St. Apostle Andrew and Ukraine: History Actual Now

The Christians of Ukraine nurture over centuries a pious devotion to the First-called Apostle Andrew. In honor of his name were named monasteries and churches; his name bore Princes of Rus’ and monks. The Council of Kyiv 1629 proclaimed him Apostle of Ukraine (1). In memory of the St. Andrew’s prophecy the citizens of Kyiv built permanently churches on that legendary place — hills at the Dnipro River.

The commemoration of the St. Andrew’s dwelling in the Northern Black Sea Area belongs to the carefully preserved tradition of Crimea (Southern Ukraine). This is in particular indicated by toponymies derived from his name. One of the most venerated places in Crimea is the Ai-Andrit-Fount (i.e. St. Andrew, or, as it is called by Crimean Tatars, a “Waterfall of St. Andrew”). This fount is situated in few kilometers near the town Alushta – at that place, where, according to tradition, preached St. Andrew the First-called. The pilgrimages go there each year.

A witness of the veneration of the St. Andrew is the choosing him as a heavenly Patron of the Orthodox spiritual educational institutions and churches. For instance, the founded 1838 Priest Seminary of Odessa is dedicated to his intercession and protection. Among its Rectors was the contemporary Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (in communion with Moscow Patriarchate), Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan). Since 2000 the Seminary publishes the pastoral-theological journal “St. Andrew’ Review”. A new example is the consecration in honor of St. Andrew of the Greek-Catholic church in Odessa. Consecrated at 11th of December 2005 by Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, it is a main temple of the Exarchate of Odessa and Crimea of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. This Exarchate includes the whole Southern Ukraine.

The history shows us many examples of veneration of St. Apostle Andrew in Ukraine. But let’s ask a question: what teaches this history us, the Christians of Ukraine in the XXI century? Which lessons we and our communities can learn today from the Apostle’s life? Which gifts of his mission are owned by our people and our Churches? And how can we put into practice the fruits of his mission in the daily reality of our life?

The Gift of Vocation

The first gift which St. Andrew receives from God is the gift of vocation in faith. What’s the essence of this vocation? Each Christian vocation is by its nature a vocation to the apostolate (“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men”, Mt 4,19). Ant this apostolate we should understand as a personal involvement in the universal Work of Salvation which God performs. The First-called Apostle reveals that Jesus is the Messiah. Being unable to restrain this joy within himself, Andrew runs to his brother Peter and announces: “We have found the Messiah” (Jo 1,41). The text of the Gospel of John witnesses: it is Andrew (unlike the Mt 16,16, where Peter confesses his faith), who first confesses the faith that Jesus is Christ. It is Andrew who leads Peter to the Lord for to become together “fishers of men”.

But Andrew passes his faith even farther, leading to the Lord peoples of Achaia and Scythia. In the Kyiv Chronicles from the XII and till XIX century sound as a guiding motive the words of the St. Andrew’s prophecy, told by him, according tradition, on the Kyiv hills: “On these mountains will shine the God’s grace”. For the Ukrainian Christians it was of the highest importance to realize, that they received the Divine grace directly from God. The Firs-called disciple of Christ in some way gave a part of the “first-called authority” to the people of Kyiv. Exactly – immediately from God, and not from foreigners comes the Divine grace on the land of Kyiv Rus’. This fact found its artistic expression in Ukrainian literary works of art and paintings. For instance, in Rome is preserved a painting miniature which shows Jesus Christ crowning at 1075 a Kyiv king couple Iz’yaslav and Iryna. Ukrainian icons depict Divine grace poured on Princes and Ukrainian nobility (2).

