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
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
God has made everything beautiful in its time; also He has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
One of the “challenges” of being an Orthodox Christian, particularly someone who is coming to Orthodoxy as an adult, is that it requires an investment of time. This is not a “quick fix” expression of Christianity. In the early days of the church, there was a group of people called the “catechumenate.” These “catechumens” were people who were studying the faith in order to eventually convert and become Orthodox Christians. The period of study was two years. And during this time, the catechumens were not even permitted to remain in church for the Divine Liturgy. Before the Creed, they were excused from the service, with the priest saying “Guard the doors.” This line of the Divine Liturgy remains, and is a reminder that in more ancient times, only those who were committed Orthodox Christians were allowed to remain in the church to confess the faith by reciting the Creed and to receive Holy Communion. There is also indication here that most of the people in the congregation received Holy Communion. Therefore it was necessary to guard who could receive the Gifts by excluding from the building, all those who were not Orthodox Christians. As I said, we don’t do this anymore.
Now imagine if we told people they had to study two years in order to join our church. Who would stick with that? We live at a time where we are so used to quick fixes and “instant gratification” that we probably would have few people who would be patient enough to wait for two years to receive Holy Communion and become full members of the church. We are so elated to have people join the church that we rush to make them Orthodox and sometimes find that after they join, they are disappointed and fall away. Perhaps if there was a more formal and lengthy period of study, this wouldn’t happen. Those who “survived” two years of study would be truly committed to the faith.
Let’s look at those who are not converts, who have been Orthodox practically from birth. There is still an investment of time required to practice our faith. Take worship itself. The Divine Liturgy lasts approximately one hour. Add a long line for Holy Communion, the memorial service and the sermon and on many Sundays in many churches, the Divine Liturgy lasts closer to two hours. If one comes to the Orthros (Matins) which precedes the Divine Liturgy, the time commitment is even longer. I don’t know if this kind of commitment discourages or intimidates people because many people do not come on time for the Divine Liturgy, and miss critically important pieces of worship. Worse yet are those who don’t come regularly. They come only on the holidays like Christmas and Pascha.
As they say in the business world, one has to invest in order to get a return. No investment means no return. The same principle works in the church. If we invest time and effort into learning and practicing the faith, the return is immense. There is a sense of peace and a sense of purpose to a life where God is at the center. When life is lived without God in the center, as the years of life ebb away, eventually success leads to one feeling despondent as life begins a steady decline and successes become fewer and harder.
To commit to the Christian Faith means an investment of time—to pray, to worship, to learn and to serve. We gain nothing in return if we do not invest much into our “commitment.” Another important thing to note is that when one invests money into business, the return isn’t necessarily immediate. There may even be loss at the beginning or at some point. However, good investments eventually pay off and pay off big. The same is true with Christianity. One can invest some time and effort and not see a return immediately or on a given Sunday. Sometimes experiences with churches might even be negative on a given Sunday. The smart investor, however, does not evaluate based on a day but perhaps on a season or a year. The smart Christian also does not evaluate his or her Christianity based on one day, or one sermon, or even one priest. The smart investor expects losses at time. And like the smart investor, the smart Christian knows that good investments pay off eventually and pay off big, and this is especially true for an investment in Christ.
So invest in Christianity and in your church—invest your time, your talent and your resources. There will be joys and there will be setbacks, but over time, investments return. And spiritual investments especially bring peace, purpose, clarity and focus as big dividends that get paid out.
Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and shield. Yea, our heart is glad in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Thy steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in Thee. Psalm 33: 18-22
You’ve got to invest in order to get a return, whether we are talking about Church or a business. In Christian terms, invest in the Church and you are sure to receive a spiritual reward, perhaps not on the day we invested, but on many days when we invest ourselves more wholly on God and on serving others, there will be reward and the reward will be great!
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.
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