A father once spoke to his children about the Saints and assured them that there are Saints in this very day and age.
The he proceeded to show the children actual photographs of some of the Saints from these latter times: Saint Nektarios, Saint Philaret the New Confessor, Saint John Maximovitch, Saint John of Kronstadt, and the Righteous John the Romanian of Chozeba. The Saints are more than simple stories and fables. They are more real than the icons that adorn our homes and Churches. They are living icons, living with Christ forever! The Saints are very real and when we speak with those who actually new them, we are refreshed and also amazed that the Lord has not forgotten His people in this age of growing apostasy. Beloved, all of us, all Orthodox Christians are called to be saints.
After the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the Church began to grow exceedingly as the light of Christ began to illumine the world, which was darkened in sin. So great was the love of Christ, that countless faithful surrender their lives rather than surrender their faith. The blood of the Martyrs thus adorned the Church, as in fine raiment of purple and fine linen. Every age has witnessed the persecution of the faithful. Every age has witnessed Martyrs willing to demonstrate clearly that God is not to be mocked and that the Orthodox Faith is greater than any coercion of force, even unto death. In an age when many cower in fear, the Martyrs are a trophy of victory, showing us that this world and this life are temporal and fleeting and so we must seek after what is most needful.
The Sundays immediately following Pentecost commemorate the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit – the groups of Saints and Martyrs, who were filled with the Holy Spirit, bearing witness of Christ’s victory over death and righteousness over mammon. The Third Sunday commemorates the Saints of America and the New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke. This two-fold commemoration is particularly poignant in these very days as Orthodoxy is strengthened in unity in America and yet, the faith is challenge in every corner of the world with the growing apostasy of Islam.
Recently the plight of a young Christian woman in Sudan has been shared with the world through various media outlets. What is striking is the ferocity with which her captors, nay even here family, have treated her and attempted to drag her back to the abyss of Islam. Beloved, in the lives of the Martyrs, we often read “I was born a Christian, and I will die a Christian”. To some this seems a fabrication, a fable made up for the simple minded. Such a blasphemous notion but such as we should expect from this age. We see in the plight of Mariam Ibrahim this staunch confession and we are greatly encouraged, for the words “I was born a Christian, and I will die a Christian” still resound. These stories of the Martyrs are not fables. These stories are not myths. These stories are unfolding once again before us.
Dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, may we see an example and model to emulate in the Martyrs and Saints of America and those lands yoked under the oppression of the followers of Mohammed.
O Holy Martyrs, who have contested well and received your crowns, intercede ye with the Lord that we be granted great mercy!