Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes - Spiritual Nourishment for the Soul - December 2001   Last Modified December 9th, 2001

The Spiritual Value Of Reading Lives Of The Saints
By Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Boise, Idaho
December 1 2001

Agios (Saint) Nektarios of Pentapolis
Agios (Saint) Nektarios
of Pentapolis

"Our Church honors saints not as gods, but as faithful servants, holy men and friends of God." - St.Nektarios Metropolitan of Pentapolis (+1920)

The lives and writings of the saints are of great spiritual value for us all -we can relate to them, as the saints were people just like ourselves. And just like ourselves, it is possible that some of them might have lived lives filled with the most grievous sins. However, through prayer, fasting, and with repentance, they have attained the Glorious Kingdom of Heaven. All who come into the Kingdom of Heaven, do so through that gift of repentance which the Ever-Merciful Lord has granted us by His sufferings. Let us listen to what St. Silouan of Holy Mount Athos wrote: "The saints in heaven through the Holy Spirit behold the glory of God and the beauty of the Lord's Countenance." Now we can say that as loving Christians we should always strive to be like the saints, following their lives and learning from their examples.

In reading the lives of the saints of the Orthodox Church, and in coming to a deeper understanding of the examples they have set, we receive deep and beneficial spiritual nourishment. Our eyes are opened as we compare their lives with our own. The result is that we have a God-given desire to make changes in our lives, which may include a new commitment to renewal on the path towards our own salvation. What really happens to us after reading and getting to know more about the saints of the Church is that we begin to plant within our soul the same virtues that the saints themselves achieved. Let us with humility listen to what St. Ephriam the Syrian wrote: "Blessed is he who plants in his soul good plants, that is, the virtues and the lives of the saints.

Then again St. Theophan the Recluse, a Russian Orthodox ascetic, often warns us not to read books or articles that simply lead us away from the glorious teachings of our faith. We should instead concentrate on what would benefit our souls, by reading the lives of the saints, as well as Holy Scriptures, and the lives of the Holy Fathers. Listen to what Agapios Landros of Holy Mt. Athos wrote on this same subject: "A person is touched more profoundly and benefits more by reading one beautiful life of a saint than by discourses and philosophies."

The spiritual lesson is that we must seek within ourselves to be holy, emulating the saints of the Church. St. Clement of Rome wrote: "Come to the saints, for they who cleave to them shall be made holy." What we have to ask ourselves then is this question: is our life as holy as that of the saints? When we admit that it is not, then we can take the step of seeking to be holy, learning from the saints of the Church, the example of whose lives is ever before us. As we take this step, then our lives will have increasing spiritual value, and, just as the saints strove valiantly for their own salvation, so both the desire and ability to strive will become ours on our own path towards salvation.

So, we have established that it is spiritually rewarding to read the lives of the saints of the church, especially as through its long and wonderful history we can see the contribution those saints made to the Church's life and growth. We have also an additional duty: when we are baptized, a precious link was forged in heaven with our patron saint. Learning more about the life of our patron saint, and witnessing about that life to others, is a great joy we have in store.

If we do not know much about the life our patron saint, or the saint associated with our baptism, then we should speak to our local parish priest who will help us obtain what we need. There is a vast amount of information now available on the lives of the saints from many of our Orthodox Christian bookstores, and in the last few decades many translations of those lives have been published in English. Then we should also learn about the main hymn of our patron saint, which is called the dismissal, or troparion hymn. Finally we should obtain a icon of our patron saint, as many monasteries, convents, and Orthodox bookstores, now have a wide range of such icons available.

After we obtain the life of our patron saint, the prayer to the saint, and the holy icon, we should put this icon in a place of honor in our home, with a vigil light. Once you have the life of your patron saint, diligently read it, and share it with your family members, and even with members of your community. Many saints of the Orthdoox Church have special intercessory prayers, such as for the protection of children, for a serious illness, for a job, and even saints who pray on our behalf for marriage. For more information, on a list of which Saints have the grace given of God for what kinds of healing and when their commemoration cccurs, click here.

Then again, we have available a vast number of the writings of different saints of the Orthodox Church: these can also be of great spiritual value to us, and we should not only try to study the writings of our own patron saint, but the writings of all the saints, and do this on a regular basis, then sharing with your family, and especially with your children, the insights you have gained. These are our spiritual heroes - the saints of the church!

In the Divine Liturgy the priest/deacon offer this prayer: "…with all the saints let us commit ourselves, and all our lives to Christ Our Lord." Now let us follow the lives of the saints of the Church, who truly can give us great spiritual value in our lives, and let us also commit ourselves, as did the saints, to Christ Our Lord! Amen!

Holy Saints Of God,
Pray For Us!

Glory Be To God For All Things!

Content written/compiled by Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes.
(c)2001 Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes