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.”
Scriptures of the Triodion
Sunday of Orthodoxy
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” John 1: 43-51
Good morning Prayer Team!
Today is one of my favorite Liturgical days of the church year. First, after a week of Lent, we’ve arrived at a Sunday, which is always a day of joy. After a week of subdued services, we will again have the joyful celebration of the Liturgy. Secondly, today is the first of five consecutive Sundays when we will celebrate the Liturgy of St. Basil. The prayers of the Liturgy are rich in theology, in fact the entire theology of the church is contained in them. Third, today is the Sunday of Orthodoxy. In every Orthodox Church, there is a colorful procession at the end of the service where icons are carried around the church, commemorating the day that they were restored to the church after a 150 year absence. This restoration took place on the first Sunday of Lent in 843.
At the conclusion of the Procession, we read a Synodal Statement, issued in the year 843. This statement talks about the role of not only icons in the church, but of the church itself. It speaks about faith, it speaks about Christ. The boldest statements are:
This is the faith of the Apostles. This is the faith of the Fathers. This is the faith of the Orthodox. This is the faith that upholds the universe.
These are bold statements indeed. They are bolstered by an Epistle reading where we read about the saints,
Who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign enemies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. (Hebrews 11:33-35)
The saints were bold, daring, and faithful. They were willing to give their very LIVES for the cause of Christianity. The Gospel passage makes an equally bold statement, when Philip invited a “cynical” Nathanael to “come and see” Christ.
If there was ever a service you could consider to be a liturgical pep rally, it would be today. Yet, are we inviting people to come and see? Are we living our faith with the boldness of saints? If people “come and see” the church, will they see a “faith that upholds the universe,” or a faith that has a hard time holding up the roof? They need to come and see a church that is Christ centered, that is welcoming, that is genuine, that reaches out to serve, that prays and worships together, that forgives, that grows, that encourages.
Our world today needs people who will boldly declare the message of Christ. We need people to play the role of Philip. We don’t need people to conquer kingdoms or stop the mouths of lions, but we need people who show love and compassion, who embrace the message of Christianity and have a zeal to share it with others. Our universe is crumbling on so many levels. The faith is what is needed to restore and heal it.
The Synodal Statement of 843, in the Return of the Icons
As the prophets beheld, as the apostles have taught,
as the Church has received, as the teachers have declared,
as the world has agreed, as grace has shown forth,
as truth has been revealed, as falsehood has been dispelled,
as wisdom has become manifest, as Christ awarded;
thus we declare; thus we affirm;
thus we proclaim: Christ our true God, and honor His saints in words,
writings, thoughts, sacrifices, Churches, and Holy Icons;
on the one hand, worshiping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord, and on the other, honoring the saints as true servants of the same Lord of all, and offering them proper veneration.
This is the faith of the apostles.
This is the faith of the fathers.
This is the faith of the Orthodox.
This is the faith that upholds the universe.
Therefore, with fraternal and filial love we praise the heralds of the faith, those who with glory and honor have struggled for the faith, and we say: to the champions of Orthodoxy, faithful emperors, most-holy patriarchs, hierarchs, teachers, martyrs, and confessors: May your memory be eternal.
Let us beseech God that we may be instructed and strengthened by the trials and struggles of these saints, which they endured for the faith even unto death, and by their teachings, entreating that we may to the end imitate their godly lives. May we be deemed worthy of obtaining our requests through the mercy and grace of the Great and First Hierarch, Christ our God, through the intercessions of our glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, the divine angels and all the Saints. Amen.
Attend the Divine Liturgy and Procession of Holy Icons today!
Photo credit: Orthodoxy in America
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