An Orthodox Christian
of St Nicholas
June 12/25, 2000
Vol. 04.08 - Sunday after Pentecost - All Saints
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
The Apostle's Fast.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SUNDAY OF ALL SAINTS
GLEANINGS FROM THE FATHERS
IN THE CHURCH, THE PAST IS CONTEMPORARY
WHY DO PEOPLE NOT BECOME SAINTS?
WHAT ARE THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS?
THE SAINTS ARE LIKE TREES
INVOKING THE INTERCESSION OF THE SAINTS
UNION WITH THOSE IN HEAVEN
THE HUMILITY OF SAINTS
"COMMEMORATING ... WITH ALL THE SAINTS."
THOUGHTS ON THE SUNDAY OF ALL SAINTS
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SUNDAY OF ALL SAINTS
The Apostle's Fast.
The Apostle's Fast begins tomorrow, June 26th (ns). It last till the celebration of Saints Peter and Paul on Wednesday, June 29/July 12. The fasting Typicon permits fish on Saturdays and Sundays, as well fish or wine and oil on various other days. Please consult the calendar so that you will keep the fast correctly. PLEASE NOTE that the Fourth of July is ALWAYS during this fast. This year, on this day (Tuesday), we may have fish Let's choose to obey God and grill vegetables and fish, and enjoy a couple cool beers. Let us show our love for God by fasting when it actually takes a little effort and maybe even a little explanation to others and the courage to stand up for our faith. We should not barbecue beef or pork, obeying our stomachs, rather than God.
Questions about the Sunday of All Saints
See this text also at http://www.orthodox.net/questions/sunday_of_all_saints_1.htm
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."
Which service is this done in? What are the nine ranks? What do these ranks symbolize?
Gleanings from the Fathers
In the Church, the past is contemporary
In the Church, the past is contemporary, and that which is present remains so on account of the living past, since the God-man Christ, Who is `the same yesterday, today and forever' (Heb. 13:8), continuously lives in His divine-human body by means of the same truth, the same holiness, the same goodness, the same life, and establishes the past in the present. Thus, to a living Orthodox understanding and conscience, all the members of the Church, from the Holy Apostles to those who have recently fallen asleep, are contemporary since they continuously live in Christ. Further, today in every true Orthodox individual one can find all the Holy Apostles, Martyrs, and holy Fathers. For the Orthodox Christian these are more real than many of his contemporaries.
Why do people not become Saints?
Why is it that today people do not become saints? The reason is the fact that they do not want to, the fact that they do not discipline themselves, because they do not love God and heavenly things, and do not keep His commandments. God wants all of us to become saints. He says: `Become holy for I Myself am holy' (Leviticus 11:44 - Septuagint). Divine John Damascene says that we have been taught to become children of God, but we do not become such if we do not free ourselves from our passions, from our sins.
What are the Lives of the Saints?
The Saints are like trees
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.
Invoking the intercession of the saints
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, but 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.
Union with those in heaven
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.
The Humility of Saints
There are certain kinds of trees which never bear any fruit as long as their branches stay up straight, but if stones are hung on the branches to bend them down they begin to bear fruit. So it is with the soul. When it is humbled it begins to bear fruit, and the more fruit it bears the lowlier it becomes. So also the saints; the nearer they get to God, the more they see themselves as sinners.
I remember once we were speaking about humiliation and one of the great lights of Gaza, hearing us say, "The nearer a man is to God the more he sees himself to be a sinner," was astonished, and said, "How is this possible?" He did not know, and wanted to know the answer. I said to him, "Tell me, how do you regard yourself in respect to the other citizens here?" And he said, "I regard myself as great, and among the first of the citizens." I said then, "If you went away to Caesaraea, how would you regard yourself then?" "I would value myself somewhat less than the great folk there." So I said, "If you went away to Antioch, what then?" And he replied, I would regard myself as one of the common people." I said, "And if you went into the presence of the Emperor, what would you think of yourself then?" He replied, "I should think of myself as just one of the poor." Then I said to him, "There you are! In the same way, the saints, the nearer they approach to God, the more they see themselves as sinners."
"Commemorating ... with all the saints."
During the night when we see the sky glittering with the stars, we are filled with wonder. But to the faithful, the spectacle of another sky evokes more admiration, that of the spiritual heaven. This spiritual heaven is the Church. Christ is the Sun that never sets. The saints are stars. But, as all stars do not have the same degree of brightness, so the saints differ from one another in the brightness of their sanctity in the spiritual heaven. There are saints who by their exceptional work, wise writings, their struggle in defending the Orthodox faith, their martyrdoms and miracles, glitter like "stars with many lights", stars of the first order. And there are the great fathers and teachers of the Church, to whom the hymnody of the Church refers us: "O brilliant stars of the spiritual heaven."
In addition to these great fathers and teachers of the Church, there are countless other saints who are scattered throughout society, living holy lives in accordance with the Gospel. However, because of the unimportant positions which they hold they are unheard of in the worldly circles and pass unnoticed. The time will come, however, when these people, small in the eyes of the world, but great in the eyes of God, will shine as the Lord said, like the sun.
