Cultivate Communion With The Saints.

Christ is risen! One of the most natural things we do as human beings is live in relationship to each other: we eat together, we talk together, we work together. Some would say our very humanity is based on our relationships, one to another.

While this is not the case in all Christian communion, Orthodox Christianity — rooted in the experience of the resurrected Christ –includes those who have gone before us among those with whom we maintain relationships.We visit the graves of our departed loved ones, do you remember them in prayers and Memorial services and decorate our houses with their pictures, all in reflection of our ongoing relationship with them.

In the same way, we Orthodox maintain relationship with our “spiritual family,” namely the Saints. The title “saint” means “the Holy One,” by definition offering us the example of just what our lives as Christians should look like.  Again, living by the Light of the resurrected Christ, we relate to them not simply historically but relationally: we commemorate their feast days, we learned the stories of their lives, we are inspired by and venerate their icons.

We have reached Maxim #17 of Fr. Thomas Hopko’s 55 Maxims for Christian Living: Cultivate communion with the saints. For Father Tom, this is not a peripheral aspect of our lives, but one of the foundational things we Orthodox Christians do to maintain a healthy Christian life.

Intercede for Us! Who are the Saints?

I recently attended an amazing choral concert at a local Presbyterian church. The church was massive–vaulted ceilings, cross-shaped layout, glittering chandeliers, and a golden cross suspended from the ceiling that was probably twice my size–but most striking to me as an Orthodox visitor were the white, white, white walls on all sides. I just kept thinking, “Where is the cloud of witnesses? Where are my friends?” In a room packed to the brim with people, the church still felt empty without the saints.

There are some excellent explanations on the intercession of the saints out there (two from Abbot Tryphon here and here and another more in-depth one from Fr. Stephen Freeman here), so here’s the gist of it:

The saints are people. Real people who lived real lives with real temptations. They came from all different backgrounds and had different talents and callings in life. Some of them had a soft spots for children, others for the poor, others for the unchurched. Some of them were academics who wrote and taught beautifully, some of them opened hospitals and shelters, some were simple cookssoldiers, and even reformed profligates. Some were royalty, others were peasants. Some were clergy, some were monastics, some were married, some had children. Many were martyred for their faith, some were exiled, and many lived to a peaceful old age. Some were raised in pious Christian families, others became Christians on their own. Some were even a little bit crazy by the world’s standards.

In short, the saints are those who, like us, worked out their salvation with fear and trembling. Like us, they struggled with the passions, but perhaps unlike us (yet), they were able to allow God’s grace to transform them completely, banishing their passions through repentance, opening their hearts through prayer, and striving to love all of creation as God loves it. By doing so, they were granted the ability–often in their own lifetimes–to manifest their synergy with God’s grace through miracles, prophecy, and healing. In coming to love God truly, they were able to have a share in God’s power and compassion, and in imitation of and cooperation with the Divine, they continue to share that power and compassion with us who are still in the midst of our own spiritual battles. The saints love us like God loves us, and they do it without losing their own particular personalities and stories.

Asking for the intercessions of the saints, then, is in a sense like calling on a pro football quarterback to coach you on passing or an Olympic gymnast to help you land a back handspring. The saints are the “pros” of prayer, repentance, charity, virtue, and love–not of their own accord, but by the grace they have been granted in their relationships with Christ. And it is often the case that particular saints become known for helping us in their particular “areas of expertise,” one could say. So St. Christopher who was a ferryman is the patron saint of travelers, St. Paraskevi who worked a miracle on the eyes of her persecutor is the patron saint of eyes, and St. Arsenios of Cappadocia who helped Christian and Muslim women alike conceive is often asked for help by childless families.

For us, living a life in the Church is like growing up in a family with someone who is a pro on, well, just about everything. In any time of need, we have a spiritual relative–in the saints–to call upon to set an example for us, give us advice, and most of all pray for us to the Christ, the Lover of Mankind.

