Other Themes - The Saints - Antique Russian icons


The saints are distinguished by their close association with God. They have suffered for their faith, have often defended it to the point of giving up themselves and, by virtue of their faith, have performed deeds that generally exceed human standards.


In the Letter to the Hebrews Paul refers to the lives of the saints in the following words:  “They have suffered ridicule and scourge, as well as gang and prison; they are stoned, hacked, stabbed, killed by the sword; They went about in furs and goatskins, with want, with tribulation, with hardship, they, of whom the world was not worthy. "


The saints do not help the believers of their own accord, but with the help of the qualities that God has given them. God alone is due to worship; Angels and saints are only venerated. The Mother of God experiences the highest veneration. Since the holy mediators are between God and man, they can be called upon in questions of personal life on which they intercede with God.


First of all, the saints include the prophets, in Hebrew: heralds (of the divine will) and the apostles. They usually have a halo on icons. Mostly they are given an attribute on pictorial representations that characterizes them. The attributes are generally related to her life. Sometimes their presence in the picture is only shown by their symbols.


A distinction is made between the four great and the twelve minor prophets, depending on the extent of the records of their work. The four great prophets and their attributes are: Isaiah (saw), Jeremias (rod, sentinel), Ezekiel (gate with towers) and Daniel (lion or ram). Since the 9th century they have often been pictured opposite the four evangelists.


The twelve minor prophets often contrasted with the twelve apostles are:  Oseas / Hosea Joel, Amos, Abdias / Obadja, Nahum, Jonas Micha, Habakuk, Sophonias / Zephanja, Haggai, Zacharias and Malachias / Malachi.


Elias and his disciple Elisa (Elisäus) are also counted among the prophets, as well as Moses, the princes of the prophets David and Solomon and others, including some ancestors such as Aaron and Samuel. The Athos painter's handbook gives us information about this. The twelve apostles in the Eastern Church include many of the disciples Jesus and Paul, who was called by Jesus to be an apostle, and, unlike the Western Church, the evangelists Mark and Luke. The names of all twelve are: Peter, Andrew, John the Evangelist, Philip, Bartholomew, the Evangelist Matthew, Thomas the Younger, Simon, Paul and the two evangelists Mark and Luke.


Of the saints from the ranks of hierarchs, spiritual leaders and bishops, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzen and John Chrysostom are particularly venerated in the Eastern Church and depicted on icons. In their honor the Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs on January 30. They can often be seen together on icons.


There are around 2000 saints in the Orthodox Church. The most popular include: the two apostles Peter and Paul, the Doctors of the Church Basilius and Chrysostom, the warrior saints George and Demetrius, Nicholas the miracle worker, John the forerunner and the Old Testament prophet Elias. Most of the icons of saints tell of their lives and deeds.