ON THE GLORIFICATION OF THE GOD-PLEASERS

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

ON THE GLORIFICATION OF THE
GOD-PLEASERS

Saint John Maximovitch speaks of how the glorification of God-pleasers among us are chosen: “Holiness is not simply righteousness, for which the righteous are deemed worthy of the enjoyment of blessedness in the Kingdom of God; but rather, it is such a height of righteousness that men are so filled with the grace of God THAT IT FLOWS FROM THEM EVEN ONTO THOSE WHO ASSOCIATE WITH THEM. Great is their blessedness, which proceeds from their direct contemplation of the glory of God. Being filled also with the love for men, which proceeds from love for God, they are responsive to men’s needs and to their entreaties, and they are mediators and intercessors for them before God.

“Such, first of all, were the righteous of the Old Testament, who were freed by Christ from Hades and led into Paradise, as well as Saint John the Baptist, THE GREATEST OF THOSE BORN OF WOMEN. Then the Holy Apostles and their immediate successors became such. None of the Christians doubted their sanctity, and after their decease–the greater the martyrs–they immediately began to venerate them and to invoke them in prayer. During the time of lofty spiritual ardor in the first centuries of persecutions against Christians, such also were the Holy Martyrs. A Martyr’s death was itself A DOOR TO THE ABODES ON HIGH, and Christians BEGAN IMMEDIATELY TO INVOKE THEM AS HOLY MEN PLEASING TO GOD. Miracles and signs confirmed this faith of the Christians and were proof of their holiness. Likewise, later on, the great Ascetics began to be venerated. No one decreed that Anthony the Great, Makarios the Great, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Nicholas the Wonder-worker, and many others like them be venerated as Saints, but East and West alike revere them, and only those WHO DO NOT BELIEVE IN SANCTITY can deny their sanctity. The Assembly of the God-pleasers grew without ceasing; in every place where there were Christians, its new ascetics appeared as well.

“However, the general life of Christians began to decline; spiritual ardor began to lose its luster; no longer was there that clear sense of what divine righteousness is. For this reason, the general consciousness of the faithful ould not always determine who was actually righteous and pleasing to God. In some places, there appeared dubious persons, who, by means of supposed ascetic feats, allured part of the flock. For this reason, the Ecclesiastical Authority began to watch over the veneration of Saints, taking care TO GUARD THE FLOCK FROM SUPERSTITION. They began to investigate the life of ascetics venerated by the faithful and to VERIFY THE ACCOUNTS OF THEIR MIRACLES. Toward the time of the Baptism of Rus’, it had already been established that the recognition of a new Saint was be performed by the Ecclesiastical Authority. The decree of the Ecclesiastical Authority was, of course, disseminated throughout the region under its jurisdiction; however, usually other places also recognized A GLORIFICATION performed elsewhere, although they did not enter it into their own MENOLOGION (MENOLOGY). After all, the Ecclesiastical Authority MERELY ATTESTED TO SANCTITY. The righteous became Saints NOT BY DECREE OF THE EARTHLY ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITY BUT BY THE MERCY AND GRACE OF GOD. The Ecclesiastical Authority MERELY APPROVED THE EXAULTING OF THE NEW SAINTS IN CHURCH AND HIS INVOCATION IN PRAYER.

“Just what authority should and could do this was not precisely determined; it was, in any case, an Episcopal authority. There were GLORIFICATIONS PERFORMED BY THE HIGHER ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITY OF AN ENTIRE LOCAL Church; THE NAMES OF THE NEWLY GLORIFIED WERE THEN ENTERED INTO THE CHURCH MENOLOGIONS (MENOLOGIES) OF THE ENTIRE Church; others WERE GLORIFIED IN ONE LOCALITY OR ANOTHER, AND THEIR VENERATION GRADUALLY SPREAD TO OTHER PLACES. Usually, the GLORIFICATION was performed in that LOCALITY WHERE THE SAINT LIVED OR SUFFERED. But it also happened otherwise. Thus, the youth George, from the town of Kratov (Serbia), who suffered in 1515 at the hands of the Turks in Sofia (Sredets, Bulgaria), was GLORIFIED ALREADY WITHIN FOURTEEN YEARS IN NOVGOROD. This glorification took place in spite of the fact that his fellow citizens also venerated him as a new Martyr and that a Church service to him had even been composed by his spiritual father. They, however, did not dare to show this openly, fearing the Turks. Therefore, in Novgorod, which had commercial relations with these places, by direction of the Archbishop, a service was composed and the memory of the Martyr George the New began to be venerated, whence it spread throughout all of Russia.

“When Serbia and Bulgaria were liberated from bondage to the Turks, they began to use the service composed in Russia, while the service originally composed in Sofia remains to this day the property of a library. In last two centuries, when Russia lived in glory and prosperity, THE GLORIFICATION OF NEW SAINTS was USUALLY PERFORMED VERY SOLEMNLY BY DECREE OF THE SUPREME AUTHORITY, SOMETIMES (BUT NOT ALWAYS) TAKING PLACE THROUGHOUT ALL RUSSIA, BUT ESPECIALLY IN THE LOCALITY WHERE THE WONDERWORKING RELICS WERE FOUND.

“What, in essence, is the Church’s FORMAL GLORIFICATION OF SAINTS? asks Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky. He responds that “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 ACQUAINTED WITH THE DEPARTED. IT IS EXPRESSED IN 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 Christin spirit, glorious in their service to the Church, beacons illuminating 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 THOUGHT OF THEIR EARTHLY BRETHREN IS NOT CHANNELED INTO PRAYER FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF THEIR SINS (SINCE THEY ARE HOLY BEFORE THE LORD WITHOUT SUCH), BUT TOWARD PRAISE OF THEIR STRUGGLES, TOWARD ACCEPTING THEIR LIVES AS MODELS FOR OURSELVES, TOWARD REQUESTING THEIR PRAYERS FOR US. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)

(To be continued)

_____________

“Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!”

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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