Questions About The Sunday of All Saints

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QUESTION 1

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When is the Sunday of All Saints? Speculate why. Where is the service found (which service book)?


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 1

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The Sunday of All Saints is celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost. The service is the last one in the "Pentecostarion", which has all the services from Pascha until the Sunday of All Saints, inclusive.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit enlightens mankind, and makes us able to attain the destiny God has predestined us to obtain. The Saints are those who have shown forth the fruits of the Spirit abundantly. Is it not appropriate that we should meditate upon the marvelous gift of the Holy Spirit by meditating upon His wondrous works - the Saints?

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, {23} meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)


 

QUESTION 2

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What is a "Saint"? What does the word literally mean?


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 2

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The word "Saint" literally means "Holy One". We recognize the holiness of those who have struggled to live holy lives, above and beyond the average Christian, by calling them "Saints". All Christians are in some sense "saints", since the word also implies a setting apart. In our Liturgy, the priest exclaims "Holy things are for the Holy" shortly before he breaks the Lamb, and this phrase includes all true (Orthodox) Christians who struggle to be saved, and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But when we refer to the "Saints" we call to mind those who "fought the good fight and finished the course and kept the faith", (cf. 1 Tim 4:7) and in so doing, have "laboured more abundantly than they all" (1 Cor 15:10)


 

QUESTION 3

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Why do Christians pray to the Saints? Describe their attitude and expectations in these prayers. Why is this prayer so misunderstood by non-Orthodox?


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 3

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All who profess Christ, whether they be Orthodox or not, commonly ask one another to pray for them. It is a duty of Christians to pray for one another. Since Orthodox Christians live in the knowledge that those who have passed on are not dead or insensible, and since "God is the God of the living, and not the dead", they naturally turn to the Saints for intercession, and place more confidence in their prayers than those fellow Christians who have not completed their earthly sojourn.

A Christian has great reverence in approaching the Saints, since the Saints have been shown by God to be "more than conquerors". We are in awe of their exploits, and recognize the grace of God clearly in their witness and struggle. This is also natural, even in the world. Men honor others who have performed great deeds, such as a brave general, or wise statesman. Since we are in awe of the Saints, we render them honor when we ask their intercession, even more so than we would honor a great man in the flesh. In every communication with the Saints, we see the light of Christ, and rejoice in it, and do it honor.

We know that prayer to the Saints, (or put in a way that is less offensive to those who do not live fully in the knowledge of the resurrection and the Saints, "asking their intercession" ) is pleasing to God, because of the witness of the Scriptures and the abundant experience of the church. Because we are assured that such prayers are pleasing, and because we recognize the great grace that God has bestowed upon His Saints, we have great confidence when we ask their intercessions.

"In invoking the intercession of the saints, the Church believes that the saints, who interceded with the Lord for the peace of the world and for the stability of the holy churches of Christ while living, do not cease doing this in Christ's heavenly, triumphant Church, and listen to our entreaties in which we invoke them, and pray to the Lord, and become bearers of the grace and mercy of the Lord." St. Nectarios of Pentapolis, Modern Orthodox Saints, Vol. 7 by. Constantine Cavarnos

"We ought to have the most lively spiritual union with the heavenly inhabitants, with all the saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs, prelates, venerable and righteous men, as they are all members of one single body, the Church of Christ, to which we sinners also belong, and the living Head of which is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is why we call upon them in prayer, converse with them, thank and praise them. It is urgently necessary for all Christians to be in union with them, if they desire to make Christian progress; for the saints are our friends, our guides to salvation, who pray and intercede for us." St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ.

There are many who profess faith in Christ but have almost no knowledge of the intercession of the Saints, and even eschew this intimate knowledge and heavenly intercourse as blasphemy. There are several reasons for this, including prejudice, a lack of grounding in Christian Tradition, misunderstanding of Scripture, and the abuses of Rome, but the primary reason is that they do not fully understand the resurrection, and it's implications!

The Saints are not asleep or "dead". Our Lord Himself told us clearly that "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Mat 22:32). The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob (Cf. Mat 22:32) once appeared transfigured on a mountain, with two of his favored ones (Moses and Elias) appearing very much alive next to Him. This clearly shows that the "dead" are even more filled with knowledge and activity than the living, as the apostles Peter, James and John could not withstand the uncreated light which came forth from Christ, but Moses and Elisa basked in it. Therefore the departed Saints have greater vision and knowledge and their intercessory boldness is greater for them without their bodies, than when they were in the flesh. This important understanding is elementary knowledge for the Church, but has passed from many of those outside of her.

