Wednesday, 30 November 2011

St Andrew and St Andrews

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed a Scottish connection.  Two of the three members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group were brought up in Scotland, and this has had some influence on a number of the posts put up on this site.

For example, for vintage footage of proceedings at the 1948 Restoration Mass at Pluscarden Abbey, you might want to read our blogpost Scottish Restorations.  Alternatively, our blogpost on St Margaret of Scotland includes a lightning tour of Dunfermline Abbey, some photos of that fine building as well of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Lord Lyon King of Arms and the tomb of St Margaret.  There is also film of a recent celebration by FSSP clergy of a Solemn High Mass in St Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.  Finally, one of our earliest posts, Saint Ninian, pray for us, included footage of the Holy Father's visit to Scotland in 2010, and talked of the life of St Ninian, that key figure in the history of the Church in Scotland.

With this background knowledge in mind, it can come as no surprise that we are posting on St Andrew, whose feast day falls today.  We include information on the saint himself, and on the town in Scotland that bears his name, and conclude with a very very fine hymn in his honour.

The first apostle (a former follower of St John the Baptist, he was the first to recognise Our Lord as the Messiah and to follow him), and the brother of St Peter (St Andrew brought St Peter to meet our Lord, whereupon they both received the call to become fishers of men), St Andrew is a prominent figure in Bible (as the disciple who brought the little boy with his loaves and fishes to Our Lord, for example), and also in the establishment of the Metropolitan See of Constantinople and in the founding of churches around the Black Sea.  The first bishop to serve in Byzantium, his influence in the region is enormous.

That he preached around the Black Sea is not in doubt, but it must be admitted that some of the specific connections he is traditionally said to have had are harder to prove.  It may be that in some cases, his undoubted travels around that area have led to the appropriation of his story to boost the credentials of certain of the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches in the region, but that's a story for another day, when this blog returns to rambling around Eastern Europe, as it did in our previous post on The Pope of Christian Unity.

Picking up on the topic of the relics of St Athanasius as mentioned in The Pope of Christian Unity, relics of St Andrew that were housed for many centuries inside the Vatican (including some inside one of the main pillars of St Peter's Basilica) were given to the Greek Orthodox Church by Pope Paul VI in 1964.  They are now housed in Patras, the site of the martyrdom of St Andrew.

In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave a further relic of St Andrew to Cardinal Gordon Gray, then Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, greeting the Scottish bishop with the words "Peter greets his brother Andrew."  The relic is now housed in the St Andrew's altar in St Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, along with another relic of St Andrew, given by the Archbishop of Amalfi in the nineteenth century.

The way in which St Andrew is said to have met his death is by having been crucified on a cross in the shape of the X we now see in the Scottish flag, and from there in the Union Jack and multiple flags of Commonwealth countries and Crown Territories.  He is said to have been crucified in this way as he did not feel himself worthy to be crucified in the same way as Our Lord (echoing the upside-down crucifixion of St Peter for the same reasons).

So now indeed to Scotland, one of several countries to have St Andrew as its patron saint.  More specifically, to St Andrews, a beautiful town in the far east of the ancient kingdom of Fife.  St Andrews may very well now be famous for its association with the Duke of Cambridge and with golf, but for me it is associated with childhood visits, and later multiple visits with visiting friends and family (including now my wife and children) from England, to the ruins of the castle and of the cathedral. 

The castle is wonderful.  The best part, as far as I have been concerned as from the age of about five, is that you can still climb down into the mine and countermine that were built during the siege of St Andrew's Castle.  Once you have resurfaced and exited the castle, the game is to find, out in the street that runs outside the castle, the drain cover that sits over the end of the tunnel. 

As you might imagine, the history of the castle is very complicated.  The most famous episode followed the strong opposition of Cardinal David Beaton to the proposed marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to the young Prince Edward (later King Edward VI) of England.  The fallout from this involved the burning at the stake of a protestant martyr (protestants were felt to have been in league with the English), the reprisal murder of Cardinal David Beaton and the hanging of his dead body from a castle window, and finally a siege of the protestants that then held the castle that lasted around a year. 

