Glorification (also referred to as canonization) is the term used in the Orthodox Church for the official recognition of a person as a saint of the Church.
In the Orthodox Church glorification of saints is the recognition that God’s holiness is manifested in the Church through those grace-filled men and women whose lives were pleasing to God.
The manner in which a person comes to be known as a saint begins long before any official inquiry is made into that person’s life. It begins when that person is honored/venerated by the people where he or she lived and died. His or her memory is kept alive by the people who pray for his or her soul and who ask him or her for intercession. Those persons who are great in their Christian spirit, glorious in their service to the Church, served as beacons illumining the world leave behind themselves a memory which is not confined to a narrow circle of people, but which becomes known throughout the whole Church, both locally and universally. Thus, it is only God who can "make" a saint.
Very soon after Our Lord sent the Holy Spirit to his assembled apostles and disciples, the Church recognized those who had served God as ancestors of Christ and foretold his coming, proclaimed the Gospel, and risked their lives bearing witness to Christ. These people were remembered and honored often through annual celebrations without any formal process that established them as saints. Their remembrance and honor grew from the actions of the faithful until these holy ones were remembered by the whole Church.
This manner of recognizing those who were holy among us continues today within the Orthodox Church, except now the recognition of the glorification of a person has been formalized within the services of the Church, an act often referred to as canonization.
Today, as more clergy and faithful recognize and honor that one amongst them had led a virtuous life of obvious holiness this veneration becomes widely recognized, and the manner of recognition is formalized. This leads to requests, usually through the diocesan bishop, for the Church to recognize that person as a saint. Then, usually an investigative committee is formed to review the life of the person who is being considered for glorification. When the committee is assured that the person has led a virtuous and God centered life, a process that may take an extended period of time, a report is submitted to the Holy Synod of the local Church stating the reasons why the person should or should not be recognized as a saint.
After receiving and considering the report, the Holy Synod decides whether or not to number that person among the saints. If the bishops agree they then have icons painted and liturgical services composed for the glorification of the new saint. If the bishops do not agree, the life of the person may again be considered at a future time after further study.
The formal Rite of Glorification begins with a memorial service for the person about to be glorified, after which Vespers and Matins are chanted with special hymns to the saint, and the icon for the saint is unveiled. The feast date for the commemoration of the new saint is established, and the life of the saint is published. Finally, the glorification of the new saint is made known to the other Orthodox Churches so that they can place the name of the new saint on their calendars.
- The Glorification of Saints in the Orthodox Church by Fr. Joseph Frawley
- The Glorification of Saints by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
- What Does Glorification Mean? by Fr. Alexey Young