Category Archives: Saints

Veneration of the Saints

“Greet one another with a holy kiss…” ~ Romans 16:16

An Orthodox young man was once in Winchester Cathedral near the Shrine of St Swithun. There are icons above the shrine, including one of the saint. When he was sure no one was looking he crept around the rope cordon and venerated the icons. He said a few prayers at the shrine and then went to leave. Unbeknown to him, one of the Cathedral Stewards had seen him kissing the icons and praying. She went up to him afterwards looking rather stern. The young man braced himself for a telling-off. But instead, the Steward asked him very politely why it was important for him to kiss the icons.

When I meet a close friend or relative, we exchange a kiss. More than this, St Paul instructs Christians to ‘greet one another with a holy kiss’. The Orthodox Church doesn’t distinguish between those Christians who are alive and those who have died. All are alive in Christ. We recognise that some of our Christian brothers and sisters who have passed on before us are certainly alive in Christ by their answers to our prayers, and we therefore honour them as ‘Saints’. It is important to affirm that they continue to live only through the saving grace of Our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. Without the resurrection of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, all are truly dead. It is by His saving grace alone that we enter into eternal life.

So what of the icons? It is not seen as unusual for a bereaved wife to kiss a photograph of her late husband, or for a fiance to kiss a photograph of her intended groom. This is quite natural – they are conveying their love for the person depicted, not their love of a piece of paper! With icons it is the same. The Word ‘icon’ simply means ‘image’; we kiss the image of the one we love.

Since the Saints are alive to us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it seems right that we should talk to them. We are not offering them praise and worship, which is due to God alone. It is more like chatting with our friends and asking for their prayers. I often ask my Christian friends to pray for me, so why should I not ask the Saints to do likewise? They have gone before me into the resurrected life in Christ, and as such are currently closer the Risen Lord than I am!

When an Orthodox Christian enters the temple, he would usually kiss the icons of Christ and of Mary (the greatest Saint), plus any other Saint of his choosing. He may also then kiss and greet other people within the temple. Unlike in the West, this is not done in a formal way as part of the liturgy. It is far more spontaneous.

In the world as well as in the temple, we are surrounded by a great army of the Saints, those who have gone before us. It is only right that we continue to love them and honour them as much now as we did before they died.

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SAINTS

Saints are people who have faced the evils of this world and through their love of God, and strength of faith have overcome the evils by the grace of God and have become examples for us to do the same. When we are feeling like life is too hard, our troubles are too many or too great a burden, we can look to the saints and the lives they led, the hardships they went through, even to the point of their deaths, and yet see their faith and know that if they can do it, so can we! For this reason we honour them.

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Synaxis of the Twelve Holy Apostles
The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, the First-called; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, who was also the Evangelist and Theologian; Philip, and Bartholomew (see also June 11); Thomas, and Matthew the publican, who was also called Levi and was an Evangelist; James the son of Alphaeus, and Jude (also called Lebbaeus, and surnamed Thaddaeus), the brother of James, the Brother of God; Simon the Cananite (“the Zealot”), and Matthias, who was elected to fill the place of Judas the traitor (see Aug. 9).These men’s lives were changed once having come to know Christ our Lord; they showed us this was a change not out of duty, but of love—by their most precious sacrifice. They left families, jobs, homes, earthly comforts—they gave all, even themselves. By tracing their travels on a map we see the drive within them; their love for Christ Preaches at Pentecost; to share His love and salvation with others. They comforted, helped, freed from fear, guilt and sin, healed from sickness, all, regard-less of danger and obstacles. They opened mankind’s eyes to Truth and Love and bestowed us the Gospel of joy and hope. We remember them especially and honour them through the ages. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. (Amen.)

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Brothers and Sisters, on this day we observe a very meaning-filled celebration, after the many radiant Sundays of Great Lent and of the Season of Pascha, leading up to the glorious feast of Pentecost. Pentecost, as last week’s Gospel reading told us, was “the last and greatest day of the feast,” in Saint John’s words, and, as it was celebrated by the Jewish nation in the time of Christ, it was a very festive holiday celebrating the harvest. Special offerings and sacrifices were prescribed by the Law for this holiday.

Many think that the saints are far from us. But they are far from those who distance themselves from them, and very close to those keep the commandments of Christ and have the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the heavens, all things are moved by the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is on earth too. He lives in our Church. He lives in the Mysteries. He is in the Holy Scriptures. He is in the souls of the faithful. The Holy Spirit unites all things, and therefore the saints are close to us. And when we pray to them, then the Holy Spirit hears our prayers, and our souls feel that they are praying for us.