Among the innumerable multitude of the saints, there is one star that shines brighter than all the rest. This star shines like the moon when it is full. It comforts and encourages us. It is the All-Holy Theotokos. For this reason the Church, when it commemorates the saints, first mentions then name of the All-Holy Virgin. "Commemorating our most holy, pure, most blessed, glorified Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary..."
Thoughts on the Sunday of All Saints
See this text also at http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/01sunape-sunday-of-all-saints.html
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, the Sunday after Pentecost, we remember all of the saints, and we are inspired by these two readings, I would hope, that contain much encouragement. How can one not be encouraged when this whole choir of righteous is enumerated by the apostle Paul, and then he says, "Wherefore seeing we are also compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us. Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
This should be like an anthem for we Christians. And the saints are all described at the end of the Gospel reading. Every righteous one that has ever lived, that has ever pleased God, that has ever struggled with his sins, that has ever truly believed in the resurrection is described today, because our Lord says, "Everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children or lands for My Name's sake, shall receive a hundred fold and shall inherit ever-lasting life. But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first." This describes in microcosm the life that pleases God, the life that we are called to. We are to forsake that which weighs us down, sin which easily besets us, and even father or mother or sister or brother, if they weigh us down, if they keep us from the kingdom of God. In most cases that would not be necessary.
Jesus Christ is not telling us to always leave our father and mother. Indeed we must love them, and honor them, whether they honor God or not. But it is a value judgement here; it is a set of priorities. If we are to inherit what is our birthright, then we must live according to that birthright. You remember, with Esau and Jacob, Esau had the birthright, but he didn't live according to it, so it was taken from him. These readings contain not only the encouragement and this incredible joy that we should feel about the grace of God; they also contain a blueprint, a path of how to live. Not only how to live, but also how not to live. The promise is there, that also contains, very, very clearly for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, what happens when a man does not follow Christ.
Now this is the Sunday after Pentecost. Pentecost, the out-pouring of the Holy spirit, the gift of the Holy spirit upon all in the church, is what makes us capable of being part of this choir of the saints. It's what helps all men to attain to the knowledge of God and to righteousness. St. Paul says through faith they did this, through faith they did that. This was in the Old Testament times, before the giving of the Holy Spirit. Even more remarkable are the exploits of the saints before the coming of Christ, because the Holy Spirit did not dwell within them. The Holy Spirit influenced their lives, guided them, helped them, but did not dwell within them. This was meant for a later time. And St. Paul alludes to this when he says, "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." He is pointing to the coming of the God-man Jesus Christ, and then the bringing of the Holy Spirit after Jesus Christ showed and in actuality did what was necessary for our salvation. He showed us how to live, and lived according to His commandments, and caused Himself to be risen from the dead. And then the bringing of the Holy Spirit enlightens us, strengthens us and allows us to do the will of God, and to obtain the promise.
I want to focus on some things that were said in the Gospel - the Gospel is a composite reading, by the way. It is actually Matthew chapter ten and also chapter nineteen, a portion of it. It fits together very nicely in context, and that's why the Holy Spirit must have desired the reading be put together as it was for this day. Our Lord said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." This is a fundamental characteristic of righteousness, to confess the Lord Jesus Christ. And how do we confess Him? Without lips and with our actions; with our priorities and with our way of dealing with people; with what we say is important and what we show is important.
There are some obvious things that you could have come to mind. We confess the lord by showing that we care about Christianity, that we live our life in a moral way. The entire world has gone off unto Sodom and Gomorrah, but we cannot do this. We must have the courage to stand against it, to stand against every form of immorality and vice. This is the confession of Christ. Now there is a new form of Christianity in name only. It's been around now for quite a good many years. In fact, you really can see the beginnings of it in apostolic times. But certainly, in the past few hundred years of the post enlightenment age, it has been codified that this is an acceptable way of life.
This way of life confesses Christ with the lips, but not with action, not with morality, not with the way we live, not with the way we order our lives. The new Christianity, from which the Orthodox are not immune, has a sort of dichotomy between belief and action. But there is no such thing. This is the great lie. Faith without works is dead. There is no dichotomy between action and belief. And if you do not live according to what you say you believe, then you are not confessing Christ. And we've been given everything we need to confess Him. We've been given the Holy Spirit, the comforter, Who lives within us if indeed we make a place for Him, if indeed we clean out our soul, and garnish it and sweep it out with effort and desire. And He will help us in all things. But if we do not live righteously we are not confessing Christ.
Christ says He will confess us before His Father, if we live according to His will, and confess Him in this life. But He won't confess us before His Father if we do not live in such a way. For those people who do not live in such a way are reserved the words, "I don't know you. I don't know who you are. You have no part with Me. You haven't become like Me. Go away. Go unto outer darkness." Those words are reserved for those people who confess with their lips but not with the way they live, not with their priorities.
Now there are other practical things. In our modern society we are constantly in social situations. Are you afraid to make the sign of the cross before you have your dinner in a restaurant? If this is the case, you should weep and lament and pound your breast and ask God's forgiveness for this, and do it the next time. Are you afraid among your friends or among your business associates or whomever else you come across in your daily walk of life to show your priorities and the Christian way of thinking, or do you change your priorities based upon the vicissitudes of your life, maybe so you are not in trouble, or so nobody thinks badly of you, or maybe just so that you are not inconvenienced? This is not confessing Christ, either.
