My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE PLACE OF LIVES OF SAINTS IN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
by Hieromonk Damascene
The Significance of the Lives of Saints
In order to begin to understand the importance of the Lives of the Saints for our spiritual lives, I believe we can turn to no better or more thorough source than Saint Justin Popovich's Introduction to his own compilation of the Lives of the Saints. A theologian, Saint Justin saw no dichotomy between the Lives of the Saints and the theological writings of the Church. For him, as for the Church, theology and the Lives of the Saints form one whole. He called the Lives of the Saints "experiential theology" or "applied dogmatic theology," and he viewed them and wrote about them in a theological manner. Likewise, he viewed theological writings as an expression of the experience of the life of grace in the Church, and not just an intellectual, abstract or polemical exercise.
How does Saint Justin view the Lives of the Saints theologically? At the center of all of Saint Justin's thought is the Theanthropic vision: the fact that God became man in Jesus Christ, uniting human nature with Divine Nature. The fact of the God-man, the Theanthropos, is the axis of the universe: it is the reality according to which everything else must be viewed, whether it be the nature of the Church or the problems and issues of everyday life.
Thus, when Saint Justin looks at the Lives of the Saints, he does so in the light of the God-man. Real and true life--eternal life in God--became possible only with the Incarnation, death and Resurrection of the Savior, and this life is the Life of the Saints. Saint Justin saw the Lives of the Saints as bearing witness to one life: the life in Christ.
Saint Justin wrote: "What are Christians?" Christians are Christ-bearers, and, by virtue of this, they are bearers and possessors of eternal life...The Saints are the most perfect Christians, for they have been sanctified to the highest degree with the podvigs of holy faith in the risen and eternally living Christ, and no death has power over them. Their life is entirely Christ's life; and their thought is entirely Christ's thought; and their perception is Christ's perception. All that they have is first Christ's and then theirs...In them is nothing of themselves but rather wholly and in everything the Lord Christ."
The Saints live in Christ, but Christ also lives in them through His Divine Energies, His Grace. And where Christ is, there is the Father and the Holy Spirit also. Christ says, "Abide in Me, and I in you; and elsewhere He says, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him" (St. John 15:4; 14:23).
Thus, Saint Justin makes bold to say that the Lives of the Saints not only bear witness to the Life in Christ: they may even be said to be the continuation of the Life of Christ on earth. "The Lives of the Saints," says Saint Justin, "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 Saints, the life of the Incarnate God the Logos/Word, the God-man Jesus Christ Who became man."
This is an amazing thing that Saint Justin is saying: when we read the Lives of the Saints, we are reading the Life of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is in itself should be enough to convince us of the importance of filling our souls with the Lives of the Saints...
"...As we study the Lives of the Saints, humility must be our safeguard. We need to soberly apply what we read to our own conditions and circumstances, realizing our own infirmity, not thinking too much of ourselves, not dreaming of ascetic feats that truly are beyond us. As Father Seraphim Rose used to say, we must take spiritual life step by step, and not to expect to make one great leap into sanctity.
At the same time, however, we must not make excuses for ourselves, as if we are somehow separated from the Saints by some eternally unbridgeable gulf. The Saints are our fellow Orthodox Christians. The Saints have lived, and still live, the same life in the Church as we live. They are sinners like we are, but they have borne the fruits of repentance and have been transfigured by Christ. They are more perfect than we are, but we are called to seek their "unfinished perfection" as God gives us strength." (Source: St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God