FROM ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY
November 1, A. D. 2018
The Feast of All Saints
To the Most Reverend and Right Reverend Hierarchs, Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics,
and Faithful of The Orthodox Archdiocese of America (New York)
Dearly Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
What does it mean to be a saint? What are the marks of a saint?
The image most people have of saints is a ridiculously negative one. “I’m no saint” is supposed to be funny. In God’s view, it is tragic.
G.K. Chesterton said that the only true tragedy in life is not being a saint. (In his book Orthodoxy, for those who are interested.) For, to not be a saint is to be a failed and incomplete human being. Truly, most of us are not human, but subhuman! When we say “I’m only human,” God replies, “Oh, how I wish that you were!”
The stony hearted and the worldly cannot understand them. As the writer of Hebrews says, the world is not worthy of them. They are dismissed, disrespected, ignored, spit upon, reviled, called names, cast out, burned at stakes, rent apart by wild animals, tortured, imprisoned, roasted alive, raped, subjected to the most degrading humiliations and remain true to their Lord.
They call us to life. We condemn them to death. They transcend even death and turn humiliation into honor, revilement into praise, and torture into a witness.
They call us to be fully human. The subhuman among us (often we ourselves) cannot live with the reminder of what we are able to be. So we say absurd things to silence them, and, when they will not be still, we attempt to silence their voices by destroying them–at which point they speak ever more eloquently in their glory of death than in their witness of life.
We move in our ignorance and our arrogance and they shame us by peering into the very core of the Universe and their humility in proclaiming Him. We are concerned with the petty, they with the Eternal. We call THEM naive and foolish when it is the worldlings and the proud who are fools.
They claim God as their country, we cling to ridiculous flags which are pieces of fabric sewn together by men and women representing geographical entities which will not last. They sing the Thrice Holy Hymn which is sung before the Throne of the Almighty and we turn on the hip hop glorifying violence, rape, and strife.
They fix their sight on the Eternal. we fix our sights on that which will be gone like mown grass tomorrow.
They see Reality Himself. We see “through a glass darkly.” They are in Love Himself. We play with lust. They swim in the cool ocean of Light. We paddle in pools of mud.
Yet some DARE to see them as less responsible, less heroic, less wise than the useless politicians and generals and CEO’s and scientists who run what sadly passes for our fallen world. They blaspheme the Name of the One God by mocking and torturing and killing them, and trying to silence their clarion voices.
These TRUE heroes of the human race do not bear arms, do not fight for a transitory nation, do not contend against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities which are so filled with true horror that they can laugh at the minions of men. And they overcome in their surrender. In what appears to be their defeat, they gain a glorious victory. As they are tortured and die, or live lives of witness and confession, the Tree of Life, the True Church, is watered with their blood and their tears and their joys and their lives and produces abundant fruit.
They laugh and joke with their torturers for they know that, as the fury of Satan is unleashed on them, Jesus turns it back on him. Living, they produce some fruit, but dying they produce a thousandfold. The witness in them, the good in them is offered back to a weary world thousands of times amplified and the evil that is done to them descends to the triviality of merely having occurred.
They are not all that different from you and me. They are farmers, doctors, lawyers, peasants, writers, kings and queens, husbands and wives, old and young, clergy and laity, of all nationalities, of every color, of both genders, speaking myriad of languages, and yet they transcend us to call us to be there with them. Their common language is praise of the Lord and their common home is Holy Mother Church.
They are different from us in that they are truly free, even in prison cell or dungeon vile. Not with the counterfeit “freedom” that is touted in the Western democracies–a freedom constrained by men–but with a freedom that captivity, oppression and even death cannot take from them.
They are powerful beyond belief. Not with the worldly power, but with the Power of God. They laugh at armies, navies, nuclear bombs, terrorists, and biological weapons of mass destruction. They know the Earth is not their home, and that it is temporal and limited. They do not fear death, for they know that death is their sister who brings them home.
They intercede for us, they grow in Light, they behold their Lord. They are the only true people who exist . . . images of the One Man and His Holy Mother. Icons through whom we can give praise to the consubstantial Trinity through all ages.
We are not worthy of them, but they pray for us and deem themselves our servants in joy and their great humility. As they turn death into life and shame into rejoicing, so they turn service into mastery.
Our Lord IS glorious in His Saints. May He grant that we may, too, become fully human and live fully in Him.
Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be praise, honor, dominion, power, and glory, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. AMEN.
Faithfully in Christ,
Archbishop of New York
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Over the years, some have asked to have a copy of Archbishop Anthony’s Prayer. Here it is: