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.”
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. John 14:27
Good morning Prayer Team!
Let us depart in peace. Let us pray to the Lord.
The journey of the Divine Liturgy is about to come to a close. Only two prayers remain. As we are about to offer the penultimate prayer, we are invited not only with the customary words “let us pray to the Lord” but with a command to “let us depart in peace.” The very first petition of the Divine Liturgy called us to gather in peace to pray to the Lord. The second petition asked “for the peace from Above” for God’s peace to descend on us. And the third petition asked “for peace in the whole world” calling on us to be peaceful towards one another.
Peace is so important that three sets of petitions began with exclamations to “again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord.” We’ve asked for “a perfect, holy, peaceful and sinless day” and “for an angel of peace” in our petitions. Before the reading of the Gospel, reciting the Creed, and receiving Communion, we have been blessed with the words “peace be with all”, a reminder that one cannot understand scripture, be a person of faith or become one with Christ if he/she has no peace.
And so now, as we are about to depart, we are not only reminded, but commanded to “depart in peace.” In fact, in the most ancient Divine Liturgy of St. James (which is celebrated now only on his feast day of October 23), the service ends with the words “go in peace.”
The Divine Liturgy, and our identity as Christians is not supposed to just fit into a compartment on Sunday mornings or on feast days. The Divine Liturgy is a reminder of how life is to be lived constantly. Our identity as Christians is something we carry not only in church, but long after the service has ended. As we head back into the world, we are reminded to carry peace with us. We are reminded to return to the world and its stresses with a heart that is hopefully now more at peace than it was when we entered the Divine Liturgy. For the journey of the service is meant to set us at peace.
Not only are we reminded to carry peace in our own hearts and souls back into the world, we are reminded to spread peace to others. We are called upon to be peacemakers. Remember the hymn of the angels, heard at the Nativity, which is offered by the priest prior to the beginning of the Liturgy: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) It says that peace is not something that comes to everyone, but is a gift that is bestowed by God to people with whom He is pleased. As we depart from church, we pray that God will bestow this gift on us, and that our hearts will be ready to receive it throughout the week.
Finally, peace is not an idea, but an action. The Liturgy isn’t some kind of “production” that we watch, but a work that we participate in, both in church and long after the service is over. Like the call to give “worthy thanks” to the Lord, we are also called upon to be workers for peace. As peace is found both at the beginning and end of the Liturgy, as well as at many points throughout the service, it is a reminder that peace should be part of our everyday lives and should be one of the major themes for the entirety of our lives.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for HE will speak peace to His people, to His saints, to those who turn to Him in their hearts. Surely His salvation is at hand for those who fear Him that glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. Yea, the Lord will give what is good and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before Him and make His footsteps a way. Psalm 85: 8-13
Be a peacemaker today!
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