Today we celebrate all the Saints of the church. Who are these Saints? Saints are not created by the people of the church, the church recognizes as saints those whom God himself has glorified, seeing in their lives true love for God and their Christ-like love of neighbors. From the Latin word sanctus, a saint is one who is holy or set apart for God’s service. It is a person who has cooperated with God’s grace to the extent that his or her holiness is beyond doubt.
From the beginning, the Church recognized the righteous ancestors of Christ, Forefathers, as grace-filled men and women whose lives were pleasing to God. Also the Prophets who predicted Christ’s coming and the Apostles and Evangelists who proclaimed the Gospel were assumed to be saints.
Next the Martyrs and Confessors who risked their lives and shed their blood in witness to Christ were also recognized as saints. And in time, Ascetics who followed Christ through self-denial were numbered among the saints. In more modern times, Bishops and Priests who fought against heresy and proclaimed the true faith are recognized by the Church as saints. And then today, holy people, in all walks of life, can be recognized as saints.
While the glorification of a saint may be initiated because of miracles, it is not an absolute necessity for canonization. The Roman Catholic Church requires three verified miracles in order to recognize someone as a saint; the Orthodox Church does not require this. There are some saints, including Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and Saint Innocent of Moscow who have not performed any miracles as far as we know. What is required is a virtuous life of obvious holiness. And a saint’s writings and preaching must be “fully Orthodox,” in harmony with the pure faith that we have received from Christ and the Apostles and taught by the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.
In the epistle to Corinth, Apostle Paul writes: “to the Church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all those calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours.” [1 Cor. 1:2] And also, “Do you not know,” Saint Paul asks, “that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16).
You and I are too called to become Saints! Three times in the Book of Leviticus (Ch 11, 19 and 20) God tells us to be holy, because He is holy. We must consecrate ourselves, for we are His people. Saint Peter reiterates this commandment in the new testament, challenging us to obey God’s commandments and submit our will to His will (1 Pet 1:16). We read about great life story conversions such as St. Mary of Egypt and the Apostle Paul and yes we too by the Grace of God and the structure of His Holy Church can change and become selfless and Christ-like! In the last book of the holy bible we hear: “Here is the patience of the saints, the ones keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” [Rev. 14:12]
Every Sunday as you walk into this church, I want you to remember the love of Christ shown by the great saints of this church in their sacrifice and service they have made. And then take that mindset back out into the world. And in the ranks of the church faithful, we will leave NO ONE behind. We will surround everyone with the fragrance and peace of Charity, Hope and Faith that is only found in the sweetest love known to mankind, the love of Christ!
Fr. Gabriel Weller 6/26/2016