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.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8
Good morning Prayer Team!
Hopefully you never have to be in an operating room at the hospital (unless of course you work in one). But if you ever are in one, you will see that these rooms are spotless. Hard work is put in to keeping them that way. And just like the operating room must be kept clean so it can restore people to perfect health without causing them additional damage, we must keep our hearts clean so that they can keep us in perfect spiritual health and encourage spiritual health to those around us.
Why the heart? Because Jesus said “ “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) The pure in heart are those who are cleansed, first through baptism, then continual cleansing through tears of repentance.
Purity of heart is accomplished through focus on God. We achieve this through prayer, scripture reading, the Eucharist, church worship, repentance, fasting and almsgiving. When we focus on holy things, we become more holy. When we focus on unholy things, we become unholy. The hateful person sees hateful people, the dishonest person sees dishonest people, the loving person sees loving people.
In speaking about “seeing God”, many skeptics complain, “Where is God? I cannot see Him.” Well, the blind person cannot see a chandelier but that doesn’t mean chandeliers do not exist, only that he has not experienced them. Those who are spiritually enlightened, rather than spiritually blind, experience God, see Him in others, see Him in nature, do not doubt His existence. Obviously, the more we are purified, the more we see the things of God.
Passions are things that darken the soul—like lust, jealousy, egotism, dishonesty, gossip, desire for power, gluttony. Passions are things that are attractive to the eye of the body at the expense to the eye of the soul. The Orthodox, compared to other Christian denominations, emphasize God as light. The impure cannot see God, cannot stand to see God. Just like we cannot stand to look at the sun directly, not because someone tells us we can’t, we try to look and we can’t. After the soul leaves the body, if it is pure, it goes through to the Everlasting Light, which is what God intends. If the eye of the soul goes from dark to light, then the light of God will be beautiful to that person and the person will delight in looking at it. If the eye of the soul/center of the heart, what theologians call “the nous”, has not been purified, if it is still dark with sin, then the light of God burns it like fire, the soul cannot be with God—that is hell.
It is not that God doesn’t want all people, He wants everyone. But God will only accept to look upon Him those who are prepared. And for those who are not prepared, they will not be able to look upon God not only because God will not find them worthy, but because THEY will not be able to look upon God, just the same way that we cannot look into the sun.
Our eyes were created to see God. They were not created to see filth. If they are used for such a purpose, they will be rendered incapable of seeing God unless through repentance they are made pure again. When the heart is purified, then we clearly see what is truth and what is a lie, what is God’s will and what is not, what is of God and what is of the devil. We are also able to reflect, to mirror God to others; we become lights that shine for God in a sin-darkened world. And finally, we see God in ourselves, in others, and in the world around us.
Lord, thank You for allowing me to see the Light of a new day. Thank You for the heart that beats within me that sustains my life and all the joys that go with it. As my heart beats today, allow me to glorify You with each beat of my heart—to weigh out each thought, each conversation, each decision, so that each reflects You. Purify my heart and my mind, so that I can focus on what is good, and so that I can radiate goodness today. Allow me to see You in my life, and in those around me. Amen.
Focus your eyes on Godly things and your heart will be pure today!
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: desiringGod
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