The Christian Life: Living in the Resurrection with the Saints

The salvation which Christ brings consists of our experience in this age of the new aeon with all its powers. This means that Christians participate even now in the power of Christ’s Resurrection as the pledge of their own. Because Christ rose from the dead and trampled down death by death, we can look forward to the coming resurrection with joy, for we already partake of that future reality. This truth can be obscured if Christian faith is seen as a series of laws and obligations rather than as our union with Christ. In the early Church, Christians knew themselves to be already in possession of the new and eternal life. As Schmemann wrote,

The Eucharist is the actualization of the new aeon within the old, the presence and manifestation in this age of the Kingdom of the Age to Come. The Eucharist is the parousia, the presence and manifestation of Christ. By participating in his Supper, Christians receive into themselves his Life and his Kingdom i.e., the New Life and the New Aeon.1

This explains the prominence of Christ’s Resurrection in the Church. The icon of the Resurrection of Christ stands at the eastern end of the church building, which is the intended focus of the entire praying assembly. The name “Sunday” is in Greek “the Lord’s Day” (kyriaki) and is thematically devoted to the Resurrection;2 Friday’s theme is devoted to the cross. However, every day is filled with the power of the Resurrection; every day is the Lord’s Day. Thus, Ignatius of Antioch wrote that Christians were those “living in accordance with the Lord’s day,”3 and Origen wrote that “the perfect Christian…dwells always in the Lord’s day.”4 In baptism, a Christian has died and been raised with Christ, and now lives by the power of his Resurrection. The weekly commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection is not simply an historical remembrance of one event of his career. It is a celebration of the very nature of the Church and of our salvation.

It is because the Church lives in the new aeon and the power of the Resurrection that she rejoices in her saints. Just as it is tragically possible to regard Christianity as a system of law and rule-keeping by which we earn our salvation, so it is possible to regard the saints as mediators by whom we draw near to God, and by whose prayers and relics we are brought from a profane state to a state of sanctification. This was not the approach of the early church. They rejoiced in martyrs and venerated them not because they needed mediators to sanctify them, but because the martyrs were witnesses of their already-accomplished salvation in Christ. In the early Church, therefore, the martyrs were invoked along with all the departed Christians, since all the departed stood in the presence of the glorified Lord. Schmemann again,

... the early church knew nothing of our distinction between canonized saints and ‘ordinary’ members of the Church. Holiness pertained to the Church and all those who constituted the Church were holy because they were members of a holy people. The setting apart of the bodies of the martyrs for special liturgical veneration was rooted not in any specific opposition of holy to non-holy, but in the early Church’s faith that Christ was revealed in the martyr in a special way, bearing witness through the martyr to his own power and victory over death…The body of a martyr was therefore a pledge of the final victory of Christ…[Later], the emphasis in the cult of saints shifted from the sacramentally eschatological to the sanctifying and intercessory meaning of veneration.5

The Church therefore relies upon the prayers of the martyrs and heavenly saints as she does upon the prayers of all her members. To quote Schmemann yet again,

The supplication ora pro nobis (Pray for us) in the graffiti of the catacombs was addressed to all the faithful departed in the communion of the Church.”6 The saints and martyrs stand at the head of a body in which everyone supports everyone else, united in a fellowship of mutual prayer. They are our exemplars, our inspiration, our teachers. Their stories and martyric exploits are told and celebrated in the Church “for the training and preparation of those who will do so [i.e., fight in the contest] in the future.7

Read more: Resurrection (opens in a new tab), The Saints (opens in a new tab), Kingdom of God (opens in a new tab), Rejoice and Be Glad (opens in a new tab)


  1. Alexander Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1966), Chapter 2.

  2. In fact, the Russian term for Sunday is “Resurrection” (Voskresenie/Воскресенье).

  3. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter of Ignatius to the Magnesians, chapter 9.

  4. Origen, Contra Celsum, chapter 8.

  5. Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology, 186–7

  6. Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology, 187.

  7. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, chapter 18.