~ St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XII.3

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The humility and piety of St Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia

On December 2 the holy Orthodox Church commemorates the recently-glorified God-bearing elder of our times, St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyiva, who reposed on this day in 1991. He was known as a humble ascetic with the gift of foresight who always served the Divine Liturgy with compunction. In his memory we offer below his final letter, as well as an audio recording of his heartfelt serving of the Divine Liturgy.

While at the Holy Skete of Kavsokalyvia on Mt. Athos, the Elder Porphyrios had given orders for his grave to be dug. Through a spiritual child of his, he dictated a farewell letter of advice and forgiveness to all his spiritual children.

Here is the letter as it was sent to the site Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries from the Holy Convent of the Transfiguration of the Saviour. It was found amongst the monk’s garments that were laid out for his burial on the day of his departure. This letter is a profound example of the humility of the saints who have acquired the likeness of God through their humble ascetic offerings.

My dear spiritual Children,
Now that I am still in charge of my faculties, I want to give you some advice.
Ever since I was a child, I was always in sin. When my mother sent me to watch the animals on the mountain, (my father had gone to America to work on the Panama Canal for us his children, because we were poor), there, where I shepherded the animals, I slowly read, word by word, the life of St. John the Hut-dweller and I loved St. John very much. I said a lot of prayers, like the young child that I was, twelve or fifteen years old, I don’t remember too well. I wanted to follow his example. So, with a lot of difficulty, I secretly left my parents and came to Kavsokalyvia on the Holy Mountain. I became obedient to two elders, the true brothers, Panteleimon and loannikios.
They happened to be very devout and full of virtue, I loved them very much and because of that, with their blessing, I gave them absolute obedience. That helped me a lot. I also felt great love for God and got along very well. However, because of my sins, God allowed me to become ill, and my elders told me to go to my parents in my village of St. John, Evia. Although I had sinned a lot from when I was a small child, when I returned to the world I continued to commit sins which, today are very many. The world, however, thought highly of me, and everyone shouts that I’m a saint.
I however, feel that I am the most sinful person in the world. Of course, whatever I remembered I confessed, and I know God has forgiven me. But now I have the feeling that my spiritual sins are very many and I ask all those who have known me to pray for me, because, for as long as I lived, I humbly prayed for you, too. Now that I’m leaving for heaven, I have the feeling that God will say to me, “What are you doing here?” I have only one thing to say to him, “I am not worthy of here, Lord, but whatever your love wills, it’ll do for me.” From then on, I don’t know what will happen. I however, wish for God’s love to act.
I always pray that my spiritual children will love God, Who is everything, so that He will make us worthy to enter His earthly uncreated Church. We must begin from here. I always made the effort to pray, to read the hymns of the Church, the Holy Scriptures and the Lives of the Saints. May you do the same. I tried, by the grace of God, to approach God and may you also do the same.
I beg all of you to forgive me for whatever I did to upset you.

Hieromonk Porphyrios
Kavsokalyvia, June 4/17 1991

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The Feast of our Holy Father Sava the Sanctified

Celebrated on 5 December

The unknown village of Mutalaska, in the Province of Cappadocia, became famous through this great light of the Orthodox Church, for Saint Sava was born there. He left the home of his parents, John and Sophia, at the age of eight and became a monk in a nearby Monastery called “Flavian’s.”

After ten years, he moved to the Monasteries of Palestine, staying longest in the Monastery of Saint Euthymius the Great (January 20th) and Theoctistus. Euthymius, who had the gift of discernment, foretold that he would be a famous monk and leader of monks, and that he would found a Monastery that would be greater than any other of that day. After Saint Euthymius’s death, Sava went into the desert, where he lived for five years as a hermit in a cave which an Angel of God showed him. After that, when he had become a perfect monk, he began by divine Providence to gather round him many desirous of the spiritual life. They very quickly grew in number, so that Sava had to build both a church and many cells. Some Armenians also came to him, and he set aside a cave for them, and they celebrated the services there in their own language. When his father died, his aged mother Sophia came to him and he made her a nun and gave her a cell away from the Monastery, where she lived in asceticism till her death.

This Holy Father endured many attacks from those close to him, from heretics and from demons. But he overcame them all in these ways: those close to him he won over by his goodness and forbearance, the heretics by an unshakeable confession of the Orthodox faith, and the demons with the sign of the Cross and the invocation of God’s aid. He had a particularly severe battle with the demons on the mountain of Castellium, where he founded the second of his seven Monasteries. He and his neighbour, Theodosius the Great, are considered to be the greatest lights and pillars of Orthodoxy in the East, kings and Patriarchs were brought to the right Faith by them, and these holy and wonderful men, strong in the power of God, served each and every man as an example of humility. Saint Sava entered into rest in 532 A.D. at the age of 94, after a life of great labour and great reward. Among all his other great and good works, let this be remembered above all: that he compiled the first Order of Service for use in Monasteries, now known as the Jerusalem Typikon.

