Apostolic Age: Apostles and Dormition



Apostles and their missions:

            Review the definition of apostle. Where did they all go, these men who followed Jesus so closely? Let’s look quickly at their lives after the Ascension and Pentecost. Copy the page, if you want to, and cut it into sections, giving each student one or two apostles to read and report to the class on. Each student should be able to point out the travels of “his” apostle on a map; you could even use post-it notes on the classroom map to mark their major apostolic destinations:

            St. Andrew, the first-called, a fisherman by trade and brother of Peter, traveled to Scythia, Greece, a small town then called Byzantium (later known as Constantinople!), and to Russia to the River Dniepr, where the cities of Kiev and Novgorod would later be built. He is the patron saint of Russia. He finally traveled to Patras, in Greece, where through his prayers many were healed, including the wife of the governor. But the governor ordered Andrew tied to an X-shaped cross, Andrew continued preaching the whole time he was on the cross for 2 days until his death.

            St. Thomas, better known as “Doubting Thomas” because of his doubts about the Resurrection, surely had no doubts after he saw Jesus with his own eyes. (Review John 20:24-29.) His name in Hebrew means “twin”. He traveled to far-off India to spread the good news of his faith and there, he died.

St. Bartholomew was born in Cana of Galilee and first was sent by the apostles to Syria and Asia Minor. In the city of Hieropolis, there lived a man called Stakhios. Stakhios had been blind for 40 years, but was healed through the prayers of the apostle and was baptized. Soon many were being healed and leaving the pagan gods for Christ. This angered the pagan priests, who had St. Bartholomew, along with St. Philip arrested. Bartholomew survived crucifixion there, left Stakhios as bishop, and also is believed to have traveled to India and began the Christian Church there, translating the gospel of Matthew from the Hebrew for the new believers. He then traveled to Armenia, where he preached for many years and healed the daughter of King Polimios through prayer. King Polimios, his wife and daughter, and many people from the ten cities of Great Armenia became Christians. Finally, at the urging of the pagan priests, a wicked king named Astyages in the nearby city of Al’ban ordered Bartholomew killed.

            St. Simon (the Zealot) left Palestine and traveled first to Egypt to preach about Jesus. St. Jude left Jerusalem after Pentecost and traveled to the land of Mesopotamia. In and around the city of Edessa he preached the good news of Jesus and the resurrection. Finally, he went to Persia with St. Simon and there, in Persia, both of these courageous apostles died for their faith.

            St. James the Greater, son of Zebedee and brother of St. John the Beloved, traveled to Spain to preach; he is the patron saint of Spain to this day and is known there as Santiago (Our own San Diego is named for him.). He returned to Jerusalem to try to influence the Pharisees to accept Christ. But, the Jews still hated the Christians and begged King Herod Agrippa to put James to death. James was the first of the apostles to die and the second martyr (after Stephen).

            St. Philip introduced many members of the Greek community to Christianity. After performing many miracles in Jerusalem, including giving sight to the blind and restoring life to a dead infant, he traveled with is sister, Mariamne, to Phrygia in Asia Minor. There he preached to the people of Hierapolis. These people worshipped a huge snake; Philip prayed and the snake died. Many people who had been bitten by snakes were healed, including the wife of the governor. Many of the people then believed in Jesus, but some were so angry they put Philip in prison. When Philip would not deny Jesus, he was crucified, head down, along with the Apostle Bartholomew. A great earthquake struck, and Philip prayed for the safety of those present. The earthquake stopped, and Philip and Bartholomew were taken down from the cross. Bartholomew was still alive and established a bishop for the newly-converted people of the city, but Philip, through whose prayers the city had been saved, had already gone home to be with his Lord.

            St. Matthew remained for many years in the land of Israel, teaching the Jewish people about Jesus. He wrote the gospel of Matthew to tell the story of Jesus to his people. Finally, he traveled to Ethiopia to preach and was killed by those who hated Christians in that African land.

            St. James the son of Alpheus, also known as James the Less and brother of St. Matthew, traveled after Pentecost first to the city of Eleutheropolis and then to Egypt. There he preached and performed miracles with great success and churches were founded. Finally he was killed in the town of Ostracina, being crucified by pagans.

            St. Matthias was chosen by casting lots to take the place of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. He had been on of the 70 men sent out by Jesus to preach and perform miracles. He was with the other 11 disciples at Pentecost and preached in the land of Judea. Then he traveled to the land of Cappadocia and began the church there. He also died for his faith.

            There are 3 other very special apostles, even though they were not part of the first 12 chosen by Jesus. St. Barnabas was actually named Joseph; the apostles changed his name to Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement”. St. Barnabas was born on the island of Cyprus, and was a fellow-student of Saul (later to be St. Paul) in Jerusalem under the teacher, Gamaliel. He became a follower of Jesus and was one of the chosen Seventy. We see glimpses of his work in the book of Acts. He was one of those who sold all he had in the early church in Jerusalem. Next we see him leading the newly converted Saul back to Jerusalem to meet the other Christians there. He was sent by the church in Jerusalem to Antioch, where believers were first called Christians. After a year in Antioch with Paul, the two set out on their first missionary journey. They took with them on that journey a cousin of St. Barnabas, John Mark. John Mark, later the Evangelist Mark, left the two apostles part-way through the journey. Barnabas also traveled with Paul to Jerusalem for the first church council. But, when Paul refused to trust John Mark to come on his next journey, Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus. Barnabas then traveled to Rome, perhaps the first to preach there about Jesus. He traveled to Mediolanum (now Milan) in Italy and then returned to Cyprus. There, St. Barnabas and St. Mark preached together for many years until Barnabas was stoned to death in Salamis in about the year 62 at age 76.       

