My beloved spiritual children in Chris 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 SAINTS (Part II)
By Father Anthony Alevizopoulos
The Ever-Virgin Mary is not honored independently of her relationship to Christ, but always as the "Lord's Mother". In other words, the honor which we bestow upon her is always in relationship to our salvation in Jesus Christ. The mystery of our salvation is expressed with the term "Theotokos" ("Mother of God"), and the honor which we accord to the Holy Virgin stems from this title. This term proclaims the reality of the union of the Two Natures of Christ (Human and Divine) which took place within the Virgin Mary's womb and it confirms the fact of our salvation.
The Orthodox Church also honors all the Saints and bases their sanctity on the fact that they are partakers of Christ's sanctity (Hebrews 12:10), and "members the same body [syssomoi) with Christ (Ephesians 3:6). The Saints are "the faithful martyrs of Christ" (Revelation 2:12) and stand "before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9); they lived "through the Spirit" and walked "according to the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25); they are "a new creation in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:7), and reveal man's True nature.
The glory that surrounds the Saints is the glory of God (2 Cor. 3:18), the Uncreated Divine Energy which in Scripture and in the life of the Saint is revealed as Light. When we read the lives of the Saints we see examples of man's reconciliation with all of creation, even with the wild and dangerous beasts. Abba (Father) Isaac characteristically states: "the humble man approaches the destructive animals and as soon as they see him, their wildness is calmed, and they approach him as their master and they wag their heads and lick his hands and feet, because they sense that he has upon himself that fragrance which Adam gave off before the Fall. And that which was taken away from us at that time, Jesus Christ gave back to us anew through His presence on earth, granting a sweet-smelling fragrance to mankind."
The glory of the Saints is not yet their final state; it will be completed at the Lord's Second Coming when they shall shine "as the sun" (St. Matthew 13:43; cf. Revelation 21:9-22, 5). They will be reunited with their bodies which shall be raised up and will be "conformed to the body of His Glory" (Philip. 3:21; cf. I Corinthians 6:20).
Orthodox Christians believe that Christ is the unique Savior. He took upon Himself created man and He brought him to a true communion with the "Uncreated God"; there is no other way for us to reach God the Father (St. John 14:13-14; 1 Timothy 2:5; Acts 4:12; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Yet Holy Scripture informs us that God saves even entire cities because of the love of those who love Him (Genesis 18:23-33; 20:7; Acts 32:11-14; Hosea 11:8-9). In the Book of Revelation of Saint John we see Angels bringing the prayer of the Saints up to the Throne of God, and God hearkening unto the prayer of the Saints (Revelation 8:3-5). The Saints care for their brothers on earth and rejoice at their spiritual progress (St. Luke 5:7).
When, therefore, we honor the Saints and we ask them to intercede for us before god, we do not make our salvation dependent upon them, but only upon our Savior Jesus Christ, Whom the Saints also beseech on our behalf. It is for this reason that every sacred service in the Orthodox Christian Church closes with the so-called "dismissal": "Glory to Thee, O Christ our God and out Hope, Glory to Thee...May Christ our True God, through the intercessions of His All-Immaculate and All-Holy Mother...through the petitions of the honorable and glorious Forerunner and Baptist John...and all the Saints, have mercy upon us, as a Good and Merciful God Who loves mankind".
The glory and honor is not rendered unto the saints but to Him Who glorifies His Saints and grants them the gift of healing. This is why on the feast days of the Saints the Church chants:
"O Our God-bearing Father (Name), you showed forth to be a dweller of the desert, a body-bearing Angel and a worker of miracles. You heal the sick and the souls of those who recourse unto you in faith. Glory to Him that giveth you strength; Glory to Him that hath crowned you; Glory to Him, Who through you, grants healing unto all".
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God