Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
After this Jesus revealed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberius; and He revealed Himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His Disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. John 21:1-3 (From the Tenth Eothinon Gospel of Sunday Orthros) Friday of the 3rd Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
I remember a professor I had at the Seminary used to joke, when talking about the reactions of various people to the Resurrection of Christ each year, that many people quote St. Peter and say “I am going fishing” and don’t show up for church for many weeks or months after Holy Week. The truth is that there is quite a “let down” after the journey of Lent and the intensity of Holy Week. Now nearly three weeks removed from Pascha, have you made good on your Lenten goals or have you regressed back into pre-Lenten habits you were working to change? Are you still working? Or have you “gone fishing?”
Many times we feel like the Disciples did when they had a bad fishing day. We feel that we are putting in the work but are catching nothing. Every year someone tells me after Holy Week that they didn’t get a lot out of the experience. Which leads naturally to the question of how much did you put into it? But there are people who attend church regularly, who are “doing the work” but are still not getting anything out of it. And here is where one of the greatest challenges to Christianity comes in: DO-ing church versus BE-ing the church. And there is a critical difference.
There are plenty of people who buy nice clothes to wear to church, who wear nice crosses around their necks, who have beautiful Bibles on their shelves, and if they are Orthodox may even have expensive icons on the walls. One can have nice clothes and “go” to church each Sunday and not worship. One can wear a cross around his neck and still be dishonest and act unchristian. One can have a large collection of Bibles and not read them. And one can have beautiful and expensive icons and not pray in front of them. A Church community can even have a full house on Sundays but neglect the poor, not welcome the visitor, and not be in tune with the parishioner who might really need some help. These are all examples of “DO-ing” church rather than “BE-ing” the church.
The goal of the Lenten and Holy Week journeys was not to “do” church, in the sense of “putting on” good services. It was to re-energize us to BE the church. It was to re-energize us to pray, to read the scriptures, to worship with purpose, to commune with renewed joy and to live the Christian life with greater enthusiasm.
In our church, we greet each other for forty days with the words “Christ is Risen,” or in Greek “Christos Anesti.” Are you still greeting people with these words? And the response to this greeting is “Alithos Anesti” in Greek or “Truly He is Risen” in English. I was at a church event recently and I was greeting people “Christos Anesti” and the response was “Alithos!” Alithos?! That is the equivalent of saying “Christ is Risen” and the response being “truly.” Truly, what? The Resurrection of Christ merits more than a ho-hum response. It demands more than an “I’m going fishing” attitude. The Resurrection of Christ demands a response. It demands a standing up with joy, with purpose. It calls us to action, not complacency.
The actions are TWO—individual action and community action. The individual action is development of one’s own personal spiritual life—Make sure that you are praying every day, even if it is for a short period of time. Feed yourself with the Scriptures. Again, you don’t have to read chapters, read only a few verses and really meditate on them. The verse that comes to my mind as I’m writing is Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Meditate on this verse today if you are frustrated in any way with your life. If the Lord is your Shepherd, and you want for Him, and are satisfied with Him, then life’s disappointments will be short-lived, since He is leading you to the “sheep pen” of heaven. Meditate and prepare daily for your next encounter with Christ in the Eucharist.
As for the community action, make a gesture of love toward a neighbor in some way each day. This can be something as simple as opening a door for someone, being a courteous driver, sitting with someone who has no one to talk to at lunch, or being the sympathetic ear for someone who needs to talk.
There is nothing wrong with going fishing, or taking in a baseball game, or enjoying a pizza. But don’t let the fishing, the baseball or the pizza become the primary focus of your life. I’m reminded of the words of I Chronicles 16: 9-11: “Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, tell of all His wonderful works! Glory in His Holy Name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His presence continually!”
After Your descent into Hades, the disciples despaired of Your resurrection, as might be expected in Your absence, O Christ. They returned to their work; to their boats and nets, but they caught nothing. But You, O Savior, have been revealed as Master of all and commanded them to cast their nets on the right side. Immediately the word became deed, and they caught a great multitude of fish and found an unexpected meal on shore, of which they partook. Now make us worthy to enjoy the same food spiritually, O Loving Lord. (Doxastikon of the 10th Eothinon, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press)
Keep working on those Lenten goals!
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