Until the Reformation, St Andrews had been the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland (even now, Cardinal Keith O'Brien is the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh), and the castle had been the home of the bishops and then archbishops of St Andrews.  After the Reformation, there were great and very lengthy struggles in Scotland between those favouring maintaining the episcopal office, and those of a more hardline presbyterian nature.  Upon the arrival in 1689 of the usurper, the office of bishop was abolished in Scotland, and the castle slowly fell into terrible disrepair.

The neighbouring ruins of St Andrew's Cathedral are no less spectacular.  The setting of the cathedral, at the edge of the land, looking out over the North Sea, merits the trip on its own, especially the view thereof if you approach St Andrews from the hillier south (ie from the direction of Anstruther). 

The site had been a centre of Christian worship for centuries when the work began on the new Cathedral in 1158.  It took well over another century for the 350-foot long building to be completed, with a dedication rite taking place in the presence of King Robert the Bruce in 1318.  The King placed a parchment expressing the nation's thanks to its Patron on the new High Altar.  Fire, repairs, expansion and enhancement marked its history, along with the appearance of several religious orders in this small town.  However, its altars were stripped in 1559, its images removed, the reliquary destroyed, and then over the next decades neglect and the collapse of one of its many towers began a long decline into ruin.

There are many places of worship under the patronage of St Andrew of course, particularly in places where there has been a large Scottish diaspora (though far fewer than you might expect in Scotland itself).  For example, the Catholic Cathedral in Glasgow, the Catholic Cathedral in Dundee, the Scottish Episcopalian Cathedral in Aberdeen, the Anglican Cathedral in Singapore, the Anglican (or rather Sydney Anglican) Cathedral in Sydney, and the Catholic Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia. 

No-one seems to be entirely sure why Scotland developed such a strong cult of St Andrew, which it seems to have done long before the formal proclamation of St Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland, and even before the arrival of the relics of St Andrew in Scotland in the eighth or ninth century.  It is true that more prestigious patrons would be hard to find, the First Apostle, the brother of St Peter, certainly carrying some stature.

Prayers to St Andrew were famously made before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, when Scottish soldiers wore the Cross of St Andrew on their tunics. 

The famous Declaration of Arbroath, considered a formal Scottish declaration of independence and single nationhood, took the form of a letter to Pope John XXII, in which Scottish nobles rejected the claim of the English that Scotland came under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of York.  The Declaration describes how Scots constituted a separate nation, with its own particular devotion to St Andrew, "Our Patron and Protector."

In any event, there was not the geographic connection that made St Andrew such an obvious choice for Patron Saint of the Ukraine, Russia, Greece and Romania (amongst other places).  It remains one of those unanswered questions.

Today's blogpost ends with the Hymn to St Andrew, by E M Barrett.  You can listen to the tune and find the sheet music here.   All the verses are very good, but the third and fourth particularly so, with echoes of Walsingham hymns and their twin themes of restoring the damage done at the Reformation and the conversion of the country. 

When Christ our Lord to Andrew cried:
"Come, thou, and follow me,"
the fisher left his net beside the Sea of Galilee.
To teach the truth the Master taught,
to tread the path he trod
was all his will and thus he brought
unnumbered souls to God.

When Andrew’s hour had come, and he
was doomed, like Christ to die,
he kissed his cross exultingly,
and this his noble cry:
“O noble cross! O precious wood!
I long have yearned for thee;
uplift me to my only good
who died on thee for me.”

The faith that Andrew taught once shone
o’er all this kingdom fair;
the cross that Jesus died upon
was honoured everywhere.
But times once changed and Andrew’s name
was for a while forgot;
the cross, though set in kingly crown,
became a sign of shame.

St Andrew now in bliss above,
thy fervent prayers renew
that Scotland yet again may love
the faith, entire and true;
that I the cross allotted me
may bear with patient love! ‘
Twill lift me, as it lifted thee,
to reign with Christ above.

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