Friday, March 16, 2012
Saint and Christianity
Picture: Saint Joseph
In the Anglican Church, the title of Saint - with a capital 'S' - refers to a person who has been elevated by polular opinion as a pious and holy person. Saints are asked to intercede with the Lord Christ. The honor given to saints is fundamentally distinct from the worship given to God. The Church calls the worship due to God "latria", and the honor due to saints "dulia". In honoring the saints, the faithful give glory to God, in the same sense in which one gives glory to an artist by admiring his handiwork. The saints are seen as models of holiness to be imitated, and as a 'cloud of witnesses' that strengthen and encourage the believer during his or her spiritual journey (Hebrews 12:1). The saints are seen as elder brothers and sisters in Christ, and just as believers may ask their fellow brothers and sisters on earth for intercessory prayer, the prayers of the saints in heaven can be requested as well.
Once a person has been declared a Saint, the body of the Saint is considered holy. In past centuries, the remains of Saints were distributed as holy artifacts. In modern times, however, there is a growing trend to respect the body of a Saint, leaving it alone and buried. Some of the saints have a symbol that represents their life.
In the Roman Catholic church, the title of Saint - with a capital 'S' - refers to a person who has been formally canonized (officially recognized) by the Church. Formal Canonization is a lengthy process often taking many years, even centuries. The process includes a thorough investigation of the individual who has been put forth as a candidate for Sainthood. This investigation typically is concerned with examining and confirming (or disproving) any number of visions or miracles that may have been attributed to the person in question, or of the general holiness or specific good deeds that he or she may have done while alive. It should be noted, however, that the Church places special weight on those miracles or instances of intercession that happened after the individual died and which are seen to be demonstrative of the Saint's continued special relationship with God after death. Also, by this definition there are many people believed to be in heaven who have not been formally declared as Saints (most typically due to their obscurity and the involved process of formal canonization) but who may nevertheless generically be referred to as saints (lowercase 's').
In the Eastern Orthodox Church a Saint is defined as anyone who is in Heaven, whether recognized here on earth, or not. By this definition, Adam and Eve, Moses, the various Prophets, the Angels and Archangels are all given the title of "Saint".
The Orthodox believe that God reveals his Saints to us, often by answered prayers and other miracles. For the Orthodox, the formal recognition of a Saint often happens many years after they have been recognized by a localized community. There are numerous small local followings of countless saints that have not yet been recognized by the entire Orthodox church. It should be re-emphasized that such recognition is not necessary anyway, a Saint revealed even on a small scale is still a saint. There are, however, often cases where God reveals His saint on a much larger scale, even a world wide scale. In such cases, after a careful process of deliberation by a synod of Bishops, there is a formal service of Glorification in which a Saint is given a day on the church calendar to be celebrated by the entire church.
Such was the case with the sainthood of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family. At first the members of the Royal family were recognized as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in 1981, after which many believers in Russia began to pray to the Tsar and his family. Miracles were reported, including one miraculous icon which prompted an immediate local glorification. In 2000, the Tsar and his family were officially Glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church.
It is believed that one of the ways in which God reveals the holiness (saintliness) of a person can be the unusual and supposedly miraculous condition of their relics (remains). In Orthodox countries it is often the custom to re-use graves after 3 to 5 years because of the limited space. Bones are respectfully washed and placed in an ossuary, often with the person's name written on the skull. Occasionally when a body is exhumed something 'miraculous' occurs. There have been numerous occurrences where the exhumed bones are reported to have suddenly given off a wonderful fragrance, like flowers; or sometimes the body remains whole and free of decay, just as it was on the day the person died, despite having not been embalmed (traditionally the Orthodox do not embalm the dead) and having been buried for 3-5 years in the earth.
The reason relics are considered sacred is because, for the Orthodox, the separation of body and soul is unnatural. Body and soul both comprise the person, and in the end, body and soul will be reunited; therefore, the body of a saint shares in the “Holiness” of the soul of the saint. As a general rule only clergy will touch relics in order to move them or carry them in procession, however, in veneration the faithful will kiss the relic to show love and respect toward the saint. Every altar in every Orthodox church contains relics, usually of martyrs. The Church building interiors are covered with the Icons of saints.
Because the Church shows no true distinction between the living and the dead (the Saints are alive in Heaven), the Orthodox treat the saints as if they were still here. They venerate them and ask for their prayers, and consider them brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Saints are venerated and loved and asked to intercede for our salvation, but it should be clearly understood that they are not Worshiped; but rather are treated with the natural respect due anyone who has fought the good fight and won. This places the saints in a position where they can help mankind through their direct communion with God, through their intersession for our salvation, and even occasionally with their direct interaction. It is believed that many saints have appeared in order to assist people in time of need.
Traditionally, when a person is baptized in the Orthodox Church, because that person is "born again" and is a new person, he or she is given a new name, always the name of a saint. It is common that regardless of the name a person was born with, the person begins to use his saints name as his own exclusively. This saint becomes one's personal patron, and instead of a birthday, the newly baptized celebrates his saint's day with far more significance.
In many Protestant churches, the word is used more generally to refer to anyone who is a Christian. This is similar in usage to St. Paul's numerous references. In this sense, anyone who is within the Body of Christ (a born-again believer) is “Holy” because of their relationship with Jesus. However, high-church Anglicans and Episcopalians use the term "saint" similarly to the manner in which Catholics use it.Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints follow the Protestant tradition described above, referring to themselves as "Latter-day Saints", or simply "Saints". This is usually preferred over the nickname "Mormons".