FAQ: Honoring the Saints

Why do Orthodox Christians honor the saints?

The Scriptures themselves call us to honor other Christians, both the living and departed.

In Acts 28:10, St. Luke writes, "they honored us (the Apostolic band) in many ways." The biblical injunction concerning Mary, "All generations will call me blessed" (Luke 1:48), is an example of how we are to honor the saints for all time (see also Heb. 11:4-40).

We are to honor all believers and true authorities, not just departed ones. This is why Saint Paul exhorts us to honor one another (1 Timothy 5:17), and why Saint Peter tells husbands to honor their wives (1 Peter 3:7). May we gain back true honor, both in the Church and in the culture.

In Orthodox Christian worship, we see pictures or icons of the believers of history all around us. This is, in part, how we honor our forerunners in the faith. In Hebrews 12:22-24 we read that in worship we join with the heavenly throng to praise and worship God. We come to join "an innumerable company of angels," "the general assembly and church of the first-born who are registered in heaven" and "the spirits of just men made perfect." And as "in spirit and in truth" we join these angelic and redeemed heros of the faith, we do give them proper honor as the Scripture teaches.

Some modern believers tend to give notice primarily to living Christian heroes unfortunately, often newly-believing athletes, beauty queens and political figures. But throughout Church history, honor went to those who finished the race (I Corinthians 9:24-27), not to those who have merely begun or who are still on the earthly track (Galatians 5:7). These saints of old are not dead, but alive in Christ forever!