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
Wonder and Awe
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. John 1: 35-39
Good morning Prayer Team!
How often do you feel in “awe” of something? Let’s forget religious things for a moment, and just reflect, how often does the word “awe” come to your mind? And in what circumstances?
I feel “awe” at certain things in nature. Having visited Yosemite National Park in California many times, I feel a great sense of awe when I see a 2,000 foot waterfall and hear its thunderous roar. I feel in awe on a clear night when I see more stars than I can count and realize how small I am in the whole span of creation. And I feel in awe when I see someone using a special talent—someone with a great voice, someone who offers a moving speech.
Sadly, most of life is rather mundane. I don’t wake up every day thinking or wondering or planning to experience something awesome. However, I know awesome when I see it, and I have capacity to allow myself to feel in “awe.” I really wonder at what percentage of the population experiences something “awesome” and how often it happens.
The examples I gave above—Yosemite, the stars, a great voice, a moving speech—these are examples of positive “awe.” There is also “negative awe.” Most of us have experience with this. 9/11 is an example of “negative awe.” How so many people could die in a single moment in a single place. The explosion of the space shuttle, the Tsunami’s in 2004 and 2011 also brought a “negative awe” as we watched events that seemed surreal.
Whether “positive” or “negative” awe leaves us with an overwhelming experience of reverence, of astonishment, of loss for words. Awesome things are things we never forget. I still remember what I was doing when the space shuttle exploded in 1986. I can still feel the thunder of the waterfalls in Yosemite.
Being a disciple of Christ includes the gift of awe and wonder. To follow Christ causes feelings of awe. I have had several “awe” moments as a priest. Not all of them involved things of joy. Watching someone take their last breath, being in the room when the angels of God come to take a soul out of a body, that is “awe”-some. Joining the hands of a couple in marriage, watching someone come back in repentance in the sacrament of confession, listening to the sounds of a good choir singing God’s praises, and standing at the altar and celebrating the Liturgy, these are personal “awe” moments. I confess that they are not awesome each time out—they should be. In my frailty, with a mind often beset with distractions, many times I miss the awesomeness of these moments. However, when I give myself entirely to God in these moments, I experience His awe and in a profound way.
Awesome things inspire an overwhelming feeling of reverence, of astonishment, and loss for words. Awe inspires us, and motivates us. Awe is the beginning of the life of faith. Imagine the awe in the voice of John the Baptist, in today’s scripture passage, when he told his two disciples “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)
If a person visits Yosemite today, and in his hands holds his iPhone or iPad, never taking his eyes off the screen, he will never experience “awe”. He will be in an awesome place, but will never experience the awe, because he is distracted. God is all around us—in nature, in others, in us, but many times we miss the awe because we are distracted. We will be discussing silence, prayer, worship and other ways to experience the “awe” of God. Part of it, however involves us, and our ability to focus without distraction. For the awe of God is there for everyone to experience.
I will tell of Thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise Thee: You who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you sons of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you sons of Israel! For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and He has not hid His face from him, but has heard, when he cried to Him. Psalm 22:22-24
How awesome is God!
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: National Park Foundation
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