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Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Scottish Saltire.

Here in France, every day is dedicated to one of the "saints" of the Church of Rome. Of course, as I frequently point out, when we turn to the written Word of God, we discover that every true disciple of the Lord Jesus is a saint. Yes, you are reading the words of "St.Brian"!!!

However, today being November 30th means that today's "saint" - Andrew - is also celebrated in Scotland. He is, after all, the patron saint of the country. There is one legend that states that he actually visited Scotland, and preached there. However, whilst that is certainly not an impossibility, other legends are more likely.  One of these claims that, in A.D. 345, Saint Regulus (also known as St.Rule) was instructed by an angel to take some relics (bones) of Saint Andrew from Patras, in modern Greece, to a far-off land. He eventually arrived in Fife on the east coast of Scotland, where he founded the settlement now known by the name of the apostle. Another version recalls how in the 7th century, Saint Wilfrid brought the saint’s relics home with him following a pilgrimage to Rome. The Pictish king, Angus MacFergus, subsequently had them installed at his new monastery of Saint Regulus at Kilrymont, later renamed St. Andrew's. It is unlikely, however, that we shall ever know for certain what the precise link is.

When it comes to the national flag of Scotland, we are on somewhat firmer - if still tenuous! - ground. When Andrew, one of the apostles and brother of Peter, was being crucified by the Romans in A.D. 60, it is said that he believed himself unworthy to be crucified on a cross like that of his Saviour, and so requested that he hang on a ‘saltire’, or X-shaped cross which became his symbol.

Another legend links the adoption of Saint Andrew’s cross as Scotland’s national flag. This recalls that, in A.D. 832, on the eve of a battle between a combined Picts and Scots (Highlanders and Lowlanders. "Sassenachs" are, properly, Lowlanders, and not the English!) army and an invading army of Angles led by King Aethelstan of East Anglia, Andrew appeared to the Pictish king, Óengus II (Angus) and assured him of victory. The following morning a formation of clouds gathered against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, depicting a white saltire that was visible to both sides. The omen inspired the Picts and Scots to win a famous victory over the Angles of King Aethelstan and so the white cross on the blue background was adopted as the national flag of Scotland.

Following Robert the Bruce’s victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the Declaration of Arbroath officially named Saint Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. However, it was not until 1385 that the saltire appears to have become the official national flag, when the Parliament of Scotland agreed that Scottish soldiers should wear the white cross as a distinguishing mark. In such times flags and banners were important to identify opposing forces in heat of battle.

Whilst its exact origin may have been lost in myth and legend, the flag of Scotland is generally regarded as one of the oldest national flags still in modern use.

So much for the brief history lesson!! The question that may legitimately be asked is "So what?"! To answer that question, I would point to what we really do know about Andrew. As I have already stated, he was the brother of Peter, who became the leader of the apostle band after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus. However, he was so different from his brother! Whilst Peter jumped in with both feet (sometimes in his mouth!), Andrew preferred to stay in the background. Whilst Peter was comfortable speaking to crowds of thousands, Andrew was more of a "personal worker". 

Of course, it was Andrew's "one-to-one" approach that brought Peter into contact with Jesus! (see John 1:41). He was also the one to whom Philip went some Greeks told him that they wanted to speak with the Saviour (Jn12:20ff). And he was the one who had discovered that a young lad had a packed lunch, and brought the boy to Jesus so that thousands could be fed - with loads to spare! (John 6:1-14). He didn't acquire that information by making a public announcement!

Not too many of us are gifted to be a Peter, or a Paul. All of us, surely, if we dare to claim to be disciples of Jesus, ought to be Andrews - people who don't hog the limelight, but who are willing to speak about Jesus to just one person (even if that person is a biological brother!); people to whom others - including co-workers - are willing to turn for assitance; people who are able to get down to the level of a child - and then discover that that same child holds the resources that we need, if we are willing to turn them over to Jesus.

Quite a man was our Andrew! Of course, he is also considered to be the patron saint of Greece, Russia, Barbados, and the ancient Italian town of Amalfi (south of Naples), in whose cathedral, it is claimed, the apostle's remains are entombed.

May each of us endeavour to emulate him, in at least one of his attributes - to the glory of our common Saviour.

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