Glorification of Saints in the Orthodox Church

St. Ambrose the Bishop of Milan

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

by Saint John of the Ladder

"Struggle with all of your strength to be raising your mind in health and purity during prayer, and to secure and contain all of your thinking and your thoughts to understand the reason and the content of the prayer you are doing, without inclining the whole toward one thing or to another in distraction. And if your mind should tire and fall from its natural weakness, or from its bad habits, recall it and bring it back directly to its proper place. And do not neglect or grow weary in recollecting your mind, if you wish to correct it and to heal it completely. For it is characteristic of the mind to be transferred from place to place and to be removed from its proper activity and from prayer. But it is also characteristic of God to be able to hold everything in its proper place. If you work hard and struggle unremittingly to train your mind to stand immovably and firmly in the activity of prayer, then surely God Himself will come to dwell in your soul..."


+ In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to You, our God, glory to You. Come, let us bow down and worship God our King. Come, let us bow down and worship Christ our God and King. Come, let us bow down and worship Christ, Himself, our King and our God.

Receive, O Lord, the doxologies and praises, the blessings, thanksgivings and petitions of Your sinful and unworthy servants, such as we are able to make at this time. And grant to us the remission of our transgressions. Overshadow us with the protection of Your wings. Expel from us every enemy and adversary. Bring peace to our life. Deliver us from the darkness of the destructive passions. Dispel from us the gloomy desire of mortal pleasures. You who know the content of our heart, heal the latent wounds of our souls, which You alone observe, and strengthen the resolve of our mind to do Your will, have mercy on us, help and protect us, O God, by Your grace, and make us worthy of Your Heavenly Kingdom, through the intercessions of our All-Pure Lady, the Theotokos, and of all Your Saints.

For You are Blessed unto the ages. Amen.



On December 7th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan; Saint Athenodorus of Mesopotamia; 300 Holy Martyrs and 62 Hieromartyrs; St. Philothea of Turnovo; Saint Paul the Obedient of the Kiev Caves; Saint John, faster of the Kiev Caves; Saint Ignatius, monk, near Vlacherae; Saint Nilos of Strolben Island; Saint Ammoun of Nitria; Saint Anthony, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Siya Monastery; Holy woman Martyr of Rome; Holy Martyrs Acepsimas, Isidore, and Leo; Holy Martyrs Gaius and Gainus; Saint John, faster of Saint Savva's Monastery; Saint Gregoy the Silent of Serbia; Holy Martyrs Neophytos, Dometius, Priscus, Martin, and Nicholas; Consecration of the Church of the Theotokos.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Ascetics, Holy Martyrs, Holy Egoumenoi, Holy Women, Holy Fathers, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

SAINT AMBROSE, BISHOP OF MILAN. Born in Milan, Italy, in the fourth century, St. Ambrose's life was guided by the hand of God. As a child, he once foretold his own future by telling someone to kiss his hand, as he would one day be a bishop. Emperor Valentinian made him governor of Liguria. As governor, he interceded during an argument between the Arian heretics and the Orthodox as to who should be the next bishop of Milan. As he stood there in the church among them, a baby at his mother's breast said, "Let Ambrose be bishop." The crowd took this to be a sign from God and elected him. Since his father had been a pagan and Saint Ambrose had never been baptized, this was accomplished within a week. In quick succession, Saint Ambrose was ordained a deacon, a priest, and then a bishop. In this capacity, he acted decisively, speaking out against heresies, converting pagans, embellishing churches, and writing books of instruction about the faith. He became a fearless champion of Christianity even against the royalty. God rewarded him with the gift of miracle-working. He died peacefully the morning of All-Holy Pascha (Easter).


Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Corinthians 11:1-6
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Luke 13:19-29


"The Lord looks with affection on the humble...Learn, you who are sick, to gain health through prayer. Should you be diffident because of your grave sins, seek the prayers of others, call upon the Church to pray for you, and in His regard for her, the Lord will give what He could refuse to you." (Saint Ambrose of Milan)


"Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is Holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy" (I Peter 1:13-16).

Firstly, we should say that we are all called to be holy (saints "άγιος"), and we are all born to potentially become saints by the grace of the Holy Spirit and by living the liturgical sacramental life of the Church, that is, attending the Divine Services and receiving the Mysteria (Sacraments), and centering our lives around our local spiritual family and community which is our local parish or monastery. It is a life of virtue, of prayer, of faith, of fasting, feasting and philanthropic works. It is following the directives of God as He reveals them to us through the Holy Scripture, the Divine Services of our Holy Orthodox Church through its hymns and prayers, as well as the instructions and explanations of the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Fathers, Mothers and Lives of Saints in general. It is a life of lived in love, virtue, mercy, purity and compassion.

While the glorification of saints in the Orthodox Church has been taking place for 2000 years, fewer Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians today are certain about how this really happens. Does the Church "make" a saint? Are there special panels which decide who can be considered for sainthood? Are saints "elected" by a majority vote? Does a person have to perform a certain number of miracles in order to qualify as a saint?

Many may know that the word "canonization" is a Roman Catholic term having to do with the process by which the church of Rome formally declares a person to be among the blessed in Heaven. Very few are familiar with the term "Glorification". Some think it is merely the "Orthodox" word for canonization, especially since the term "canonization" has sometimes been used in translations from Greek or Russian. But the words are not really equivalent; they actually refer to, two different things.

