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Twelve Friends of Christ

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Twelve Friends of Christ

One of the biggest mysteries for me in our Orthodoxy is the riddle of July 12 and 13. I can’t understand in any way why the day of memory of the apostles Peter and Paul is a great holiday completing the post of the same name, and the next Cathedral of all the Twelve Apostles is so-so, actually a passing day. Well, in a sense, a holiday, of course, but for some reason everyone knows about the apostles Peter and Paul and even the saying is folded: “Peter and Paul turned the day down” (winter is close, as Ned Stark would not fail to mention), but about the Cathedral of the 12 – not.

Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Archimandrite Zinon (Theodore)

But among all the saints of our Church, the Twelve Apostles of Christ stand apart. They are the embodiment, image and example of the very first Christian brotherhood. They are the image of the whole Church, connected not only with love for the Lord and the Master, but also for each other. “By the union of the love of His apostles, who connected …” the Orthodox prayer speaks of the multiplication of love and the eradication of hatred and all evil. The twelve are the first Christians who fraternized among themselves by the Blood of Christ at the Last Supper and who for centuries revealed the image of brotherhood and unity.

All of them, all twelve, are completely different, but consonant with each other. In each of them, as in the facets of a diamond, the doctrine of Christ is reflected and each teaches in a special way, but in no way contradicting the other.

The great truth of Christianity is for all characters, for all temperaments, because any character and any temperament can be transformed by the light of Christ. Apostles are very different, and this is good news: there is not one single human type that is worthy of holiness alone.

Recall how it all began.

In those days, He ascended the mountain to pray and stayed all night in prayer to God. When the day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he named the apostles: Simon, whom he called Peter, and Andrew, his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James Alfeyev and Simon, called The Pilot, Judas Jacob, and Judas Iscariot, who then became a traitor (Luke 6: 12-16).

The choice of the Twelve is so important to Christ that before this He spends the night in prayer, listening to the will of the Father.

He chose to himself not retinue, not servant, and not even just students who can be driven into the tail and into the mane, while not putting into a penny. The twelve are closest to Him, friends in the deepest sense of the word. The first people on earth who have passed from slavery to God to friendship with Him.

I no longer call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his lord is doing; but I called you friends, because I told you everything that I heard from My Father (John 15:15).

And He is anxious about this friendship, which is very necessary for Him in humanity. He is entrusted to the apostles, tells what he does not tell anyone else. Friendship with them is in some sense an outlet for Him. Therefore, He fiddles with them, patiently answers the most foolish questions and suggestions, such as a brilliant idea, to burn the village for an irreverent reception (Lk 9: 54-55), forgives preceptorship. For the most part, they see nothing from Him but caresses. He relies on them, relies, loves them and wants in return a sincere love. He will frankly need their support in Gethsemane, on the most terrible night of His earthly life.

And with all this, reading the Gospel, it is impossible not to note how … clumsy, how … awkward people with Christ are those whom we are accustomed to honor with prayers and chants. Clumsy and embarrassing, like newborn blind kittens, instinctively feeling where to go and where the milk is, but for the time being they can neither understand nor explain.

12 apostles. Archimandrite Zinon (Theodore), the lower church of the Theodore Cathedral (St. Petersburg)

Christ strikes them – each one of them – in the very heart. “Follow Me, I will make you fishers of men,” He promises Peter and Andrew, and those “immediately leaving their nets, followed Him.” It is enough for him to say “follow Me” to the collector of duties, Matthew, so that he will abandon his half-honored fishery and follow Master. Only a few of His words suffice Nathanael to be stunned: "You are the Son of God, You are the king of Israel."

But this revelation, penetrating them through at the meeting, which enabled them to be His companions, is either shadowed or scattered over the prose of everyday life. Yes, they love Teachers, yes, they know about Him much more than others.

Simon Peter answered him: Lord! to whom shall we go? You have the verbs of eternal life: and we believed and knew that you are the Christ, the living Son of God (John 6: 68-69).

But enchanted by Christ, they seek not only Him, but also some purely earthly blessings. They understand his messianic ministry as the children of their people and of their time: they expect him to become the king of the earth, who will return independence and power to Israel. They see their future next to such a king. Even when He talks about what fate awaits Him, what kind of suffering, they seem not to hear.

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee, the sons of Zebedee, came to him, bowing and asking for something from Him. He said to her: what do you want? She said to him: Tell these two of my sons to sit with you one on the right side, and the other on the left in your kingdom. Jesus answered and said, You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I will drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? They say to him, We can. And he says to them, You will drink my cup, and by baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but letting Me sit on the right side and on the left — it does not depend on Me, but to whom it is prepared by My Father. When the other ten disciples heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers (Matt 20: 20-24).

And He teaches them. Every now and again.

Came to Capernaum; And when I was in the house, I asked them: What path did you reason with each other? They were silent; because by the way of reason they argued among themselves who was greater. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and said to them: Whosoever will be first, be the last and all servant of all (Mk 9: 33-35).

But even at the Last Supper, after the most terrible, most difficult conversation about betrayal, they … will still argue over who will be great in the Kingdom:

There was also a dispute between them, which of them should be considered great (Lk 22:24).

And they, the closest, most dear ones, leave Him alone on the most terrible night of His life – in Gethsemane, falling asleep, although He asked them to be awake with Him.

And he comes to the disciples and finds them asleep, and says to Peter: Could you not watch with Me one hour? (Mt. 26:40)

And then, when what was supposed to happen when the Lord is arrested is accomplished, they scatter in fear, and this fear binds them so much that none of them, except John, goes to the cross.

The power of God in weakness is accomplished

And He forgives them. And He descends to their weakness. Left and abandoned by them – He does not leave and does not abandon them.

On the same first day of the week, in the evening, when the doors of the house where His disciples gathered, were locked out of fear from the Jews, Jesus came, and stood in the middle, and said to them: Peace be unto you! (John 20:19)

Christ remains faithful to those who have not found the strength and courage to remain faithful to Him. Those who hid to cry behind the door, who did not believe the testimony of the women of the myrrh-bearers of the resurrection from the dead.

These were Magdalen Mary, and John, and Mary, the mother of Jacob, and others with them, who spoke of these apostles. And their words seemed to them empty, and they did not believe them (Luke 24: 10-11).

No one believed but two – the apostate Peter and the faithful John, who ran to the tomb to check the words of the women.

Washing the feet of the apostles. Byzantine mosaic of the beginning of the XI century. Greece

And His love, believing and faithful, creates a miracle and transforms the apostles. Those who believed in the Resurrection, saw the Ascension, received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as if they become other people and go to the most audacious sermon in the history of mankind: the preaching of Christ crucified and risen, the preaching of the Son of God, the Savior.

More recently, frightened and discouraged, they suddenly spoke so loudly and so convincingly that they were believed. Although they said such that it was simply impossible to believe them. What a great power was in their words, really, fire and wind!

For them, this is not the first sermon, the Lord has already sent them to the cities in front of His face, and they already know what the gifts of the Spirit are: already healed the sick, already cast out demons and, returning, joyfully said to Him:

– Lord, and demons obey us about your name.

(Well done, Jesus answered them, but this is not the main thing – the main thing is that your names are written in heaven.)

But now another. Previously, those who heard the words of the apostles could come to Christ, touch Him, and believe finally. And now, first, faith in their words, fire and wind – and then the gift of the Spirit to the believer.

What a huge responsibility falls on the Twelve, with what incredible courage, with what strength and courage they take it!

How not to love them?

Such like us in their weaknesses.

Such inspirational – in their faith and their courage.

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