SAINT -Literally, “a holy person.” With God as the source of true holiness, all Christians are called to be saints (Rom. 16:2; 1 Cor. 1:1, 2). But from the earliest times, the Church has designated certain outstanding men and women who have departed this life and reached deification as worthy of veneration and canonization as saints or holy persons.
The term saints may be understood in two senses. First, the saints are all those who are in the Body of Christ, the Church (Acts 9, etc.). Saint literally refers to one who has been set apart for God’s purposes, which is the essential meaning of holiness. To be holy is to be set apart and thus has nothing particularly to do with one’s personal worthiness or sinlessness.
In the second, more common, sense, the saints are those whose lives have most clearly shown that they are set apart for the service of God. Their holiness, which is not their own but is Christ’s (Gal. 2:20), has shone forth so obviously that Orthodox Christians pay them great respect, which is termed veneration. This veneration is due to Christ’s work and is a recognition of Christ in the saints.
Because the Church recognizes the work of Christ in the saints, it undertakes the formal work of glorification (or canonization), by which the saints are affirmed by God’s people as being among the saved, that their lives may be imitated, just as the Apostle Paul urged us to imitate him as he imitated Christ (I Cor. 11:1). Liturgical services are therefore composed for the celebration of the feast days of the saints, and their place as participants in the common worship of the whole Church is confirmed with iconography, visual images which connect us with a spiritual reality. The saints always surround us as a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1).