“On the Saints”
In the Orthodoxy 101 class over the next few weeks we will be discussing the saints. The following words are from an Introduction to the Lives of the Saints by one of the great theologians and fathers of the 20th c., St Justin Popovich.
What are Christians? Christians are Christ-bearers, and by virtue of this bearers and possessors of eternal life, and this according to the measure of faith and according to the measure of holiness which is from faith. The Saints are the most perfect Christians, for they have been sanctified to the highest degree with the podvigs of holy faith in the risen and eternally-living Lord Christ and no death has power over them. Their life is entirely from the Lord Christ, and for this reason it is entirely Christ's life; and their thought is entirely Christ's thought; and their perception is Christ's perception. All that they have is first Christ's and then theirs. If the soul, it is first Christ's and then theirs: if life, it is first Christ's and then theirs. In them is nothing of themselves but rather wholly and in everything the Lord Christ.
Therefore, the Lives of the Saints are nothing else but the life of the Lord Christ, repeated in every saint to a greater or lesser degree in this or that form. More precisely it is the life of the Lord Christ continued through the Saints, the life of the incarnate God the Logos, the God-man Jesus Christ who became man. This was so that as man He could give and transmit to us His divine life; so that as God by His life he could sanctify and make immortal and eternal our human life on earth. “For both he who sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one” (Heb. 2: 11)….
Saints are people who live on earth by holy, eternal Divine truths. That is why the Lives of the Saints are actually applied dogmatics, for in them all the holy eternal dogmatic truths are experienced in all their life-creating and creative energies. In The Lives of the Saints it is most evidently shown that dogmas are not only ontological truths in themselves and for themselves, but that each one of them is a wellspring of eternal life and a source of holy spirituality….
But not only these aforementioned dogmas are witnessed by the Lives of the Saints, but all the other holy dogmas: of the Church, of grace, of the holy mysteries, of the holy virtues, of man, of sin, of the holy relics, of the holy icons, of life beyond the grave, and of everything else which makes up the Divine-human economy of salvation. Yes, the Lives of the Saints are experimental dogmatics. Yes, the Lives of the Saints are experienced dogmatics, experienced by the holy life of the holy people of God….
If you wish, the Lives of the Saints are a sort of Orthodox Encyclopedia. In them can be found everything which is necessary for the soul which hungers and thirsts for eternal righteousness and eternal truth in this life, and which hungers and thirsts for Divine immortality and eternal life. If faith is what you need, there you will find it in abundance: and you will feed your soul with food which will never make it hungry. If you need love, truth, righteousness, hope, meekness, humility, repentance, prayer, or whatever virtue or podvig in them, the Lives of the Saints, you will find a countless number of holy teachers for every podvig and will obtain grace-filled help for every virtue….
In the Lives of the Saints are shown numerous but always certain ways of salvation, enlightenment, sanctification, transfiguration, “christification”, deification; all the ways are shown by which man conquers sin, every sin; conquers passion, every passion; conquers death, every death; conquers the devil, every devil. There is a remedy there for every sin: from every passion —healing, from every death-resurrection, from every devil —deliverance; from all evils — salvation. There is no passion, no sin for which the Lives of the Saints do not show how the passion or sin in question is conquered, mortified, and uprooted.
“Give me a word!”
Select sayings from St Issac the Syrian
A key to God’s gifts is given to the heart by means of love of one’s neighbor.
If God is slow in answering your request, or if you ask but do not promptly receive anything, do not be upset, for you are not wiser than God.
Anything that is easily found is also easily lost, whereas what is found after much labor will be guarded with vigilance.
Divine care surrounds all human beings all the time, but it is only seen by those who have purified themselves from sins and who have God in mind at every moment.
If you believe firmly that God cares for you, then you do not need to worry about the body, nor need you be concerned about discovering ways to conduct your life. If, however, you doubt God’s care, and want to look after yourself without God, then you are the most miserable person imaginable.
A little endurance in face of small matters will hold back danger when serious ones come; for it is not possible to overcome great evils without a small victory over trifling matters.