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”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
Good morning Prayer Team!
For Saint John the prophet, forerunner and Baptist; for the holy, glorious and most honorable Apostles, for Saint(s) (Name-s) whose memory we commemorate today; and for all Your saints, through whose supplications, O God, bless us. Remember also all who have fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection unto eternal life. (Here the priest commemorates the names of the deceased.) And grant them rest, our God, where the light of Your countenance shines. Again, we ask You, Lord, Remember all Orthodox bishops who rightly teach the word of Your truth, all presbyters, all deacons in the service of Christ, and everyone in holy orders. We also offer to You this spiritual worship for the whole world, for the holy, catholic and apostolic Church, and for those living in purity and holiness. And for all those in public service; permit them, Lord, to serve and govern in peace that through the faithful conduct of their duties we may live peaceful and serene lives in all piety and holiness.
While the hymn to the Virgin Mary is being sung, three important things take place. The first is that the priest offers incense over the Gifts that have just been consecrated. Incense, as you will recall, is associated with prayer. The Psalms ask for our prayers to rise as incense before the Lord. And in the midst of the Anaphora, having just consecrated the Holy Gifts, this is a very appropriate occasion on which to offer incense together with our prayers to the Lord.
The second event that happens is that the priest blesses the “antithoron,” which is blessed bread offered to the faithful at the time of Holy Communion (to both break the fast, giving sustenance to the body, as well as to cleanse the palate of any remnants of Holy Communion so that if one coughs or sneezes, no remnant of the Holy Communion will come out of them) and at the end of the service, especially for those who didn’t receive Communion (the word anti-thoron means “instead of the Gifts.” In large parishes, it is not uncommon to see the priest bless several bowls of bread at this time.
The most important event that happens during this time is that the priest offers a prayer. The Virgin Mary is the “mother of all of us”, so as we sing her hymn, the priest offers a prayer and begins to pray for all of us.
He first invokes the names of saints. We commemorate St. John the Baptist, who in the icon of the Deisis, is pictured to the left of Christ (the Virgin Mary is on the right). We commemorate also the apostles, the saint(s) we commemorate on that particular day and “all the saints.” We ask that God will bless us, and we ask for the intercessions of the saints to bring about that blessing.
The priest is able to commemorate those who have passed on to the Church Triumphant by name in the service of the Proskomide (the preparation of the Holy Gifts which occurs before the Liturgy) and in the memorial service, which is appended to the end of the Liturgy. However, there is a place IN the Liturgy where specific names of our deceased loved ones can be mentioned and it is during this prayer which follows the Consecration. We remember “every righteous spirit made perfect in faith” along with the Theotokos and the saints and we also remember our loved ones by name. As the priest is remembering those who have passed on, it is also appropriate for the faithful in the church to remember their loved ones at this moment.
The prayer then transitions into prayers for the church militant. First, we pray for those who are leading the church—the bishops, the priests, the deacons and everyone in holy orders. Since we are offering this Liturgy “for all” we pray for the entire world. We pray for the “holy, catholic and apostolic church” quoting from the Creed. In doing so, we pray for the Gospel of Christ, the mission of the church, to be spread throughout the world. We pray for those living in purity and holiness, those who are striving for pure and holy lives. This does not only include monks and nuns and people who have dedicated their entire lives to Christ. It includes us who sit in the pews, striving for holiness in our own unique walks of life.
We pray for those who are in public service, that the Light of Christ will shine through their efforts. Whether our civil authorities are Christian or not, whether they separate the state from the church, they are the authorities that set the course of life in our country and throughout the world. We pray for those in public service that they work for peace and that all people who live in every nation will have peaceful lives, striving for piety and holiness, whether deliberately or even unintentionally.
In the Anaphora of the Liturgy of St. Basil, the prayer offered here is significantly longer. I would like to offer a portion of it below, as it includes more specific groups of people who are prayed for in the Liturgy of St. Basil.
Remember, Lord, those who bear fruit and do good works in Your holy churches, and those who remember the poor. Reward them with Your rich and heavenly gifts. Grant them in return for earthly things, heavenly gifts; for temporal, eternal; for corruptible, incorruptible. Remember, Lord, those who are in the deserts, on mountains, in caverns, and in the chambers of the earth. Remember, Lord, those living in chastity and godliness, in asceticism and holiness of life. Remember, Lord, this country and all those in public service whom you have allowed to govern on earth. Grant them profound and lasting peace. Speak to their hearts good things concerning your Church and all your people that through the faithful conduct of their duties we may live peaceful and serene lives in all piety and holiness. Sustain the good in their goodness; make the wicked good through Your goodness. Remember, Lord, the people here presented and those who are absent with good cause. Have mercy on them and on us according to the multitude of Your mercy. Fill their treasuries with every good thing; preserve their marriages in peace and harmony; nurture the infants; instruct the youth; strengthen the aged; give courage to the faint hearted; reunite those separated; bring back those in error and unite them to Your holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Free those who are held captive by unclean spirits; sail with those who sail; travel with those who travel; defend the widows; protect the orphans; liberate the captives; heal the sick. Remember, Lord, those who are in mines, in exile, in harsh labor, and those in every kind of affliction, necessity, or distress; those who entreat your loving kindness; those who love us and those who hate us; those who have asked us to pray for them, unworthy though we may be. Remember, Lord our God, all Your people, and pour out Your rich mercy upon them, granting them their petitions for salvation. Remember, O God, all those whom we have not remembered through ignorance, forgetfulness or because of their multitude since You know the name and age of each, even from their mother’s womb. For You, Lord, are the helper of the helpless, the hope of the hopeless, the savior of the afflicted, the haven of the voyager, and the physician of the sick. Be all things to all, You who know each person, his requests, his household, and his need. Deliver this community and city, O Lord, and every city and town, from famine, plague, earthquake, flood, fire, sword, invasion of foreign enemies, and civil war. Amen. (From the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press)
Remember to pray for those who live outside of our community and outside our country!
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