Epistle Reading-Hebrews 11:33-12:3
Gospel Reading-Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Every year, on the Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Sunday of All Saints. After we remember the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, we remember those men and women who have shone forth over the history of the Orthodox Christian Church as bearers of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is where the Incarnation is headed, the movement is always toward the descent of the Holy Spirit—after Christ redeems our fallen nature on the Cross, the Holy Spirit is send to guide us into all truth.

God wants to live in us, to join us to Himself. This was the Divine Will from the moment of creation, finally realized on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles to live in them. He fills them with power from on high, He grants them spiritual gifts, and enables them to walk in the commandments of Christ. For us today, the Saints are proof of Pentecost. Testimony to the ongoing Pentecost in the Church. That there continue to be people whose lives are transformed in Christ, who exude the love of God, who walk faultlessly in the commandments of Christ, filled with the divine gifts of the Holy Spirit. The resurrection of Christ is the proof of His ministry, St, Paul says. And the existence of the Saints is the continuing proof of both the work of Christ, and the activity of the Holy Spirit in the world today. And since they attain to the life that we are called to, the Saints of the Church are wonderful examples for us today.

It’s important for us to keep in mind:
-The Saints are not simply virtuous people, they don’t just have the ability to control their actions through ascetic discipline.
-They have an organic relationship with Jesus Christ; they live and breathe and walk in Christ, both in their earthly lives, and now in their repose.
-We call Christ the God-man: fully God and fully man. The Saints have become “god-man” by grace—they share completely in the life of God, by His grace, and their cooperation.
Fr. Vasileios of Mt. Athos writes—“The Orthodox Saint has worth, not on account of his virtues, but because he is ‘Christ Himself in another form.’ You come to know Christ Himself in the person of the Saint because ‘God and His Saints have the same glory and splendor’ according to St. Gregory Palamas.”
-A definition of Saint, from the words of our Lord—“whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me…and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 10).

So, how do we “tap” into the riches of the lives of our Saints? As a local Church of predominately Protestant converts, it’s hard for us sometimes to figure out how to relate to the Saints of the Church.

1st-we have to read their lives. The Saints live theology, their lives are a constant sermon, showing forth how to live the commandments of Christ in any situation. We have Saints from all walks of live—married and monastic, rich and poor, male and female, ordained and not, from all types of backgrounds and employments. Reading their lives constantly reminds us that we’re all called to perfection in Christ, and we can all do it, we have no excuses. Their lives are incredibly inspiring in this way.

2nd-read their works. Many of our Saints wrote books, theological writings, prayers, books on how to live the Christian life, letters. These writings are very much connected with the lives of the Saints. People who are holy and live by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit also write with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There’s no difference between Biblical theology and the writings of the Fathers—but the witness of the Church is that it’s much easier for us to understand the Fathers, whose lives and writings are an interpretation of the Scriptures.

3rd-this idea is expressed in a very popular patristic saying: “to imitate the saints is proper, to attempt to mimic every aspect of their lives is insanity.” We don’t try to mimic the outer lives of the Saints, but we take the inspiration their lives give us and we imitate their intensity, their unwillingness to compromise with the world, and especially their love for Christ.

4th-pray to the saints! The Saints are real, and the Church teaches us to speak with the Saints in our prayers. To ask for the prayers of the Saints for us and for those we know and love. The Saints love with the love of Christ, they want the salvation of mankind with the same intensity as Christ does, and they intercede for that before the throne of God unceasingly.

In the world today, living as Orthodox Christians is tough. Whether we work secular employment or at home, single or married, kids or not—whatever place we find ourselves in, following the commandments of our Lord is a struggle. Christ and the Church provide us with so many sources of assistance, things to help keep us inspired, to teach us the way we should go, to remind us of Christ and what He’s called us to do. And always around us are the Saints. Their lives are proof of God’s work in the world today, inspiration for our lives, and proof that we too can be filled with the Holy Spirit and be Saints as well. Their writings open up the words of the Gospel for us, guide us into all Truth, as Christ promised. And the presence of the Saints surrounds us always—the great cloud of witnesses is always present. The chasm of death doesn’t separate us—the Church is one in Christ. And we have access not only to the intercessions of the Theotokos, but of our patron saints, our guardian angels, and any of the Saints we choose to approach and ask for their prayers for us.

As St. Paul ended the Epistle reading—“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, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12).

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!