My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Jesus Christ God and Savior,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
"…Others were TORTURED, not accepting deliverance, that they
might obtain a better resurrection. Still, others had trial of mockings
and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They WERE
STONED, THEY WERE SOWN IN TWO, WERE TEMPTED, WERE
SLAIN WITH THE SWORD. THEY WONDERED ABOUT IN
SHEEPSKINS AND GOATSKINS, BEING DESTITUTE, AFFLICTED
TORMENTED– OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY. THEY
WANDERED IN DESERTS AND MOUNTAINS, IN DENS AND
CAVES OF THE EARTH" (Hebrews 11:35-38).
Our Holy Orthodox Church, the Authentic Church of Jesus Christ, has over the centuries acknowledged God’s holiness manifested on grace-filled men and women whose lives were spiritually exemplary. Throughout man’s history, God reveals those faithful, righteous, and obedient to His will and Commandments. This is seen clearly in the Old Testament Prophets, righteous men and women who He had chosen to guide His people, implement His will, and deliver His Divine message to his chosen people and eventually to the nations. These men and women whose faith was pure, were not afraid to teach God’s truth, even if they were threatened with torment, exile, or imprisonment. We referred to them as Righteous, Venerable, Holy, Witnesses, Messengers, Saints. Our Almighty God revealed Himself to mankind from the very beginning. He never ceases to reach out to His creation with abundant love and blessings, desiring everyone to partake of the personal communion with Him.
Saint Justin Popovich states that the Lives of the Saints not only bear witness to the life of Christ: they may even be said to be the continuation of the life of Christ on Earth. The lives of the Saints, he states, "are nothing else, but the life of the Lord Christ repeated in every Saint to a greater or lesser degree in this or that form. More precisely, it is the life of the Lord Christ continued through the Saints, the life of the incarnate God-man Jesus Christ Who became man."
We, the Orthodox Christians, are truly inspired by the Lives of the Saints. Their lives truly reveal what a genuine life in Christ is and what is meant by ‘spiritual life.’ They are the pillars of spirituality, of unceasing prayer, of philanthropy, of piety, of sacrifice, of humility, of love, of faith, and of virtuous life. Genuine spiritual life is when we live in Christ and He lives in us. The Saints of the Church truly live Christ daily and adhere to the words, "For in Him we live and move and have our being" ( Acts 17:28).
None of us can claim to have any kind of spiritual life if we have never read the Lives of the Saints. It is a fact, however, that Orthodox Christians who are truly committed to improving and progressing spiritually are naturally those who constantly read and are inspired by the Lives of the Saints. Spiritually speaking, the Lives of the Saints serve as our greatest inspiration and example of genuine spirituality, of being an authentic Christian, of attaining communion with our God our Divine Creator. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Saint Paul writes: "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ."
Holiness cannot be bought and/or merit. None of the Saints of the Church ever claimed holiness, righteousness, or Sainthood. Rather, they considered themselves as the worst sinner on earth. Their life is a life of struggle against, sin, pride, temptations, arrogance, anger, hate, evil thoughts, gluttony, avarice, lethargy, and greed. They seek, however, communion with God, theosis (deification), unceasing prayer, asceticism, humility, chastity, poverty, suffering, piety, forgiveness,virtue, charity, deprivation, meekness, faith, obedience, sacrifice, love, and salvation.
The various categories of Saints are: Prophets, Evangelists, Martyrs, Ascetics, holy Hierarchs, priests, and all those who continue to live a noble and righteous life"in the world." The objectives and goals of all Christian believers is to, by the grace of God, attain holiness. All baptized Orthodox Christians have the gift and potential to reach holiness. We are commanded by God Himself, Who said, "Sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am Holy…" (Leviticus 11:44). Holiness is the target of every Orthodox man, woman, and child. The word for sin ( Greek – hαμαρτία) litretally means, "missing the target". When one fails to hit the target, holiness, he commits "amartia," or sin. All people are sinners who miss the mark of perfection or holiness that God has set for His disciples, resulting in alienation from Him. Sinful actions that violate the commandments of God ultimately lead to death. (1 John 1:8).
Glorification of a Saint can be initiated because of miracles, but it is not absolutely necessity for canonization. There have been numerous Saints of our Church who were not credited with miracles but nevertheless they are Saints. What is required is a virtuous life of apparent holiness. Also, a Saint’s sacred writings and preaching must be "fully Orthodox," in accordance with the pure faith that we have received from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Apostles and taught by the Holy Fathers and Ecumenical Synods.
The Church does not make a Saint! God alone can do that. The Church, the holy people of God, glorify those whom God Himself has glorified, seeing in their lives sincere love for God and their fellow man. The Church recognizes that such a man or woman has indeed cooperated with grace of the Holy Spirit to the extent that his/her holiness there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever.
Before any formal actions or inquiry is made on a person’s life by the Church, that person is venerated by the faithful where he or she lived i.e., a cell, monastery, mountain skete, or other. Orthodox Christians in a respectful way begin to keep his/her memory alive and seek his/her prayers and intercessions. They also visit his/her grave or even paint icons of him or her. Traditionally the local Hierarch makes a request for the Church to acknowledge and recognize that person as a Saint. A committee (‘Cannonization Commission’) is formed to investigate the life of the person who is considered for glorification and submits their findings to the Synod of Bishops stating the reasons why the person should be recognized a Saint of the Church. Then the Holy Synod decides to number him or her among the Saints and commission icons to be made and liturgical services composed.
The formal Rite of Glorification begins with a Memorial Service for the person about to be canonized, after which Vespers and Orthros (Matins) with special hymns to the Saint are chanted and the Saint’s holy icon is unveiled. The Saint’s life is published and the date of his or her commemoration is established. The Orthodox Churches are informed of the glorification, so that they can place the new Saint’s feast on their calendars.
Holy Fathers and Mothers intercede for the salvation of mankind to the Merciful and
Loving God. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy and Glorious Resurrection of our Savior Jesus
The sinner and unworthy servant of God,
+ Father George