Saint Andrew, carved by Edward Smith, crowns the portico of Saint Andrew’s Church in Westland Row, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
As part of my spiritual reflections for Advent this year, I am looking at an appropriate hymn for Advent each morning. This morning I have chosen one of the hymn ‘Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult’ (no 584, Irish Church Hymnal), which is usually sung to the tune ‘Saint Andrew’ by Edward Henry Thorne.
Saint Andrew’s Day falls on 30 November. However, because 30 November this year  was the First Sunday of Advent, Saint Andrew’s Day has been transferred in the Calendar of the Church to today [1 December 2014].
Saint Andrew’s Day is the first great saint’s day in this new Church Year, which began yesterday, the First Sunday of Advent.
Saint Andrew the Apostle was a fisherman, an every-day ordinary-day commercial occupation, working on the Lake of Galilee in partnership with his brother Simon Peter. He was a disciple of Saint John the Baptist, and it is said that when Saint John the Baptist began to preach, Saint Andrew became one of his closest disciples. The story goes that Saint John the Baptist then sent two of his own disciples, the future Saint Andrew and Saint John the Evangelist, to Christ, declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God.
When he heard Christ’s call to follow him, Saint Andrew hesitated for a moment, not because he had any doubts about that call, but because he wanted to bring his brother with him. He left his nets behind and went to Peter and, as Saint John’s Gospel tells us in another account of his calling, he told him: “We have found the Messiah … [and] he brought Simon to Jesus” (John 1: 41, 42).
As we wait in Advent for the Coming of Christ, are we prepared to leave behind the nets of yesterday and not get caught up in them?
Tradition says Saint Andrew was so obstinate and so stubborn at his martyrdom in Patras, in today’s western Greece, that he insisted on being splayed on an X-shaped cross. He said he was unworthy to be crucified on a cross of the same shape as the one on which Christ had been crucified.
Unlike the other disciples named in the Gospel reading for today (Matthew 4: 18-22) – Peter and James and John, the sons of Zebedee – Andrew never gave his name to an Epistle, never gave his name to a Gospel. But Andrew, the first-called of the Apostles, truly took up his cross and followed Christ. And he called others to do the same.
His stubborn and obstinate commitment to mission, to travelling for the Gospel, has made him the patron saint of mission work and the patron saint of Constantinople, Greece, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Scotland.
That stubborn and obstinate commitment to Christ, to the point of a martyr’s death, makes Andrew an appropriate saint to start off the Church Year at the beginning of Advent. As yesterday’s Gospel reading (Mark 13: 24-37) reminded us, Christmas is meaningless without looking forward to the coming of Christ again in glory.
This hymn was written in 1852 by Mrs Cecil Frances (‘Fanny’) Alexander (1818-1895). She intended it for use on Saint Andrew’s Day, and in this hymn she takes up many of the questions posed for us by Aaint Andrew’s call, life and mission.
The tune, Saint Andrew, was written by Edward Henry Thorne (1834-1916) for the hymn’s inclusion in the second edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1875).
Edward Henry Thorne was born in Cranbourne, Dorset, in 1834, and trained under George Elvey at the Chapel Royal. His time as organist at Chichester Cathedral included the reopening of the cathedral with its rebuilt spire and crossing. His anthem I was glad was composed for the special service marking the re-opening.
In 1870, Thorne moved to Saint Patrick’s Church, Hove, and was later at several London churches, including Saint Anne's Church, Soho, where he continued the revival of Bach’s music initiated by Joseph Barnby. Many of his hymn tunes were included in Hymns Ancient and Modern. He died in Paddington in 1916.
The cloister-like colonnade on the north side of the former Saint Andrew’s Church in Suffolk Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)
‘Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult’ (Hymn 584)
Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea
day by day his voice is sounding,
saying, ‘Christian, follow me’:
as, of old, apostles heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home and toil and kindred,
leaving all for his dear sake.
Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, ‘Christian, love me more!’
In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
‘Christian, love me more than these!’
Jesus calls us! By thy mercies,
Saviour, may we hear your call,
give to you our heart’s obedience,
serve and love thee best of all.
Saint Andrew’s Church reflected in a shop window in Suffolk Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Readings: Isaiah 52: 7-10; Psalm 19: 1-6; Romans 10: 12-18; Matthew 4: 18-22.
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 our Lord.
Post Communion Prayer:
may the gifts we have received at your table
keep us alert for your call
that we may always be ready to answer,
and, following the example of Saint Andrew,
always be ready to bear our witness
to our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Tomorrow: ‘Long ago, prophets knew’ (No 133)