June 19, 2022

Homily for the Sunday of all Saints - The Confession of the Saints (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homily for the Sunday of all Saints

The Confession of the Saints

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32).

Beloved brethren,

The Feast of All Saints is today and our Church with the Gospel reading reminds us of the confession of the saints, which must take place in the whole perspective of the Orthodox life. That is, we must confess Christ, but within Orthodox ecclesiastical contexts.

This means that there is a close connection between Christ, the Saint and the confession. The Saints throughout their lives, when they were united with Christ, gave the good testimony about Him and are waiting for the confession of Christ before His Father in heaven.

Christ said to His disciples: "Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men" (Matthew 10:32). All the Saints belong to the "whosoever". These are the Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs and generally those who live sacramentally and ascetically in the Church. We can say that despite the tropical, chronological and local differences, all the Saints have one thing in common: and this is Christ. The Prophets, in the Holy Spirit, saw Christ; the Apostles were disciples of the incarnate Word; and the Saints after the Apostles were, as members of the Church, as members of the Body of Christ, united with Him.

Furthermore, all the Saints throughout the ages experienced Christ through the Holy Spirit. This experience was not considered theoretical, but real. That is, the Saints felt a real communion with Christ and through Him with the Triune God. A result of this experience is the confession. It is very characteristic that the confession of the Saints, as Christ says, becomes "in Me", that is, through Christ and in Christ. Without communion with Christ and without His power it is impossible to confess Him.

Confession, then, is not a human energy that is exhausted in an external endeavor, but is a natural end to the life in Christ. The Prophets gave the testimony that Christ would come and salvation would rise. The Apostles gave the disappointed world the testimony that Christ had come. And the Saints of all ages - martyrs, venerables, etc. - gave the testimony that it is possible for one living in the Church to live this new life that Christ brought to the world.

Thus, we can assert that every Saint is at the same time a Prophet, Apostle, Martyr, etc. He is a Prophet, because as the Prophets of the Old Testament saw the first coming of Christ he sees the second coming of Christ. He is a Disciple of Christ because he lives in communion with Him and keeps His commandments. He is a Martyr because he constantly gives through his life the testimony for this new life, which the God-man Christ brought to the world.

Thus, we can well interpret the continuation of Christ's word: "Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32). As natural is the confession that the Saints give to Christ, since by their free complete offering to God they receive and reflect the divine splendor, so will the confession that Christ will give to the Father be natural. The Saints will shine like suns in the Kingdom of God, because they were united with the Light, Christ, "all will become divine light." They will radiate this Light "as having been born by this divine light", as Saint Gregory Palamas writes. Christ who will be inside them will testify about them and they will become beloved to the Father. This is the significance of the "will I confess also."

The interpretation given by the Holy Nicholas Cabasilas for the love of God the Father for the man who was united with Christ is very characteristic. God the Father loves His Son very much. He had declared it on the Day of Baptism and the Day of the Transfiguration: "This is My beloved Son" (Matthew 3:17). Believers who are connected with Christ and have Him dwelling in their hearts accept the love of God the Father for the sake of the Son, that is, because God the Father loves His Son, that is why He loves those whom He loves. This shows the great importance of Christ for our lives and the importance of our union with Him.

Thus, those who are united with Christ have in them the love of the Father because of His Son. Then, in the Second Coming of Christ, this presence of the Word in the Saints will be a testimony for them.

God rests in the Saints: "God who is holy, finds rest in those who are holy" (prayer during the trisagion hymn). Of course, God does not dwell in a specific place, but He is Himself the place of everything. However, according to Saint John of Damascus, the place of God can be called the place where His energies become manifest. Thus, the place of God is the Church and those who participate in His energies, that is, the Saints of God.

All this reveals a great truth that we want to emphasize in particular. Usually we have formed the opinion that the resurrected Body of Christ is only the one that ascended to heaven and is now at the right hand of God the Father, and we forget that the resurrected Body of Christ is the Church, which is the real Body of Christ and communion of deification. Thus the Saints, having been united with Christ, are the members of His resurrected Body and have the sanctifying Grace of God. In this way, when we kiss the relics of the Saints, we kiss the members of the Body of Christ.

We must emphasize the great value of the Saints for our lives. For in the unity of faith and in the awareness of Christ one comes "together with all the saints" (Ephesians 4:13). May we be found worthy to give the confession of Christ throughout our lives, to accept the confession of eternal life.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.