Every day of the year the Church remembers and honors one or more of the holy men and women who dedicated themselves to the Lord with exemplary faith and perseverance. Besides the Theotokos and St. John the Baptist, whose several feasts dot the festal calendar, the Orthodox Church honors and venerates angels, martyrs, apostles, prophets, confessors, virgins, ascetics, bishops and other clergy. The festivals of the apostles and those called equal to the apostles, the great martyrs and the great teachers and bishops of the Church are more universally observed.
The first recorded instance of a feast in honor of a saint comes to us from the middle of the second century. The primitive observance of feasts of saints consisted primarily of the remembrance of local martyrs and bishops; the feast was usually attached to their burial place. The placing of the relics of saints into consecrated Holy Tables stems from this ancient custom.
The saints are the concrete evidence of the transfiguring power of the Gospel. They are the first fruits of the heavenly life, the forerunners of the Kingdom to come. These festivals bring into clear focus for every believer the true meaning of discipleship; "grant me no more than to be a sacrifice for God ... It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but actually to be one" (St. Ignatius of Antioch).
According to an ancient liturgical custom, Orthodox parents name their newborn infants on the eighth day after birth. The name is traditionally chosen from the list of saints, as a sign of the child's entry into the unity of the Church and into the arena of the spiritual warfare which will commence in earnest with the sacrament of baptism.
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