Who is St. Addai?

St Addai Icon

Tradition has it that he was one of the Seventy-Two Disciples who started his mission after Pentecost in Edessa (or Er Roha, currently Urfa in Turkey). According to the tradition the king of Edessa, Abgar (or Agbar) V (Ushana) the son of Manu was suffering from gout sent massages to the Lord Jesus with representatives asking for healing. Tradition has it that the Lord had promised him this ‘Happy are those who have believed in Me, not having seen me, for it is written of me that those who shall see me shall not believe in Me, and that those who shall not see Me shall believe in Me. As to that which you have written, that I should come to you, (behold) all that for which I was sent here below is finished, and I ascend again to My Father who sent Me, and when I shall have ascended to Him I will send you one of My disciples, who shall heal all your sufferings, and shall give (you) health again, and shall convert all who are with you unto life eternal. And your city shall be blessed forever, and the enemy shall never overcome it. (Click on the following link to ‘The Legend of Abgar’ on New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia).

So St Addai came to Edessa and resided in the house of a man called Twana, which means the blessed, he started preaching the Good News, God’s love and the Saviour Jesus the Messiah. He talked about Jesus’ life, his miracles, death and resurrection. His preaching was accompanied by acts of healing so the news spread quickly across the land.

When the king heard about St Addai he called Twana and told him “I was told that there is a capable man in your house, bring him to me quickly”. Immediately St Addai was brought in front of the king and once the king saw him he saw that his face was shinning so he was amazed and knelt in front of him, the audience were amazed and wondered how the man with torn cloths could affect the king that way. At that time the king did not know that St Addai was one of Jesus’ disciples and asked for healing, St Addai told him that if he believes then everything is possible so the king proclaimed “I believe that the Lord Jesus is my salvation, when I heard about his death on the cross I was saddened but if it was not for my fear from the Romans I would have sent my army to kill his crucifiers.”

The disciple put his hand on the king and asked for healing and he was healed by the power of Jesus, after that a good number of the king’s slaves and the people of the city were healed as well.

The king wanted to give the disciple gold and silver but he said “how can we take what is not ours?” So he built a church in Edessa and anointed priests and deacons then he got martyred on the 14th of May and was buried at the church that he built.

His mission was carried on by his disciple, St Mari, who also was one of the Seventy-Two. The first Christian main centre in Iraq was in Kokhi (Seleucia-Ctesiphon) near Baghdad across from Salman Pak on the other side from the Tigris River.

Both of the disciples, St Addai and St Mari, are considered the founders of the church in Iraq (the Church of the East) and they have contributed to our traditional mass by writing good amount of its parts.

Therefore we chose St Addai as the patron saint for our Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Parish in New Zealand.

Icon of St Addai the Apostle

On Sunday morning of 10th of May 2010, during the Chaldean Mass, the new Icon of St Addai the Apostle was blessed after which it had been commissioned to being written by the specialist New Zealand iconographer Michael Pervan from the Studio of John the Baptist.

The iconographer explained to the congregation during the Mass what the icon meant: “The icon is written to show the saint as he appears a tall, slender man with serious concern on his face in the middle of the icon, going quickly on his way as the wind trails his dual coloured garments of blue and red representing his holiness, and the dust trailing him as he goes to Jerusalem. The holy city is represented with the major wall on the left hand side of the icon and as he crosses the barren desert from Jerusalem to the land between the two rivers, Mesopotamia, as is represented by the rocky mountain and the difficult and arduous road that he would have endured during his travels. As he comes from there he holds in one hand the “Good News”, Holy Bible, and in the other hand holds the Cross of Salvation, to share them with the people of Mesopotamia and note here that the middle of this book is a Chaldean Star of the East and the Cross.

As for the ground that he treaded on we find greenery showing that his work was fruitful in the hearts of the people he went to evangelize and behind him is a small green tree representing faith and the Word of God which he brought to those people took hold and rooted itself deeply in their hearts and also many green plants are shown which means that the evangelization work of St Addai the Apostle was successful in the area. Near his feet are the two rivers in their blue flowing waters representing the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers which he used to baptize many people in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. The many churches signify the great conversion of the peoples to Christ, made possible through the waters of Baptism; hence the great rivers of the Tigris and Euphrates are also shown.

St Addai came with Good News evangelizing, and we see on the right hand side of the icon the plentiful fruit of his work represented with many churches of which one was the Chaldean Church as we see its Chaldean Cross on the front of its two doors. If we look closely at the icon we can see that the lines used for the churches does not follow the logical architectural understanding to represent that the divine revelation is not understood under normal human concepts.

At the top of the icon and in the background the gold colour (gold plating) has been used to represent that the work this apostle did was from a divine source. Also the name of St Addai is written in Chaldean writing on both corners of the icon.

When the iconographer, Michael Pervan, was commissioned to write this icon he did not know who St Addai the Apostle was, but when he attended the Mass, even though he did not understand its contents, he felt that the Chaldean community had taken on the teachings of Christ as were founded and taught by St Addai almost 2000 years ago.