Commemoration of the Saints

During the Liturgy, the priest says, " As this, O Lord, is the command of your Only-Begotten Son, that we share in the commemoration of your saints...."

Where is there in the Bible does the Lord command us to share in the commemoration of His saints?


  • + Irini nem ehmot,

    It is not explicitly laid out in the Bible, but it is there.

    Why do we glorify saints?

    Since the early Apostolic era, the history of our glorious church has not been, at any time, without heroes of faith. Their strife was clear particularly in the early times and especially in the eras of persecutions. Hundreds of thousands were martyred because of their strong faith in their God. They defended their faith, and their church, till the last drop of their blood without fear from torture or persecution. All of these heroes were not only a shining in their times or a blessing to their generations, but they continue to light the world and shine to many - the weak and the strong - with their pure and chaste life, as the Bible says, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3). Many lives were changed after reading the history and strife of those martyrs and saints. Many of the believers were strengthened by the life history of those saints to become more established in the faith and to grow in grace.
    It is true what one of the saints said, “It is very desirable for the meek to hear the life history of saints. ” Because of that, the church arranged the reading of a part of the Book of Synaxarium, which contains the Biography of Saints, after the reading of the Acts of our holy fathers the apostles. May their life be an example and a model for us to act like them and to follow in their footsteps so we might have a share and fellowship in the glory of the inheritance of those saints.

    “As this, 0 Lord, is the command of Thine Only-Begotten Son, that we  share in the commemoration of Thy saints, graciously accord, 0 Lord, to remember all the saints who have pleased Thee since the beginning.” (The Liturgy of St. Basil)

    The glorification of the saints is the end of that golden chain of Divine grace that begins with God’s foreordination and predestination. Thus we read in Romans 8:29-30: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."

    Let it be noted first of all that "foreknow" is, as we have previously seen, the same Greek word rendered "foreordained" in 1 Peter 1:20, and this is its meaning here. And the "foreknowledge" is not of the actions of certain ones, but rather of their persons, so that by no stretch of the imagination can this be in reference to foreseen faith. Faith is not a "whom" (This is discussed in Chapter Two under point II, and in Chapter Nine). And again it must be noted that there is no room for loss or accumulation between the links of this chain of grace. Repeatedly the formula is "whom ...them," "whom ...them," "whom ...them. The same ones whom the Father has foreordained in His counsel in eternity will be glorified in eternity future—an incidental proof of the eternal security of all God’s saints.

    This golden chain of Divine grace which is made up of forged, unbreakable links is the basis of the assurance that "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). The word "for" in verse 29 shows this. But there cannot be this assurance to the person that mangles one or more of the links of this golden chain through disbelief.

    God’s purpose for His people is sure and certain and all-glorious, for eternal glorification is the blessed and sure promise that is held out to the true child of God. Paul was willing to endure all things, not only that the elect might be saved, but that they might also obtain that full glory that God has for His elect, and unto which He has predestinated them. "Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2:10).

    John 17:22-24 says: "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou has loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou has given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world."

    (Rom. 2:6-11). "Who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God."Colossians 3:4 emphasizes this unity with the life of Christ when it says, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." Our being glorified is dependent upon our being possessed of that Divine life that is imparted to us in regeneration (2 Pet. 1:1-4). This is clearly stated in Colossians 1:27: "...Christ in you, the hope of glory." "Hope" in Scripture is a stronger word than our Modern English word which generally means little more than a mere wish without any assurance of receiving the object of that hope. Biblical hope, on the other hand, is the well-grounded expectation of good to come, because it is based upon a Divine promise. Thus, Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith is the evidence of the new birth, and is the ground of our expectation of glory to come.

    Genesis 41:38-43 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?" So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. "You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you." And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See I have set you over all the land of Egypt." Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put the gold necklace around his neck. And he had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, "Bow the knee!" And he set him over all the land of Egypt.

    The Pharaoh is only honoring Joseph in such a way because he thinks that God is honoring Joseph in such a way. Seriously how many people can interpret someone else’s dream and be correct? We all speak to God, but here it is clear that Joseph has a special relationship with God where God in a very loud way speaks back. Pharaoh is just honoring that relationship. Not only that, but by honoring Joseph, he is honoring God as well.

    King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and it is important enough that he asks his own wise men to tell him the dream and the interpretation. They protest and say you tell us the dream and we tell you the interpretation. King Nebuchadnezzar say no you tell me the dream and the interpretation or you will be put to death! I imagine that they were saying to themselves – we didn’t learn this in wise man’s school. Yet Daniel comes after some time in prayer and tells the king BOTH the dream and the interpretation. Here is how the King responds:

    Daniel 2:46-48 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. The king answered Daniel and said, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery." Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.

