Whilst it is unlikely Scotland’s patron saint ever actually visited the country, we have been celebrating St Andrew’s Day for centuries.
St Andrew was born in the biblical village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee in between the years 5AD and 10AD.
He was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples and was as a fishermen in Galilee. Andrew was a Christian preacher and is thought to have traveled to Greece on a Christian mission. However when there, he is believed to have been killed by crucifixion, on a diagonal cross-shaped crucifix at Patras.
His links to Scotland are unclear, but one particularly well-known story centres on St Andrew’s role in battle betweel the Scots and Picts, and the Angles in the 9th century.
According to legend, St Andrew appeared to the Pictish King Óengus mac Fergusa (Óengus II) in a dream and told him his army would be victorious. On the day of the battle, the symbol of a saltire – reminiscent of the diagonal cross St Andrew was crucified on – appeared in the sky and Óengus II and his army were triumphant.
Scotland’s flag was chosen in honour of that moment, and it is also how the ancient town of St Andrew’s got its name.
The tradition of celebrating it on this day was conceived by 18th century ex patriots in the United States, who were keen to reconnect with their Scottish roots.
Different regions of Scotland have their own traditions and events to commemorate the day.
East Lothian hosts the annual Saltire Festival with a 10K night run, golfing tournament, crafting workshops and traditional music performances.
Elsewhere, you can find a stunning torchlight procession through the Glasgow’s West End.
This excerpt from a homily on the Gospel of John by St. John Chrysostom is used in the readings for November 30, the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, son of Zebedee and brother of St. Peter. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist before he left John to follow Jesus. The Gospel of John tells us that it was actually Andrew who brought his brother Peter to Christ. With Philip he presented the Gentiles to Christ and set the stage for the feeding of the 5,000 in the wilderness by bringing the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus. After Pentecost, tradition tells us that he preached the Gospel to many nations and was put to death by crucifixion at Achaia. A famous statue of the martyred apostle carrying his cross can be seen near the main altar at St. Peter’s basilica in Rome.
After Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother. Notice what Andrew said to him: We have found the Messiah, that is to say, the Christ. Notice how his words reveal what he has learned in so short a time. They show the power of the master who has convinced them of this truth. They reveal the zeal and concern of men preoccupied with this question from the very beginning. Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others. To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection.
Notice, too, how, even from the beginning, Peter is docile and receptive in spirit. He hastens to Jesus without delay. He brought him to Jesus, says the evangelist. But Peter must not be condemned for his readiness to accept Andrew’s word without much weighing of it. It is probable that his brother had given him, and many others, a careful account of the event; the evangelists, in the interest of brevity, regularly summarise a lengthy narrative. Saint John does not say that Peter believed immediately, but that he brought him to Jesus. Andrew was to hand him over to Jesus, to learn everything for himself. There was also another disciple present, and he hastened with them for the same purpose.
When John the Baptist said: This is the Lamb, and he baptizes in the Spirit, he left the deeper understanding of these things to be received from Christ. All the more so would Andrew act in the same way, since he did not think himself able to give a complete explanation. He brought his brother to the very source of light, and Peter was so joyful and eager that he would not delay even for a moment.
I cannot think of a better song/music video for this day than Scotland’s very own Big Country…