On the Veneration of the Saints: A Sermon for the Sunday of All Saints (2019)

June 23, 2019

On the Veneration of the Saints: A Sermon for the Sunday of All Saints (2019)

Today we commemorate all the Saints who have ever existed. The reason for this is not because we might have missed some throughout the year but to show that this is God’s desired end for all of humanity. The net of godliness encompasses the abundant variations of our human race. From the peasant to the prodigy, the homeless to the hierarch, the monogamous to the monk; from the Patriarch Moses to Lazarus whose sores the dogs licked, the grace of God reaches out to all people and makes sinners saints.

Despite their diversity, the Saints are united in one accord as the answer to Christ’s request of the Father when He prayed, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17.21).[i] Their unity is like that of a golden chain, writes St. Symeon the New Theologian, with each one of them a link, bound to all the preceding saints in faith, love, and good works.[ii]


As the Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians, “Imitate me, just also as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11.1) so also are the Saints examples of piety. And even more so when we see the end to which their piety brought them whether it be the martyrs crown (of the protomartyr Stephen or second century Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp), or the fruits of the eremitical life (which we see in St. Anthony and the contemporary St. Silouan), or even those who lived in marriage (such as St. John of Kronstadt or St. Alexei Mechev).

The Saints are exemplary because they have fulfilled the Gospel commandments. They are the ones who have kept the faith (1 Tim. 4.7), have denied themselves and carried their cross (Matt. 16.24). They suffered affliction instead of enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season (Heb. 11.25). They had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment, as the Apostle Paul tells us. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and mountains, and dens and caves of the earth (Heb. 11. 36-38), and they looked to the city whose foundation and builder is God (Heb. 11.10).

The Saints are standards not only of fidelity to the Christian faith but models and exemplars of the Christian life. They are genuinely illustrious men, true “heroes” of our time, the real superman elevated by humility and empowered not by self-will but by self-denial.

However, may we not think of the saints as only examples of the Christian life for we would be remiss to stop here. God is not the God of the dead but of the living, as Christ has told us (Mk. 12.17). The Saints do not die but live, and as Solomon says, they live for evermore; their reward is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High. (Wis. 5.15). The Saints have God dwelling in them in a different way then we do presently. Having received the fulfillment of the earnest of the Holy Spirit they were given in Baptism, they have become by grace what God is by nature. Therefore, being alive and dwelling in the presence of God, they have left us not only the example of their lives but now intercede for us before to God.

For being the “friends of God,” are the Saints not also the friends of man? When we ask for their prayers we do not seek help from a dead man but from someone who is alive and who dwells with God. Does a child not ask for prayers from its mother, a husband of his wife, a friend of a friend, laymen of their priest, and spiritual children of their spiritual father so that the more God is petitioned, the easier it will be for Him to hear us?

What more needs to be said but that we should look to the activity of the saints surrounding us here today. Who has not heard about the healings and intercessions of the Great-Martyr and Healer Panteleimon, the doctor of this monastic community and its friends? And of the Mother of God, the protector of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in her Kursk-Root Icon through which she healed St. Seraphim when he was a boy after falling out of a bell tower and who since has performed numerous miracles and continues to protect our church. Who can neglect to recall the life and miracles of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, his miracles and intercessions being collected and recorded by Fr. Seraphim Rose of blessed memory. Moreover, his intercessions have not stopped, and pilgrims continually go to the church where his incorrupt relics rest and ask for his prayers and healing and receive it. Let no one doubt, for if painting the lintels of your door with blood would spare your first-born son, and by the raising of the cross in the desert, all those who were bitten by snakes were healed is this really so unbelievable? Certainly not for those who know the power of God and the honor which the saints have from Him.[iii]

To the question, “How can a dead body work miracles,” St. John of Damascus answers rhetorically, “How then, through [the Saints] are demons put to flight, diseases driven out, the sick cured, the blind restored to sight, lepers cleansed, temptation and trouble driven away[?]”[iv]

Although the Saints can be called upon anywhere - while walking, while driving, while working - they have a particular presence in their icons and in their relics, for the grace that has given life and transforms men and women into saints also resides in these objects which become vehicles through which the grace of God acts towards those who seek the help and intercession of saints. Because we come before them in prayer, it is not as though we are standing before a beautiful painting or another form of art and become inspired, but through prayer and a softened heart perhaps stricken by grief or not, petitions are made and, apart from other apparent miracles, life is bestowed and enlivened in the soul. Because of this grace, because of this action, we then seek to beautify icons and relics by bringing flowers, enshrining the icon, having molebens served because we desire to honor and pay our respects to the saint.

John, Baptist and Forerunner pray that we would begin to repent;

Holy Apostles pray that we would love God;

Prophets, pray that we would except all that God sends our way;

Martyrs, pray that we would learn to deny ourselves

Hierarchs, pray that we would keep Christ’s commandments;

Ascetics, pray that I discipline my body and make it my slave;

Venerable ones, pray that we would know how fleeting is the world;

Hieromartyrs, pray that we would be crucified with Christ;

God-loving women, pray that we would know the True Life;

all you righteous, pray that our souls be saved

All you saints, pray to God for us.



[i]Cf. Veniamin, Christopher, (trans.). Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies. (Essex: Mount Thabor Publishing, 2014), 204.

[ii]McGuckin, Paul (trans.). The Practical and Theological Chapters & the Three Theological Discourses. (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1982), 73.

[iii]An Exact Exposition  the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Ch. 15.

[iv]An Exact Exposition  the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Ch. 15.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Sermons & Homilies

Menpleasing and Murder: A Homily for the Beheading of the Forerunner (2019)
Menpleasing and Murder: A Homily for the Beheading of the Forerunner (2019)

September 11, 2019

The memory of the righteous is praised, says King Solomon (Proverbs 10:7 LXX); but the Lord’s testimony suffices the righteous one we remember today. What testimony? Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist(Matthew 11:11). What honor can our praises add to one who boasts such an eminent witness? How can the life that today is crowned with a glorious death be fittingly honored? The life of St. John the Baptist towers so far above the life of ordinary, mortal men as to rival that of the angels. Indeed, the Prophet Malachi calls him such when he speaks of him, saying, Behold, I send my messenger—that is, αγγελος, angel—before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee(Malachi 3:1, Mark 1:2).

Continue Reading

How Not to Perish Eternally: A Homily for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost (2019)
How Not to Perish Eternally: A Homily for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost (2019)

September 01, 2019 1 Comment

Our Savior begins His parable by telling us the story of ourselves, of every single Christian who has ever repented before Almighty God. He speaks of a servant owing a great and unfathomable debt, one which he does not have even the slightest hope of ever repaying. In the parable of the talents, the Lord described those who were given one, two, or perhaps even five talents; truly the gifts of God are great and precious, and some have calculated a single talent to have been worth the wages of six years of labor. So when we hear today that the servant owed ten thousand talents, we must understand that such a sum was utterly impossible for him to acquire.

Continue Reading

A Glimpse into the Goal of the Christian Life: A Homily on the Transfiguration (2019)
A Glimpse into the Goal of the Christian Life: A Homily on the Transfiguration (2019)

August 19, 2019

Throughout the Gospels, the divinity of Christ is revealed whether it be through the Annunciation, at His Nativity or at His Baptism. Similarly, there are several accounts where the light and glory of God is made manifest such as with Saul on the road to Damascus, or at the martyrdom of Stephen. However, in these events, His divine nature is not so manifest as it is during the Transfiguration. It is at the Transfiguration where the fullness of who Christ is becomes apparent alongside the means by which His creation is able to receive this, that is, through the opening of their spiritual eyes.

Continue Reading