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This spiritual interdependence stretches beyond the grave. Closely associated with the monasteries was another practise rejected by the Reformation, the veneration of the saints. The saints were largely drawn from the monasteries. In the early days they were usually martyrs but the ascetic life came to be seen as a voluntary martyrdom ('death to the world', to use the title of a website developed for Heavy Metal loving Orthodox Christians). These are people who have drawn so close to God that Jesus's promises of miracle working apply to them - 'these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover' (Mark 16:17-18). Although miraculous events may occur during their lives it is only after their deaths that the Church will recognise them formally as saints - when the closeness to God and the ability to perform miracles are of course amplified

The ability of the saints to hear and heed prayers addressed simultaneously from all over the world, and the fact that there are large numbers of them may put one in mind of the old gods. But it is important to stress that the saints are human and have achieved sainthood through a human discipline, which is to say that they embody a potentiality built into human nature to go beyond the normal limits of space and time. To quote the words of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, representative of Russian Orthodoxy in London for many years: 'A miracle is not the breaking of the laws of the fallen world, it is the re-establishment of the laws of the kingdom of God.' (Living Prayer, p.93) This is a capacity that is in the nature of things and theoretically accessible to everyone, an indication of how things will be after the General Resurrection. The gods, incidentally, representative of forces of nature and of the human passions, have not disappeared in this scheme of things but have been reduced to the rank of demons.

Through the veneration of the Saints, heaven is both populated and immediately present and effective on earth. It is particularly present and effective in the church. I can't resist quoting Metropolitan Anthony again:

'A church, once consecrated, once set apart, becomes the dwelling place of God. He is present there in another way than in the rest of the world. In the world he is present as a stranger, as a pilgrim, as one who goes from door to door, who has nowhere to rest his head; he goes as Lord of the world who has been rejected by the world and expelled from his Kingdom and who has returned to it to save his people. In church he is at home, it is his place; he is not only the Creator and Lord by right but he is recognised as such. Outside it he acts when he can and how he can; inside a church he has all power and might and it is for us to come to him.' (p.87)

And the Saints are his court, present, together with the angels, at the liturgy and visibly present in the Orthodox tradition in the form of the icons which express the ideal of a transfigured humanity, particularly symbolised by the halo - which is not a pretty little chaplet floating above the head of a very human looking saint, but a full circle in which the transfigured human head is glorified.