Partially because they do not understand that the Saints are alive, conscious and active, those who eschew prayer to the Saints misinterpret the reverence Orthodox show to the saints. Many get stuck on the word "pray", thinking that this word only applies to God, and any other use of it should make them rend their clothes. This is, of course, a misunderstanding, brought about by centuries of sectarianism and prejudice. "To pray" is merely "to ask". We ask the Saints to intercede for us, and any examination of our writings and liturgical texts shows that we understand that worship is for God alone.

The abuses of Rome also had a deleterious effect on the Protestant understanding of prayer to the Saints. Rome became very corrupt after the schism, both morally and theologically. A doctrine of "superogataory works" was invented, and "indulgences" were sold. This false doctrine, perhaps more than any other abuse of Rome, has poisoned the understanding of Protestants regarding the Saints. In very simple terms, this false doctrine is as follows:

A certain amount of "good works" are supposedly needed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us affix this as some arbitrary number, say 1000 points. The Saints far exceeded this number, and had "points to give". The poor sinners, such as you and me, who cannot attain to all these good works, may pay to be granted "indulgences", which increase our "point total". Although this explanation may seem silly and mocking, it is essentially the doctrine of Rome till this day. The original "Protestants" reacted quite rightly against this abuse, but they did not understand the correct view concerning the intercessions of the Saints, and over time, their disavowal of this Latin abuse became a caricature of itself, and most now spout almost mantra-like that a Christian "needs no mediator" save Jesus Christ, believing that the scripture they refer to ("For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5)) forbids prayer to the Saints.

It is ironic that those who refuse to ask the Saints to intercede for them on ideological grounds ask those who are still among the living, among their family and friends, to pray for them. This latter action is wholly correct, as fellow believers naturally want to pray for those they love. The prayer of the living, however, is not as powerful as the prayer of the Saints, as the Scripture tells us: "... The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16) Therefore, those who do not want to settle for "second best", and therefore pray "directly to God", actually DO settle for second best, when they ask their sinful companions, who are still struggling with their passions in the flesh, to pray for them, instead of asking those who have passed on and are more righteous.


 

QUESTION 4

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Describe the "procedure" in which someone becomes recognized as a Saint.


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 4

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God has sometimes revealed to the Church the sanctity of one of His great strugglers. The same Holy Spirit that enlightened the one who "fought the good fight" also enlightens the Church and uncovers the sanctity of the Saints. The Saints are generally revealed by miracles that occur at their graves or from the touching of their relics, or because of miracles occurring because of heartfelt requests for intercession directed to them from the faithful. At a "seasonable time" the Church recognizes in an official way that a Christian is a "Saint", and composes a service honoring them and asking their intercession, and decrees a yearly date to observe their memory. The "glorification" of a newly revealed saint is merely the church accepting what God has already revealed.

All Christians who repose are prayed for, because "love faileth not", and because the Church understands that neither prayer not consciousness nor the brotherly bond with the living and the dead ceases after a soul puts off its earthly body. In the context of these prayers, the Holy Spirit often reveals that the reposed Christian that is being lovingly prayed for, is exceptional. It is very important to understand that the Saints are revealed in a wholly natural (if sometimes incomprehensible) way, because of the bond of love and prayers that exists between the living and the dead.

" THE CHURCH PRAYS for all who have died in the faith, and asks forgiveness for their sins, for there is no man without sin, "if he have lived even a single day upon earth". (Job 14:5, Septuagint) "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us". (1 John 1:8) Therefore, no matter how righteous a man might be, when he departs from this world, the Church accompanies his departure with prayer for him to the Lord. "Brethren, pray for us," the holy Apostle Paul asks his spiritual children. (1 Thes. 5:25)

At the same time, when the common voice of the Church testifies to the righteousness of the reposed person, Christians, apart from prayer for him, are taught by the good example of his life and place him as an example to be imitated.

