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Saturday, June 13, 2009

For All the Saints ...

From the Profession of Faith at Chrismation…

"I believe and confess that it is proper to reverence and invoke the saints who reign on high with Christ, according to the interpretation of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Church; and that their prayers and intercessions avail with the beneficent God unto our salvation. It is well-pleasing in the sight of God that we should do homage to their relics, glorified through incorruption, as the precious memorials of their virtues."

The saints personalise Christianity. There are versions of Christianity around which reduce Church life to a set of doctrines, good in themselves, but because they are not enfleshed in the lives of real people, such Christianity remains, abstract, dry, formal, conceptual. Think back to your time at school. I guess it's not the lessons you remember directly, rather the teachers who, for you, embodied and made accessible what they taught. So it is with saints. If you want to know who the Holy Spirit is, read the account of Motovilov's conversation with Fr. Seraphim. If you want to understand the place of monasticism in the life of the Church, read St. Athanasios' Life of St. Antony the Great. If you value the healing work of God, don't even read about it, just invoke the prayers of St. Panteleimon, St. Swithun or some other unmercenary healer. The saints make real, vivid and personal what we believe and how we live by those beliefs.

Secondly, the saints warm the fellowship of the Church. Being the friends of God, they are our friends as well. As friends, we should get to know them, develop a personal relationship with them. We can do this in ordinary tangible ways. Their icons are our portals into their fellowship. Their incorrupt remains are memorials of a faith and a life that is literally death-destroying by the power of God. Their prayers, when invoked, avail with God for our salvation. They are mighty intercessors before the Lord and many are the miracles that have been wrought by their prayers. It is right that we should develop personal attachments to those particular saints who speak to us, those to whom we feel drawn. In this way is the Church built up within one fellowship, the Communion of Saints, here and beyond the grave.

Thirdly, the saints provide us with living testimonies of a redeemed humanity. They show that Christian perfection is not an absurd or inaccessible goal. They are the ones whom God has touched and made whole. They shine with the uncreated light of the Godhead, irradiating their humanity with the new life of the Kingdom against which even death itself has no power. They are mirrors, as we behold them, of what we could be. They inspire us towards this goal, theiosis, the promise of a new humanity, a New Creation, transcending even the biological necessities and chances of evolution towards something sublime and true, the Love of God made visible, the birth pangs of a new age in which God shall be all and in all.

Who then could do without the saints? No-one truly calling themselves Christian. The saints are the keys toward the re-conversion of these islands to Christ. Let us honour them in our generation that others by their example, fellowship and prayers may also become Friends of God.

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