Saint Andrew, whose feast we celebrate today, was protokletos – first called among the disciples. He and his brother Simon Peter were fishermen out of Bethsaida. From early in Matthew’s Gospel, we will recall the words, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Or, as it were, halieis anthropon, lest the simpletons think Christ meant “adult males” only.
Check him out in Google, as I just did, and you will find that a little factbox is called up, which includes such useful information as, “Nationality: Israeli.” This came as a surprise to me, raised as I was under the general impression that St. Andrew was. . .er, Scottish.
Perhaps I dwell too much on the sheer asininity of our postmodern, journalistic approach to everything; or on the descent of journalese into bureaucratese and form-filling. Might we construe from his Zionist affiliation that St. Andrew was also a neo-conservative?. . .Be prepared.
Patron of ye Scots, to be sure: along with several other patrons, over time, for no nation of such duration and girth can have one patron only. Patron of Russia, too, and Romania; to say nothing of old Byzantium. Sent, according to tradition, straight north, at the dispersal of the apostles to the ends of the earth. Therefore, let me claim him also for Canada, along with St. Joseph and St. John Baptist – for the Saltire, or X-shaped cross, is often to be found in the heraldry of my fair Dominion.
St. Andrew, pray for us: for all northern peoples, and wanderers into the winter now before us. And in the moment I imagine him clad in a buffalo skin, proceeding on snow shoes. . .north, north!
And pray with all fishermen; and fishmongers; and sufferers from gout; and singers; and those with sore throats; and spinsters; and maidens, young or old, longing for their children or to have children. St. Andrew, hear their prayers.
The liturgical significance of this day was impressed upon me in the year I became Christian, as the doorway into Advent. We are entering a liturgical New Year, and St. Andrew strides the “auld lang syne.” It would be a good day for an Haggis, and I have the sheep’s pluck ready to mind: neeps, tatties, and a dram.
(Truth, it will fall out of a tin, into a pan, “heated gently.”)
It soon struck me, back when I was “first called” (some thirty-seven years ago), that if I was going to be a Christian, St. Andrew’s would be as good a day as any to make resolutions for the coming Christian year. Since, this has been my own private habit, though one I’m prepared to share.
My task for the year just gone was “anger management,” for about the thirteenth time. My habit is to fix on only one resolution, for any given year, having found that with two or more I quickly forget the details. Granted, I am capable of all seven deadly sins, and the defeat of more than one should always be considered. But self-knowledge requires some focusing attempts.
“Wrath” is not an exceptionally Gaelic temperamental foible, any more than Andrew is an exclusively Scottish saint, but there is nevertheless a certain special relationship. My theory, worth little except that it is my own, assigns this to the long history of politicization.
With the Reformation came war of the worst kind, the battle of soul against soul, civil war of the spirit. The deeper loyalty to the Cross was disturbed by a communal riot for its possession, as not only Caledonia but Catholic halieis anthropon was split along doctrinal and ideological lines, and thus delivered into the hands of the panders of nationalism and ethnicity.
The Martyrdom of Saint Andrew
from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, c. 1414
To this day, communal politics, in ever mutating forms, inspire our psychopathic “will to power.” That anger has a place in the human perception of Justice, we cannot possibly deny. But neither can we avoid the place it takes in human misperception. And often we do not even know why we are angry, for the excuse first offered is often wrong.
The desire to reach for the dirk, and claim “another for Hector,” is thus not always to be resisted, though it should be mostly suppressed. It is rather like the role for money, assigned by the economists: a source of information, about the disposition of things. It tells us something could be done, but of course, we will need rightly ordered minds to decide just what would be appropriate.
It is as senseless to “buy into anger,” as to buy into money as an end in itself. And equally it is senseless to neglect the information each supplies. These are only guides to what is currently possible and impossible; messengers not to be killed, but watched carefully.
My own wrestle with anger has been, over the years, partly a struggle to understand it. Part of this struggle, in turn, is against the reductionism of our post-Christian culture, in which the glib and plausible substitute for intelligent thought. For instance, the notion that “anger is always a response to fear” is among the glib and plausible ideas that lead us, usually, astray.
Think, for a few moments, and it will be seen that this reductionist account eliminates the possibility of a righteous indignation – something our very Christ was not ashamed to exhibit, on one memorable occasion. Too, it narrows the field of perception, presenting man as merely animal, reacting to environment by instinct alone. Anger has more significance, in humans.
The image of St. Andrew, tethered to his cross in that peculiar way, speaks to the condition. For he was tied, not nailed to it, according to tradition. Tied like a beast; although he was a man. Other tortures were ordered by the Roman governor of Patrae, but this not to kill him, only to prolong the tortures.
Lord, tie us down, as St. Andrew, when we must endure the evils of this world.