And when, further, the common conviction of the sanctity of the reposed person is confirmed by special testimonies such as martyrdom, fearless confession, self-sacrificing service to the Church, and the gift of healing, and especially when the Lord confirms the sanctity of the reposed person by miracles after his death when he is remembered in prayer, then the Church glorifies him in a special way."(The Spiritual World, Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky)

"WHAT, IN ESSENCE, is the Church's formal glorification of saints? In the Holy, Catholic, Orthodox Church the prayerful memory of each of her members who has departed in faith, hope, and repentance is cherished. This commemoration of the majority of the departed is limited, comparatively, to the narrow circle of the "Church of the home," or, in general, to persons of close blood relation or acquaintance with the departed. It is expressed by prayer for the departed, prayer for the remission of sins, that "his soul be numbered among the righteous," that "his repose be with the saints." This is a spiritual, prayerful thread which binds those on earth to the departed; it is an expression of love which is beneficial both for the departed and, likewise, for those who pray for him. If, after death, he is not deprived of the vision of the glory of God because of his personal sins, he responds with his own prayer for those close to him on earth.

Persons who are great in their Christian spirit, glorious in their service to the Church, beacons illumining the world, leave behind themselves a memory which is not confined to a narrow circle of people, but which is known throughout the whole Church, local or universal. Confidence in their having attained the glory of the Lord and the power of their prayers, even after death, is so strong and unquestioned that the thoughts of their earthly brethren are not channeled into prayer for the forgiveness of their sins (since they are holy before the Lord without such), but towards praise of their struggles, towards accepting their lives as models for ourselves, towards requesting their prayers for us.

In witness to the profound certainty of the Church that a reposed righteous man is with the Lord, in the choir of the Saints in the heavenly Church, the Church composes an act of "numbering among the saints," or of "glorification." By this the Church gives her blessing for the change from prayers for the reposed to prayer requesting for us his prayerful assistance before the throne of God. The unanimous voice of the Church, expressed through the lips of her hierarchs, the conciliatory voice, confirms the conviction of her ordinary members concerning the sanctity of the righteous man. Such is the essence of the act of glorification itself." ("The Glorification of Saints" by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky (See http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/glorification_saints.htm))

It is very important to note that the recognition of particular saints may have a local character (such as, for instance, St. Job of Pochaev, who may be unknown to most Orthodox in Greece, but is loved by Russian Orthodox Christians), or global in character (such as St Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is known to all Orthodox. This is because in a strict sense, Saints are not "canonized". This is a Latin term. The Latins will only accept a Saint if the Pope, (who believes himself erroneously to be the head bishop of the Church of Christ, with all other bishops subject to him) proclaims a person as a saint. Fr Michael Pomazansky explains:

"Although this term ["canonization" F.S.] is etymologically derived from the Greek word canon, it forms a part of the terminology of the Latin Church and is not employed by the Orthodox Greeks. This is an indication that we need not use it ... since the spirit and character of Orthodox glorification is somewhat different from the canonization of the Roman confession. The Roman Church's canonization, in its contemporary form, consists of a solemn proclamation by the Pope: "We resolve and determine that Blessed N. is a saint, and we enter him in the catalogue of the saints, commanding the whole Church to honor his memory with reverence..." The Orthodox "numbering among the choir of the saints" has no special, fixed formula, but its sense might be expressed thus: "We confess that N. is in (numbered with) the choir of the saints of God." (Ibid.)


 

QUESTION 5

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Why does the Orthodox Church think so much about the Saints? What do the Protestants and other non-Orthodox who profess belief in Christ think about them? Speculate why.


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 5

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The Orthodox veneration of the Saints is nothing less than the wholehearted belief in the resurrection, and a detailed knowledge of its implications! We think about the Saints often because in gazing at them, and considering their grace-assisted exploits, we see clearly the implications of the incarnation of the God-man, Jesus Christ, His resurrection and ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In short, in the Saints we see the promises of God regarding our nature fulfilled. We see our OWN destiny, if we follow the example of our brothers and follow their path of ardent belief and struggle.

We have been commanded to be perfect, and this task, which seems impossible to the natural man, is seen to be quite possible by the Christian who understands the resurrection and loves those who were wholly transformed by it - God's Saints.

We believe and confess that the Saints are made of the same "stuff" we are made of, and encountered the same temptations we encounter. They struggled with the same passions, and there is not a sin that not one of them did not commit. They were subject to the same commandments, had the same belief, and were indwelt by the same Holy Spirit as we. We stand in reverent awe of these holy ones, who fought the good fight and did works of "heroic virtue" (as the Canon to One's Guardian Angel puts it). We also are filled with confidence, upon seeing the uncreated brightness of God totally suffusing and transforming mortal flesh. This is why we contemplate the Saints and send up warm prayers to them, begging their intercession.

