Just seven days have passed my dear Christians, since the great feast day of Pentecost and we find ourselves again today celebrating another Feast Day. This Feast Day is to celebrate, not one or two or ten saints, but hundreds of thousands and even millions of saints, who are too many to count. When we refer to All Saints, we firstly must think of the All Holy Mother of God the Theotokos Maria, secondly the Holy Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist who is ranked as the highest among the Saints after the Theotokos of course, thirdly the Holy Apostles, and then Holy Prophets, then the Holy God-bearing Fathers, the Hierarchs and Teachers of the Church, the Holy Martyrs, both men and women, then all the Holy Ascetics and finally all the Righteous Kings.

If one was to describe the saints as angels of God they would not be wrong because they have reached the heights of the heavens and some saints will be higher than the angels due to their efforts here on earth and the struggles they overcame. It is said by the Fathers, that not even the stars in the sky shine as much as the martyrs who gave their lives for Christ.

As we know, our Lord Jesus Christ transformed death into life-everlasting through His great sacrifice on the cross, bringing an end to death, as He destroyed the eternal bonds of damnation making for us the death of this life, a portal that takes us to His eternal Kingdom, just as He says in the Gospel, that those who believe Him, even if they die they will live.

When the holy martyrs gave their lives for the love of Christ, rather than forsake their faith in Christ, it was the likes of those words which they remembered giving them the strength and courage to continue their struggle to martyrdom. On the other hand, monks and nuns who devote their whole lives to Christ giving up everything, from family life, family, friends, pleasures, wealth and much more, so they too lose their life here in this life, in order to live an eternal life. This doesn’t apply just for monks and nuns, but to all Christians, because don’t forget that, before Saints became Saints, they were normal human beings like all of us. I am not implying, that you all should give up everything in your life and become beggars, or that you abandon your families to go into isolation living ascetic lives, no, because as we know, those things are not for everybody, because everyone is different, some are stronger than others and each with their own gifts from God, just as St Paul puts it: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?” We have all been given each our own virtues or talents by God, but we must not ignore them; we should try to multiply them as the two servants in the parable of the talents that our Lord Christ spoke of.

We must strive my dear Christians, to become God-like, because we are all created in the image of God and through our struggles we must develop the likeness of God. That doesn’t mean of course that we could ever become God, but through imitating God and obeying His Commandments we become sanctified, as it was written in the Old Testament and as God said: “become Holy because I am Holy”. These are words that all of our Saints of the Church lived by, and which led them to sanctity, making them children of the Kingdom of heaven, according to David the prophet: “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”

Today by celebrating this Feast Day which is dedicated to all the saints we are also glorifying God, because God’s works are often shown through His people, and when I say works, I mean great signs and wonders that seem impossible for man. For God nothing is impossible and as we chant on the Saturday night vespers on the Grave Tone week “for wherever God wills the order of nature is overthrown”.

God’s Saints all possessed faith, love, obedience, humility and were devoted to God, but they surely had to earn them, remember, no one is born a saint. According to our hearts God shall give us. The saints desired their salvation, so God gave them the means to earn it; He gave them virtues which became the tools they used to reach their goal. That is why we must ask God to give us virtues, starting with humility, because humility is the birth-giver of all the other virtues.

One of the reasons we celebrated this Feast Day, is because there have been many saints throughout the ages in many places, who remain till this day unknown to us, even though of course, God has both, honoured and glorified them from the moment they left this life and so today, we Christians honour those, whose names we do not know along with the multitude of the known Saints. One thing we must know is that when we honour the Saints, we should also ask them to intercede on our behalf, in other words for them to pray to God for our salvation because they are like our ambassadors in heaven. You see, because of the fact that many of the Saints gave up their life and shed their blood for Christ, they have grace before God and He listens to their petitions. Unfortunately, I have noticed in our parish, that many of you do not even know when your Name Day is, the day in which your Patron Saint is celebrated, and some of you do not even know who your Patron Saint is. Now to me this is pretty unbelievable, because it shows that we do not really care about our spiritual welfare. Christians know that when it is their Name Day, they run to the churches to ask their Patron Saint to pray for them. Please my dear Christians, look into finding out who your Patron Saint is, and when it is they are celebrated, so you may have their blessing also. I look forward to the day when people here will call me and ask me to do a blessing of the loaves Litany, because it is the feast day of their Patron Saint.

We must also understand that we do not worship Saints, because they too, like us, are servants of God, worship must only be to God as it is written in the scriptures. However, we do honour and venerate the Saints because they were baptized in Christ, they believed and followed Christ and also died for Him, making them true imitators of Christ. Today, most people honour and venerate and sometimes worship, actors, singers, football players and other sports stars, even evil dictators. I ask myself sometimes, why do people love the so called stars and celebrities so much? What have they ever done for us? What is so important about these people, that we should keep their pictures on our walls? Have they helped us in anyway? Unfortunately, we make idols of these poor creatures of God, and in a way, their destruction is our fault, because if we didn’t support them in what they were doing, then they wouldn’t do it. They are just pleasing themselves, chasing their greed and lusts, doing exactly what Christians shouldn’t do, and we applaud them while they do it. I ask you, how many of these people would give their lives up for God? My dear Christians especially, you younger generation, if only you were to hear or read what our saints went through, the tortures, the mockery, the abuse, for the love of Christ, then you would be putting them up on your walls and would strive to become like them, because they are the true heroes. In today’s apostolic reading we heard Saint Paul say: “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.”

