The word saints can mean two different things. First, the saints are all those who are in the Body of Christ, the Church (Acts 9, etc.). The word saint means one who has been set apart for God’s purposes, which is what it means to be holy. To be holy is to be set apart.
In the second, more common, sense, the saints are those whose lives have clearly shown that they are indeed set apart for the service of God. Their holiness, which is not their own but is from Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:20), is so obvious that Orthodox Christians give them great respect, which is called veneration. We venerate them because of Christ’s work in them.
When the Church officially recognizes the work of Christ in one the saints, it does the formal work of canonization (which we also call “glorification”). God’s people affirm them as saved, and their lives can be imitated, just as the Apostle Paul urged us to imitate him as he imitated Christ (I Cor. 11:1). As part of canonization, liturgical services are composed for the celebration of the feast days of the saints, and their place as participants in the common worship of the whole Church is confirmed with iconography, visual images that connect us with a spiritual reality. The saints always surround us as a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1).
The Orthodox Church has many saints that have emerged throughout our history. And history itself is important to us.
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