St Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
161 N. Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Sunday of All Saints

Sunday of All Saints


Last Sunday we celebrated the great feast of Holy Pentecost – when the promised Comforter, the Spirit of Truth descended upon the disciples of the Lord and the life of Grace within the Christian Church was born. It is very fitting that on this first Sunday after Pentecost, the Holy Church celebrates all of the saints of the Orthodox Church. It is fitting because Pentecost (the descent of the Holy Spirit) is precisely the key which opens to us the mystery of the sanctity of the lives of these holy men and women whom we glorify as saints. The saints are those who manifested most clearly within their lives the transforming glory of the Holy Spirit.

The holy saints of God are our elder brothers and sisters in the Lord. These holy ones have gone before us and provide examples to inspire us and encourage us in the variety of ways in which God works in the lives of His servants. Their lives and their writings serve as a firm foundation to ground us in the Orthodox understanding of God’s truth. It is so important for each and every one of us to take up the practice of familiarizing ourselves with the lives of God’s holy ones. We must make a habit of daily spiritual reading in order to inject into our lives a source of inspiration. The Holy Scriptures and the lives of the saints should be our daily bread – giving our soul the nourishment it needs in order to survive.

In reading and studying the lives of saints, we may come upon certain holy ones that somehow speak directly to our soul. Just as in this life we respond more favorably and closely to certain people, so it is with our acquaintance with the saints. We need to seek out and draw close to those saints that inspire us and move our souls with compunction and love for God. And as we discover these holy ones that attract our souls, then we must also discover the gift and the consolation of the communion of the saints which the Holy Church provides for us. These saints should become our constant companions in life, they can be our spiritual allies… We must pray to them that they will be our intercessors before the throne of God, we should call out to them in our times of trouble, and we should reflect often upon their lives and their particular virtues and set these attributes before ourselves as inspiration in our own struggles. 

Archbishop Theophan of Poltava gives us a word on the significance of the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church for us Christians. …The significance of the Holy Fathers is to be found precisely in this: that they are the most capable preservers and interpreters of the truth by virtue of the sanctity of their lives, their profound knowledge of the word of God, and the abundance of the grace of the Holy Spirit which dwells in them.

Vladika Theophan’s point is an important one – especially for us today, when the spirit of doubt and spiritual insensitivity is so epidemic. We often hear people use the phrase, ‘Prove it!’ when they are confronted with something that seems incredible or not easily believed. The testimony of the lives and righteous deaths and intercessions of the saints of the Christian Church stand as proof of the truth and transforming effectiveness of our faith. These holy ones ‘through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yea, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented - of whom the world was not worthy.’

We must certainly look upon the saints with love, with respect, and with awe. They are worthy and should be our heroes. But, while we reverence them, we must not make the mistake of thinking that this life in the Spirit is completely beyond us, unreachable, that the saints were somehow a different breed of humankind and therefore there is no point in our even trying to emulate their struggles. The sanctity and the grace that we see manifested in the lives of the saints is not the product of some special attribute of a special breed of mankind, it is the work of God shining forth in the life of a person who had the faith, hope, and love to devote himself to God.

As we read the lives of saints, we often see just how human they were, how familiar were the temptations and struggles that they endured. The things that separate our failures and their successes are the determination and commitment of faith; the courage and vision of hope; and the warmth of a heart full of selfless love. These ingredients are not beyond us, they are not superhuman… but they require our determination and commitment; they require courage and vision; and they require us to warm up our hearts with selfless love and devotion to God. If we work toward making this our offering to God every day, every hour, every moment of our life – then God can transform even such lowly stones as us into His faithful servants.

One of the most important things for us is that we be honest – honest with God and honest with ourselves. Metropolitan Anthony of Sorouzh once said: ‘God can save the sinner that we are, not the saint we pretend to be.’

On this Sunday of All Saints let us honor and celebrate all those holy ones who made the commitment, who demonstrated the courage, whose hearts overflowed with love and shone forth the light of Christ. For it is none other than Christ Himself Whom we honor when we reflect upon and glorify the holy saints of God. All goodness, all courage, all pure teaching, all that we see and hear and respect in the lives of God’s saints, is precisely the clear reflection of Christ our God and our hope working in the lives of his people. Just as we are drawn to the light of the moon on a dark night, so we are drawn to the light of the saints in the darkness of our life. And just as the moon is not the source of light, but stands in the sky as a beacon and trusty reflection of the light of the sun, so too are the saints – they stand before us as beacons and reflections of the light of Christ.

            God is glorified in His saints in all generations and in all places… and, as many of us saw yesterday, this light of grace can shine in our very own midst as it has done so with our holy father John of Shanghai and San Francisco. May the holy saints of God inspire us, encourage us, and pray to God for us!

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