If there are any avid golfers in your life, you may have heard of the seaside town of St. Andrews on the coast of Scotland. Did you know that this iconic 15th century golf course, known to be the “Home of Golf,” is in some part thanks to St. Andrew’s Archbishop, John Hamilton? While the King of Scotland banned the sport in the mid 1400’s, claiming that it pulled young men away from practicing archery, the sport was reinstated by a later king in the early 1500s. Two years later, Hamilton established a charter stating that all of the the locals of St. Andrew should also be allowed to play the links.
Caddies and Cathedrals
So why all of this about the game of golf? Well for starters, because this town on the east coast of Scotland is named after Saint Andrew the Apostle, and was long ago a pilgrimage site to venerate his relics. The town began growing near St. Andrew’s Cathedral, a place which used to be the religious center of Scotland as well as being one of Europe’s largest buildings. Today however, you will find the Cathedral in ruins.
It was built in 1158 but during the Scottish Reformation of the 15th century it was destroyed, the leftover rubble becoming a resource for new town buildings. If you stood there today you would still be able to see the cathedral foundation as well as the church’s twin spires, a round portal, part of the nave, and priory wall.
The Saltire of Scotland
Scotland’s national flag has a blue background with a white saltire (diagonal cross) which stretches to the corners of the flag. This image is known as the Cross of Saint Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint. Saint Andrew was martyred in Patras, Greece in 60 A.D. When he knew he would be martyred by crucifixion he asked to be crucified on an X-shaped cross because he felt unworthy of being crucified the same way that Jesus had been crucified.
Legend says that his last words were:
Cross, sanctified by the body of Christ. Good Cross, long desired always, I loved you and wished to embrace you. Welcome me and bring me to my master.
There is a Scottish legend that King Angus of Scotland saw a white saltire across the blue sky during a battle in the 800’s and won victory through the intercession of Saint Andrew. This symbol was later used as part of a government seal in 1286. Nearly one hundred years later, the Scottish Parliament ordered that badges with the Cross of Saint Andrew should be worn by its soldiers.
In the 17th century both Scotland and England were ruled by the same monarch. It was then that the flags of both countries were combined to form the “Union Jack”: a flag combining the blue and white saltire of Saint Andrew for the country of Scotland, and the red and white Cross of Saint George for England.
While this remains the flag of the United Kingdom, Scotland still flies its traditional blue and white flag.
First of the Apostles
Saint Andrew was one of the first Apostles to be called by Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark, we read about how Jesus saw Simon and his brother, Andrew, fishing in the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men’. Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. // Mark 1:17-18
Before being a follower of Christ Himself, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. He was clearly a man searching for the Messiah.
He was also one of the three invited whom Jesus invited to join him on the Mount of Olives, a place where Jesus spoke to them about the end times:
- The Coming Persecution (Mark 13:13) // “You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.”
- The Great Tribulation (Mark 13: 22-23) // “False messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect. Be watchful! I have told it all to you beforehand.”
- The Need for Watchfulness (Mark 13: 32-33) // “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”
While we may not know the “day or hour” we can rest confidently in the words of this Apostle in John 1:41 that “we have found the Messiah.” Even before the Apostle Andrew had set his eyes on Jesus, he was seeking after Him intently.
Now, in this season of Advent, we can look to Saint Andrew as our model as we await in anticipation of Jesus’ birth this Christmas.
A Patron for Finding the Messiah
While there may not be much to see of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral today, his relics can still be venerated throughout Europe in Patras, Greece, the Amalfi Coast in Italy, and Edinburgh, Scotland, to name a few.
If you are not a golfer, you can ask for his intercession next time you’re fishing, as he is the patron Saint of the sport! After all, he had his nets in the water when Jesus, the Messiah he was looking for, first called out to him.
In what ways have you “found the Messiah” in your day-to-day life? What do you ask of Him this Advent season?