Last week I mentioned the holy oil that is blessed by the Patriarch and is used during the sacrament of Chrismation. That oil, blessed by His Beatitude and then distributed to each of the Churches under his care, is a sign of the unity of the Church under her head. That oil is a reminder that we are not just a building here on this place in Southbridge. It is a reminder that we belong to something much larger than us and not just the Romanian Orthodox Church but to the Orthodox Church.
Today’s feast, and to a lesser extent next week’s feast, is also a reminder of that unbroken link between us here in Southbridge and the rest of the Orthodox Church around the world. The first Sunday after the Great Feast of Pentecost is set aside on our Church calendar to remember all the saints of the Church.
As you know, each day has at least one saint that is commemorated. During the services of that day the Troparion of that saint is chanted. During Morning Prayer we read the Synaxarion, or a little bit of the life of the saint. In monasteries around the world the lives of the saints are read each day prior to the noon meal in the trepeeza of the monastery. In our Churches we are literally surrounded by the saints in our iconography. Saints are important to us in our walk in the spiritual life.
Each day, the entire Orthodox Church remembers the same saints on the calendar. Each particular Church, and by the I mean Romanian, Russian, Bulgarian, etc. have saints that they can add to the calendar to be remembered in that Church, but for the most part the saints on the calendar are universal in their remembrance. This is a link for us not only to our particular Church but to the ancient church that stretches back more than 2,000 years. Again, it is a reminder that we are not alone in this and that we belong to something much larger than ourselves.
At our Baptism, or Chrismation if we entered the Church from another faith group, we were given the name of a saint. For many of us this saint has a family connection or perhaps a personal connection to our parents. We celebrate our name day more than we celebrate our birth day for our spiritual birth deserves more of a remembrance then our physical birth does. How many of us know the life of the saint we are named after and how many us pray to that saint each day? This is an important part of our Orthodox Spirituality.
We come here each week, we sit here in this Holy Place surrounded by the saints of the Church. Do we know who they are and why they adorn the walls of our temple? Do we know who St. Paraskevi is? How about Saint Naum or Saint Urban, all of those saints are here with us each week as we gather for Liturgy. Who are they and why do they adorn the walls of our temple?
But it is not just these old time saints that died long ago. What about modern saints? St. Herman of Alaska, St. Alexis of Wilksbery, St. Peter the Alute, and the other saints of North America that did so much to help establish the Church here in America. We now live in a age that there are people who still live that knew these saints, ate with them, and had them over to their house and maybe even went to them for confession. I have mentioned to you before about our own Father Vasilachi, who stood here where I stand and could one day be proclaimed a saint of our Church. Many of you knew him and had meals with him and went to confession to him, and one day he could be a saint of our Holy Church.
Then there are those who we will never know. Those who gave their lives for the faith whose names have long since been forgotten. Those who perished in concentration camps or prisons because of what they believed or those who lost their lives in other ways. These names will be known only to God, and it is on this day that we recall their memory and all that they have done. This is the meaning when we sing memory eternal at the end of the funeral or memorial service. These are important things for us to remember. They gave so much, it is the least we can do to remember them.
Take some time today to mediate on the saint whose name you bear. Think about that person and what they have done and ask them in your prayers to watch over you and walk with you. Ask them to pray for you for you have been placed under their protection. Remember also, those whose names we will never know and what they have done, for the martyrs of the faith and those who have gone before us.
“Your Church, O Christ our God, clothed itself in the blood of Your martyrs from throughout the world, as though it were a robe of linen and purple; through them, she cries out to You, ‘Send down upon Your people compassion, grant peace to Your commonwealth, and to our souls, great mercy.’”