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
And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24: 33-35 Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
We’ve all sat around a campfire. In my experience of campfires, it seems to take a lot of effort to get them going, some effort to keep them going, and little effort to put them out. I’m reminded of the Protestant song “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing; that’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it; you spread His love to everyone, you want to pass it on.”
It’s true, in very dry and parched terrain, it only takes a spark to start a forest fire. But that’s not how it works with a campfire. It takes some work to put together small “kindling” like newspapers and pine needles, and once those are set aflame, you have to keep the fire going until the larger pieces of wood catch fire and your camp fire is established. Once you have a nice size fire going, throwing on another log occasionally is all the work you have to do. However, not throwing on additional logs will allow the fire to go out in a very short amount of time.
When the fire is about to go out, what it needs is the addition of another log. When the spiritual fire is about to go out, what it needs is the addition of Christ. And the best way we add Christ to our lives is through Holy Communion. He is “made known to us in the breaking of the bread.” Looking back at the journey to Emmaus, the disciples were at first sad because Jesus had died. Then they were confused by the message that the unidentified man they were walking with was saying. Obviously that man was Christ but they didn’t recognize Him. They couldn’t quite put together what He was saying to them. But their hearts were burning and they wanted to know more. So, they invited Him to stay with them, and when He came and sat with them, and “broke the bread” in the same way He did at the Last Supper, this is when all their doubts were erased, and they knew He was the Risen Christ. This truth came to them in the breaking of the bread, in the Holy Eucharist. Because, as St. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The Eucharist is the “log” that stokes the fire which burns in our hearts.
Going back to the Emmaus experience, the “spark” that got the fire going was the interest of Luke and Cleopas in engaging in the conversation. This is what got their hearts to burn. The breaking of the bread is what set them afire. The spark needed to get us going is interest. But that is not enough to keep the fire going. We need the Eucharist to both set our hearts aflame and to keep the fire from going out. And we need the Eucharist on a regular basis. Remember the campfire—you have to throw a new log on every 30 minutes or so, or the fire burns out. But throw a log on every 30 minutes and the fire stays ablaze. Once the fire is going, the regular maintenance by throwing logs keeps the confidence high that the fire will continue to burn, providing light and warmth.
In our spiritual lives, we need the Eucharist on a frequent basis so that the Light of Christ stays ablaze in our hearts, and so that we have confidence that His Light will continue to burn in us, providing Light and warmth in our hearts and souls.
Our liturgical tradition of lighting a candle at the Resurrection service illustrates this point. We use a small flame from a single candle to ignite our hearts again with the warmth of Christ. The Light of Christ is enough to get our hearts to burn within us once again. We keep that fire going through the Holy Eucharist, for He is made known to us continually in the “Breaking of the Bread.”
The Communion Hymn of the Paschal season presents the Eucharist as a spring that quenches a thirsty soul. So whether we see the Eucharist as a fire to warm the heart or a spring to quench the thirsty soul, what is most significant is that the Eucharist is the gift that grows and sustains the faith that strengthens the heart and soul for the journey to everlasting life.
Receive the Body of Christ; and taste of the Immortal Spring. Alleluia. (Communion Hymn of the Paschal Season, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Make sure your plans for this coming Sunday include “Breaking bread” with Christ in the Eucharist!
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