Παρασκευή, 30 Ιουνίου 2017

The Synaxis (& the Feast) of the Twelve Apostles (June 30)


The Orthodox Holy Monastery of the Twelve Apostles in Kolwezi, DRC (see here)

Father Andrew George, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Justice, Illinois
ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ για το θέμα εδώ

The Bible contains four lists of the names of the Twelve Disciples of Christ: Matthew 10:12, Mark 3:13, Luke 6:14 and Acts of the Apostles 1:13. They vary slightly as well as the sequence although they list Peter first, even though it was Andrew (his brother) who was called first by the Lord.   It is believed that Christ selected only 12 because it was the number of the twelve sons of Jacob (the most famous of whom is Joseph, whose story fills the Book of Genesis) who later became the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel (In the Book of Genesis, Jacob is renamed Israel by God, after he wrestled with an angel. See Genesis 32:27-28). After Pentecost, Christ’s twelve disciples became the leaders of the “new Israel.”

The number 12 was considered so important that very shortly after the falling of Judas Iscariot, the remaining 11 voted in a new Apostle by the name Matthias, so that there would be 12 once again (Acts of the Apostles 1:15-26). These disciples followed Jesus as He traveled and were eyewitnesses to His numerous wonders. After the Ascension of Christ back to heaven they continued His work of redeeming mankind from sin. In fact at the Ascension Jesus commanded the apostles to go out and make disciples of all nations through baptism and to teach nations all that they had observed and all that He commanded of them (Matthew 28:16-20, see also Acts of the Apostles 1:6-11).  He enabled them to succeed in that he bestowed the Holy Spirit upon them (at Pentecost) as they traveled to far away lands. The authority of the Apostles in the Church was unquestionable from the very beginning.  Their powers were derived from Christ Himself. They preached boldly and acted as His representatives, teaching and speaking “in the Holy Spirit.”  

The place of honor accorded to them by the Church has no equal except for that of the Theotokos.  They each have their own separate date of commemoration and they have a joint commemoration on June 30, a feast whose importance is shown by the fact that it is preceded by a period of fasting. The Feast of the Apostles is called the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles because it follows the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, on June 29 (icon). In Orthodox liturgical practice, important feasts are followed by an additional celebration of a saint or saints connected to the feast. For example, on January 6 we celebrate the Feast of Theophany (Epiphany), on January 7, we celebrate the Feast of St. John the Baptist. On March 25, we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, on March 26, we celebrate the Feast of the Archangel Gabriel.

THE APOSTLES FAST

The season in honor of the 12 Apostles is a bit confusing at times for it is a “flexible season.” While the Apostles Fast always ends on a fixed date (June 29) it begins on the Monday that follows All Saints Day, which is a moveable date each year based on the date of Pascha (Easter). When Pascha is in mid to late April, the Apostles Lent is only a few days in length. When Pascha is in early April, as with this year, then the Apostles Fast is longer. This year it begins on Monday May 31 and runs until June 29, a full 29 days. In 2011 it will be only 9 days in length.
The faithful are urged to observe the usual food abstinence, expanded prayer and almsgiving guideline as with the other fasting seasons. The Apostles Fast takes the flavor of the Christmas Fast in that weddings are permitted. The guidelines on restricted food is the “lighter” fasting in that only Wednesdays and Fridays are held as strict fast days and the observance of the Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24) is always a light fast (fish is permitted) no matter what day it falls.
Let us rejoice in the ministry of these twelve great men that began the spread of Christianity to the far corners of the earth. Let us remember their sacrifice by our own sacrifice and discipline during the preparatory days ahead in which we are called upon to focus on their commitment and devotion to the Lord’s commandments.

Honoring the Apostles

Icon: St John the Theologian and Evangelist & his student st Prochorus, writing of the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) in Patmos Island (from here)

Reading the New Testament passages related to the Apostles (see above for some guidance).
Apart from the Gospels, most of the New Testament is either about or written by an Apostle of Christ.
Especially worth reading during this time is the Acts of the Apostles, since this book deals with the ministry of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Read the two epistles of St. Peter in the New Testament.
Read any of the Epistles of St. Paul in the New Testament.
Read the three epistles of St. John in the New Testament.
Study the lives of the Apostles themselves. They each have an independent feast day and their biographies are contained in any collection of the Lives of the Saints. There are many wonderful traditions about their accomplishments in the life of the early Church.
On June 29, anyone named Peter (Petros) or Paul (Pavlos) celebrates their name day. On June 30 those with the name Apostolos (often becomes Paul in English) celebrate their name day.  Make sure to wish them “Many Years!”

