St Andrew's Day

Scotland's national flag, the Saltire, is a symbol of St Andrew, the nation's patron saint. The diagonal cross alludes to Andrew's death by crucifixion. Andrew of course was not Scottish and never visited Scotland. He was a Jewish fisherman from Galilee who responded to Jesus' call to follow him and brought his rather more famous brother Simon Peter with him.

It's St Andrew's Day today. It's the only saint's day I remember being celebrated in the Presbyterian church in which I grew up, whose membership was dominated by ex-patriot Scots like my grandparents. Consequently as a child I thought St Andrew was the most important of the first 12 apostles. In the eastern orthodox church he's known as the 1st-called. But in Scotland his importance is more entangled with national identity and often with the struggle for independence - see Flavia di Consiglio's article today for the BBC 'Who owns St Andrew's Day?' .

1200 years ago in Scotland King Angus won a significant battle against the Angles and Saxons. It was the sight of white clouds against a blue sky in the shape of a diagonal cross that encouraged Angus before he led the Picts and Scots into battle.

There are many reasons for Christians to celebrate St Andrew, even if you're not Scottish. I wrote about him in 3 posts last year:

  • In "Alarming or Helpful?" I asked if the church needs more people like Andrew, rather than more authorized ministers?
  • In "Mediation and St Andrew" I reflected on how Andrew did what all Christians should do, brought people together and brought people to Jesus.

Recently I've seen another significance in the Saltire diagonal cross. Apart from being a symbol of how Andrew the Apostle is said to have been martyred, it's also a multiplication sign. And apart from my life-long fear of mathematics, that sign reminds me of the story of the multiplication of loaves and fishes where Jesus took the gift of a young boy's 5 bread rolls and 2 small fish and used them to feed thousands. It was Andrew who introduced that boy to Jesus, just as Andrew had previously brought his brother Simon Peter to meet Jesus

Almighty God,
who gave such grace to your apostle Saint Andrew
that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ
and brought his brother with him:
call us by your holy word, 
and give us grace to follow without delay 
and to tell the good news of your kingdom; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever.
Common Worship Collect for Andrew, Apostle