In remembering the Saints of God according to the testament of St. John, we must always remember, as he did, that each one of us is called to be a Saint.
The Saints, says St. Justin Popovic, are the most perfect Christians, who have been sanctified to the highest degree. The Saints, says St. John Maximovitch, are those who show forth in themselves a height of righteousness and are filled with the Grace of God to such an extent that it flows from them upon those around them. Both St. Justin and St. John are saying the same thing. The saints are deified human beings, who are filled with the Grace—the Uncreated Energies—of God, and who live the Divine-human life of Christ in the church.
Every Orthodox Christian partakes to some extent of this Divine-human life. St. Justin Popovic writes: "Christ's life is continued through all the ages; every Christian is of the same body with Christ, and he is a Christian because he lives the Divine-human life of this Body of Christ as Its organic cell …
"Life according to the Gospel, holy life, Divine life, that is the natural and normal life for Christians. For Christians, according to their vocation, are holy … To become completely holy, both in soul and in body—that is our vocation. This is not a miracle, but rather the norm, the rule of faith … Having united themselves spiritually and by Grace to the Holy One—the Lord Christ—with the help of faith, Christians themselves receive from Him the Holy Energies that they may lead a holy life." (St. Justin Popovic, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, pp. 37-38.)
It is our task as Christians, then, to acquire more and more of this Divine-human life, to go deeper and deeper into it, to grow more and more in the likeness of Christ, to be filled with more and more of his Grace. Perhaps we will never acquire such Grace as was seen in St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia, St. Sava of Serbia, St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Nektarios of Pentapolis, or St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, but we are called to be growing toward such an overflowing measure of Grace.
If we have much further to go in the spiritual life, we are not alone: even the greatest Saints had further to go. "Sanctification admits of degrees," explains Constantine Cavarnos. "The sanctification or perfection of a human being attained even in theosis [deification] is not complete during this life. It is an `unfinished perfection,' as it is called
in the Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus." (Constantine Cavarnos, Holiness: Man's Supreme Destiny, pp. 18-19.)
Furthermore, spiritual perfection or holiness is not even complete in the other world; it grows endlessly in the life to come. St. Symeon the New Theologian, himself a deified human being, writes concerning this: "Through a clear revelation from Above, the Saints know that in fact their perfection is endless, that their progress in glory will be eternal, that in them there will be a continual increase in Divine radiance, and that an end to their progress will never occur." (The Extant Works of St.Symeon the New Theologian, Part Two (in Greek) (Syros, 1886), p. 41.)
Copyright © 2002 by the St. Herman of Alaska
Used with permission.