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
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22: 34-40 (From the Gospel read at the Bridegroom Service on Holy Monday Evening) Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
Good morning Prayer Team!
Can you name all Ten Commandments? Most of us can name at least seven or eight of them. Most of us probably forget one or two. At least when we hear the phrase “The Ten Commandments”, we know what is being referred to.
Did you know that in the Old Testament, there are actually 613 “commandments”? There are the ten we are most familiar with, as well as 603 others. And these rules are not “suggestions,” they are “commandments.” They comprise what is called “The Mosaic Law” and they are found in the Old Testament Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Here are two random “commandments” from the list of 613:
If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him. (Exodus 22:25)
You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain. (Deuteronomy 25:4)
Having read over the list of the 613 commandments, the list is daunting to merely READ, let alone memorize, let alone put into practice. In the Old Testament, it was the priests who were charged with the keeping and enforcing of the law. Of course, we realize back then, that most people did not read. They lived a simpler, agrarian lifestyle. And this opened the door for abuses by the temple priests to bind heavy burdens on the people, who couldn’t follow the Law. And who COULD follow the Law, every last commandment of the 613? No one!
Jesus simplified all of this when He condensed all of the Law, all 613 commandments, into TWO commandments—Love God, and love your neighbor. Everything in the Law falls under one of these two commandments. Take just the Ten Commandments:
Having no other gods before us, not worshipping graven images, not taking the Lord’s name in vain and remembering the Sabbath to keep it holy fall under the commandment to love God. Honoring father and mother, not killing, not committing adultery, not stealing, not bearing false witness and not coveting fall under the commandment to love our neighbors.
Imagine the anger of the temple elite, who came to “trap” Jesus by goading Him into answering the question about which of the laws was the greatest. He took the plentitude of the Law, which had been mastered only by the priests, and made it accessible to all the people.
As Christians today, we don’t have to memorize the Mosaic Law. We don’t even necessarily need to memorize the Ten Commandments. If we are loving God and loving our neighbor, we are following God’s law. And if even TWO commandments are too much to remember, you can summarize the entirety of all the commandments in one word: LOVE. If we think about it, all sins can have one cause: Failure to love. Failure to love is what causes us to sin. That’s why Jesus talks about love so much, because love is the basis for God creating the world. Failure to love God is what led to the fall of mankind. John 3:16 tells us “For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The potential for salvation is rooted in God’s love. And finally, our judgment before God and His decision to admit us to His Kingdom will be based on whether we have loved (Him and our neighbor), and on His mercy and love towards us.
Christianity is not a contest to memorize laws. Rather it is supposed to be a life centered around loving God and loving others. For we don’t worship rules. We worship the Lord. And we do that by loving Him and one another.
Into the splendor of Your Saints, how can I, the unworthy enter? For should I dare to come into the Bridal chamber, my vesture will reproach me, not being a wedding garment; and bound, I shall be cast out by the Angels. O Lord, cleanse the impurity of my soul, and save me. (From the Praises of the Bridegroom Service of Holy Monday, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Show love for God and for your neighbor in all that you do today!
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