    St. Paul tells us to do the same thing. 1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.

    We know that some people get honor – God tells us in the fourth commandment to honor our father and mother. But Saint Paul tells us to give someone double honor.  This is exactly why we honor the saints. Because it is God who has made them saints. We are just recognizing His handy-work, and by honoring His work in them, we are honoring God. Genesis 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." What if I honor Abraham today will I be blessed – Yes. Because ultimately I am honoring God and his work.

  • Thanks Cephas, that was a good, thorough answer. Now my question is this: how fine is the line between veneration of the Saints vs. worship? How do we know when we've been spending so much time focusing on a certain saint we feel a connection with and have crossed that line?
  • + Irini nem ehmot,

    [quote author=George_Mina_Awad link=topic=12406.msg145318#msg145318 date=1317181029]
    Thanks Cephas,

    You're welcome.  :)

    [quote author=George_Mina_Awad link=topic=12406.msg145318#msg145318 date=1317181029]
    Now my question is this: how fine is the line between veneration of the Saints vs. worship? How do we know when we've been spending so much time focusing on a certain saint we feel a connection with and have crossed that line?

    We know we've crossed the line when we start using language that should only be attributed to God. There is nothing wrong with having a connection with a Saint (H.H. Pope Kyrollos VI was very close with St. Mina). We should always strive to honour the saints and emulate their lives. But we must never forget that it is only God who is worthy of all glory, honour and worship. So we should never ask for a saint to forgive us our sins (though we can certainly ask them intercede before God on our behalf). We must always remember that, while their lives are worthy of emulation, they are not perfect as the only Perfect Man was Christ.
  • Makes a lot of sense, all good answers. Thank you very much  :D
  • My question is this:

    Why is it that the Commemoration of the Saints is prayed after the consecration of the bread and wine? It seems awkward to me that this is prayed while Christ is on the altar. At this point, shouldn't our sole focus be on Christ and his suffering?

  • + Irini nem ehmot,

    [quote author=PopeKyrillos link=topic=12406.msg145321#msg145321 date=1317181979]
    My question is this:

    Why is it that the Commemoration of the Saints is prayed after the consecration of the bread and wine? It seems awkward to me that this is prayed while Christ is on the altar. At this point, shouldn't our sole focus be on Christ and his suffering?


    But our focus never shifts from Christ. The commemoration of the saints is for our benefit. It unites us with the Church Victorious. Just as Christ is present on the altar, the Saints join us in our praise and adoration of Him. Furthermore, the fact that the Saints are mentioned at this point is because they show us how we too can be perfected in the Faith and walk the path of Theosis, which climaxes with partaking of the Holy Mysteries.

    The communion of saints represent the `cloud of witnesses' which surrounds the believers and to which the Apostle Paul referred to in saying, "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 ensure 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. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin" (Heb.12:1-4). As we mention the names in the "Communion of the Saints" we remember their life stories and recall their virtues and love towards our beloved Lord. They sacrificed themselves for the Lord, and had no regard for the comfort of their bodies, "And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity of return" (Heb.11:15), but they endured everything for their great love to Christ the King. Each of them offered himself as an oblation, in one form or another, to God. It was as though the heart of the Virgin Mary had been pierced with a sword when she shared the sacrifice of her Son on the Cross. John, the forerunner, was beheaded because he preached the coming of Christ and told the people to repent. St. Mark served and preached the name of Christ to the people until he was dragged along the streets of Alexandria and was martyred. St. Severus, St. Discoros and St. Athanasius all defended the faith even to death. St. Peter, the Seal of Martyrs, was slain for his people, like He who had been slain for the world. St. John Chrysostom was slain for his impartiality. The three hundred and eighteen fathers assembled at Nicea, the one hundred and fifty fathers assembled at Constantinople, and the two hundred fathers assembled at Ephesus were all a testimony to the Lord in defending the Apostolic Faith. Abba Anthony and Abba Paula left the world and followed Jesus, enduring many spiritual hardships until the end. They were dead to this world, living in the mountains and the wilderness because of their great love for Jesus Christ. Abba Macarius tolerated iniquity and humiliation until death, like Jesus who endured disgrace. The powerful Abba Moses the Black offered true repentance and wrestled with sin until death. We give thanks to God, "Having provided something for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Heb.11:40). "And a white robe was given to each of them, and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they had been, was completed" (Rev.6:11).

  • [quote author=PopeKyrillos link=topic=12406.msg145321#msg145321 date=1317181979]
    My question is this:

    Why is it that the Commemoration of the Saints is prayed after the consecration of the bread and wine? It seems awkward to me that this is prayed while Christ is on the altar. At this point, shouldn't our sole focus be on Christ and his suffering?


    This is the rite that was practiced and received in the Church.
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