 The truth is, that, people that want to do the right thing by God, are not regarded as important to the world, this is because Satan is the prince of this world. Those who do not keep God’s law are actually his [Satan’s] servants, because their love for worldly things exceeds their love for God, and quoting our Lord, he said: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and MAMMON.” The difference between those so called celebrity stars and these stars whom we call saints, is that these stars listen to our prayers and pray for our salvation because they are in a position to do so, as they are in Heaven. On the Day of Judgment, I would much rather these saints be there for me, instead of the so called celebrities, who are just tools of Satan, and I say this because they become a distraction for people to lose focus on what really matters. If only they used their fame to bring people back to God. Let us then, turn to the real stars and follow their footsteps into eternity.

 When the Saints are being taken into heaven, the Angels welcome them, the Archangels honour them, and all the heavenly hosts are joyful for their ascent, amazing them for their struggles in which they overcame, as they are taken before the King of kings, Who glorifies them as they bow before Him, they are celebrities in God’s eternal Kingdom, where the glory does not end, unlike the celebrities of this world, who enjoy fame for a few years. So when the saints are lifted to heaven, it is almost like, when a royal soldier returns to his land after a great battle, the people all welcome him joyfully as a hero throwing flowers at him and cheering him on as he rides his horse back to the castle, where he kneels humbly before the king receiving his reward and honour.

In today’s Gospel we heard Christ saying to His disciples: “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven.” This is something that all the saints accomplished in one way or another, and we must take these words and practice them in our lives as well, especially for the times that we live in. Many of us unfortunately are afraid to confess Christ and His Church to our friends, our relatives, and our colleagues, because people may think less of us or they might think that we are fanatics or even crazy. Let me just say, that we have nothing at all to be ashamed of because we are in Christ’s true Church the Ark of Salvation and as the Church we try our hardest to uphold God’s Law and the Holy Canons, something as individuals we sometimes struggle to maintain for ourselves.

Often we are scared to be open about our faith, because we want to maintain a good relationship with the world. Now what good is it, if we gain the likeness of the world and gain all its pleasures only to lose our reputation with God and our chance of gaining our salvation? At the end of the day, it does not matter what people think of us, because they are just creations of God but it should matter to us what our Creator thinks of us. When we confess our faith we express our love for our fellow people, because we expose them to the word of God and to His Holy Church, giving them hope for salvation, and there is no greater act of love than this.

Another verse we heard today was: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” This verse is very strong and very important to us who live in these days of confusion. Obviously today, there is no threat on our lives for believing in Christ, but there is something worse; and why do I say this? In the early Christian years, when Christians were killed for their faith, they were secured a place in Paradise, making a few years that they lost in this life meaningless because what are 100 years compared to eternity if we say that man lives for 100 years. Nowadays, there is a far greater threat; we can genuinely say that we are sheep amongst wolves, because we are living the days, in which schism and heresy, paganism and atheism are dominating the world. The threat is far greater than that of the early Christian years, because unlike then, the persecutors of the Church kill spiritually, which means if we are killed spiritually then we are condemned eternally. What people must understand is that no matter how nice and pious priests and bishops seem to be, if they are not in the True Church then they are just what Christ said: wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Our Lord goes on further in the Gospel saying the following: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

What does Christ mean here when He says He did not come to send peace on earth, but a sword? Christ here of course was speaking metaphorically, because we know that Christ is both love and peace. A sword which He said He will send, just means that, for the love of Christ people will cut themselves off from those who refuse the word of God, and some people will love their mothers, fathers, children, wives and husbands more than they love God, this is not because God wants us to suffer, but because Satan wants to drag all mankind down with him into the pits of darkness and to do this he must bring temptations into our life so that we can give in to him and worship him and all his works for the exchange of gaining everything in this life, but as we heard in the Gospel, “He that findeth his life shall lose it.”

 This is how Satan tempted Christ, during His 40 day fast in the wilderness, when on the high mountain, showing him all the kingdoms of the world before Him and saying: “All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it, if Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine.” So from here we can see, that worshipping Satan, does not mean going to a Satanic ritual, but it means to deny Christ in any way, and love and focus on material things, money, people and passions more than Christ.

If someone asks us if we love Christ, I think we would all answer yes of course, but in reality is that the case? Christ assures us that those who obey God’s law and His Commandments are the ones who love Him, the ones who just say so are liars.

 So my dear faithful, keeping in mind the obedience, the dedication, the confession, the love and the faith that all the Saints of the Church had for God, let us too become as they were, imitators of Christ and living examples for the generations to come, so that we will also become inheritors of the Kingdom of God which is everlasting. So, through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy and save us. Amen.

Hieromonk Sozómenos
Saints Constantine & Helen Parish and
Holy Chapel of Saint Nektarios

Birmingham, UK. - 2011 a.d.

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