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.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
Accepting the Invitation—Will You Be With Me?
And Jesus went up the mountain and called those whom He desired and they came to Him. Mark 3:13
Good morning Prayer Team!
For those of us on the prayer team who are married, can you remember the day you got engaged? I don’t think most guys give a long speech about specific hopes, dreams and details, and if so, I don’t think most girls would remember that. The gist of what gets said is “Will you be with me? I want to be with you. Let’s build a life together.” Getting engaged didn’t mean building a life together at THAT moment in time. It was a commitment to be together and build that life.
We don’t have wedding vows per se in the Orthodox Church, but most of us are familiar with them from the movies—husbands and wives vow to be together “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer,” etc. The commitment to be together transcends good times and bad ones, joyful times and sad times, times of marital bliss and times of marital strife.
The invitation of Christ is akin to a marriage proposal. He desires to share Himself with us, to intertwine Himself into our lives, so that we can be intertwined with Him for eternal life. Our relationship with Christ is supposed to transcend the good times and the bad ones, the joyful times and the sad ones, the times of bliss and the times of strife. Whether or not we are materially rich, Christ desires for us (and enables us) to be spiritually rich. And unlike the line in the vows which says “til death do us part,” we know that at the moment of our earthly death, we can become even closer to Christ, for the date of our death, for the devout Christian, is the day we enter into life in His Kingdom.
For those who are happily married, we know that one ingredient of a happy marriage is to give the greatest loyalty to our spouse, to our spouse first, even ahead of ourselves. And when we are with our spouse, with the person we love, it often doesn’t matter what we are doing. We are happy just BEING together, BEING in the same room, SHARING the same space.
Of course, it goes without saying that we should put our greatest loyalty and the first place of all to our Lord, with the second going to our spouse. Our lives should center around Christ, rather than centering Christ around our lives. Christ should be at the center. We should center around Him.
And just as with our spouses, whom we are happy to just BE with, we should have the same joy when we are BEING with the Lord. We don’t need to do necessarily anything, just BE with the Lord.
There is a beautiful quote in one of my favorite books, “Beginning to Pray” by Archbishop Anthony Bloom. Bloom writes:
In the life of a Catholic priest of France, the Cure d’Ars, Jean Baptiste Vianney, there is a story of an old peasant who used to spend hours and hours sitting in the chapel motionless, doing nothing. The priest said to him “What are you doing all those hours?” The old peasant said, “I look at Him,, He looks at me and we are happy.” (Beginning to Prayer, 1970, p. 94)
It is so beautiful how the peasant takes delight in just being with the Lord. We do everything so darn fast, it seems, we breeze through everything, and we have a hard time slowing down and just being. We are all in the “running” category. The first invitation of the Lord to the disciples wasn’t to run, or work, or do anything, just be—just to stop and share His company. It doesn’t matter what is said, how it’s said or even that it is said. We are supposed to take delight in being in the mere presence of God.
Those who are happily married to their spouses know that the invitation to share a life is one that is answered daily. It is a commitment that is renewed daily. It is renewed with time, with care, with an intimate closeness. The same thing is true with our relationship with God—It is not a one time commitment but one we renew daily. It is renewed with time, with care, with an intimate closeness found in prayer, in stillness, in worship, in Holy Communion. It is renewed through acts of kindness and charity, a sense of love for God and an expression of love for our neighbor.
Before we begin each day, diving into its opportunities and challenges, we have to remember the invitation of the Lord—Will you come, today? Will you be with Me today?
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. . .Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. . .Depart from evil and do good; so shall you abide forever. For the Lord loves justice; He will not forsake His saints. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their refuge in the time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked, and save them, because they take refuge in Him. Psalm 37:3-5, 7, 27-28, 30-31, 39-40.
Accept the invitation to BE with Christ 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: St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church
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