God calls separate individuals, God calls also the entire peoples. He donates them faith and makes them “fishers of men”. And in the history of European continent the Kyiv Rus’ has played its peculiar role. It became a Christian cradle and apostle of peoples of Eastern Europe. This peculiarity of the Kyiv Church vocation was emphasized several times by the Pope John Paul II during his pastoral visit in Ukraine in June 2001: “It is Kyiv, from which begun to flourish this Christian life, which the Gospel cultivated first of all on territories of the ancient Rus’, then on territories of Eastern Europe, and then in course of time behind the Ural, in Asia” (3). And further: “Accepting the Good News, the Kyiv Rus’ became the ‘Mother of the Slavic Christendom of the Eastern Europe’, where the “Dnipro River became almost the ‘Jordan of Ukraine’, and the capital city Kyiv – the ‘New Jerusalem’, Mother of the Slavic Christianity of the Eastern Europe” (4).

Each of us received the gift of faith. Each of us was once called by God to life, then – to life in this or that Church’s community, which has its own traditions and its own history of holiness. How often we are supercilious because of our belonging to this tradition! How often we gratify ourselves luxuriously in the haughtiness of our hearts with the thought that we’re chosen! “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt 22,14). But in that we’re chosen is no our personal merit, only a gift of God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2,8). If we are aware that we partake on a completely unmerited gift, we should also realize the responsibility with which we’re charged. In humility and contrition of heart we should response to this vocation and follow the Lord together wit Andrew who preceded us in faith. – In order we may become today “fishers of men”.

The Gift of Martyrdom

The vocation requires from us fidelity. Fidelity is one of most fundamental Christian and human virtues. Fidelity helps us to grow in our vocation, to preserve and enrich it. Our response on God’s vocation, our witness about God becomes due to fidelity trustworthy in the eyes of the world. Each witness (martyria on Greek) is inevitably connected with suffering and death for a right cause. But people become witnesses not because they give their lives for this or that truth. On the contrary, one can expose himself to persecution and martyrdom because he became already a witness of the inviolability of the Divine Providence in Christ, Who is the “eternal witness” (Rev 1,5).

Like a leaven, we are called to contribute to the sanctifying of the world from within – by the witness of our lives, as we radiate the light of the faith, hope and love, revealing Jesus Christ to other people. But our witness will be true and our apostolate fruitful only then, when we, like St. Apostle Andrew, are ready to follow Christ till the end, on the Cross.

The Cross and suffering are a distinctive sign of a disciple of Christ. “The cross is not the terrible end of a happy, pious life; on the contrary, it stands on the beginning of the union with Christ. Each call of Christ leads to death” (5). In unison with these words of a protestant theologian and martyr of the last century Dietrich Bonhoeffer sound the words of our contemporary Cardinal Roger Eczegeray: “Each Christian is born for to become martyr, and exactly martyrdom creates Christians” (6).

Martyrs and confessors are that power which moves forward the history (7). The St. Apostle Andrew is not a picture from a glossy cover, and not a literary hero of doubtful legends. He belongs not to the past. He, like other martyrs, belongs to our present and our future. From the pint of view of the theology of history one cannot say, that a sense of a concrete époque an of each individual life – even of the life of a saint – is in itself completed. Hans Urs von Balthasar explains this thought so: “The past times and events are so minimally completed and irretrievable, that at any moment an access to them is possible, which determines them in their essence (as only illusory past), and during the passing time changes them constantly. In correspondence with it are the consequences of the Christian behavior, which go to the future: each deed performed in faith has not only here and now immediate consequences, but also the future ones, because it determines and transforms in an unheard efficacious way the structure of what shall come” (8).

The fates of all people are interknitted: “What was the sense of life of the first man will not be ultimately revealed before the last one has lived his life till the end” (9). Therefore the experience and martyr death of the St. Apostle Andrew calls today us – his spiritual children – to fulfill our destiny and give our own witness. “Each performed Christian mission is a foundation for new missions. If some Christian avoids the task, the sense of which is to become a living stone built in in a spiritual temple (conf.: 1 Pt 2,5), then in such a way he negatively changes the mission of all those, who, based on his performed mission, should be ‘built in’ higher, above him” (10). Therefore it depends from each Christian living in the Ukraine, who partakes on the St. Andrew’s heredity, indeed from each of us sitting in this hall, to which extent the mission of St. Andrew will be performed today.

