“Taking Chance” is an HBO special starring Kevin Bacon about a fallen marine named Chance Phelps and the honor he receives because he is a fallen hero, having given his life to save his fellow marines. Watching that movie, seeing the solemn ceremony they bestow upon his remains- the hand salute rendered with slow solemnity-, hearing how Chance is spoken of with love and reverence, witnessing the special care they take on his remains- decking him out in a full dress uniform, perfectly placing each ribbon in its proper location- even though it was to be a closed casket and no one would see it- all of this, reminds me of the honor and respect Orthodox Christians give to the Saints.
Orthodox Christians understand the dignity of being made in the image of God and of the holiness God calls us to. But we are fallen and most of us look nothing like the Saints and do not reflect the Image of God clearly – but the Saints do! So not only is it proper to aspire to their holiness, it is correct to honor them for their life of sacrifice and dedication, just as it is proper to give full honors to a Marine who given his life for his country. This is what happens when an Orthodox Christian venerates an Icon, he is showing respect, love and honor to a person who has grown so close to God that their holiness is Luminous – How can we react otherwise?
Orthodox Christians have been accused of idolatry because of the honor they bestow upon the Saints; especially the special honor given to Mary – and this honor, they say, is worship. After all, they reason, right in the middle of the Liturgy there is the phrase, “Most Holy Theotokos, Save us.” This phrase, no doubt, scares a lot of Protestants. But they don’t understand. Fr. Aris Metrakosays it best:
Some Rebuttals to Those Among Us Who are Uncomfortable with Mary
Some modern Orthodox Christians don't like the words "Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us." They would prefer the words "intercede for us," reminding us that the exclamation "Save Us" is confusing to non-Orthodox. The veneration of Mary is not for the non-Orthodox. Once people have been fully converted to Christ, the love of the Panagia follows naturally. The pious believer knows firsthand that Jesus is his Savior, but the drowning man does not cry out to the lifeguard, "Intercede for me!"
And so we ask for the prayers of Mary and all the Saints because our journey towards Salvation should not be alone. We need the Saints to help us along the way, If I am weak and stumble while walking on a path, it is only natural that I would seek out the help of someone stronger than me to help me up and then, both together we continue on the path until we reach our destination. The prayers of the Saints will help me reach the desired destination.
Chance Phelps, the marine who gave his life for his friends, received proper honor for his actions. The Saints should receive no less.