SAINTS AND ICONS
What view does the Church take on saints? – The Church venerates saints as those who are in God’s favour and close to Him, and addresses them in prayers, invoking them to stand on our behalf with God.
Do we diminish the praise of God when we venerate and invoke saints? – We do not diminish the praise of God while venerating and invoking saints for two reasons. First, we do not show our respect to saints as if they were God, but as if they were the beings close to Him, and in them we venerate the God’s might and grace shown in them, we send up our praise and veneration only before God. Second, we invoke saints not because their personal powers can help us, but because they are the people glorified before God who can ask Him to show us His help and grace.
On what bases does the Church teach on invoking saints? The teachings are based on the Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition.
What does the Holy Scripture tell us on the importance of the saint’s prayers on our behalf? In Genesis it is described how the Lord orders Abimelech to pray to Abraham, saying: ‘For he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you will live’ (Genesis, 20:7). In another story the Israelites beg prophet Samuel to pray for them to the Lord, to deliver them from their enemies, and it is said: ‘Then Samuel… He cried out to the Lord onIsrael’s behalf, and the Lord answered him’ (1 Samuel 7:9). In the New Testament St Jacob is warning: ‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective’ (Jacob 5:16). And Holy Apostle Evangelist John writes thus in Revelation: ‘And I saw seven angels who stand before God … Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand’ (Revelation, 8:2-4). Holy Apostle Paul also says, among other things: ‘In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy’ (Letter of St Paul to the Philippians 1:4).
What words does the Church use to address saints when invoking them in prayers? – Venerating in its liturgical hymns asceticism and sacrifice of God’s saints, as well as their Christian virtues, the Church usually addresses them, among other things, with these words: ‘Pray (in 2nd person singular or in 2nd person plural) for us, sinners’. For example, in the Great Compline, we invoke the saints’ help with these words:
‘O Most holy Lady Theotokos, pray for us, sinners,
St John, the Prophet and Forerunner and Baptist of our Lord Jesus Christ, pray for us, sinners,
All celestial forces of the holy angels and archangels, pray for us, sinners,
Glorious Holy Apostles, prophets, and martyrs, and all the saints, pray for us, sinners’.
Which of the God’s saints do we always invoke? – We invoke in prayer saints who are commemorated on that day on daily bases, we also invoke the patron saint of our family on our slava day, if we pray in a temple we invoke the saint to whom the temple is devoted, we invoke the saint we are named after, or the one we celebrate for a special reason, for instance, the one who has helped us etc. Whenever we pray we especially call upon the Most Holy Theotokos, the greatest representative we have in front of the throne of God; we address Her most often with the words: ‘O, Most Holy Theotokos, save us!’ (from the Catechism of Metropolitan bishop Damaskin).
Which prayer do we most often say when addressing the All Holy Theotokos? – We address the All-holy Theotokos saying the prayer that goes like this:
O Virgin Theotokos, rejoice
Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Thou art blessed among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, 
for thou hast given birth to the savior of our souls.
In Church Slavonic it says:
radujsja, blagodatnaja Marije,
Gospod s Toboju!
Blagoslovena ti v ženah,
i blagosloven plod čreva tvojego.
jako Spasa rodila jesi duš naših.
On veneration of icons
Does the Second God’s Commandment forbid the veneration of icons? – This commandment does not forbid the veneration of icons because icons are not idols! On the Seventh ecumenical council the Church has made a rule concerning icons not to venerate the stuff itself icons were made of, but to convey our thoughts on to God, or on to godly glorified saints who bring us closer to God, and whose images are represented on an icon. In this way we do not kneel in front of an icon solely as a piece of material, for the icon leads us into addressing God with all our mind and heart. ‘The respect we show to an icon is given to its prototype (original form), and the one who bows in front of an icon is bowing to a face painted on it’. An icon resembles a book… helping us to remember the acts of God and His saints. Can it be found in the Holy Scripture that it is allowed to make a holy image? – Yes, the God Himself had ordered Moses while he was making the Tabernacle (the portable temple) to make the images of cherubim of the Arch of Covenant (2 Moses 25:18-22).
What view does the Church take on the miracle works of icons? – According to the words of Christ the Saviour, ‘It is the spirit which gives life’ (John 6:63). An icon works wonders only if a man really venerates not the material but the Lord, be it directly, or via the Most Holy Theotokos, or a saint depicted on it, and if the Lord displays the full capacity of His power on the icon. In accordance with that, the Holy Scripture tell us that even the shadow of Apostle Paul used to heal the sick when crossing them (Acts of the Apostles 5:15).
(from the Catechism of Metropolitan bishop Damaskin)
From the very high purpose of holy icons clearly springs forth the demand that they be made. We must always ask ourselves whether an icon represents a symbol worthy enough to stimulate us to address the Lord with both our minds and our hearts. Icons bearing unskillful, poor, therefore unworthy presentations of all the saints’ images cannot adorn our temples and homes. For, Apostle Paul says: ‘I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind’ (1 Corinthians 14:15).