Due to the Sacrament of Baptism a Christian receives a possibility “to descend in the infernal spheres of the world”. In this way the Baptism makes us not only participants of Death and Resurrection of Christ, but unites us with Christ, Who descends into Hades. “Here is hidden a call to descend together with Christ to the human Hades in order to become witness of His Resurrection and His Light. Each baptized, like Christ, bears on himself a hidden stigma of commitment and care on the fates of all those, who need redemption and salvation” (11). While each of us responds to the pain of the world, he steps on the way of martyrdom.

The gift of communion

The witness of martyrs is a powerful call to reconciliation and unity (12). All the more, this witness confirms, that already today, despite of their division, the Christians in a real, thou yet far from perfection way participate in the communion of saints. But speaking on communio sanctorum, we cannot pass by in silence the question of communio in sacramentum. The communion in faith is not only condition of the sacramental life, but also its fruit and result. It is possible in a case, when other Churches recognize in the sacraments’ celebration of a given Church sui iuris the identity of their own faith. In this way they “experience a strengthening in faith. The sacramental life serves to strengthen the communion of faith between Churches” (13). Such an experience of faith was peculiar to Christians in the Nazis’ concentration camps and soviet GULAGs, where Orthodox and Catholics shared to each other the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist (14).

The Polish theologian Wacław Hryniewicz, who participated for many years in an International mixed commission of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue thinks that the relationship between the sacraments and faith should be understood first of all in categories of the one undivided gift of God, which Spirit gives to all without limits (15). In such a case the diversity of formulas, found in different Churches and traditions, don’t mean by itself a divergence in the dogmatic content of faith. While being different, these formulas are expression, proclamation and celebration of the one and the same Trinitarian faith. “It is necessary, that each of the Churches could discern (underlining is my – A.D.) it in these formulas and recognize it as expression of the apostolic faith. It would be recognition of identity of the faith, handed down in each of the Churches; recognition of identity of the Mystery of Salvation, realized in each of them, and in the same way – of the identity of the very Mystery of the Christ’s Church as such” (16). Reverend Hryniewicz reminds, that at the periods of discords during the first millennium, the Council’s Fathers, before they debate at the Council, celebrated together the Eucharistic Liturgy. The Eucharist was not only a consequence of the Church’s unity, but also a healing, therapeutic meaning. We would need to have more often recourse to this healing means in the intercommunion practice.

But why arise in our Church communities the problems with discernment of the unity of faith and with recognition of identity of the Mystery of Salvation in other Christian communities? The cause of crisis arose not today – it was born by the century-old tradition of the “doctrine logics” and legalism (17). The prominent Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann wrote in his diaries, that Christendom, if it looses an eschatological perspective, degenerates inevitably into a kind of [Pharisaical] legalism. We should look for such model of ecumenism, which will revive and develop this eschatological perspective in our Churches. We need to return today to the sources of our faith (18). The search of the deeper foundations of Christianity should take into account also that Semitic context, in which it was born. The Jewish fisherman and “fisher of men” Andrew experienced his faith not as a fidelity to the doctrine, but as a striving to the holiness of life. In the Semitic tradition the faith was always experienced as first of all a trust in God. And our faith also cannot be a Christendom of conned formulas, but should become the Christendom of life. In this aspect the Christian communities could borrow much from the unique experience of faith of the Judeo-Christian communities, which are passing now through a period of awakening and an intensive development (19).

Thus the Christian unity is to some extent already realized in the communion of saints. Where the “eschastic oicumene” is realized, is not so important our ecclesiastical origin (Herkunft), but our aim (Ankunft), to which we strive. Our urgent task of today is to recognize in the empirical reality of our Church communities the unity, already realized in the communion of saints.

The Gift of Hope

It is not so easy to restore the unity. It requires humility and repentance; it requires a feat of faith and fortitude. And in this patronages us again St. Apostle Andrew, whose name translated from Greek means “manly, courageous”. We need to renew again and again this “dialogue of love” started more than 40 years ago by the spiritual successor of St. Apostle Andrew, Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras I, and by the spiritual successor of St. Apostle Peter, Pope Paul VI. Such a dialogue becomes for us a “school of trust and wisdom of heart” (20).

