Orthodox America


  For Young People - What Is Holiness?


by Archpriest Victor Potopov

From that time nearly two thousand years ago, when our Lord Jesus Christ established His holy Church, many of its members have been glorified, that is, they have been recognized as saints.  There are so many saints that it is impossible to number them all. Our church calendar, which lists the names of many saints, contains a barely perceptible fraction of the countless assembly of saints in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Who are these saints?

Many people have the impression that saints are some kind of rare beings far removed from us ordinary people. Others give the name “saint” to those who take no thought for themselves and work for the good of their fellow men, or who dedicate themselves to some high ideal.  What does the Word of God, the Bible, tell us about holiness?  The Gospel teaching about holiness is much more profound than anything described above.  The Gospel teaches us that the purpose of our life is to strive to become a saint: Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect, said our Lord Jesus Christ. This means that we must strive towards the holiness of God.  We are not only called to holiness, but we are, in some measure, holy, because every man is God’s creation, and bears the image of God.  The meaning of our life consists in overcoming everything that prevents us from being saints, everything that keeps us removed from the perfect holiness of God.  If we approach this question from this point of view, then holiness becomes the meaning of life not only for a small group of people-God’s chosen-but for all of us.  We became God’s chosen the day when, through Holy Baptism, we became members of Christ’s Church, for that is already a mark of “chosenness”; it means we are dedicated to a new life, different from the lives of those who don’t yet know God.  Holiness is found in each and every one of us, but, unfortunately, sin prevents this holiness from revealing itself in our lives.  Therefore, we must do all we can to war against sin, to cleanse ourselves through repentance, in order to allow the holiness of our souls to shine through the dirty film of sin which coats our soul.

Those already glorified by the Church as saints are those who were able to remove from their souls this film of sin through repentance, prayer, good works and thereby enlightened not only themselves but also shed light upon the world surrounding them. Just as a mirror reflects light, so, too, the saints reflect the divine light which comes from God.  The saints in heaven see us, they love us and, invisibly, silently and unnoticeably help us to war against sin, in order that we might be saved and become like them.

“Become like them”-that means to fully restore within ourselves the image of God, which was placed in us when man was first created.  But man fell; he ruined that image and became estranged from God.  To strive towards holiness-this means to overcome all obstacles which separate us from God.  Each of us must make an effort to fulfill-at least in some measure-the Gospel summons to “be perfect [holy, saints], even as your Father in Heaven.”  If we can do this, we shall realize our calling.

Archpriest Victor Potapov
(Translated from Trezvon, Nyack, NY )

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