SAINTS ARE EVERYWHERE IN ORTHODOXY
Many speak about Orthodoxy and its numerous saints shown in abundant icons depicting these saints. Within the Church many members also speak of the saints and admire their images painted and hanging prominently in the Church. But there are many more saints that are not spoken of and may not be recognized but are of great importance. These saints and potential saints are all the members of the Orthodox Church and is the reason for the Church’s existence.
Holy Scripture addresses as saints all members of the Church, and not only church members, but every soul is called by God to become a saint, for He doesn’t designate a few elect, but desires all men to be sanctified and saved. Christ did not die for a few but for all men, woman and children. When our Church is properly activated, all over the world it would be attracting all men to enter into salvation and eternal life. Not only Orthodox Christians but all mankind is called to enter Orthodoxy and become saints, but few are interested due to the attraction of material things and the enjoyment of the pleasures of this world. Christ calls out to all men inviting them into His eternal kingdom. That is why He says to all men in Scripture: “Be holy (saintly) as I am holy; be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
The Holy Bible usually addresses all members of the Church as saints. When St, Paul was still Saul persecuting the Christians, the Apostle Ananias questioned the Lord: "Lord I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem . . .” (Acts 9:13). He refers to all the Christians as saints. “And it happened as Peter passed throughout all quarters. He came down also to the saints who dwelled at Lydda” (Acts 9:32). St. Paul shows that all Christian believers were called to be saints, saying: “to all that dwell in Rome, beloved of God called to become saints; grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). Calling the saints to holiness, St Paul says “But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be named among you as becomes saints” (Eph. 5:3).
Christ proclaims that we must become holy (saints) and Holy Scripture addresses all members of the Church as saints. But what is a saint and will all of us be depicted on holy icons? A saint struggles to rid himself of all uncleanness through fasting and prayer and general attitude living an ascetic life aimed at acquiring purity and holiness. Attending church and receiving the holy mysteries, he gradually progresses toward sainthood, which is not acquired by His works alone, but by faith, hope and love and the keeping of all of Christ’s commandments. Love of Christ is the motivating factor, for every struggler keeps His heart on His Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, for without Him we can do nothing/
Because becoming saints is our objective and final destination according to Christ and the Holy Scriptures, if we commit unclean or vile acts and deeds that prevent us from becoming clean, we will be the cause our own condemnation at the great and fearful judgment. When we attend church we should experience obvious changes taking place within us. We go to church to worship, listen, learn, put things into practice and become sanctified by the grace of God. If we do not experience changes in attending church, we must look to ourselves to see how we are at fault. Inattentiveness, wrong motivations for attending, distractions, disinterest, inattention and such things contribute to our lack of progressive change toward sanctity.
The way from ugly vileness to blessed holiness is the departure from evil doing only good, constantly shunning vices and gradually adopting virtues.
The primary virtues are in relation to God, and they are faith, hope and love. As the virtues increase and strengthen within us, there will be an awareness of sweet joy which will begin to penetrate our souls and we will be serenely at peace, for the Lord rejoices when we do His holy will, and sends waves of His love, peace and joy into our hearts. A holy and virtuous man is happy but a vile and vicious man daily experiences sadness and misery, and he may imagine that he is happy in vices due to temporary material things and sensual pleasures.
The path toward holiness is one strewn with beauty and contentment, for in place of pleasure we begin to experience joy and in place of selfishness we experience the effect of our own kindness and generosity. We learn to overcome the vice of unreasonable anger and acquire a meek and gentle heart. The greatest benefactor of our struggle is of course ourselves, and the greatest battle of our lives is against our undesirable sins and vices. Winning this battle is essential to gain eternal life, for holiness is a necessary requirement in the kingdom of heaven. Christ is our only Teacher and the perfect example of what man should become. We must love Him for He first loved us and gave himself to save us and sanctify us by His sacrifice
In our struggle to increase in holiness we will find it especially more productive during fast periods and on fast days, for the less food in the stomach the more effective will be our work. Frequent reading of the Bible daily is essential to listen to what the Lord has to say. Prayer is to the soul what breathing is to the body, without it we fall toward spiritual death.
The beauty and happiness which is the fruit of the struggle far outweighs any difficulties that may arise. But everything can be accomplished if we continuously repent, humble ourselves, and look forward in anticipation to the life that never ends, the peace that remains and the joy that never diminishes. There is nothing in this world that can make a man happy in this present live or in the future eternal life. Happiness begins when we enter the path to sanctity in our desire to be saints as the Lord teaches, and become real Orthodox Christians who are called to become saints.