“During last centuries piled up a lot of stereotypes of thinking, insults and intolerance, – said John Paul II at the Divine Liturgy on the Lviv hippodrome on 27th of June 2001, addressing the Christians of Ukraine. – Only one thing able to clear the way is forgetting of the past, asking for forgiveness and forgiving each other for inflicted and gotten insults, while we inflame in ourselves a boundless trust to the renewing influence of the Holy Spirit” (21). The Pope himself gave to it an outrageous witness. Stepping on the earth of Ukraine, John Paul II said: “Unfortunately there were also sad times, when the icon of the Christ’s love was darkened: we prostrate ourselves before the Lord, Who is one and the same for all, and concede our guilt. While we ask for forgiving for errors done in the far and near past, we, on our side, ensure that we also forgive the unjust deeds done against us. My most sincere desire, which comes from my heart, is that the past errors never repeat in the future. We are called to be witnesses of Christ and to be them together” (22).

It is a time for us to take seriously and responsibly to our hearts the truth that the Church exists not for the sake of herself, but for the sake of the world. In the Dogmatic Constitution on Church Lumen gentium stands, that the Church is a sacrament, i.e. a visible and efficacious sign of unity between God and people, and because of it a sign of unity between the all people (LG 1). The non reconciled Christians cannot be envoys of reconciliation and peace in a world filled with hate.

Today a truth reveals itself to us (a truth so evident for Andrew and other Apostles but forgotten by many Christians), that the meaning of Gospel ant its annunciation consists not in an information about dogmatic doctrines, moral prescriptions and canonical settlements, but in proclaiming and manifestation of the eschatological Paschal event. The enunciator is not fixed on the past, but strives in the future. He reveals “the eschatological rule of Resurrected over the world and in this way liberates the man in faith and hope to the fullness of salvation” (23). It is necessary to welcome every initiative, which serves to the approximation and reconciliation of Christians in the spirit of mutual respect (24). “And when you will see all these things happen, know that the Kingdom of God is near” (Lk 21,31).

Is the desired unity possible? In a human sense – already not. In the God’s view – not yet. But the world around us changes swiftly: “what only yesterday was impossible becomes reality today. Jesus Christ calls us to revive in our hearts the feeling of a brotherly love. Relying on love, it is possible with the God’s assistance to transfigure the world” (25).


At the end of my reflexions on the actuality of life of St. Andrew for us, Christians who live “here and now”, I would mention the lines from the book of the Cardinal Giacomo Biffi “Christ and Antichrist”. Let them be for us an incentive for a deep reflexion and a brotherly admonition: “In our days the community of believers lets an impression of those, who are more talking than acting. Sometimes our Christendom seems to be “red out” or “talked out”. It would be much better to inspire ourselves with patterns of martyrs, which witness, that a mere knowledge of the Bible and ecclesiastical texts is without doubt useful and necessary, but for Got it has a value only so far as it bears and nourishes the new life, transfigured by grace and a true ability for self-sacrifice. In the same way the hours spent for debates in various Christian organizations on the all levels, are justified only then, when they indeed bear such a life, which is constantly filled with faith, hope and love. Otherwise we run a risk to become abundant leafs on a fruitless tree” (26).

Only in such a case the history of the Jewish fisherman Andrew, whom Christ called first, will be actual for us today.


