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
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you lead your host upon the holy mountains.
From before the morning star I have begotten You. The Lord has sworn a promise which He will not retract. “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” Entrance Hymn of the Nativity, adapted from Psalm 110: 3-5
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
I am departing from the “Engaged: Called to Be Disciples” series today, because today, May 15, marks 20 years since I was ordained to the priesthood. Rather than writing a reflection today, I want to reminisce a little bit and to thank you for the important role you play in my ministry.
When I was ordained on Friday, May 15, 1998, at the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Brookline, Massachusetts, I remember saying in my ordination speech that “the future is like a white canvas”. I had no idea what God would paint on that canvas through this ministry. I had no idea that in 2000, I would be moving to Asheville, North Carolina, a place I had never even visited, where I didn’t know a soul. Or that in 2001, I’d be asked to run a summer camp (and still be doing that in 2018). Or that in 2004, again we’d move, this time to Tampa, Florida, another place we had never been and where we didn’t know anyone.
I never dreamed in 1998 that in 2015 I would start writing every day, this message called “The Prayer Team,” and that many people would read it every day. Through this special ministry, I hope that by God’s grace, you are learning. I feel like I am learning by writing this each day. I hope that you feel the strength of the prayers offered each day by those who read this message. I know that I feel them.
The priesthood is at the same time (and sometimes on the same day), one of my life’s greatest blessings, and one of its greatest challenges. Twenty years did NOT go by in the blink of an eye. Rather it has been a slow march, sometimes very slow, sometimes painful, often times inspiring, very often stressful, fulfilling, depleting, renewing and crushing. I haven’t enjoyed every day of it but I have enjoyed many days of it. I have been thankful every day of it, for the awesome privilege I have to do what I believe is the most noble of callings, to serve the Lord by serving others.
On this day, I humbly ask you for your prayers, for me, my family (Lisa and Nicholas) and my ministry. Today’s prayer is the three hymns that are sung at a wedding (many are familiar with the “Dance of Isaiah” when the new couple go around the table three time). These hymns are also sung at an Ordination to the Diaconate, the Priesthood and the Episcopacy. However, the “Dance of Isaiah” is sung as the third hymn. The second hymn from the wedding, the one that pertains to sacrifice, is sung first.
After a priest is ordained, the Body of Christ (the entire piece of the Body of Christ, Holy Communion) is placed into the hands of the newly ordained priest. His joy of being ordained is quickly sobered when the ordaining Bishop tells the new priest, as he hands him the “Parakathiki”, the Body of Christ, that this is not only Holy Communion but represents the entirety of the Church, every person that he will meet as a priest. The Bishop tells the priest to receive this gift with joy, but to deal with it carefully, because at the end of his life, each priest will stand before the Lord and be judged not only on HIS OWN LIFE but on the spiritual lives of all those with whom he has come in contact as a priest. This is a very heavy and sobering moment.
I pray that I will always honor this charge and be respectful of this awesome responsibility. I know that I fail many times I fail to honor God and to honor others, which is why I pray for God’s forgiveness and yours also.
Today, as I mark this anniversary of ordination, most of all I feel gratitude. I am grateful to God for entrusting me with twenty years of being ordained as a priest. I am grateful to my family for standing by me in the good times and in the tough ones. I am grateful to my Spiritual Father and other priests who have ministered to me. I am grateful to the many people who have enriched my life as a priest, by allowing me to share in the most intimate moments of their lives—weddings, baptisms, funerals, hospital visits, confessions, deep conversations, and meaningful friendships. And I am grateful to each person who reads these messages. Thank you for your support, your encouragement, and most of all your prayers.
O Holy Martyrs who have fought the good fight and were crowned with glory; intercede to the Lord to show mercy on our souls.
Glory to You, Christ our God, the Apostles boast, the joy of the martyrs; who did proclaim the Trinity of one essence.
Oh Isaiah dance for joy; for the Virgin was indeed with child, and gave birth to a Son, Emanuel, who is both God and man; “From on High” is His name, and by extolling Him we do bless the Virgin.
(Hymns from the Sacrament of Ordination and Sacrament of Marriage)
Thank you for being part of my ministry!
Just a quick note about what is coming in the upcoming days. May 16-17 will be reflections on the Ascension of Christ. May 18 will be the next installment on “The Call to Be Disciples”. May 19-20 will be our usual weekend reflections on the Epistle and Gospel Lessons, May 21 will be the Gospel of the Feast of Sts. Constantine and Helen, and May 22 and following will continue our reflections on the “Call to Be Disciples.”
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Photo Credit: St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church
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