Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes - Spiritual Nourishment for the Soul - September 2002   Last Modified September 2nd, 2002

St. Daniel the Stylite (Icon painted by John Snogren)
St. Daniel the Stylite
(Icon painted by John Snogren)

Saints Were People Just Like Ourselves, Are We Striving To Be Like The Saints?
by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Boise, Idaho, USA
September 2002

""Our Church honors saints not as gods,
but as faithful servants, as holy men and friends of God
(St. Nektarios of Aegina).

On Holy Mt. Athos in Greece a visitor asked the Elder (Abbot) Chrysostomos of St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite Monastery: 'what is the mission of the church?' The pious Elder replied: 'the mission of the Church is to make people saints.'

Saints were people just like ourselves. The Orthodox Church has indeed given birth to many saints, and many of us know about them. We even know on which day the Church celebrates the saint we are named after, as this is called the 'names day', and is also known as the 'angels day'.

Spiritual nourishment is vital for all of us, and an important part of this "food" is the time we spend reading the lives of the saints and meditating upon them. Reading Holy Scripture, reading the lives of the saints and the writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church - this is a discipline for us, and we gain strength, wisdom and nourishment for our minds and souls by undertaking this discipline regularly.

There is a danger that we may think that the saints, about whom we read, lived lives to a standard we simply cannot attain. Their life stories, though, are examples of how we too should live our lives spiritually. They did not start 'at the top' in a state of perfection but, like us 'at the bottom'. They, just like us, began their spiritual walk encumbered with grievous sins. They, like us, came before the presence of our mighty and Holy God and prostrated themselves in repentance and humility of spirit. By His grace they were saved, cleansed, and forgiven, and so were able to attain, step by step, the Kingdom of Heaven. Any one of us who piously struggles to attain the Kingdom of Heaven does so through repentance which our Merciful Lord Grants us by His sufferings for us.

As the saints looked upon the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, they shared in His sufferings. They struggled, they fasted, and they prayed constantly, never forgetting their purpose on this earth - to seek out their salvation. This is our purpose on this earth too, to be like the saints, and struggle both inwardly and outwardly for our salvation, walking every day along the path towards the salvation that is an eternal promise to us.

The saints received, just as we can, the guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit, which is granted to all those who seek God, and our t h e o s i s (the vision of God) with Him. The Lord our God gave the saints this great spiritual resource, and at the same time great grace, so that they were able to embrace the whole world with love.

Of course we have hardships in our lives, and sometimes we even languish in affliction. We may feel that our hearts are withering away within us, and our souls become despondent as we seem to be far from our loving God. Remember that the saints went through these same situations in their lives, and, seeking the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, they sought to overcome these struggles, never giving up, maintaining their regular disciplines of prayer and asceticism, and holding firmly on to their hope, faith and love for our God. We have to do the same thing as the saints. We too must struggle with the same determination, having the same hope, faith and love for our God, and being in prayer as often as possible.

Then again, the saints constantly fasted, disciplining their bodies, and were obedient to all the fast days ordained by the Church. Are we obedient when the Church calls us to fast during the Lenten periods, and on every Wednesday and Friday? The saints loved to fast and pray because these disciplines kept them close to God. Let us follow their great examples by fasting and praying with the same love for our God. Do not forget to participate in the prayers that are offered on behalf of a patron saint, such as the Troparion, or Dismissal Hymns of the saint. We would then be able to accomplish so much spiritually, being equipped with great spiritual weapons to deal with our inner struggles.

When we do something wrong, our Lord God is waiting for us to repent, and our Gracious God loves us more when we are in the state of repentance. He is always glad to hear us cry out to Him when we are truly sorry for our sins. Even the saints see our lives just as does our Lord God. They see the way we are not living up to our Christian principles and the teachings of the Holy Gospels, how much we fail even to love one another. They see that we fall into the trap of constantly judging others. And they know for sure that we do not have full freedom spiritually from our sins and the effects of these sins.

So, by their examples, the saints have taught us that we can too overcome our sins, and faults, when we realize that the way to return to the peace and grace of our Lord God is to repent, to be sorry for what we have done wrong in our lifetime. Therefore we should as often as possible remember the saints of the Orthodox Church, and especially the saint who we are named after, who will help guide us on the path towards our salvation. Seek to learn as much as you can about your patron saint. Including also the Dismissal and Kontakion hymns of your patron saint. Look at the way the life affects and trains you, and share what you have learned with others. Let your life and witness become an example, just as is the life of the saint. This is how we should live as pious and faithful Orthodox Christians.

The saints love us with a profound love bestowed upon them by our Lord, who graced them with the Holy Spirit. Does our soul burn with the same love for our Lord God and His saints? Do we too have the same love for one another? Or has our love grown dim? While the saints were with us, they learned of the love of God through the Holy Spirit, so let us humbly and piously seek the same blessings from our Lord God. Let us strive to accomplish what is truly our mission on this earth: to be like the saints, loving our God and loving one another. This is our mission as faithful and loving children of our Holy Orthodox Church: to be like the saints, and to be ever watchful. Amen!

May all the saints pray for us!

Peace to your soul!

+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Who prays for you!
September 2002

Glory Be To God For All Things!
Content written/compiled by Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes.
(c)2002 Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes