Tuesday, November 30, 2010

St. Andrew, the apostle of the Cross and the father of Iconophiles

November 30th, The Feast of St. Andrew
“We should remember that St. Andrew is the apostle of the cross. To Peter, Jesus had given firmness of faith; to John, warmth of love; the mission of Andrew is to represent the cross of his divine Master. Now it is by these three, faith, love, and the cross, that the Church renders herself worthy of her Spouse. Everything she has or is bears this threefold character. Hence it is that after the two apostles just named, there is none who holds such a prominent place in the universal liturgy as St. Andrew.” (from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Guéranger)
St. Andrew is known as the apostle of the Cross on account of his martyrdom: like his brother Peter, Andrew suffered crucifixion, not in the same manner as Christ, but upon an x-shaped cross where he hung for two days before his death.

It is not merely the manner of his death, however, that makes St. Andrew to be the apostle of the Cross – The Acts of the Martyrdom of St. Andrew tell of how Andrew cried out with joy when he saw the cross upon which he was to be hung.
“Andrew was brought before the tribunal (of the city of Patrae in Achaia), where he began to extol the mystery of the Cross, and rebute the judge for his impiety. Aegeas (the proconsul of the city), no longer able to contain himself on hearing these words, ordered him to be hoisted on a cross, and so to die like Christ. Andrew having been brought to the place of execution, seeing the cross at some distance, began to cry out:
“O good cross, made beautiful by the body of my Lord! So long desired, so anxiously loved, so unceasingly sought after, and now at last ready for my soul to enjoy! Take me from amidst men, and restore me to my Master, that by thee he may receive me, who by thee redeemed me.”
The image of the Cross and the true Cross Itself
What is particularly interesting about St. Andrew’s joyful cry to the cross upon which he would hang is that he speaks to his cross as though it were the very Cross upon which Christ himself had hung. There is no distinction in Andrew’s mind between the true Cross of Christ and this particular cross in Patrae.
The ancient principle of Catholic theology and iconography is at work here: The honor given to an image does not remain with the image but passes to the archetype. Thus, as Andrew’s cross was fashioned by the pagan fiend Aegeas to be an effigy of the Cross – for the proconsul desired Andrew to be humiliated with the same death as was Christ – there is an identity between the cross of Patrae and the Cross of Jerusalem.
Moreover, Andrew speaks to his cross as though it were the Cross of Christ. He gives no hesitation. He does not qualify his statements. He does not offer a lower veneration to his cross than he would to the Cross of Christ. Rather, he knows that the image is so united to the archetype that, when he speaks to his own cross, he truly speaks to the Cross of our Lord.
To the wood of Patrae, image of the true Cross, St. Andrew says, “You have been made beautiful by the body of my Lord! By you Christ has redeemed me.” Such words can only be said to the true Cross, but Andrew knows it is the Cross he addresses as he venerates his own cross.
St. Thomas Aquinas, following the Tradition, affirms that the veneration due an icon is equal to that which is due the archetype. Hence, if an icon is an image of the Cross, we speak to the icon as we would speak to the Cross. If the icon is an image of a saint, we venerate the icon as we would venerate the saint. If the icon is an image of Christ, we worship the icon, as we would worship Christ.
St. Thomas himself develops the tradition regarding the veneration of the Cross. The Common Doctor tells us that, as the Cross is an image of Christ himself (who is the Crucified One), we must worship the relic of the true Cross. This is well attested in the Church’s liturgy – we say, “O Cross of Christ, our only hope!” We look to the Cross as though it were our Savior, for it is the image of Jesus whom it bore. Moreover, we genuflect to a relic of the true Cross, offering the same adoration which we offer to the Eucharistic species. In the traditional usage of the Latin Rite, the servers and other ministers even genuflect to the image of the Cross, the crucifix which is above the altar. It is very clear from the Church’s liturgical tradition: We worship the true Cross as though it were Christ, we worship the effigy of the Cross (a crucifix) as though it were the true Cross and Christ himself.
How well does St. Andrew attest to the fundamental truth which is the foundation of the Church’s veneration of icons! The effigy of the Cross – though it was created by a pagan proconsul to mock our Lord and torture the Apostle – is worshiped by Andrew as though it were the very Cross of which it is an icon.
God alone is good, and Andrew cried out: “O good cross, made beautiful by the body of my Lord!”


