a widespread epidemic which utterly destroyed many people. The Saint interceded on behalf of his flock to put the fury of this disease to an end, and the Lord listened. Many other such miracles did Saint Andrew perform on behalf of his flock.

A need arose for Andrew to travel to Constantinople for an ecclesiastical matter. On his return to Crete, the ship dropped anchor in Mitylene. He asked someone there the name of the place, and when he learned it was Eressos, he remarked: "It is here that I must render to God the image that He gave me; it is here that I mean to repose." Therefore it was there that he departed to the Lord and was buried at the Church of Saint Anastasia. Church historians are not of the same opinion as to the date of his death. It is usually dated as July 4, 712 or 726 or 740.

His relics were later transferred to Constantinople. In the year 1350 the pious Russian pilgrim Stephen of Novgorod saw his relics at the Monastery of Saint Andrew of Crete in Constantinople. His sacred head is located today at Vatopaidi Monastery, and portions of his relics can be found in many other places. Besides his hymns and canons, he has also left behind over fifty homilies. He is also known as Saint Andrew of Jerusalem.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the First Tone
Like the Prophet David, you sang a new song, in the assembly of the righteous. As an initiate of the Holy Spirit, you thundered forth your hymns of grace, and the word of righteousness for our salvation, O Andrew, glory of the fathers.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
You sounded forth divine melodies like a trumpet, and were a bright lamp for the world. You shone with the light of the Trinity, O venerable Andrew. Therefore we cry to you: Ever intercede for us all.