The ceremony of canonization in the Roman Catholic church occurs after very lengthy investigation in which the life of the candidate for sainthood has been put "On trial" before the Church authorities. He has a "promoter" (much like a defense attorney) and a "devil's advocate" (similar to a prosecutor). Between the promoter and the devil's advocate the life, works, piety, and miracles of the candidate are carefully weighed, as though on scales, in a hearing sometimes lasting many-long years and usually costing many thousands of dollars. If the evidence is predominantly in favor of the candidate, the Pope then publicly declares him/her to be a saint; if the evidence weighs against the candidate, the cause for his sainthood is quietly dropped. Canonization and sainthood in-the Catholic Church have a great deal to do with legal understanding of virtue and sanctity and are of course tied up with the Roman Catholic doctrines of merit and supernumerary works.

In the Orthodox Church, however, there-is no legalistic weighing of evidence and examination of merits. What, then, is the process by which a saint is given public recognition in the Orthodox Church and why is the culminating act of this process called "Glorification"?

What is the Church's formal glorification of saints? 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 by 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 Christian spirit, glorious in their service to the Church, beacons illuminating the world, leave behind themselves a memory which is not confined t 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 towards praise of their struggles, towards accepting their lives as models for ourselves, towards requesting their prayers for us.

In witness to the profound certainty of the Church that a reposed righteous man is with the Lord, in the choir of the saints in the heavenly Church, she composes an act of "numbering among the saints," or of "glorification." By this the Church give her blessing for the change from prayers for the reposed to prayer requesting for us his prayerful assistance before the Throne of God. The unanimous voice of the Church, expressed through the lips of her hierarchs, the conciliatory voice, confirms the conviction of her ordinary members concerning the sanctity of the righteous man. Such is the essence of the act of glorification itself. Nothing in the Church should be arbitrary, but "proper and orderly". The concern of the Church in regard to this is expressed in offering a uniform prayerful supplication to the righteous one."

To "Glorify" the saint is to bestow honor and praise on them. Why? Because they are already honored by God, and so filled with His grace, "it flows from them upon those who associated with them."  They have become "Christlike" -and all those seeking Christ, and loving Him, instantly recognize this quality in the saints and are drawn to them for this very reason. Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes: "The saints in each generation, joined t those who have gone before, and filled like them with light, become a golden, chain, in which each saint is a separate link, united to the next by faith, works, and love. Son in the One-God they form a single chain which cannot quickly be broken."

"The Orthodox Church does not follow any official or formal procedure for the "recognition" of saints. Initially the Church accepted as saints those who had suffered martyrdom for Christ. The saints are saints thanks to the grace of God, and they do not need official ecclesiastical recognition."

The beginnings of the veneration of Christian Saints is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles where people tried to jump into the shadow of Saint Peter the Holy Apostle as he walked in the hope of experiencing a healing, or took handkerchiefs touched to the body of Saint Paul (Acts 5:15 and 19:12).

Saint John Maximovitch of San Francisco explains what happened next in the experience of the Church:

"The choir of saints pleasing to God grew unceasingly; in every place where there were Christians there appeared also its own ascetics. However, the general life of Christians began to decline; spiritual burning began to grow faint; there was no longer that clear sense of what Divine righteousness is. And so the general consciousness of the faithful could not always distinguish who was a righteous man and pleasing to God. In some places there appeared dubious persons who by false ascetic exploits attracted a part of the flock. For this reason the Church authority began to keep watch over the veneration of saints, showing concern to guard the flocks from superstition. The life of ascetics revered by the faithful began to be investigated, and the account of miracles to be verified. Towards the time of the Baptism of Russia (988 A.D.), it had already been established that the acknowledgment of a new saint was to be performed by Church authority...After all, the Church authority only testified of sanctity, righteous men 'become saints not by the decree of the earthly Church authority, but by the mercy and grace of God" ("The Orthodox Word", Vol. 5, No.5).

And so, in order to prevent the piety of simple people from being exploited, the higher Church authorities, usually the bishops of a given hierarchy, guard over and guide the procedures leading to final, full, and public recognition of saints."

"It is only through the process of theosis or deification, literally becoming God-like, where we all can unlock that potential in us to be saints. However, we distinguish the living faithful who are also saints and those special heroes who have physically died and are set apart for honor by the Church as Saints."


"In the first centuries of the Christian Church, three basic types of saints were recognized. These were: a) the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets (among whom St. John the Forerunner is pre-eminent) and the New Testament Apostles; b) the martyrs, who gained crowns of glory through the shedding of their blood; and c) outstanding hierarchs (bishops) who served the Church, as well as people acclaimed for their personal struggle and the ascetics. As concern the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, membership in any one of these categories carried with it recognition as a saint.

It is known from history that prayer meetings were held in honor of the martyrs as early as the first quarter of the second century (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch). In all probability, they were begun in the period immediately following the first persecution of the Christians---that of Nero. It is apparent that no special ecclesiastical decree was required to authorize the prayerful veneration of this or that particular martyr. A martyr's death itself testified to the reception of a heavenly crown. But the numbering of departed hierarchs (bishops) and ascetics among the choir of the saints was done individually, and was naturally carried out on the basis of each one's personal worthiness." (Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky)

(To be continued)


"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God" ( Hebrews12:1-2).

"Women receive their dead raised to life again. 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 sawn 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 wondered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:35-38).

Are not the above described in the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews, chapters 11 and 12, our forefathers, our ascetics, our martyrs, our hermits, our saints? Why does Protestantism not acknowledge and honor them as saints?

Please note: I am bringing this article on the "glorification" of saints to your attention because on December 1st our Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Constantinople announced officially and formally our new Saint, Geron [Elder] Porphyrios the Kavsokalivite (Mt. Athos). I am confident that very few know anything regarding the "glorification" of saints in our Holy Orthodox Church and it is important that all of you do

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

+Father George