1.«Андрій Первозванний – основоположник Української Православної Церкви – приклад сумлінного служіння, вірності покликанню перед Богом і людьми». —;13288/ . 13.12.2006.
2. . 12.12.07
3. Homily at the Holy Mass of the Latin Ritus. Kyiv, sport object “Chaika”, 24 of June 2001. – 3 // Прочанин миру та надії. Київ 2004.
4. Homily at the Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine-Ukrainian Ritus. Kyiv, sport object “Chaika”, 25 of June 2001. – 4 // Прочанин миру та надії. Київ 2004.
5. Д. Бонхёффер. Следуя Христу. Пер. А. Копейкина. б.м.и. 1992. — С. 55. In this context are worthy of mention the deep reflections on the martyrdom of an orthodox saint Nicolas Kabasilas in the perspective of the sacraments of Christian initiation. See: Н. Кавасила. Семь слов о жизни во Христе // Христос, Церковь, Богородица. – Москва, 2002. – С. 22-72, especially 36 ff. (English translation is my – A.D.).
6. Р. Ечегерай. Істинний Бог, Істинна людина. Пер. з франц. В. Кащенко. – Київ, 2005. – С. 163. (English translation is my – A.D.).
7. See: Hans Urs von Balthasar. Theologia dziejów. Tłum. z niem. J. Zychowicz. – Kraków, 1996. – S. 44.
8. Ibid. On another place Balthasar writes: “The endowing something with sense ex post is only illusory more unusual, than endowing with sense ex ante” (ibid., p. 73).
9. Ibid. – p. 75.
10. Ibid. – p. 75.
11.W. Hryniewicz. Nasza Pascha z Chrystusem. Lublin 1987, s. 301.
12. “This is an ecumenism of martyrs and confessors of faith, which shows the way of unity for Christians of the twenty first century”, – said the Holy Father John Paul II during his pilgrimage in Ukraine. – Homily at the Divine Liturgy of Byzantine-Ukrainian Ritus on the occasion of Beatification of the Ukrainian martyrs and the nun Josaphata Hordashevs’ka. Lviv hippodrome, 27 of June 2001. – 4 // Прочанини миру та надії. Київ 2004. See also: Orientale lumen, 19; Tertio millenio adveniente. Conf. with the words of the Patriarch Bartholomaeus I, who in the same context reflected upon the “ecumenism of persecuted” during the totalitarian regimes // O. Clément. Prawda was wyzwoli. Rozmowyz Patriarchą ekumenicznym Bartolomejem I. – Verbinum: Warszawa, 1998. – p. 181.
13.Ibid., p. 247.
14. Orientale lumen, 19.
15. W. Hryniewicz. Hermeneutyka dialogu. – Wydawnictwo Św. Krzyża: Opole, 1998. – p. 246.
16. Ibid. – p. 247.
17. Прот. А. Шмеман. Дневники 1973-1983. – Русский путь: Москва, 2005, c. 571.
18. See: К. Кох. Екуменічні досягнення та нові виклики. Що зроблено за сорок років після Unitatis redintegratio?// У пошуках єдності християн. – Українське християнське академічне товариство: Київ, 2008. – С. 93-95.
19. See: А. Доброер, П. Хоккен. Два Завета единой истории спасения // Одесские богословские чтения: выпуск 3. – Одесса 2007 – 36 с.; W. Hryniewicz. Kościół jest jeden. – Znak: Kraków, 2004. – S. 281-283.
20. W. Hryniewicz. Kościół jest jeden. – Znak: Kraków, 2004. – S. 421-422.
21. Homily at the Divine Liturgy of Byzantine-Ukrainian Ritus on the occasion of Beatification of the Ukrainian martyrs and the nun Josaphata Hordashevs’ka. Lviv hippodrome, 27 of June 2001. – 4.
22. Ibid.
23. Hryniewicz. Nasza Pascha z Chrystusem p. 191. Conf.: J. Moltmann. Theologie der Hoffnung. 7. Aufl. – München, 1968. – S. 277.
24. See: Кардинал Вальтер Каспер. Підручник з духовного екуменізму. – Вид. УКУ: Львів, 2007.
25. John Paul II. Address in the airport Boryspil (Kyiv), 23 of June 2001. – 5.
26. Д. Биффи. О Христе и Антихристе. Милан-Москва, 1994. – С. 60.

Translater: P. Husak

(Александр Доброер. Выступление на Международной конференции, посвященной 800-летию перенесения мощей Апостола Андрея в Амальфи. Фрайзинг, 7-11 июня 2008 года)