Our Master Christ has provided us with the relics of the saints as salvific springs, which gush forth an array of blessings, and streams of fragrant myrrh. No one should doubt this. If God, when He so desired, made water flow from a jagged rock in the desert (Ex 17:6) and from the jaw of a donkey (for Sampson who was thirsty) (Judges 15:19), is it impossible for fragrant myrrh to flow forth from the relics of the martyrs? Not at all! Not for them who know the power of God and the honor that He gives to His saints.
According to the Law, anyone who touched a dead person became unclean (Numbers 19:11); however, the saints are not dead. Ever since the source and cause of Life was numbered among the dead, we no longer call “dead” them who have fallen asleep with faith in Him and with hope in the resurrection. How is it possible for a dead body to perform miracles? How is it possible for demons to be cast out, for the sick to be healed, for the blind to see, for lepers to be cleansed (Mt. 11:15), for temptations and to be dispersed, and for every good gift from the Father of lights (James 1:17) to descend through the saints upon the people who ask with undoubting faith? Shouldn’t we honor the protectors of the entire human race who pray to God on our behalf? Yes! We certainly should honor them by building churches for God dedicated in their names, by offering fruits, by praising their memories and spiritually rejoicing during their feast days. Let us, O faithful, honor the saints by “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19), with compunction and the oil of prayer, through which God is especially worshipped. Let us raise pillars and visible icons of them, and let us become living pillars and icons of them by mimicking their virtues.
Let us honor the Theotokos as literally and truly the mother of God. Let us honor the prophet John as the Forerunner, Baptist, apostle, and martyr, who became the first preacher of the Kingdom of Heaven; “for there is no one amongst them born of women greater than John” (Mt. 11:11), as the Lord attested. Let us honor the Apostles as brothers of the Lord, as witnesses and servants of His sufferings, whom God the Father “foreknew, and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29); “first apostles, second prophets, third shepherds and teachers” (1 Cor. 12:28). Let us honor the martyrs of the Lord, who were selected from various ranks as soldiers of Christ, who drank from His cup, and who were baptized in the baptism of His life- giving death. Let us honor them as communicants of His sufferings and His glory, of whom first is the archdeacon of Christ, the apostle and first-martyr Stephan. Let us honor our righteous fathers and the God-bearing ascetics who contested in the lengthy and toilsome martyrdom of the conscience, who “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth—of whom the world was not worthy” (Hb. 11:37-38). Let us honor the prophets, the patriarchs, and all the righteous people who lived prior to the period of grace, and who announced to us the advent of Lord. Let us carefully examine the conduct of each one of them and let us desire to imitate their faith (Hb. 13:7), their love, their hope, their zeal, their life, their perseverance in sufferings, and their patience unto death, so that we may also share with them in the crowns of glory.
—St. John of Damascus