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The Glorification of God-Pleasers


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#1 Teofil Munteanu

Teofil Munteanu

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 05:00 PM

Good day/night esteemed brothers and sisters in Christ,

Holiness is not simply righteousness, for which the righteous are rewarded with blessedness in the Kingdom of God; rather, it is such a height of righteousness that people are so filled with the grace of God that it flows from them even upon those who associate with them. Great is their blessedness, which proceeds from their direct contemplation of the glory of God. Being filled also with love for men, which proceeds from love of God, they are responsive to men's needs, and at their entreaties they act as mediators and intercessors for them before God.

Such, first of all, were the righteous ones of the Old Testament, those whom Christ freed from hades and led into Paradise, and John the Baptist, the greatest of those born of women. Then came the Apostles and their immediate successors. None of the Christians had any doubt of their sanctity, and after their decease-the majority was martyred- they began immediately to venerate them and to call on them in prayer. Such also were the martyrs in the first centuries of persecution, when spiritual fervor abounded. A martyr's death was itself a door to the mansions on high, and Christians began to invoke them as holy men pleasing to God. Miracles and signs confirmed this faith of the Christians and gave evidence of their holiness. In the same way Christians later began to venerate the great ascetics. No one decreed that Anthony the Great, Macarius the Great, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Nicholas the Wonderworker, and many others like them should be venerated as saints, but they are revered by East and West alike, and their sanctity can be denied only by those who do not believe in sanctity.

The assembly of God-pleasers grew continually; wherever there were Christians new ascetics appeared. Overall, however, the life of the Christians began to decline; spiritual ardor began to cool; no longer was there a clear sense of what Divine righteousness is. For this reason the collective consciousness of the faithful could now always recognize who was a genuine ascetic and God-pleaser. In some places there appeared dubious persons who, by means of spurious ascetic feats, deceived some of the flock. Therefore the ecclesiastical authority began to oversee the veneration of saints, taking care to guard the flock from superstition. They began to examine the lives of those ascetics venerated by the faithful, and to verify accounts of their miracles. Towards the time of the Baptism of the Rus' it was already established that recognition of a new saint was to be given by the ecclesiastical authority. The decrees made by the ecclesiastical authority were binding in that region under its jurisdiction; however, usually other local Churches also recognized a glorification performed elsewhere, although they did not necessarily enter it into their own menology. After all, the ecclesiastical authority merely attested to sanctity. The righteous became saints not through any decree of the earthly ecclesiastical authority, but by the mercy and grace of God. The ecclesiastical authority merely approved the extolling of the new saint in Church and his invocation in prayer.

Just what authority ought and could do this was not precisely determined; it was, in any case, an episcopal authority.

There were glorifications performed by the higher ecclesiastical authority of an entire local Church; the names of the newly glorified were then entered into all the Church menologies of that Church; others were glorified more locally, and their veneration gradually spread to other places. Usually the glorification was performed in the locality where the saint had lived or died. But this was not always the case. For example, the youth George from the Serbian town of Kratov, who suffered in 1515 at the hands of the Turks in Sofia (Sredets, Bulgaria), was glorified fourteen years later in Novgorod. Although his compatriots also venerated him as a New Martyr and a serve had even been composed to him by his spiritual father, fear of the Turks prevented them from revealing this openly. For this reason the archbishop of Novgorod, which had commercial ties with those places, ordained that a service be composed, and the memory of the martyr George the New began to be venerated there whence it spread throughout all Russia. Later, when Serbia and Bulgaria were liberated by the Turks, they began using the service composed in Russia, while the original service composed in Sofia remains to this day a treasured property of the library.

In the course of the last two centuries, when Russia lived in glory and prosperity, the glorifications of new saints were celebrated with great solemnity by decree of the Higher Authority, sometimes (but not always) taking place all over Russia, and especially in the locality where the wonderworking relics were found. This does not, however, alter the general order in the Church, and if, under the scourge of the godless authority, the Russian people cannot openly extol and invoke a saint of God, glorified by God, it is the duty of that part of the Russian Church which is free from the scourge of the godless to extol and invoke that Wonderworker, like unto the holy Hierarch Nicholas, who today is praised throughout the world, and to pray to the holy, righteous John (of Kronstadt) for our personal amendment and for an end to the calamities which, as he prophesied, have befallen our homeland.

May the Lord grant the coming of that longed-for day when, from the Carpathians to the Pacific Ocean, will thunder out: We magnify thee, O righteous Father John, and we honor thy holy memory, for thou dost pray for us to Christ our God!




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