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 SAINTS (Part III)
By Father Anthony Alevizopouloa
The Saints are not everywhere present. This is a characteristic that belongs only to God. The Saints, however, like the Angels, are united with us through love (agape) in the One Body of Christ. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit, nature's limits are done away with in the life of the Saints, and they know about us without having to be omnipresent (St. Luke 15:7).
The honor accorded to the Saints cannot be compared with that which God Himself has granted to them. Nor can it be adoration (worship). As the Seventh (7th) Ecumenical Council states, Christians render unto Christ, divine honor, i.e., adoration and worship; the Saints, however, They honor because of their relationship to God, and they render unto them relative and not absolute veneration, as genuine servants of God: [and we worship Christ] as God and Master, while [the Saints] we honor and respect and render to them relative veneration because of the common Master, as His genuine servants..." (The Seventh Ecumenical Council).
Already during the early Christian period the day on which a Saint reposed was considered "his birthday". In "the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp" we observe the Christians gathering up the bones (holy relics) of the martyr which are "more precious than valuable jewels and more noble than gold", and burying them in a suitable place, so that they might be able to assemble there and celebrate his/her memory. During this feast the early Christians used to celebrate the Holy Eucharist upon the tombs of the Martyrs. This is why the Bishop, when consecrating a church, places upon the Holy Table on which the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated sacred relics.
The unity of the entire Church is expressed in a most realistic way in the Divine Liturgy. During the Proskomide (Oblation) or preparation of the Eucharistic elements, the Priest places upon the Paten that piece of bread which is to become the Body of Christ, a "particle" in honor and commemoration of the Ever-Virgin Mary, to the left of the Host, and on the right he places separate "particles" for the Holy Ascetic Saints, the Holy Unmercenary Healing Saints, the Forefather of God, Saints Joachim and Anna, and all the Saints. Below he places "particles" for the Bishop and the living brethren. Then he is places "particles" for those who have reposed, and finally for himself. Thus the entire Church is represented upon the sacred Paten (Discarion). After the bread and wine have been changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and after Clergy and Laity have communicated (received Holy Communion), the Priest unites all these "particles" with the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacred Chalice and thus declares in a very real way the unity of the entire body of the Church.
The Divine Liturgy, therefore, is celebrated for the entire Church, not only for the Church Militant (the Church on earth) but also for the Virgin Mary and the entire Church Triumphant (the Church in Heaven) in heaven. The prayer of the Divine Liturgy is characteristic:
"Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable worship for those who have fallen asleep in the Faith, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit in faith made perfect; especially for Our Most Holy, Pure, Blessed and Glorified Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary...".
Holy Scripture (Hebrews 11:33-40)
"...who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promise, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received 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 sown in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskin and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented--of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts, and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us."
Hebrews 12: 1-1
"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."
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God