Gary said...

Three questions for you:
1) How historically reliable is the "Acts of the Martyrdom of St. Andrew"?
2) On what other sources is Catholic iconography based, especially the idea that one venerates the icon as if it were the archetype.
3) Does this mean I should be genuflecting every time I pass in front of a crucifix? I have quite a few in my home!

Cordelia at Catholic Phoenix said...

Your post immediately made me think of the San Damiano cross, the painted icon depicting Christ with his eyes open, which literally spoke to St. Francis of Assisi. This miracle seems to suggest how to view an icon, it speaks like it were Christ himself.

Also, I am reminded of St. John of the Cross' drawing of a mystical vision he had while looking down on the cross from above in the church. St. John of the Cross gave this drawing to a Carmelite nun and she put it in an eliptical shaped monstrance and her sister nuns venerated it. If you are not familiar with St. John of the Cross' drawing, you can see it in my latest post at Catholic Phoenix:


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

1) The "Acts" are not considered particularly reliable by modern(ist) scholars, but the Church continues to refer to them in the Liturgy.
Consider this antiphone from Laudes (novus ordo) "I bow before the cross made precious by Christ, my Master. I embrace it as his disciple."

2) The theology of the icon is spelled out in Niceae II, which actually seems (at first glance) to be a bit different from St. Thomas' doctrine. I believe that they can be reconciled, and I am working on something more academic in this regard.
See especially, Basil and John Damascene -- Catechism 1159-1162.

3) No you do not need to genuflect to the crucifix, except when the rubrics of the liturgy require it (e.g. Good Friday). Thus, while we should show respect to the crucifix(es) at home, we need not genuflect constantly.
However, I do recommend praying before the crucifix regularly (and genuflecting, etc.). The icon and the crucifix are there to help us to worship God, but they do not bind us beyond reasonableness.

Very good questions. I hope my responses help at least a bit.
Blessings to you!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Thank you for the two great examples...I had never heard of the veneration of St. John of the Cross's drawing of the Cross. Very interesting!
I have not yet read your article, but I am definitely looking forward to it.

To all other readers: CatholicPhoenix.com is one of the best Catholic Blogs I have seen on the web.
I would always recommend the posts by J.Hanson, Cordelia, and Denys Powlett-Jones -- I personally read everything they write. There are many other contributors as well, all posting good things.

Cordelia at Catholic Phoenix said...

I just realized something that I wanted to share with you, Father. In reflecting upon the Nativity, I came across a lovely post about the ancient abbreviations for Christ. Xp or "Chi-ro" is the Greek abbreviation: "Chi" or X being the first letter in Greek when spelling Christ and "ro" or p being the last letter.

And here's the connection to St. Andrew's cross: St. Andrew's cross was shaped like an "X"--like the Greek letter "Chi". I'd like to think that it's possible that St. Andrew would have made this connection and in doing so would have experienced joy and comfort in accepting this cross as Christ's. I imagine that St. Andrew might have seen his cross shaped as an "X" to be a sign that embracing his death on this particular cross would guarantee his place in heaven. Merry Christmas!

Cordelia at Catholic Phoenix said...

Oops! The p is the second letter in the Greek spelling of Christ not the last letter: Χριστός. So, there are two abbreviations in Greek XC or Xp--the first one made up of the first and last Greek letters and the second one made up of the first and second letters.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Cordelia, Thank you for the lovely reflection! Merry Christmas and many blessings to you!

Seraphim said...

Historically, Father, arguments for venerating the Cross were not actually an Iconophile argument, but an Iconoclast argument, pitting the Cross against the ikon.

The Iconophiles responded by saying, fine, we'll worship the Cross - but if so, we ought to worship the image of Christ in the ikon as well.

Incidentally, while prostration is a gesture of latria in the West, it is a gesture of "dulia" in the East. Instead of making a distinction between latria and dulia, we distinguish between latria and proskynesis (prostration, in the fullest form touching the floor with your forehead the way Muslims pray).

In Christ,


P.S. I went through my feed and caught up on about a year's worth of your old blog posts and commented on a bunch of them, so if you responded to anything I said it would be helpful if you let me know which ones here - I responded to enough of them that I might forget to check them all. You had a lot of interesting posts.

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