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St Catherine the Great Martyr of Alexandra

25 November

St. Catherine was born during the latter part of the third century in Alexandria in Egypt. Being of royal lineage, she was immersed in the great cultural tradition of Alexandria and was exposed to learning at an early age. Tall, beautiful, cultured, and erudite, Catherine was held in high esteem for her mastery of the arts and sciences of her time. Innately intelligent and inquisitive, she acquainted herself with the writings of the philosophers, poets, physicians, and scientists of the Hellenes. In fact, in recognition of her superb learning, the Church gave her the title “the Wise.”

Through the influence of her pious mother Catherine became a Christian in her youth. Her love of learning led her to the study of the sacred Scriptures and the writings of the Church Fathers. She became a devoted follower of the Lord Christ, an exemplary doer of God’s word, and an ardent defender of the Orthodox faith. Wise, modest, and pure Catherine gave her heart to Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church and the Saviour of the world.

On November 25, 305, while still in the prime of her youth, Catherine was martyred in the city of her birth during the reign of the impious Roman Emperor Maxentius, who had begun anew a violent series of persecutions against Christians. When the Emperor had come to Alexandria he had an encounter with Catherine. He marvelled at her loveliness and wisdom but was dreadfully dismayed by her defence of Christians. Because she was of imperial stock, he did not wish to harm her out-rightly but hoped to humiliate her to submission. He ordered that she defend her faith in open debate with the renowned pagan orators and philosophers of Alexandria, hoping that she would be made a spectacle and thereby retreat to her pagan roots. Instead Catherine routed the rhetoricians.

The Emperor was moved to wrath and ordered that Catherine be stripped of her imperial garb, flogged, and tortured. But neither the threats nor the tortures were able to sunder Catherine from Christ. Having failed to entice her, the cruel Emperor ordered her decapitation.

The holy relics of St. Catherine were later brought to the Monastery of Mt. Sinai, founded in the fourth century in a remote location in the Sinai Peninsula on the site of the Burning Bush at the foot of Mt. Sinai (Exodus 3). Eventually, centuries aft er acquiring her relics, the Monastery took the name of St. Catherine.

The Icon of St. Catherine

Because of her royal lineage, St. Catherine is depicted invariably in imperial garments holding a martyr ’s cross. She is often shown seated at a desk upon which is an open book. Other books and a celestial sphere are at her feet, indicating her extensive knowledge and wisdom. She is also portrayed with her left hand resting on a wheel, the symbol of progress but in her case the emblem of her martyrdom.

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St Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia, a Healer of Hearts

Holy Elder Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia reposed in the Lord on November 21 on the Feast of Hesychasm in the Entrance of the Theotokos. Commemorated on November 22.

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Apostle St Philip

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Philip was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. The Church remembers St Philip on November 14. He was not the St Philip (October 11) who was one of the Seventy Apostles. Continue reading

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Writings of Saint Nectarios of Aegina on Prayer

TRUE PRAYER is undistracted, prolonged, performed with a contrite heart an alert intellect. The vehicle of prayer is everywhere humility, and prayer is a manifestation of humility. For being conscious of our own weakness, we invoke the power of GOD.

PRAYER unites one with GOD, being a divine conversation and spiritual communion with the Being that is most beautiful and highest.

PRAYER IS FORGETTING EARTHLY THINGS, AN ASCENT TO HEAVEN.
THROUGH PRAYER WE FLEE TO GOD.

PRAYER is truly a heavenly armour, and is alone can keep safe those who have dedicated themselves to God. Prayer is the common medicine for purifying ourselves from the passions, for hindering sin and curing our faults. Prayer is an inexhaustible treasure, an unruffled harbor, the foundation of serenity, the root and mother of myriad’s of blessings.

~ From the Writings of Orthodox Saints, Compiled by Father Demetrios Serfes

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St. George Karslidis the New Confessor of Drama – 4 November

St. George Karslides was born in Argyroupolis (Gümüşhane), Pontos in 1901. He was orphaned very young, so it was his pious grandmother, who raised the young Athanasios (St. George’s baptismal name) to have a “holy fear of God and a fervent love for the Church’s divine services.”

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Saint David of Evia (Euboea) – 1 November

Blessed David was born at the beginning of the 16th century in the sea-side village of Gardinitza, opposite the island of Evia. His father was a devout and virtuous priest. When David was no more than three years old, Saint John the Baptist appeared to him one night and took him to the nearby church which was dedicated to him. He remained standing there, barefoot, for six days, lost in the vision, in front of the icon of the Forerunner. Nourished from an early age on the principles of obedience to his parents, asceticism and ceaseless prayer, he left his family home at the age of fifteen, in search of a spiritual father. He found him in the person of the Hieromonk Akakios, who was well-known in the villages of the region for his virtuous life and powerful preaching.

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