Saturday, November 5, 2011

Who are the saints?

A short primer on the saints in the Episcopal tradition...

  • In the New Testament times, saint is a term denoting a baptized person, as in St. Paul’s greeting  “To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia.”  This is still the basic meaning of the word today.
  • Beginning with official persecution of the Church under Roman Imperial authority, the title “saint” came to be given to those who had laid down their lives for the Faith, and by extension to “confessors” who, during persecutions, were faithful to their profession as Christians but were not martyred, and then simply to Christians who were notable for their holy lives.
  • In later times, as a result of large-scale borrowing of dates commemorating revered Christians kept in various regional Churches, a formal calendar of “saints’ days” appeared, and a process of “canonization” was developed for the recognition of saints by the wider Church (canonization meaning to add to a canon or list of saints).
  • During the Reformation, the place of the saints in the Anglican Tradition was returned more to its early meaning: the saints are first and foremost all baptized Christians.
  • The Church commemorates the lives of particular Christians (popularly called “saints”) as models for living the Gospel of Christ. For us, the Saints are a source of inspiration & support, reminding us that God uses ordinary people to do his extraordinary work.
  • To God, all people are alive, for God is not the God of the dead, but the living. The Communion of Saints is the recognition that all those who have turn to God in faith are part of one Body—the Church, and this Church in turn desires to share the Good News of God’s love and reconciliation with all people so that we all may come to know our true identity as saints (holy ones) of God,
(Adapted from “Words of our Worship,” by C.M. Guilbert) 

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