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Question 16

Can you clarify and explain what the word "honour " or "venerate" actually entails when we are told to honour the Saints and how this is distinguished from worship of God since is there a possibility that too much honour may amount to worship?   


Answer to Question 16


When we honour a saint through his Icon, we do not worship him as if he was God, we give him honour and respect because of his oneness with God. Asking for the saints intercessions does not mean that we worship them. When we pray to a saint, we do not ask him to save us directly as though he was God, but we beseech him as our fellow man and as our brother and fellow member of Christ’s Church to intercede to God on our behalf.


Of course our prayer to the saints is always accompanied by a great reverence because they have been shown by God as great men who have overcome the passions of this world and for this he has rewarded them with glorification. We are struck with awe and admiration of their exploits and clearly recognize the grace of God in their struggles and martyrdom.


But this is nothing unusual for we do something similar to honour great men in other fields. Men have always honoured others who have performed great deeds, such as a brave General, a soldier who is singled out for his heroic deeds, or a wise statesman. If we honour such people who are still in this life with medals and ceremonies, how much more should we honour the saints who have battled with demons and whose deeds far surpass the deeds of ordinary men. By honouring the saints we are recognizing that we see in them the light of Christ and rejoice because we are reassured of the resurrection.


In 787 A.D., the Church made a clear distinction in the type of veneration offered to the Icons of Christ and the Icons of the saints. In Christ, it takes on the form of worship because He is God. In the saints the veneration is called ‘honorific’, this is to say, it is honour and respect but never worship which is reserved only for God.