             St. Mark, author of the Gospel that bears his name, is met in the Scriptures with his Jewish name of John, meaning “Yahweh has shown grace”. “Marcus”, while a common Roman name, is an unusual name to find in a Jewish household; it is unclear where this name came from. John Mark’s mother, Mary, was related to Barnabas, the wealthy landowner of Cyprus, who later became an apostle. Mary, a widow, was a woman of wealth and position in Jerusalem and a follower of Jesus. We meet John Mark in the Garden of Gethsemane as the young man wearing only a linen cloth who, when he was grabbed by the men arresting Jesus, fled naked. John Mark’s home was a meeting place of the early Christians. John Mark remained at home in Jerusalem until he was brought to Antioch by Barnabas and Paul. He traveled with the two to Cyprus on their first missionary journey. But, when the group reached Perga in Asia Minor, John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. Paul viewed this as desertion and refused to take John Mark with them on the second missionary journey. Barnabas separated from Paul and took John Mark with him to Cyprus and Paul traveled with Silas.  Later, we find John Mark with Paul the prisoner in Rome, past history apparently forgiven. Paul sends Mark on several missions, first to Colossae and later, with Timothy to Asia Minor. Mark was also a companion and helper of the Apostle Peter in his journeys. While Mark was with Peter in Rome, the faithful asked him to write down for them the life and miracles of the Lord Jesus and Mark wrote carefully that which Peter had witnessed. Peter chose Mark to preach the Gospel in Egypt, and Mark became the first bishop of Egypt. He taught in Pentapolis and then in Alexandria, where he founded a goodly church with priests and deacons. Mark’s teaching in Egypt was confirmed with many miracles. Finally, the pagans brought accusations against Mark and he had to flee back to Pentapolis. He spent two years in Pentapolis, where he continued his earlier work. After two years, Mark returned to Alexandria, to the great joy of the church there, which was growing mightily. But the pagans seized Mark and dragged him over the cobblestones to prison. An angel appeared to Mark in prison and then Jesus Himself appeared and said, “Peace to thee, Mark My Evangelist!” On the next day, the pagans dragged Mark through the streets until, bloody and injured, Mark went home to his Lord. His relics were buried by the Christians and have throughout the ages brought healing to many believers.

Finally, St. Luke, the Evangelist, was also an early companion of Paul. He was a Roman citizen and physician from the city of Antioch. He traveled with Paul through Asia Minor on Paul’s second missionary journey. He wrote down all they did and all he learned about the life of Jesus; we can still read these today in the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Luke. He painted an icon of the Virgin Mary, which he gave to the Theotokos herself; this is still a prized possession of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Luke lived to be an old man and died in Thebes at the age of 84.


Learning Game: There is an immense amount of material covered this week. Try a game of Concentration, with the apostle and his destination as a pair. Don’t forget St. Peter. Write the names of the apostles and their destinations in a grid pattern 5x6 on a piece of posterboard. Take post-it notes and number them 1-30. Place them over the names and destinations. Students take turns guessing 2 numbers. If the apostle and his destination match (and the student knows they match!), the student gets to keep the post-its and take another turn. Student with the most post-its in the end is the winner.


Dormition of the Theotokos:

  1. Begin with a review of the life of the Theotokos:

Use the icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos to review the story of Joachim and Anna, who could not have children and prayed for a child.

Use the icon of the Presentation of the Virgin to review her life as a temple virgin beginning at age 3.

Use the icon of the Annunciation to review the Incarnation of the Son.

Use the icon of the Nativity of the Lord to review the birth of her son, Jesus

Use the icon of the Crucifixion to review her presence at her son’s crucifixion. Mary

was at the foot of the cross when her Son, Jesus, was dying there. Jesus saw her and knew how sad His pain and suffering made His mother. He called out to His disciple, John. John was to care for Mary as if she were his own mother. And so, for the rest of her life, he cared for the Theotokos as a loving son.


  1. Now continue her story, using the icon of the Dormition:

      After the day of Pentecost, Mary stayed in the city of Jerusalem, living with the disciple John.  She comforted and worked lovingly with the new Christian church. 

      When Mary was about 50 years old, she was sick and dying. She told her friends that she wanted to be buried in Gethsemane, the garden where Jesus prayed.  At that time, all of the apostles were scattered around the world preaching the Gospel.  When they heard of Mary’s dying, they all returned to Jerusalem. Some made the journey by foot; others were miraculously transported by the Lord Himself.  All arrived in time except St. Thomas, also known as Doubting   Thomas. (How did he get the name of “Doubting Thomas”?) The apostles are pictured on either side of Mary, St. Peter at the head of the bier and St. Paul at the foot of the bier. With everyone gathered, Mary “fell asleep” in Christ. She died peacefully, knowing that the resurrection of her Son would also be hers.

      Below the bier in the icon we see Antoninus the Jew.  He was an enemy of the Christian community and tried to break up the burial of Mary by dumping over the bier.  An archangel appeared and cut off the hands of Antoninus to keep him from dishonoring the Theotokos. Antoninus now realized that Jesus was truly God, and His mother to be honored. His hands were healed and he became a believer.

When Thomas arrived, the other disciples took Thomas to the tomb in Gethsemane where Mary had been buried near her parents, Joachim and Anna.  But the tomb was empty!  The Church believes that Mary was resurrected bodily and taken to heaven, just as we all will be in the future.


  1. Discuss the role of the Theotokos in the early Church and today: Clearly, she was honored even in her own lifetime; we are not the only ones to venerate her. In Antoninus we see the fate of those who dishonor the Theotokos – not a pretty sight. How is veneration different from worship? Whom do we worship?


Quiz Questions:

  1. Name at least 10 apostles and their major destinations.
  2. Name at least 4 feasts of the Theotokos.
  3. Name the authors of the gospels and the book of Acts.