In their lives, many orthodox saints stressed the importance of love and self-sacrifice. For example, St. Bridget of Sweden, who was born to noble parents, married Ulf Gudransson at the young age of thirteen. She later became the patron saint of Sweden and Europe. She was also the patron saint of widows.
St. Silouan the Athonite
Saint Silouan the Athene is a great example of an ascetic and writer. Born on January 17, 1866, in Sovsk, Tambov region of Russia, he was an ascetic who eventually ascended to a high level of dispassion and pure love for God. The ascetic later became the spiritual father of Sophrony, a monk who went on to become a hierodeacon in 1941. He passed on his writings to his disciple, Fr. Sophrony, who later wrote a biography of Silouan and his teachings.
Although Saint Silouan was an Athonite monk, he was formed by a rigorous physical discipline. His ascetic self-denial, however, was never interpreted in a dualistic way. He saw it as a means of sanctifying the body.
St. Thomas Becket
You may be a fan of St. Thomas Becket, but how many of you have read his plays? Perhaps you’ve seen the 1964 film, but few have read his stage play, Becket, or the Honor of God, which was first performed in Paris and New York in 1959. You may find this play fascinating and worth a read.
The English upper classes were aware of Becket. He was known to them but not much liked him. He had an antagonistic streak, and he brought out the worst in some knights, nobles, and even some fellow bishops.
St. John Chrysostom
One of the early Church Fathers, Saint John Chrysostom was famous for his wise words and preaching. He is revered by Catholics and Anglicans alike for his wisdom and teachings. He lived from 349 to 407 and is regarded as a Doctor of the Church. Chrysostom was a prolific writer, having written more books than any other early Christian father. He was also a prominent advocate for reforming the clergy and the poor.
According to Chrysostom, “Love founded on Christ cannot be destroyed.” As St. Augustine once said, “Adam was not less because his rib was removed, nor was his virginity tarnished.” The same can be said for the love of a husband and wife. This love unites the individual and the community and binds society.
St. Basil the Great
While the extent of Basil’s influence on the Liturgy of St. Basil is uncertain, there is one central prayer that captures the spirit of his spirituality: the prayer of consecration. It sets aside the bread and wine for the purpose of prayer, and was likely used in Caesarea during Basil’s lifetime.
Basil was born into an eminent family in Caesarea, Cappadocia, in the fourth century. His family was Christian during the persecutions, and his brothers served as bishops. Basil received a good education and would have made a good orator or lawyer. Later, he studied at Athens and was a friend of St. Gregory of Nazianzus.
St. Nicholas of Myra
Saint Nicholas of Myra was a Christian saint and fourth-century bishop who inspired many throughout history to practice charity. He was known for his compassion for children and the poor. His kindness has inspired others and he is remembered in various countries during Christmas time. Sometimes called the “boy bishop,” Saint Nicholas was consecrated as bishop of Myra at only 30 years old. He is said to have performed many miracles during his life.
As a priest in Myra, St. Nicholas saved many from harm and death. He is also the patron saint of travelers, sailors, and those facing hardships. The Orthodox Church celebrates St. Nicholas’ feast day on the 6th and 19th of December. It also celebrates his memory on the 9th and 22nd of May.
St. Gregory the Theologian
When St. Gregory came to Constantinople in the autumn of 379, he focused on the Neo-Arian party led by Eunomius. While he did not disagree with Eunomius’s view of the Trinity, he was opposed to Demophilus’s view of the Son as a mere substitute for the Father. Both parties taught that the Son is subordinate to the Father, but they did not agree on the meaning of the Nicene creed of homoousion. While these two sides of the debate were often at odds, Gregory argued that there was a difference between Anomoians and Homoians, and that the two held the same heterodox position.
Gregory’s theological work is filled with timeless themes such as the mystery of suffering, the failure of virtue despite one’s best efforts, and the conflict between contemplative purity and public duties. His writings provide a solid framework for Christian living and help us deal with life’s adversities. In fact, he argues that both adversity and prosperity are signs of the grace of God, and that the best way to deal with these circumstances is to practice Christian love.