We also know by knowledge and experience that the Saints are alive and active, more so than when they were in the flesh. Our knowledge of the resurrection tells us this, and the innumerable cases of appearances from the other world of God's chosen ones and miracles wrought by their intercessions confirm our faith.

It is unthinkable that God's crowned warriors would sleep after the death of their flesh. This would mean the resurrection is not all-powerful and has not the ability to completely change man. Those who do not venerate the Saints and who neglect to speak to them, thinking they will not hear, reject the resurrection. Those who may believe in some shallow way that the Saints are alive and "in glory" but think little about them and refuse or neglect to ask their intercessions do not understand the power of the resurrection, and the Church which lives every moment in this power.


 

QUESTION 6

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Abba Poemen said that Abba John said that the saints are like a group of trees, each bearing different fruit, but watered from the same source. The practices of one saint differ from those of another, but it is the same Spirit that works in all of them."

The church recognizes the diversity of the Saints by giving titles to many of them. Here is one: "Equal to the Apostles". What does this mean? Give at least 3 examples of Saints who were "equal to the Apostles."


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 6

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"Equal to the Apostles" is a descriptive "title" given to certain holy strugglers who were evangelizers of nations, imitating the Holy Apostles, who were the original evangelizers of nations. Some of these saints are:

  • Saints Methodius and Cyril, Evangelizers of the Slavs
  • Holy Great Prince Vladimir
  • St. Nina, Enlightener of Georgia
  • Archishop Abercius and many others!

 

QUESTION 7

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Another title given to some saints is "Fool for Christ". Explain. Give at least one example.


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 7

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"Fools for Christ" are saints who acted very strangely in public in order to hide their virtues. Many did strange tings, like running around half dressed in rags, even in the winter, or wearing no clothes at all. Many times they had spiritual gifts of discernment or prophecy. Their podvig (spiritual struggle) is not fit for many, and only was possible because of their deep humility. Two well known "Fools for Christ" are:

  • St Xenia of Petersburg
  • St Basil (for whom the Great Cathedral in Moscow is named, and who was the only man able to rebuke Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and live)

 

QUESTION 8

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What is an "Unmercenary Healer"? Give an example.


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 8

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"Unmercenary Healers" are holy strugglers who were gifted with the ability to heal people of diseases, including spiritual maladies and demon possession. Some of them include:

  • Sts. Cosmas and Damian
  • St Panteleimon

 

QUESTION 9

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Some of the Saints we love were "baptized by blood". Describe what this exceptional occurrence is and give a scenario.


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 9

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The church understands that all who enter her enter by baptism in water, with the notable exception of certain martyrs, who were "baptized in their blood". This was usually when a pagan soldier or bystander, upon witnessing the fervor and courage of a Christian martyr, was suddenly filled with zeal and proclaimed faith in Christ. The result was often that these new believers were immediately killed, being "baptized in their blood", instead of in water.


 

QUESTION 10

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The church is always aware of the phalanx of the Saints, and knows that they are present during the Divine Liturgy. In token of this, the priest commemorates nine separate "ranks" or categories of the Saints before the Divine Liturgy.

Which service is this done in? What are the nine ranks? What do these ranks symbolize?


 

 

 

 

 

ANSWER 10

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In the Proskimidie service before the Liturgy the priest prepares the bread and wine for the Divine Liturgy, calling to mind the Saints and Angels (who are co-worshippers at the Liturgy), and commemorating many Orthodox Christians, both the living and the dead. When he remembers the Saints, he makes three columns of bread particles, with three rows in each, making nine "ranks" in all. This is reminiscent of the nine ranks of the angelic hosts that have been revealed to us (Cherubim, Seraphim, Thrones, Virtues, Dominions, Principalities, Authorities, Archangels and Angels). The ranks of the Saints commemorated are:

First Rank Second Rank Third Rank
St John the Forerunner Hierarchs Unmercenary healers
The Prophets Martyrs Saints of the day and
certain other Saints
Apostles Ascetics St John Chrysostom or St Basil
(whichever Liturgy is celebrated)

 





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