The Synaxis of the Holy, Glorious and All-Praised Twelve Apostles

 
The Holy Apostles, icon from the blog In the Orthodox Vineyard of Africa

A PRAYER FOR THE WORKERS OF THE HOLY GOSPEL

O Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, the personally existing wisdom of God, the Great Light of the world, the Way, the Truth and the Life of mankind, our Teacher and Instructor, Who has revealed the Name and the Will of the Heavenly Father, and Who has proclaimed the words of eternal life, the One Who not only commissioned Your holy Apostles and Disciples to go out and to proclaim the Gospel but also sent upon them the Spirit of Wisdom, empowering them to preach the Gospel to the whole world and to teach all the nations, it is You that we praise and glorify and thank with our whole heart and soul for Your innumerable and priceless benefactions toward us.
We thank You, Lord, and we glorify and highly praise Your Holy Name, for You have called us to a holy and sacred mission. You have guided us in the knowledge of Your Truth, and You have empowered us to serve in Your Holy Church for the salvation of mankind, by receiving from You Your Divine words and by transmitting them to who hunger and thirst for Your Truth and Righteousness. Glory to Your Goodness, Glory to Your loving-kindness, Glory to Your condescension to us sinners. Amen.
 
TODAY'S SYNAXARION: On June 30th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and celebrates the feast day of the Synaxis of the Holy, Glorious and All-praised Twelve Apostles. Even though each of the Twelve Great Apostles has his own particular feast day during the year, the Church has set aside this day as a general feast of all the holy Apostles together, and St. Paul with them. The following are the names and the separate feast days of the Holy Twelve:
Saint Peter: June 29 and January 6
Saint Andrew: November 30
Saint James the Son of Zebedee: April 30
Saint John the Theologian: September 26 and May 8
Saint Philip: November 14
Saint Bartholomew: June 11 and August 25
Saint Thomas: October 6
Saint Matthew the Evangelist: November 16
Saint James the Son of Alphaeus: October 9
Saint Thaddaeus or Jude the Brother of St. James: June 19
Saint Simon the Zealot: May 10
Saint Matthias: August 9
Saint Paul: June 29

Let us also recall how each of these Holy Apostles ended hisearthly life:
Saint Peter was crucified upside down.
Saint Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross.
Saint James the Son of Zebedee was beheaded.
Saint John the Theologian reposed in a miraculous manner.
Saint Philip was crucified.

Saint Bartholomew was crucified, flayed and beheaded.
Saint Thomas was pierced with five spears.
Saint Matthew the Evangelist was burned alive.
Saint James the son of Alphaeus was crucified.
Saint Thaddaeus or June the Brother of St.James was crucified.
Saint Simon the Zealot was crucified.
Saint Matthias was stoned and then beheaded after death.
Saint Paul was beheaded.
[Source: St. Nicholai Velimirovic, The Prologue of Ohrid-Volume One.]

The Martyrdom of St Thomas in India (from here)

An Apostle is one who is sent out by our Lord Jesus Christ to spread the Gospel that He is the Messiah, that He is Risen, and that we are being saved as a result.
The word apostle comes from the Greek apostello, literally, "to send forth," "to dispatch," has etymologically a very general sense. Apostolos (Apostle) means one who is sent forth, dispatched--in other words, who is entrusted with a mission. Originally a military term referring to a sortie out against the enemy, apostle has in the Christian context come to refer to a missionary spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ . 
It is at once evident that in a Christian sense, everyone who had received a mission from God, or Christ, to man could be called "Apostle". In fact, however, those disciples are often designated by the expressions of mathetai (the students since Christ is the Teacher) or (the disciples).
In the Epistle to the Hebrews Chapter 3:1, the name is applied even to Jesus Christ, in the original meaning of a delegate sent from God to preach revealed truth to mankind.

The word apostle has also in the New Testament a larger meaning, and denotes some inferior disciples who, under the direction of the Apostles, preached the Gospel, or contributed to is diffusion; thus Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14), probably Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25), two unknown Christians who were delegated for the collection in Corinth (2 Cor. 7:23).
The Gospels point out how, from the beginning of His Ministry (Diakonia), Jesus called to Him some Jews, and by a very diligent instruction and formation made them His Disciples. After some time, in the Galilean ministry, He selected Twelve whom, as St. Mark (3:14) and St. Luke (6:13) say, "He also named Apostles." The origin of the Apostolate lies therefore in a special vocation, a formal appointment of the Lord to a determined office, with connected authority and duties. The appointment of the Twelve Apostles is given by the three Synoptic Gospels (St. Mark 3:13-19; St. Matthew 10:1-4; St. Luke 6:12-16) nearly in the same words, so that the three narratives are literally dependent.


