On Sainthood

Qualifications for Sainthood in the Orthodox Church


 I. What Makes a Saint?

A. The incorruptibility of the body: St. Nikodemos of Athos: "The Comforter and the Spirit of Truth preserves the bodies of the martyrs and his chosen ones in a state of fragrant incorruption, when they should have been overcome by corruption and decomposition." Examples of this include St. Athanasious 1323; St. Arsenios 625; Meletios the Confessor 617; St. Nicodemos 1321; and St. Dyonisios of Zakinthos 1621.

B. Healing miracles: The most commonly way is to be anointed with oil from the vigil lamp, which hangs over the relics or coffin of a saint. Incubation or the spending of an entire night inside a church in prayer. "The Church building itself, in practice of incubation, becomes a hospital" (Magoulios, Lives of the Saints 136).

C. Writings on the Christian life:

1. Theological: The Immortality of the Soul; The Sacred Memorials; On the Mother of our Lord, the Most Holy Theotokos; On the Saints of God On the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; Concerning Repentance and Confession; The Sacred Catechism; The History of the Reasons Behind the Schism: About its Perpetration and About Whether There Exist a Possibility of Uniting the Churches of the East and West; Christology; On True and False Education; On Pastoral Theology.

2. Pastoral letters: (35)

3. Hymns: 500

D. Works: An Organizer of Monasticism

E. The process of canonization: Popular veneration precedes the official recognition by the Church. The early Church first venerated martyrs (witnesses). By the fourth century, confessors and martyrs were venerated as saints. After the death of a saint, a biography is written and their memory is celebrated on the anniversary of their death. Only in the fourteenth century did official canonization occur within Orthodoxy.

F. An approved saint: A Liturgical service is composed in his or her honor. A Day is set aside in the year for the veneration of his or her relics. An Icon is made depicting the saint for local use in the Churches.

II. Biblical Foundation for Sainthood

A. Our adoption as children of God: "That you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44 ). "But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father!' So through God you are no longer a slave, but a son and if a son then a heir" (Gal. 4:4-7).

B. The Church Militant:

1. The Holy Life of Christians: "As he who called you is Holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, You shall be Holy for I am Holy" (I Peter1:15). "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people" (I Peter 2:9).

2. Our bodies are Holy Temples: "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells within you? If anyone destroys God's temple God will destroy him. For God's temple is Holy and that temple you are" (I Cor. 3:16-17). "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom. 12:1).

3. We belong to a community of holiness: "You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being himself the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Eph 2:19-21).

C. Why ask Mary to pray for us? She is the most perfect of all members in the family of the Church. She is the best icon of what it means to live in obedience to God. Our Prayer for each other extends beyond the grave -so we ask her to pray for us. We do not pray to Mary, we pray to God alone. We ask her for her prayers.

D. There is One Mediator: "There is one God, and there is one mediator or reconciler between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself for a ransom for all, the testimony to which was born at the proper time" (I Tim. 2:5).

1. Elijah interceded between man and God. "Do you not know what the scriptures say of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel" (Romans 11:2).

2. "First of all then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men" (I Tim. 2:1).

III. The Life of St. Nektarios

St. Nektarios was born, Anastasi Kephalas, in Selybria, Thrace in 1846. At the age of 14, he left home to seek work and education in Constantinople. At 20, he taught for 10 years on the Island of Chios at the port Lithi. In 1876, at the age of 30 he was tonsured Lazarus at the Monastery of Nea Mone. In 1877, he was ordained a Deacon in Alexandria and given the name Nektarios. Under the support of a Mr. Horemis, he went back to Athens to complete his high school education. Upon graduation, he left to serve Patriarch Sophronios of Alexandria, Egypt. He sent him back to Athens to the University. Upon return to Alexandria, he was ordained a priest in Cairo and elevated as a Bishop January 15, 1889. Due to envy (by clergy who did not want to see him elevated as Patriarch), he was forced to resign his pastoral duties and was exiled to Athens.

In Athens there was no financial support from the Patriarchate, but he responded with faith in God, and shared what he had with the poor. He was refused placement "because he was not a Greek citizen." Finally, he was assigned to a small church in the Euboia province (Halkida). The first Sunday no one showed up for services, for this he was heckled by the parishioners. He was ready to leave and go to a Monastery and then supporters from Egypt came to his aid.

In 1894, he became the Dean of the Rizareios Seminary in Athens. Attacks surfaced again from the Patriarchate, and his morality was questioned. A fire struck devastation and Nektarios led the collection for aid. Then there was the miracle of the healing of a boy named Nicholas; the Virgin Mary appeared to Nicholas in a dream and assured him that he would be healed. Nektarios wrote hymns in her honor. There were more healings that came through Holy Unction, and exorcisms began to take place. By 1900, his health became weak from all his pastoral and scholarly work. In 1904, he began to counsel young women and was accused by the school of neglecting his duties to the students. He eventually established a convent for these women on the Island of Aegina, in 1906. A chapel was dedicated in 1908 to the Holy Trinity. In March of 1908, he resigned his position at the School of Theology. He died November 9, 1920. Three years later, his body was exhumed and the remains were found uncorrupted. A sweet fragrance emanated from the body. His body stayed this way for 20 years and then it decomposed and the bones remained fragrant. In 1961 the Patriarchate of Constantinople declared he.

IV. Teachings of St. Nektarios

A. Charity: "You understand of course with the attitude he has, what would it mean if he were made Patriarch. Everything we own would certainly be divided among the barefooted natives and the beggars, and the treasury would be left empty" (from his contemporaries).

B. Fervent quest for renewal: "In fact if I didn't feel so deeply for the pain of the Orthodox people in their unquenchable thirst for spiritual guidance, I would have taken the road of the hermits."

C. Focused on the kingdom: "This world is indeed unfulfilling and imperfect, but that is what makes me believe all the more that our life on earth is a temporary existence; death will be that train that takes us to a better place."

D. Persecuted, yet rejoicing! "They do not seem to like you, Your Eminence (Nektarios). It does not matter Galinos. I love them, and that is enough for me to keep my inner peace."


Dismissal Hymn 

You have lived saintly as a wise hierarch and glorified the Lord by your virtuous life, O righteous Nektarios. Therefore, having been glorified by the power of the Paraclete, you cast demons away and heal those sick who come to your divine relics in faith.

Saint Nektarios the Wonderworker

Take away from me, O Virgin, the fetters of sin, of my lusts and the other transgressions:

The terrible carelessness and the over caring, the evil curiosity and the talkativeness, the useless incontinence and the haughtiness, the negligence, the drunkenness and the lack of mercy, the bad desires, the terrible impurity, the extravagance, the darkness, the great insensitivity.

Take away the tendency to say jokes, the enjoyment, the prodigality, the laughter of immorality and every evil.

Give me, O maiden, chastity; give me continence, fasting, carefulness vigilance and perfect obedience.

Give me carefulness in all and acute discernment, silence, order and holy patience.

Grant to me, O Lady, eagerness to work and to attain my perfection, and zeal for virtues and exercise.

Keep, O most-holy One, my soul, my heart and my mind in holiness and guard it in virginity.