The Authorization of Suffering as a Tool of Conversion in Andreas

Andreas is a book of the travels and adventures of St. Andrew, or Andreas, as he attempts to save St. Matthew from a cannibalistic race of Mermedonians. However, it also allows for an inspection of the saintly suffering of a loyal follower of God, and how God’s reaction to Andreas’s torture reveals what God’s role is when faced with the suffering of his followers.

At one point in the poem, St. Andrew is captured and brutally tortured for three days in Mermondonia. It leads St. Andrew, who up to this point has been a loyal follower, to speak to God and ask, “Father of angels, I wish to ask you, Creator of light and life: why do you forsake me?” (146). St. Andrew speaks of God’s promise, “by your holy word,” that the 12 apostles’ “enemies would not harm us.” St. Andrew’s suffering is so intense, it leads him to begin praying that he be “allowed to yield up my spirit into the hand of your own Self” or to be allowed to die and enter Heaven (146). We begin to see parallels in Andreas and the tale of the crucifixion of Jesus as God allows for violence and suffering to occur to imbue greater meaning in Andreas. God responds to St. Andrew in a similar manner that he spoke to Christ in the garden the night before his crucifixion by saying, “Do not weep for your miserable plight, dearest friend; it is not too severe for you. I am keeping safe watch over you” (147). In effect, God’s response reflects that he has been witness to the suffering of his loyal follower the entire time and, although he admits that he has “power over everything throughout the world,” he has allowed for this violence to occur for a reason that becomes clear when faced with the conversion of the Mermedonians.

And although God does eventually intervene, punish the Mermedonians, and heal St. Andrew, God reveals through his actions that he sees the violence and suffering in Andreas as necessary for the act of repentance to occur among the Mermedonians. God uses St. Andrew’s torture and suffering as a way to allow himself to punish the Mermodonians, who eventually repent and convert in the face of this punishment. It becomes clear, then, that the God of Andreas uses suffering as a tool of conversion and a means to expand his following.

This is made explicitly clear in the following quote of when “the beloved soldier [St. Andrew] looked back… he saw flowering groves standing covered with blossoms where he had previously shed his blood” (147). St. Andrew’s blood and suffering is what allows for the “blossoms” to grow, which signifies the future conversion of the Mermodonians and the growth of God’s following. The actions of the God in Andreas reveals that God uses violence and suffering, even of his own followers, as a tool of conversion that proved incredibly effective in growing the following of the Catholic Church in Mermedonia.


The Vercelli Book, Andreas Poem (Bradley translation)



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