Saint Matthew's martyrdom (from here)

Two of the Synoptic Gospels add to their account of the appointment of the Twelve brief statements on their office: St. Mark 3:14-15--"He appointed twelve to be with Him and to send them to herald, and to have power to heal the illnesses and to cast out demons", St. Matthew 10:1--"He gave them power over unclean spirits so as to expel them, and to heal every disease and every illness." St. Luke where he relates the appointment of the Twelve, adds nothing on their office. Afterwards (St. Mark 6:7-13; St. Matthew 10:5-15; St. Luke 9:1-5) Jesus sends the Twelve to preach the Kingdom and by gives them very definite instructions. From all this it results that the holy Apostles are to be with Jesus and to aid Him by proclaiming the Kingdom and by healing.

The nature of the Apostolic mission is made still clearer by the saying of Christ after His Resurrection. "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you." The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles written by the Apostles exhibit them in the constant exercise of this office. Everywhere the Apostle governs the disciples, preaches the doctrine of Jesus as an authentic witness, and administers the sacred rites. In order to fill such an office, it seems necessary to have been instructed by Jesus, to have seen the Risen Lord. And these are, clearly the conditions required by the Apostles in the candidate for the place of Judas Iscariot. "Of the men, therefore, who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John unto the day he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of His Resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22).

Icon: The Martyrdom of St Peter in Rome (from here)

The authority of the holy Apostles proceeds from the office imposed upon them by Our Lord and is based on the very explicit sayings of Christ Himself. He will be with them all days to the end of ages (St. Matt. 28:20), give a sanction to their preaching (St. Mark 16:16), send them the "promise of the Father," "virtue from above" (St. Luke 24:49). The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of the New Testament show us the exercise of this authority. The Apostle makes laws (Acts 15:29; 1 Cor. 7:12 sq.), claims for his teaching that it should be received as the word of God (1 Thes. 2:13), punishes (Acts 5:1-11, 1 Cor. 5:1-5), administers the sacred rites (Acts 6:1 sq.; 16:33; 20:11), provides successors (2 Tim 1:6; Acts 14:22).
Since the authority with which the Lord endowed the Apostles was given them for the entire Church, it is natural that this authority should endure after their death, in other words, pass to successor established by the Apostle. In the oldest Christian documents concerning the primitive Churches we find ministers established, some of them, at least, by the usual rite of the imposition of hands. They bear various names: priests (presbyteroi: Acts 11:30, 14:22; Titus, 1:5); bishops (episcopoi: Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus, 1:7); proistamenoi: 1 Thes. 5:12; Rom. 12; etc.); heads (hegoumenoi: Hebrews, 13:7, 17, 24; etc.), and some others.

The memorable words of Hebrews, 13:7: "Remember your presidents who preached to you the word of God," have always echoed in the Christian heart. The primitive Churches had a profound veneration for their deceased Apostles (Clement of Rome, Ep. Ad Corinth, v); its first expression was doubtless the devotional reading of the Apostolic writings, the following of their orders and counsels, and the imitation of their virtues. It may, however, be reasonably supposed that some devotion began at the tombs of the Apostles as early as the time of their death or martyrdom, the ancient documents are silent on this matter. Though the anniversaries of some martyrs were celebrated even in the second century, as for instance the anniversary of the martyrdom of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (d. 154-156 A.D.). Its only from the 4th century that we meet with the feast of the Apostles.

HYMNS OF THE TWELVE

Apolytikion (Dismissal ) Hymn. Tone 3
O holy Apostles of Christ Pray to our merciful God, That He may grant us remission of our sins.

Kontakion Hymn. Tone 2
Today Christ the Rock gladly glorifies the rock of faith, The chosen disciple, together with Paul and the entire company of the Twelve. As we celebrate their memory, We glorify Him Who has glorified them!

Sts Apostles Bartholomew and Philip (from here)
 
THE SEVENTY HOLY APOSTLES

The Seventy Apostles are those whom the Lord chose (described in St. Luke 10:1-16) in addition to the Twelve and sent forth to assist in the work of preaching. Over time, the Twelve added others to their number, who were sent out with the original Seventy to preach the Gospel. Although this number eventually exceeded seventy, they were all nevertheless referred to as "of the Seventy" out of reverence to the number which the Lord originally chose. Their collective feast day is January 4th.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George

See also

Apostle Paul, the Christian equivalent to Mohammed
The historical background of the monastery in Kolwezi, Congo (DRC)
In the Steps of the Apostle Thomas - The Orthodox Church in West Bengal, India 

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