This is confessing, the Devil, because this is the way the Devil wants us to live. The devil is perfectly happy with lipservice to Christianity; he loves that. In fact, I think he prefers it to out and out paganism, because what does our Lord say to those in the church of Laodicea, in Revelations? "Thou art lukewarm, and I will spit thee out of my mouth." No, brothers and sisters, we are not to be lukewarm. We have fire within us. The Holy Spirit warms us. That fire should burn things, not burn us; it should burn the sins within us, and it should glow. There should be a light. People should see it.
I am convinced there are two main reasons our churches are not full - one is the world is very, very evil, and people are not interested in a Christian way of life. They are interested in Christian lipservice, but not in actually ordering their lives completely according to Christ. That's part of it. But another part of it is, we don't shine. We don't profess Christ in very aspect of how we live, how we think, how we prioritize. Every single person in our workplace should notice something about us, or think we're different. Some may hate us because it - absolutely and positively. Some hated Christ. But there was no one that encountered Christ that did not notice something about Him, that did not have to come to a decision because of Him. So should it be with us.
We must confess Christ before men. Don't live your life according to the priorities of the world. Don't let anything get in the way of an all-out assault on your passions, and an all-out desire to follow the commandments. We have this cloud of witnesses. Look what they did: through faith they subdued kingdoms, they wrought righteousness, they obtained promises, they stopped the mouths of lions, they were sawn asunder, they wandered about in sheep skins and in goat skins. The world was not even worthy of them. All of these things were struggles. None of these things that I just mentioned are pleasant. All of them were difficult trials. The Christian life is indeed a trial, a difficulty, it is an arena, it is a life-or-death struggle.
If this causes your heart to contract and be afraid, then you must beg the Holy Spirit to indwell in you more, and be joyful on this day that so many have entered into the kingdom of heaven, so many have endured struggles, and pain, and grief, and endured to the end, and come to the kingdom of heaven. And they are all examples for us, all around. And they are poof that the resurrection is real. The resurrection is true. And it changes a man. This news is the best news that can be said. There is nothing greater. The resurrection changes us! Now our life sometimes is filled with bitterness and difficulty. Some of it is from without, brought on by those whom we know, or whom we don't know. Some of it is from within, from our own sinfulness, our lack of belief, our lack of constancy, our lack of good priorities. But regardless, life is struggle. Everyone understands this. But God has given us the tools to endure in the struggle.
God has given us everything we need, and on this day we celebrate the whole panoply of saints that have endured to the end, as an example to us, but also - we must understand, and we must be able to have these two thoughts together at the same time - also as a reproach against us. They are both a reproach against us, and also an encouragement to us, both at the same time. Because they've all endured. They're made of the same stuff as we are. They had the same difficulties with sins that we have. They were given the same grace that we have been given, the same truth, the same God, the same Holy Spirit. But they fought the good fight, and endured; they finished the course.
And now we ask their intercessions before God, for our sinful selves. We can attain; we must attain some measure of what they have attained. We are called to perfection. Christianity is not just a belief system, or membership; it is the continual, extreme change of a man. And this is good news. There is so much wrong with us, so much incomplete, so much that hurts, so much that is imperfect, so much that we don't know, so much that makes us sad; all of that God will change. No sadness, no incompleteness, no sickness, no bad thoughts, nothing whatsoever that causes our faces to be downcast, but instead all light.
This is what God wants to give us. We must live our life according to this promise, aim for this promise, and struggle for this promise. Then we will truly be called friend by our Lord. He will call us friend, and we will be able to cry, "Abba, Father." Such incredible intimacy with God! The saints obtained it. And we can attain it. But only by struggle, only by confessing Christ, only by living according to His commandments. In the middle of today's reading it says, "He that taketh not up his cross and followeth after me, the same is not worthy of Me." We must struggle according to what He has told us to do. I am continually struck by the lives of the saints, and by the writings of the fathers, by how these two thoughts - our depravity and God's great mercy -are welded into one. On almost every page of the Scriptures this knowledge of the condition of man, which is deplorable, and the promise of what man will become, is present. And we see it in the saints. We see their righteousness, how God brought them home. We also see their struggles, and we should compare their struggles to our own, and mix always the knowledge of what God has predestined for us with the knowledge of what kind of person we are. They always must be mixed together. And then we will struggle. We will push on, and we will fight, and we will finish the course. The Holy Spirit has made it possible for us. The Holy Spirit enlightens us, and lives within us if we live according to His commandments. May God help you to confess Christ in everything you say and everything you do, in how you prioritize, and live your life. Amen.
Answers to Questions about the Sunday of All Saints
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 "labored more abundantly than they all" (1 Cor 15:10)
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!
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:
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.
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)
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.)
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.
"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:
"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:
"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:
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.
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:
Russian Orthodox Church
of St Nicholas
Phone: 972 529-2754
Priest Seraphim Holland
Snail Mail: 2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75071, USA