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Glorification may have several meanings in the Christian religion. From the Catholic canonization to the similar sainthood of the Eastern Orthodox Church to the salvation in Protestant beliefs, the glorification of the human condition can be a long and arduous process.
Eastern Orthodox Church
Glorification is the term used in the Eastern Orthodox Church for the official recognition of a person as a saint of the Church. The Glorification of saints, as in the Catholic Church, is considered to be an act of God, not a declaration of the hierarchy. The official recognition of saints grows from the consensus of the church.
When an individual who has been sanctified by the grace of the Holy Spirit falls asleep in the Lord, God may or may not choose to glorify the individual through the manifestation of miracles. If He does, the devotion to the saint will normally grow from the "grass roots" level. Eventually, as the Holy Spirit manifests more miracles, the devotion to the individual grows. At this point there are no formal prayers by the Church to the individual. Rather, memorial services (Greek: parastas, Russian: panikhida) are served at the grave of the individual, praying for him or her—though an individual may pray privately to someone who has not yet been formally Glorified, and even commission Icons, which may be kept in the home but not displayed in the Temple (church building).
Eventually, the evidence of their saintliness will have grown to such a degree that a formal Service of Glorification will be scheduled. A Glorification may be performed by any Bishop within his Diocese, though such services are usually performed under the auspices of a Synod of Bishops. Often there will be a formal investigation to be sure that the individual is Orthodox in their faith, has led a life worthy of emulation, and that the reports of miracles attributed to their intercessions are verifiable. The Glorification service does not "make" the individual a saint; rather, the Church is simply making a formal acknowledgement of what God has already manifested.
Sometimes, one of the signs of sanctification is the condition of the Relics of the Saint. Some saints will be incorrupt, meaning that their remains do not decay under conditions when they normally would (natural mummification is not the same as incorruption). Sometimes even when the flesh does decay the bones themselves will manifest signs of sanctity. They may be honey colored or give off a sweet aroma. Some relics will exude myrrh. The absence of such manifestations is not necessarily a sign that the person is not a Saint.
In some traditions, an individual who is being considered for Glorification will be referred to as "Blessed," though there is no formal service of "beatification" in the Orthodox Church. Some fully glorified saints are also referred to as "Blessed," such as a Holy Fool for Christ (for instance, "Blessed St. Xenia") or saints who have been given this particular appellation (such as, "Blessed Augustine", "Blessed Jerome", and others). In such cases the title "Blessed" is in no way intended to imply that they are less than fully saints of the Church.
The particulars of the Service of Glorification may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but normally it involves the formal inscribing of the individual's name into the Calendar of Saints (assigning a special day of the year on which their feast day is to be celebrated annually), the chanting of a service in honor of the Saint (normally using specially commissioned hymns which are chanted for the first time at the Glorification) and the unveiling of an Icon of the new Saint. Before the Glorification itself, there may be a special "Last Panikhida", a solemn Requiem at which, for the last time, the Church prays for the repose of their soul. After the Glorification, the Church will no longer serve a Panikhida for the repose of his soul, but instead a Paraklesis or Moleben will be served to implore their intercessions before the Throne of God.
Martyrs need no formal Glorification. The witness of their self-sacrifice is sufficient (provided their martyrdom was the result of their faith, and there being no evidence of un-Christian behaviour on their part at the time of their death). Not all saints are known, many will remain hidden by God until the Second Coming of Christ. For this reason, on the Sunday after Pentecost the Orthodox celebrate all the righteous souls together on All Saints Sunday. In some jurisdictions, the Sunday following All Saints Sunday will be a day of general commemoration of all saints (known and unknown) of the local church. For instance, All Saints of the Holy Mountain, All Saints of Russia, All Saints of America, etc.
St. Symeon the New Theologian writes: "The saints in each generation, joined to those who have gone before, and filled like them with light, become a golden chain, in which each saint is a separate link, united to the next by faith, works, and love. So in the One God they form a single chain which cannot quickly be broken."
Oriental Orthodox Church
The Oriental Orthodox Churches also hold a doctrinal tradition similar to the Eastern Orthodox Churches whereby martyrs are not in need of any formal glorification. With time, the greatness of their sanctity which is venerated by the faithful is recognized by the Church. In the words of Armenian Patriarch H. H. Karekin II, "The Armenian Church doesn't sanctify. It recognizes the sanctity of saints or of those people that is already common among people or has been shown with evidence". This is in conformity with the tradition of other Churches in the Oriental Orthodox family such as Coptic Orthodox Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Indian Orthodox Church. The instances of glorification of the 21 Coptic martyrs in 2015 or the victims of Armenian genocide of 1915 simply serve as official recognition given by the hierarchs to the steadfast faith of those who laid down their lives in defense of their Christian identity.
The Anglican churches practice canonization of saints, somewhat similar to the Catholic concept. There are two events that occur during glorification, these are "the receiving of perfection by the elect before entering into the kingdom of heaven," and "the receiving of the resurrection bodies by the elect".
Glorification is the third stage of Christian development. The first being justification, then sanctification, and finally glorification. (Rom. 8:28-30) Glorification is the completion, the consummation, the perfection, the full realization of salvation.
Glorification as a term is modified by its target, aka, who is being glorified, God or the Christian? The third stage of Christian development is to glorify God through one's life, to decrease so that He may increase so that as others encounter a living breathing Christian who is walking in Glorification, they encounter Christ and perceive His Glory and His presence. This is attainable while living, just as justification and sanctification are attainable while living.
Receiving of perfection
Glorification is the Protestant alternative to Purgatory, as it is "the means by which the elect receive perfection before entering into the kingdom of Heaven." According to the theologies of most major Protestant groups, Purgatory is a doctrine of the Catholic Church, a holding place for those whose lives were dominated by venial sins but not guilty of mortal sins. On the other hand, to Protestants, glorification is a continuous, flowing process, whereby believers in Jesus the Christ, who have either died or who are raptured alive (called up into heaven), receive glorified, perfect bodies and souls, sinless and Christlike. Those still living on earth have no effect on the outcome of those believers who have died or are raptured, nor do they have an effect on those who die without Christ.
While purgatory deals with the means by which the elect become perfect, Glorification deals with believers in Jesus being given perfection. The majority of Protestant denominations believe in this concept of glorification or something analogous to it, although some have alternative names for it.
Receiving of the resurrection bodies
After the final judgement, all the righteous dead shall arise and their bodies will be perfected and will become a glorified body. Only then can they enter heaven. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis's Weight of Glory: "If we were to see them in their glorified forms we would be tempted to bow down and worship them."
- 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
- Eastern Orthodoxy and Theosis
Receiving of Perfection