What is a Christian? What is a Saint?

The Orthodox Dogma of sanctity, by St Justin Popovich

Oct 3/16 2009 19th Friday after Pentecost

orthodox-faith-and-life-in-christ-justin-popovich-book-cover.jpg  “What are Christians? Christians are Christ-bearers, and by virtue of this bearers and possessors of eternal life, and this according to the measure of faith and according to the measure of holiness which is from faith.


The Saints are the most perfect Christians, for they have been sanctified to the highest degree with the podvigs [1] of holy faith in the risen and eternally-living Lord Christ and no death has power over them. Their life is entirely from the Lord Christ, and for this reason is entirely Christ’s life; and their thought is entirely Christ’s thought; and their perception is Christ’s perception. All that they have is first Christ’s and then theirs. If the soul, it is first Christ’s and then theirs. In them is nothing of themselves but rather wholly and in everything the Lord Christ.


Therefore the Lives of the Saints are nothing else but the life of the Lord Christ, repeated in this or that form.” (St Justin Popovich, “Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, in the Chapter “Introduction to the Lives of the Saints”, pp 34,35)

Saint Justin Popovich - photograph


How far away is our life from Fr Justin’s description of what we should be! How far away is the conception of the typical Christian of this reality!


I hope to serialize other portions of this “desert island” book by St Justin in the future.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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[1] The very rich Russian word is difficult to translate. It basically means an intense spiritual struggle. One cannot have a podvig without struggling AS a Christian, in other words, all intense struggles are not necessarily podvigs.


  1. Thank you, Father!
    So informative & edifying being so short. Only very spiritually gifted persons have this capability…

    I often asked myself a question what’s the basic difference between good Christians, righteous persons & Saints. I think what unites them is that they both restrain from mortal sins. Righteous people practice virtues, learn them, but at times they deviate, and our sinful nature still have some power over them.

    I think in Saints the Saint Spirit prevails, and all their actions & thoughts are dominated & guided by the Saint Spirit. Good Christians have the Saint Spirit too, but it does not prevail in them, and they thus do not have the gift of reasoning (descant?), which, as per St Ignaty Brianchaninov, is the ability to recognize God’s will in all circumstances, in all things, in all events…Thus, having obtained this gift by living by Christ & purifying their thoughts, they follow God’s will in all their thoughts & actions, and are capable to showing it for other people. This is only possible by the Saint Spirit. They have conquered their sinful nature. This is why they are called Saints.

    It’s like good pupils & teachers….

    Please correct me if I am wrong. I would like very much to clear it up for myself.


  2. I truly love Saint Justin. As a young high school student my family life was in turmoil to say the least. Every morning the Popovich girls who sat by me would lift me up by their kindness and caring. When others made fun of me for having only one set of clothes they would be kind. There was something special about them. The more I visited with their family and friends there was a peace. So many in the public schools picked fights with the boys from their family. The boys were courageous and disputes were done in a private with dignity with boxing gloves.Not with boasting and crowds that was so popular.

  3. Both of your recent posts, Michael, were very descriptive and moving. Thank you for sharing your stories.

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