Today, November 30th, we celebrate the memory of St. Andrew the Apostle, the brother of Saint Peter. The Gospel of John tells us that Andrew was the first of the apostles to follow Jesus and it was Andrew who then brought Peter to Jesus. Thus, in the Orthodox Church St. Andrew is called the First-Called. He met his death by martyrdom in the city of Patra in the Peloponnese in Greece. Today this is a busy port, but it is best known for its huge cathedral church of St. Andrew where the relics of the apostle are kept for veneration by the faithful. Andrew was crucified by the Romans – but he requested that his cross not be identical to the cross on which Jesus was crucified. He didn’t feel worthy to be crucified the same way as his Lord. So he was crucified on an X-shaped cross.
Saint Andrew achieved the end of his life with a sense of fulfillment and gratitude. A much more recent man of God also reached the end of his life with words of thanksgiving. Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s last Liturgy was on Thanksgiving Day 1983 and the words he spoke at that Liturgy have been printed previously in this blog and need not be repeated here. He was a true priest, perhaps the truest priest I’ve ever known in my life. And the words he spoke on Thanksgiving 1983, just three weeks before cancer took him home, encapsulate his own priesthood, as well as the priesthood of every believer. Thanksgiving is at the heart of what the priestly vocation is all about. So I will paraphrase the words of Fr. Schmemann and claim: Everyone capable of thanksgiving is a priest.
My reflections on this theme, in today’s sermon, can be heard here. (Pardon a couple of sound glitches and my own reaction to them.)