The Lord said to his disciples, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny him before my Father who is in heaven.” 
Today in the Orthodox calendar we commemorate All Saints as the first feast after the conclusion of the Paschal cycle that began with the Triodion before Lent and ended with the new beginning of Pentecost. We celebrate all saints at this point instead of on November 1st as the Western Churches do, because sanctification is the fruit of being united to the risen and ascended Body of Christ through the mystery of the Holy Spirit. To share in the holiness of Christ is eternal life. Through all these events, His life becomes ours. The feast of All Saints celebrates all those who lived and died in Christ. Since in Baptism, we die in Christ, the feast also reminds us that each of us are on the road to becoming saints.
In his letter to the Hebrews St. Paul gives a vivid description of the testimony of saints whose lives bore witness to the faith they proclaimed, not in words alone, but in their actions. Theirs was “a faith unashamed and a love unfeigned.”  to which we all aspire.
“All the saints through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering over deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” 
The saints give witness to the Way, the Truth and the Life of Christ. We commemorate them in icons. We read about the lives of the saints as part of daily devotions. We learn to pray with words that came for their inspired lips and Holy Spirit-illumined hearts. Why? Because as St. Paul explains, they are our encouragers and guides.
“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” 
The word martyr in Greek means “witness” and it is evidenced by a faith unashamed. Jesus declares, “Everyone who confesses [ὁμολογήσει] me before men I will confess before my Father in heaven.”  To “confess” means to bear witness to the truth of Christ without pretense or division between word and actions before all else, even unto death. Jesus is very clear in distinguishing this when he takes aim at our strongest familial bonds. “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” 
Confession of Christ is confirmed by taking up one’s cross and following Christ even when father and mother repudiate the decision or your children reject it. Under certain conditions, the cost of confessing Christ in the smallest of ways may involve being socially shamed or ostracized. Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world at the present time.
History repeatedly shows that the majority of the church leaders and the government at times rejected Christianity or interpreted Christ in ways that effectively rejected Him while still appearing to proclaim Him in words, as happened in the major heresies which were concerns of the Holy Councils.
When we hear the invitation to prayer repeated during the Divine Liturgy, “Let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole lives to Christ our God.” and “That this whole day may be perfect, holy, peaceful and without sin…” these are invitations to recommit ourselves to the path of becoming confessors of a faith unashamed with a love unfeigned. It is a reminder that in Baptism we died to our old lives and were reborn as part of His Body.
Saints are not super men and women with extraordinary powers, but sinners whose lives increasingly involve a struggle to be faithful to the gift of Holy Communion as members of Christ’s Body, the Church. In his letters, the Apostle Paul uses the phrase, “The Body of Christ” in several ways, each of which gives us a different angle from which to deepen our appreciation of the ways saints give witness to the Way, the Truth and the Life of Christ.
The Way of Ascetical Struggle
The Body of Christ sometimes refers to the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. In the centuries since He walked on earth, the Church has labored to articulate the fullness of the meaning these events give testimony too. The risen Lord is a figure that unites heaven and earth. He conquers death by dying and the bodily resurrection of Jesus distinguishes Christianity from every other religion, for Christians do not believe merely in the immortality of souls, but of the bodily resurrection of persons in their particular uniqueness, re-membered eternally by God in Christ. Christians who say the resurrection is only “metaphorical” or “symbolic” are not confessing the Christ of history attested to by the Apostolic witness.
Saints are those who struggle ascetically to live in Christ obedient to the Holy Spirit to such an extent that they begin to be transfigured even before death as Motovilov describes seeing St. Seraphim in the forest. Fr. Athanasios of Holy Simonopetra monastery described how Elder Ephraim of Katounakia entered the church and staggered in awe witnessing Elder Aimilianos caught up in a blaze of light as he served at the holy altar and tongues of fire appeared above the heads of the other monks. Saints are persons whose bodies are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit to such an extent that in death their bodies become relics giving off an indescribable fragrance and resisting decomposition even prior to the resurrection.
Before his death when Jesus had said to the apostles, “And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas, uncomprehending, had objected saying, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how can we know the way?” and Jesus replied, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  Saints are persons like St. Thomas the Apostle who have been carried by the Holy Spirit as a bride over the threshold between natural life and rational understanding to the mystery of beholding Jesus in faith as the first born of the dead now with the possibility that we too, at His invitation, may follow Him where he goes.
Asceticism is practical theology that evidences a synergy between the grace of divine illumination and human response in mind, body, will and feeling. Faith is a leaven that through struggle, works its way into our whole life in every facet. Our efforts to respond to divine grace are something that St. Paul declares, affects all of creation.
“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. ” 
Sanctification begins with falling in love with Christ; responding to His love in such a way that we share the testimony of the Apostle Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” With this confession, we can be sure of having been first loved by Christ. From this obedience follows which changes how we are in the world; what we are attentive too.
