The Bible states "For I am the Lord your God; you shall name yourselves holy and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy. . . " (Levit. 11: 44; 19: 2 and 20: 7). Man becomes holy and "sainted" by participation in the holiness of God.
Holiness or sainthood is a gift (charisma) given by God to man, through the Holy Spirit. Man's effort to become a participant in the life of divine holiness is indispensable, but sanctification itself is the work of the Holy Trinity, especially through the sanctifying power of Jesus Christ, who was incarnate, suffered crucifixion, and rose from the dead, in order to lead us to the life of holiness, through the communion with the Holy Spirit.
In our society, however, who can be addressed as a saint? Who are those men and women and children who may be called saints by the Church today? Many Orthodox theologians classify the saints in six categories:
The Apostles, who were the first ones to spread the message of the Incarnation of the Word of God and of salvation through Christ.
The Prophets, because they predicted and prophesied the coming of the Messiah.
The Martyrs, for sacrificing their lives and fearlessly confessing Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.
The Fathers and Hierarchs of the Church, who excelled in explaining and in defending, by word and deed, the Christian faith.
The Monastics, who lived in the desert and dedicated themselves to spiritual exercise (askesis), reaching, as far as possible, perfection in Christ.
The Just, those who lived in the world, leading exemplary lives as clergy or laity with their families, becoming examples for imitation in society.
Each and every one among all these saints has his or her own calling and characteristics: they all fought the "good fight for the faith" (1 Tim. 6: 12 and 2 Tim. 4: 7). All of them applied in their lives the scriptural virtues of "justice, piety, fidelity, love, fortitude, and gentleness" (1 Tim. 6: 11).
George Bebis, Ph.D. Holy Cross School of Theology
Foolishness for Christ refers to behavior motivated by real or assumed craziness, to serve a religious purpose of Christianity. The term fools for Christ is attributed to Saint Paul. Saint Francis of Assisi and other saints acted the part of Holy Fools, as have the yurodivy of Eastern Orthodox asceticism. Fools for Christ often employ shocking, unconventional behavior to challenge accepted norms, deliver prophecies or to mask their piety. There are also parallels in non-Christian Oriental religion, notably amongst Zen monks, and the Mahasiddhas traditions who will not be included here (the Oriental religion Saints). Angels will also be included.