Commemorated on July 4
Saint Andrew, Archbishop of Crete, was born in the city of Damascus into a pious Christian family. Up until seven years of age the boy was mute and did not talk. However, after communing the Holy Mysteries of Christ he found the gift of speech and began to speak. And from that time the lad began earnestly to study Holy Scripture and the discipline of theology.
At fourteen years of age he went off to Jerusalem and there he accepted monastic tonsure at the monastery of Saint Savva the Sanctified. Saint Andrew led a strict and chaste life, he was meek and abstinent, such that all were amazed at his virtue and reasoning of mind. As a man of talent and known for his virtuous life, over the passage of time he came to be numbered among the Jerusalem clergy and was appointed a secretary for the Patriarchate — a writing clerk. In the year 680 the locum tenens of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, Theodore, included archdeacon Andrew among the representatives of the Holy City sent to the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and here the saint contended against heretical teachings, relying upon his profound knowledge of Orthodox doctrine. Shortly after the Council he was summoned back to Constantinople from Jerusalem and he was appointed archdeacon at the church of Hagia Sophia, the Wisdom of God. During the reign of the emperor Justinian II (685-695) Saint Andrew was ordained bishop of the city of Gortineia on the island of Crete. In his new position he shone forth as a true luminary of the Church, a great hierarch — a theologian, teacher and hymnographer.
Saint Andrew composed many inspired writings, including the Great Canon of Repentance which is sung on Monday through Thursday of the first week of Lent, after the usual beginning of Compline, and following Psalm 69/70. In current Greek practice the Great Canon begins after the Doxology. The Great Canon of Repentance includes 250 troparia within its 9 Odes. Before each Troparion of the Canon, we make the Sign of the Cross and bow and sing “Have mercy upon me, O God, have mercy upon me.” On Thursday of the fifth week, the Great Canon is sung continuously in its entirety. After Psalm 90/91 “God is with us,” is read plainly and without a melody (outside of Great Lent). During Lent, however, the verses are sung slowly by the choir with the refrain “For God is with us” after each verse.
Saint Andrew has also composed the Canon for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, three Odes for Compline of Palm Sunday, and also in the first four days of Passion Week, as well as verses for the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and many other Church hymns. His hymnographic legacy was continued by other great composers of following ages: Saints John of Damascus (December 4), Cosmas of Maiuma (October 12), Joseph the Hymnographer (April 4), Theophánēs the Branded (October 11), etc.
Church historians are not of the same opinion as to the date of death of the saint. One suggests the year 712, while others — the year 726. He died on the island of Mytilene, while returning to Crete from Constantinople, where he had been on churchly business. His relics were transferred to Constantinople. In the year 1350 the pious Russian pilgrim Stephen Novgorodets saw the relics at the Constantinople monastery named for Saint Andrew of Crete.