St. Porphyrios says he was unaware of his surroundings until he began to be obedient to the elders who took him under their wing and he began to notice the world around him and his own thoughts and choices. When he became filled with the Holy Spirit he began to see signs of God everywhere. “Everything is a drop of God’s love. He said “You have to have a poetic soul to be a Christian.” That’s because the saints are people in love with God and so they approach the world and people in it with joy and compassion and mercy.
Elder Aimilianos points to the effect that this kind of love has on prayer. “Undistracted prayer is a simple way of knowing whether or not you love God, and is also a means for loving God. There can be no doubt that you’re fooling yourself if you think you love God when your mind is filled with distractions.” 
Often times it seems we are only “saints for a day,” willing to give all and everything for the One we love, but then St. Mark the Ascetic’s three giants, “ignorance, forgetfulness, and laziness”  appear and bar the door to the heart. This begins quietly at first, in the depths of the mind without us even noticing. We become complacent, occupied with other things and lose our heart’s fervent awareness. We settle comfortably into our “old selves” and gradually ignore and betray the love that for a time was everything to us. This is the ordinary human condition which saints do battle with daily through ascetical struggle with appetites, self-will, day-dreaming, and all the passions in order to keep their minds on Christ.
“The mind is always filled with thoughts, images, and the mental representations of things in the world, with one thought following another in rapid success, absorbing the mind in problems ideas, opinions, and desires. But when a person has his mind continually turned toward God, the mind is emptied and is able to be filled with God. That is how the saints live.” 
The Ecclesiastical Truth
The Truth of the Body of Christ is the Church. From this perspective, a saint is someone who is part of the Church and knows how much he needs the Church. “The saints have the fullness of knowledge. They see on the one hand, their own sinfulness, and on the other hand they see the holiness, the grace and the love of God, in which they share.”  The holier the person is, the more aware they are of their sin and their capacity to sin even more, if not for the Grace of God.
This recognition is one that beckons us to stay close to the Church as a living community of persons beloved to Christ, being formed in Christ, instead of living individualistic lives of presumed self-sufficiency that invite competition, jealousy, envy, lust and greed. The Church’s Liturgy, mysteries and rhythms of life, its hierarchical structure, dogmatic theology and Patristic tradition, like the feast of all saints, are the “Ark” that help protect us and direct us on a sure footing through the floodwaters of worldliness that continually dull the heart in a variety of ways, rendering us less attentive to God’s presence.
The Mystical Life in Christ
The Body of Christ is also found in the mysteries of Communion that permeate life “in all places and filling all things.” The Church receives the world, offers it up for blessing and receives it back as in the anaphora at the heart of the Divine Liturgy when the Holy Gifts are raised up in the sign of the cross with the words “Thine own of Thine own we offer Thee in all and for all.”
Jesus made an astounding statement that made some of his hearers cringe, Even some of his disciples, hearing his words in a literal way, pulled back when he declared, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me and I in him and I will raise him up on the last day.”  The central mystery and life of the Church is the Living Christ of whom each Christian is a part, having died in Baptism and been reborn with the Holy Spirit in the heart, united to Christ. St. Paul explains, “Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf.” 
Nothing can unify the fragmentation of human nature and heal its post traumatic spiritual disorder  except for the perfect love of Christ known in Communion with Him. We need the Church and its Mysteries in order to ascetically struggle to prepare to receive the Mysteries! We need the Grace that comes from the Holy Eucharist and the Eucharistic Assembly of worship, along with confession, fasting, prayer and obedience to what we know in our hearts to be true, in order to enter into worship and fully benefit from receiving the Mysteries!
Apart from the illumination by Grace, the mysteries of Christ in the Ecclesiastical context are just as hidden from us as the divinity of Jesus was from Thomas and the Apostles. This is the reason that those who were not baptized and not yet confessing members of the church, were not allowed to be present in the Liturgy after the readings from the Epistles, the Gospel and the homily. When the deacon intones “The doors, the doors, wisdom, let us be attentive!” this is the point at which in the early church all catechumens and other enquirers would leave the sanctuary. Only the faithful would remain and confess the Nicene Creed to prepare for receiving the Holy Eucharist.
We so easily forget how great a gift we have been given. Just like we forget that one day, at a moment not of our own choosing, we shall surely die. At home with our children, in our marriages and friendships, how we spend our moments in our daily life give confession to our faith and testify to who and what we really love. While are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses who encourage and inspire us, let us remember that we ourselves are being witnessed by them as we give witness.
 Mt. 10:32
 From Orthodox prayer after communion
 Heb. 11:33-40
 Heb. 12:1-2
 Mt 10:32
 Mt 10:37-38
 personal conversation with the author
 Jn 14:4-6
 Rom 8:22-24
 Elder Aimilianos, The Mystical Marriage, p.5.
 The Philokalia, Vol. I, p. 159
 The Mystical Marriage, p. 112
 Jn 6:54
 I Cor. 10:17
 the spiritual, psychological and systemic fragmentation resulting from the fall. Cf. When Hearts Become Flame, S. Muse.