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
Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:8
Good morning Prayer Team!
Having remembered all the saints, let us again in peace pray to the Lord.
The petition we are reflecting on today is a very special one to every man who serves is a member of the clergy. That is because when a person is ordained as a deacon, the first order of the clergy, the ordination takes place immediately prior to this petition. And once the ordination has concluded, the first liturgical line that is offered by the newly ordained deacon is this petition.
While this petition may seem mundane to many, like “AGAIN we’re praying in peace,” when I offer this petition, I think of a military jet lighting its afterburner. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, if you’ve seen a military plane, like in the movie “Top Gun,” the two engines in the back of the plane light up and provide increase in thrust and speed when taking off and in combat situations. What is a normal flight becomes a “supersonic” flight. The afterburner is used to rapidly increase altitude and it is used in combat situations in order to provide extra speed in hostile territory.
Even though when I get to this petition, I do not increase the pace of the service, my spirit kicks into another gear. For now the Gifts are not waiting to be consecrated, they are ready to be received. Only a few petitions and prayers stand between us and the reason we came to church, to touch Christ and for Christ to touch us.
This prayer “in peace” is different than the initial petitions at the beginning of the Liturgy. When we begin the Liturgy, we come to church oftentimes frazzled by the stresses of the world. We begin our worship with prayers for peace, and part of that peace is peace for our minds that are filled with stress and worry. Having now been in worship for some time (if we’ve attended from the beginning of Orthros, we have been in worship for nearly two hours, and if we’ve attended from the beginning of the Liturgy, we have been in worship for nearly an hour), hopefully our minds are relaxed from the stresses of life. Having now done all the work we’ve done so far in the Liturgy, we want to keep our posture of peace as we make the turn to the main event for which we all came.
If the word “Agios” means “set apart,” and the saints are those who have set themselves apart because of their pursuit of holiness, we now invoke “the saints” in this petition to remind ourselves that we are not alone. We may have felt worn down and alone when we entered the church, but the service has reminded us that we have enjoined our prayers together with “all the saints.” We are no longer alone. We should no longer feel beat down. Because we are standing in the presence of holy people and we are enjoining our prayers with their intercessions.
So, having remembered all the saints and joining our prayers with theirs, we offer one final set of petitions before Holy Communion, beginning them in the same way as the other sets began, praying in peace to the Lord, but praying in greater number and with greater strength.
Going back to the image of the afterburner, for those who know how military planes work, the afterburner can only be used for short periods, as it burns up a lot of fuel. The afterburner is used to give what is an already powerful fighter jet a little extra thrust. In our spiritual lives, we can’t live as if we have an afterburner going constantly. The spiritual life is a steady and methodical one. Like the fighter jet, we are built in a powerful way, because we are created in the image and likeness of God. However, the extra boost we get at the Divine Liturgy from Holy Communion creates even greater strength to carry into the battle of the week. It lets us reach new spiritual heights (higher altitude) and gives us added strength to combat the storms and stresses we all face.
Having reached a high altitude in the service, since we have called the Holy Spirit down on ourselves and on the gifts, the Divine Liturgy now kicks into high gear as we race toward its glorious conclusion.
Lord, thank You for the gift of the Divine Liturgy. Even though it is a service I hear many times in my life, help me to always hear it with renewed joy. Allow its words to inspire me towards a greater sense of commitment to You and service to others. In the Liturgy, we continually pray for peace. Help me to be a person who promotes peace to others. Continue to grace my soul with peace as well. Amen.
Light the afterburner of your soul today!
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