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Saint Andrew: Being the First-Called and Being Prepared

December 2, 2012

Andrew_the_First-CalledAgain the next day after John stood, and 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. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.  One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

A few days ago, the Church commemorated the Feast of Saint Andrew the First Called. In order to be the first-called, Saint Andrew was also the first to be ready. What made him ready? Prior to becoming a disciple of the Lord Jesus, he had been a disciple of Saint John the Forerunner. By virtue of this preparatory period with the Prophet and Forerunner John, the First-Called Andrew was able to recognize his Savior and immediately follow Him. This is spiritually significant for us who, through the Nativity Fast, are preparing to greet Christ once again. The call of the Apostle Andrew reminds us that we too must be prepared to recognize Christ in our daily lives.  As a disciple of the honorable Forerunner, Saint Andrew had embraced a life of extreme simplicity, austere fasting, sincere confession of sins, heartfelt repentance, and vibrant expectation that the time of the Messiah was drawing nigh.  This meant that he had forsaken worldly distractions and enticements by his desert surroundings and by his single-minded focus on the Baptist’s invitation to repentance. Thus, praxis in the form of fasting and simplicity as well as theoria in the form of repentance and hope are what purified his heart, making it ready for the Messiah’s coming. When the Forerunner exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God”, Andrew was noetically prepared to recognize the advent of his own salvation and begin to change at new level, moving from the stage of purification to that of illumination.

Real change must involve the entire human being including the thoughts, the will, and their expressions through action. Psychologists, such as C. DiClemente, speak about change as a cycle of four stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, and action, followed then by maintenance. First, one becomes aware of the need to change; then one begins to weigh the pros and cons of a new approach, afterwards one commits and plans to make a change, next, one implements the plan, and finally that new way of being or acting is integrated into a new way of life. For change to take place, one needs to realize that it is in one’s best interest, make a commitment, and then consistently act on that commitment. When this most human of all processes is accompanied by the grace of the Holy Spirit and is aimed at eternity, the transfiguration that takes place can be as brilliant as the noonday sun.

In the spiritual life, we begin by becoming aware of who we are and who we are called to be. In the spiritual pre-contemplation stage, we do some real soul-searching and try to discern what really matters in life. This is what preparation for Holy Confession is about. In the contemplation stage, we weigh the two worlds to which we can devote ourselves. In his Prayers by the Lake, Saint Nikolai of Zycha gives us the following example: “O Lord, my soul’s most cherished mystery, how light this world is, when I weigh it on a scale with Thee! On one side of the scale is a lake of molten gold and on other a cloud of smoke. All my cares, along with my body and its foolish convulsions of sweetness and bitterness—what are they except smoke beneath which my soul is swimming in a golden lake?” Outside of the spiritual life, choices are rarely so crystal clear. This clarity gives wings of zeal to the awakening soul. And when one realizes that one has found the pearl of great price in the preparation stage, one makes a commitment to acquire it and then in the action stage does what is necessary to obtain it working day and night until one reaches that goal.

Just as Saint Andrew had been prepared for the advent of the Messiah through discipleship with the Holy Forerunner, so we too are called through this sacred time of preparation for Nativity.  The spiritual tools offered to us—fasting, confession, and repentance—are the same tools offered by the Forerunner to Saint Andrew, but to have an effect we need to desire to change. We need to open our eyes and look into our souls; we need to establish some priorities; and we need to act. Then, fasting, confession, and repentance can bear unbelievably beautiful fruits as they did in the life of Saint Andrew for his salvation and the salvation of many.

Just as the Forerunner prepared Saint Andrew for his encounter with the Holy Lord Jesus, the Church prepares us to meet our Lord and Savior, born of a Virgin.  Holy confession, fasting, prayerful recitation of the Hours, and the Divine Liturgy prepare us to recognize Jesus in the circumstances of our daily lives.  Such participation assists us with the laborious exercise of weeding and pruning the garden of the heart—removing the thoughts and passions which choke off our ability to recognize Christ and His salvific work in our lives.

It all begins, however, with awareness or being awake. Hence at this time, the words of the Midnight Office are especially apt: Behold, the Bridegroom cometh at midnight, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching, but unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be weighed down with sleep; lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the kingdom.‘’

 

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