Lives of the Saints
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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 Christ, and no death has power over them. Their life 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 In them is nothing of themselves but rather wholly and in everything the Lord Christ.
Lives of the Saints (TV Movie ) - IMDb
And where Christ is, there is the Father and the Holy Spirit also. Thus, St. Justin makes bold to say that the Lives of the Saints not only bear witness to the Life in Christ: they may even be said to be the continuation of the Life of Christ on earth. Justin, "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.
This is an amazing thing that St. This in itself should be enough to convince us of the importance of filling our souls with the Lives of the Saints. Justin also says that the Lives of the Saints are a continuation of the Acts of the Apostles. They are nothing else but a certain kind of continuation of the 'Acts of the Apostles. For the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever Heb.
Illustrated Live of the Saints
With these words of St. Justin before us, we might well ask ourselves if Orthodox spiritual life is even possible without the testimony of the Lives of the Saints. The answer to this, I believe, must be "no. And we, too, in our own spiritual lives, are to enter into that continuing, never-ending Life. I spoke recently to an Orthodox priest who had converted to Orthodoxy from Protestantism. He told me that, when he was received into the Church, the officiating priest told him: "You will never be truly Orthodox without reading the Lives of the Saints. The Orthodox Faith is not, first of all, of the head.
First of all, it is of the heart: it is felt. Through the Lives of the Saints, we develop an Orthodox heart. Our monastery's co-founder, Fr. Seraphim Rose, emphasized constantly this "Orthodoxy of the heart," especially in his writings and talks at the end of his life; and he frequently referred to Lives of the Saints as a means of developing this.
Having looked at the importance and meaning of the Lives of the Saints, let us look now at the various ways we can make use of them in our spiritual lives. First, we look to the Saints as our examples. Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ I Cor. As Christians, we want to grow in the likeness of Christ, to have that likeness shine in us. For this to occur, we need to look often to the Saints to see that shining likeness: we must look to them for real, practical examples of how to live. Basil the Great gives this analogy:. Secondly, we must look to the Saints as our heavenly friends, as our brothers and sisters in the Faith, and as our preceptors.
We read about them not as people who are dead, but as people who are living. And this is even more immediate than just reading a biography about someone who is still alive. Let's say we are reading the biography of some famous living person. As we read it, we may dream of perhaps one day meeting this person, or perhaps of writing him a letter and having it actually reach him, and even of receiving a reply from him, despite the fact that he is so famous that thousands of people are probably writing to him.
Reading the Lives of the Saints offers us much more than this, because the Saints are alive in God, and are not bound by time and space in the same way we are. We can address them in prayer immediately and at any time, even right in the middle of reading their Lives.
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And they will hear us. Besides our private prayers to them, the Church offers us many other ways of communing with them as our friends and honoring them as our preceptors. We sing their troparia, we venerate their icons, we perform services to them, and with a blessing from our Bishop we can even compose services in their honor. As we read the Lives of the Saints each day, we will discover little by little those Saints whom our hearts go out to. They will become our close friends, those whom we pray to most of all, those in whom we confide our joys and sorrows.
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As Archimandrite Aimilianos, the present Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Simonos Petras on Mount Athos, writes: "These close friends will be the guides of our choice and a great comfort to us along the strait and narrow way that leads to Christ. We are not alone on the road or in the struggle.
When we stumble through sin, they will raise us up again; when we are tempted to give up hope, they will remind us that they have suffered for Christ before us, and more than us; and that they are now the possessors of unending joy. So, upon the stony road of the present life, these holy companions will enable us to glimpse the light of the Resurrection. Let us search, then, in the Lives of the Saints, for these close friends, and with all the Saints let us make our way to Christ.
Justin Popovich, as we have said, called the Lives of the Saints "applied dogmatic theology. The Saints are transformed human beings, proof positive that people are redeemed, purified, illumined, transformed and recreated by Jesus Christ. Justin also calls the Lives of the Saints "applied ethics.
They are embodiments of the life of Grace in the Church, through the Holy Sacraments, through the life-giving Body and Blood of the Lord. Seraphim Rose once counseled a budding Orthodox writer to make use of the Lives of the Saints as "applied dogmatic theology" and as "applied ethics. Seraphim said that, when one is writing on a spiritual subject, one should try to not only discuss it in the abstract, but to give living examples from the Lives of the Saints.
Seraphim wrote to his fellow Orthodox writer: "If I have any suggestion for your future articles, it would simply be to keep in mind the Lives of the Saints.
In your article, there is a point that would be more forceful by references to the life of the author of the citations, who is a Saint. You quote St. John of Kronstadt on 'love'—but he is not merely a great Orthodox Saint of this century, he is a very incarnation of the love he talks about, and there is scarcely to be found a parallel in the Lives of other Saints to his absolute self-crucifying love and service to others, blessed by God in the manifestation of an abundance of miracles that can only be compared to those of St.
See a Problem?
I will now attempt to implement Fr. Seraphim's advice here. In speaking about how to make use of the Lives of the Saints, I will give the example of a Saint who made use of them to an astounding degree. This is Fr. Seraphim's mentor, and the Bishop who blessed the establishment of our Brotherhood: St. As a boy he collected religious and historical books, and loved above all to read the Lives of the Saints. Being the oldest child, he had a great influence on his four brothers and one sister, who knew the Lives of the Saints through him. When he was eleven years old Michael was sent to the Poltava Cadet Corps military academy.
When he graduated in , he wished to attend the Kiev Theological Academy. His parents insisted, however, that he attend Law School in Kharkov, and out of obedience to them he put away his own desire and began to prepare for a career in law. It was during his university years that the Orthodox education and outlook which Michael had received in his childhood came to maturity. Young Michael saw the point of this upbringing. He saw that the Lives of the Saints, in particular, contain a profound wisdom which is not seen by those who read them superficially, and that the proper knowledge of the Lives of the Saints is more important than any university course.
And so it was, as his classmates noticed, that Michael spent more time reading the Lives of the Saints than attending academic lectures, although he did very well in his university studies also. One could say that he studied the Orthodox Saints precisely "on the university level': he assimilated their world-outlook and their orientation toward life, and studied the variety of their activity and ascetic labors and practice of prayer.
He came to love them with all his heart, was thoroughly penetrated by their spirit—and began to live like them. Many years later, during the sermon he gave when he was consecrated a Bishop, he said: "While studying the worldly sciences, I went all the more deeply into the study of the science of sciences, into the study of the spiritual life.
In , as the Russian Civil War was raging, Michael—then twenty-four years old—was evacuated with his entire family to Belgrade. There he entered the University of Belgrade, from which he graduated in in the faculty of theology. A year later he was tonsured a monk in Serbia and was given the name John, after his own distant relative, St. John Maximovitch of Tobolsk. During the same year he was ordained a hieromonk.
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For five years Hieromonk John was a teacher and tutor at the Seminary of St. John the Theologian in Bitol, Serbia. The city of Bitol was in the diocese of Ohrid, and at that time the ruling bishop of this diocese was another future Saint: St. Nikolai Velimirovich. Nikolai valued and loved the young Hieromonk John, and exerted a beneficial influence on him.