SAINTS – WHO ARE THEY?
We frequently hear about saints in church, especially on Sundays and Feast Days, or we sometimes reading about them. It is good to understand why they are so honored and called saints and learn more about them, because it directly concerns us. We should understand why we offer them reverence and recognition in the Church, and place their icons where they can be kissed and honored.
First, it is important to understand the meaning of the word “saints”. It means the same as the word holy, except that saints is a noun and holy is adjective of the same word. Our Creator and God is continually glorified as being holy. So to become holy is to become like God.saint. It means ridding ourselves of every blemish and moral defect, and to acquire every virtue and purity of thought, word and deed. The more holy we become the more we reflect the image and likeness of God, which is the purpose of Orthodoxy in this present life.
In the Orthodox Church we offer homage to the one who is far above all the saints being who is the holiest of them all. Her names describes her exceptionally high standing above all the saints and heavenly powers. She is the All undefiled, All-holy and Ever-blessed Ever-Virgin Mary, the Theotokos and Mother of God. We honor her because she is the purest woman that ever existed being being filled with holiness and truth, and so holy and pure that God chose her to bear His Son in the flesh. The holy sinless flesh that the Son of God wrapped himself, He took from this holy woman. She is honored as being exceedingly higher than the highest and we Orthodox praise her saying: “More honorable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim . . .”
However, in our Orthodox Faith the word saint or holy is not meant to be used only for certain exceptional and outstanding saints and heavenly creatures, but to denote all those who hear the Gospel, believe in Jesus Christ, and become part of His holy Body – the Church. Jesus sternly commands that we all must become holy saints, saying: “Be holy for I am holy,” and “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
It is a certainty that if we believe and attend church all our lives and we fail to become saints it will be of no benefit to us in the life to come. Bearing the name of Christ, worshiping Him as God, and eating and drinking Him in the Eucharist, we honor Him when we struggle to become holy. It will be of no benefit to us if we fail to enter the struggle, for failure to struggle will cause us great and permanent loss. The real purpose of this present life is to prepare for the next life, where Christ will be our judge, judging us for our faith and actions during this present life, and He will render reward or punishment according to what we deserve.
Becoming a saint is what Christianity is really about !
We greatly honor martyrs in Ortho-doxy. Some make the transition in a very short time from sinners who very often in a short time, may go from sin into sacrifing their lives for Christ. .According to the church, such martyrdom erases every blemish of sin and renders them holy.
Orthodoxy is not a religion but a divinely mandated and holy way of life, where we show our love for Christ as we follow our Lord on the way of everlasting life. His teaching is perfect for He is God and is the source of all knowledge. He is our King, our Head and our Teacher, the only one that can teach us everything we need to know. He also used himself as the perfect example of what we all must be saying:: “Come unto me all you that are heavily laden and I will give you rest for your souls. Learn from me for I am meek and humble in my heart.” He also gives many lessons and examples on how to become humble and meek. When He had washed His disciples’ feet, He taught: “You call me Lord and say well for I am, if then I wash your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.” We sinners are all equal before Christ and all of us must love one another and wash each other’s feet, helping each other in mutual love and peace..
Holy saints avoid all evil and corrupt things and everything that is immoral or unclean; at the same time they strive to become good and pure, seeking to become sanctified by Christ in body, soul and spirit. They perform only good deeds and totally love God and all His creation. In Holy Scripture, in the Book of Acts, the Christians who belong to the Church, are referred to as saints. This demonstrates that there are many more saints in the Church than the ones whose icons are before the eyes of the faithful. We are all referred to as saints every time we celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Not one of us is excluded when the Priest, before Holy Communion intones: “Ta aghia tis aghis, which means “the holy things to the saints.” This is a call to each of us to approach the Holy Mystery for they are necessary for all co-strugglers who seek holiness. We must think this way, the Orthodox Faith is about me, the drastic change from sinners that we are to saints which we must become.
Each of us must be determined to work toward causing our inner man to change into a saint. This is accomplished by our love and devotion to Jesus Christ, whom we ought to love above everything else. How do we accomplish and put into practice such great love for Jesus? He answers: “If you love me keep my commandments.” Why? When we begin to keep the commandments this is exactly what will transform us from the old man into the new man, from being a sinner into becoming a saint and our vileness must change into the holiness of God. Every commandment we put into practice results in changing ourselves from pride to humility. Getting rid of anger and acquiring meekness, replacing unbelief with faith, despondency with hope and envy with love.
References of the church members being called saints in the Bible:
“Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have learned by many of this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem”
“And many of the saints did I shut up in prison . . . ” (Act 26:10).
“But now I go into Jerusalem to minister unto the saints . . .” (Romans 15:25).
“Paul, and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all saints which are at Philippi” . . . (1:1.
If we consider our Orthodox Faith to be only an appendage to our lives then we have missed the most important thing in all our entire existence. Also we have not yet uncovered the rare beauty and treasure right before our eyes, Our holy Faith is designed to reform and change us for the better, from sinful men to become more like Jesus Christ – for He is indeed the man we all must become; and it is Jesus Christ who we must have as the deciding Guide and perfect model of our lives, starting from now until we leave this world.
Before the creation of heaven and earth God acts on his eternal plan, expressed in these words: “Let us create man after our own image and according to our own likeness . . ." This man would be above all creation in heaven and on earth, destined to rule over everything. He would be the greatest of all, and He would perfectly reflect the glory of God, higher than all the saints, and to him every knee in all creation would bow. Because He is the perfect God-man, the image and likeness of God, born of God eternally and of the Ever-Virgin in time, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
All the men that He has chosen to preach the Gospel were saints, holy and pure in heart, filled with love and zeal for Christ for whom they live and they have lived, seeking the salvation of many by the preaching of the Gospel and triune immersion in Holy Baptism.
All those to whom they preached, who accepted the Gospel and became followers of the Apostles and of Christ became the saints of the church. All of us who are now in the church need to struggle and became holy, to become saints, which is every man’s destiny, if we neglect this we will we can be shut out of the kingdom, for nothing unclean can enter the kingdom of heaven. We must rid ourselves of uncleanness and acquire holiness and purity and thus become the saints whom God had chosen us to become. To become a saint holy and pure we must approach the Holy Mysteries with the fear of God, faith and love, having prepared ourselves by prayer and fasting.
The divine Mysteries are the food and drink which gives us the ability to get rid of sin and acquire goodness and holiness.
St. Paul declares the proper way to approach the Holy Mysteries:
“For I have received of the Lord, that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said; Take eat, this is my body, which is broken for you; Do this in remembrance of me. After the same manner He took the cup, when He had supped, saying: This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do for as often as you drink it in remembrance of me. For as often as you drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death until He comes."
"Wherefore, whoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sickly among you, and many have died” (1 Cor. 11:23-29)
The partaking of communion should be with knowledge of and obedience to the holy Church's requirements,with the designated prayer and fasting requirements, and prayers of thanksgiving after the Mysteries St. Paul's words of caution, refer to anyone who may partake out of habit without proper preparation as established by the Church. and who do not keep Christ’s commandments. We are called to be saints and must remember this every day, for when we recognize that we are the saints, there are certain things we will never do and many things which we ought do that becomes holiness.