The following is a list of Saints called upon for special purposes: *

To Have a Child 
St. Anna, Mother of the Theotokos 
St. Elizabeth, Mother of the Forerunner 
St. Sabbas the Sanctified of Palestine 
St. Irene Chrysovolantou 

For Safe Childbirth 
St. Eleftherios

For the Care & Protection of Infants 
St. Stylianos

For Young People 
Holy Great Martyr Demetrios the Wonderworker

Delivery from Sudden Death 
St. Barbara the Great Martyr

Against Drinking 
Holy Martyr Boniface & the Righteous Aglais

For Travelers 
St. Nicholas: in general, & specifically for sea travel 
St. John the Russian: for transport, auto, busses 
St. Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople: for safety at sea

For Cobblers 
St. Eustathius the Cobbler of Georgia

For Physicians 
St. Panteleimon 
The Holy Unmercenaries, Saints Cosmas & Damian 
For the Kitchen, Home 
St. Euphrosynos the Cook 
St. Sergius of Radonezh: for baking 
Sts. Spyridon & Nikodim of Kievo-Pechersk: Prosphora making 

For Trading 
St. Paraskeva

For Headaches 
Holy New Martyr Demas of Smyrna

For Eyes 
St. Paraskeva 

For Ears 
St. Spyridon the Wonderworker

For Teeth 
St. Antipas of Pergamum


For Hernias & Intestinal Disorders 

Holy Great Martyr Artemius 
St. Artemius of Verkola

For Throat 
St. Blaise of Sebastia

For Finding Employment 
St. Xenia of St. Petersburg

For Help in Studies 
The Three Hierarchs: 
St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian 
St. Sergius of Radonezh 
St. John of Kronstadt 
St. Justin the Philosopher

For Church-Chanting 
St. Romanos the Melodist 

For Iconographers 
St. Luke the Apostle and Evangelist 
St. John of Damascus

For Patient Endurance of Affliction 
St. Job the Much-Suffering 
Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebastia: especially in freezing cold weather 
Holy Forty-Two Martyrs of Amorion 

For Protection Against Thieves 
St. Gregory the Wonderworker of Kievo-Pechersk

For Stone-workers 
Holy Martyrs Florus & Laurus

For Soldiers 
Holy Archangel Michael 
St. George the Great Martyr 
St. Barbara the Great Martyr 

For Spiritual Help, Consolation & Compunction 
St. Ephraim the Syrian 
St. Alexis the Man of God 
St. Seraphim of Sarov

For a Good End to One’s Life 
Holy Archangel Michael 
St. Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople

For Captives and Court Cases 
St. Onouphrios the Great 
St. Peter of Athos 
St. George the Great Martyr

For Help in Distress, Poverty, Etc. 
St. Nicholas the Wonderworker 

St. John the Almsgiver of Alexandria 
St. John of Kronstadt

For Finding Things 
St. Phanourios the Great Martyr 
St. Menas the Great Martyr of Egypt

For Meeting a Difficult Situation, an Interview, Etc
St. David the Prophet, Psalmist & King 
The Holy Unmercenaries & Healers 
SS. Cosmas & Damian of Rome 
SS. Panteleimon & Hermolaus 
St. Julian the Martyr 
St. John of Kronstadt 
St. Nectarios of Aegina 
Holy Archangel Raphael

For Animals & Livestock 
St. George: cattle & herds 
St. Parthenius of Radovysdius: cattle 
SS. Spevsippus, Elesippus & Melevsippus: horses 
St. Tryphon: geese

For Protection of Crops from Pests 
St. Michael of Synnada

For the Protection of Gardens Against Pests 
Holy Great Martyr Tryphon: also for hunters and Patron of Moscow

Against Demons & Witchcraft 
SS. Cyprian & Justina 
St. Theodore Sykeote 
St. Mitrophan of Voronezh

For Chastity & Help in Carnal Warfare 
St. John the Forerunner 
St. Demetrios the Great Martyr 
St. John the Much-Suffering 
Holy Martyr Theodore the Byzantine 
Holy Martyr Ignatios of Athos 
St. Mary of Egypt 
St. Joseph the All-Comely 
St. Susanna [Old Testament]

For Mental Disorders 
St. Naum of Ochrid 
St. Anastasia 
St. Gerasimos of Cephalonia: the possessed

Against Plague 
St. Haralambos 
St. Marina the Great Martyr 

For Help Against Quick-Temper & Despondency 
St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

For Workers in Hospitals 
Holy Unmercenaries Saints Cosmas & Damian
St. Dositheus, Disciple of Abba Dorotheus

For Guilelessness & Simplicity 
Holy Apostle Nathaniel & St. Paul the Simple

* Reprinted from Orthodox Family Life. Volume 3, Issue 3. Spring 1998