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” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Good morning Prayer Team!
Holy Week begins tomorrow. The journey is upon us.
The last piece of encouragement I offer as we begin the journey is for you to be transformed this next week. Hopefully you have made a Holy Week plan, are preparing to receive Communion several times, are opening your ears to listen to what God will speak to YOU, and you’ll participate and sing. Add all these together, and you are ready to be transformed.
What does transformed mean?
To be transformed means to be changed.
There are three ways one can look at Holy Week. One can see it as a series of rituals we do each year, and can “march through the paces” (or worse yet, just show up for a few of them) and take very little out of Holy Week. We can have almost a zombie-like participation, being present in body without any real understanding or desire for understanding.
The second way is to look at Holy Week as a vacation. Certainly if you attend each night, it will be a nice break from television and other things we do in our spare time. To disengage from the world on a vacation, or to attend the services of Holy Week is a good thing. Vacation provides for a period of relaxation. And Holy Week can do the same. The only problem with vacations are that they end. And it seems that very quickly they are forgotten as we jump back into the our regular hectic lives.
The third way to look at Holy Week, and this is the way I am going to try to look at it myself this year, and encourage you to do the same, is to allow yourself to be transformed in some way because of the experience. This will allow you to take the journey of Holy Week, its purpose, its focus, its many messages, and have them as part of your life long after Holy Week is over.
When Christ taught the disciples, for example, about the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30), He taught them that everyone has a talent, a purpose, an ability to glorify God while helping others. This is, in fact, the purpose to our life on earth. And we all have the ability to realize this purpose. Everyone has a talent. Holy Monday night and Holy Tuesday morning have talents as a theme. Come to church to one of these services, and reflect on your talents and how you can better use them to glorify God and serve others.
We are all wearied and exhausted from life. Come Holy Wednesday evening for Holy Unction and let the comfort of the prayers “wash over you” like a warm bath, cleansing you not only of sin but of anger and hopelessness. The words of these prayers are therapy for the wounded soul.
On Holy Thursday evening we will relearn through the reading of sacred Scripture how to be a good friend, that the greatest thing one can do is lay down His life for a friend. And we will then hear again how Jesus did exactly that for His friends, and for us.
And on Holy Saturday evening, we are given the opportunity for a new start, for all things to begin anew in the Light of Christ’s Resurrection.
At a recent GOYA retreat, our theme was “Rediscovering Jesus This Lent.” For some of us, Holy Week can be a time for rediscovering Him. And for some of us, Holy Week may be the time we discover Him for the first time. When someone “discovers” a new restaurant, or a new TV show, or a new vacation spot, they want to return again and again and again. May it be the same as we rediscover Jesus this next week. May we open our hearts and minds to rediscover Him, so that with renewed joy, we can return again, and again, and again, to prayer, to worship, to love, to service, to forgiveness, to purpose, to renewal, to joy, to hope. All this and more awaits us on the journey that begins tomorrow.
As you “pack your bags” for the journey, leave room in your suitcase for the gifts you will discover along the way. Leave room in your heart for deeper levels of faith. Leave room in your heart for Christ to enter and to transform you.
O God, Thou art my God, I seek Thee, my soul thirsts for Thee; my flesh faints for Thee, as in a dry land where no water is. So I have looked upon Thee in the sanctuary, beholding Thy power and glory. Because Thy steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise Thee. So I will bless Thee as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on Thy name. My soul is feasted as with marrow and fat, and my mouth praises Thee with joyful lips, when I think of Thee upon my bed and meditate on Thee in the watches of the night; for Thou hast been my help, and in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to Thee; Thy right hand upholds me. Psalm 63: 1-8
Have a blessed Holy Week!
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: iBelieve.com
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