The Importance of Saints and Why There are Saints in the Orthodox Church
Growing up in a Greek family we were taught the importance of our names. Over the years people have given in to the trappings of the world and are now compromising the importance of their Orthodox Tradition. Orthodox families have placed huge importance on names. The naming process is not only important to the Church but it also holds great significance to us as Orthodox Christians.
Orthodox families should resist the temptation of following other religions and allowing any name to be used or to give a child a birth name and a baptized name. This just adds to confusion for the child. There are so many names to choose from.
The reason names are such a significant part of the Orthodox religion comes from centuries ago. So where do our biblical names come from. If we follow the religious story then after God made earth in 6 days he made man from dust. Adam was created and in Hebrew Adam stands for “earth” or “Ground”. Adam was entrusted with naming all the of the animals God had created. God then created a wife for Adam and she was called Woman. The story goes on to talk about an evil serpent that tempted our first parents. This led them to sin which brought about death. God intervened and promised the redeemer would come from the woman’s seed to crush the serpent. From this Adam named his wife “Eve”. Eve means life.
In the Orthodox religion an baby is not given a name until he or she is baptized. The baptism is the name ceremony in preparation for the baptism on the eighth day. This name an Orthodox Christian receives is a Saint’s name and we refer to them as “Christian Names”. The saints name that the baby receives will be that person’s Patron Saint. Saint names are celebrated on the day of the feast of the Saints name. My saints name-day is April 23rd. Name days are sometimes considered more important than the child’s actual birthday.
Saint’s names are often mentioned in church services and you can find their icons displayed in many places in the church. There are a number of Churches that are also names after Saints. So who are the saints.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a saint is “a person who is officially recognized by the Christian Church as being very holy because of the way he or she lived.” Though we have many saints the Orthodox church still maintains that there is only one who is truly holy and that is God. Sainthood is a gift. The individuals who became saints earned this right by being honored because of the work that they did and the way they lived their lives. They showed how Christians should truly live their lives.
All Christians can be called Saints, as long as they have been baptized in the name of the holy trinity. In the early days Saint actually stood for “Believer”. The church has worked tirelessly to differentiate saints from normal people and this has been achieved by the way we honor all the saints.
Categories as to the types of Saints
- Apostles. These individuals are mentioned in the Holy Bible and were the first to spread the news about Jesus Christ. The term “apostle” and “disciple” are used interchangeably. However, Judas isn’t really considered an Apostle since he is the one who betrayed Jesus.
- Prophets. Some of the saints were considered prophets. One of the best examples of a saint who was a prophet was John the Baptist because he preached to crowds about Christ’s true identity of being the Son of God.
- Martyrs. These are people who valiantly lost their lives because they were Christians. Saint Catherine, for example, is considered a Holy Martyr because she died because of her faith.
- Church Fathers. Church Fathers came about in the early days of the church. They are known for being exceptionally wise and devout and their teachings are still adhered to today. Saint John Climacus, who wrote The Ladder of Divine Ascent, is an example of a church father.
- Monastics. These are saints who lived their lives in solitude in order to live holy lives and contemplate the existence of God. Many of them wrote, prophesied, and prayed diligently. They’re a model example of true holiness.
- Just. All other saints are called “the Just” because, even though they weren’t martyrs, monastics, or church fathers, they lived exceptionally holy lives.