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.”
LET US GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1
Create in me a clean heart, o God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Good morning Prayer Team!
The end of our unit on gratitude coincides with the feast of Epiphany. (Tomorrow and Sunday we’ll be going back to reflections on the Divine Liturgy with a new unit starting on Monday.) The feast of Epiphany commemorates the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. This feast is also called Theophany, as the Holy Trinity is revealed for the first time. The Son of God is baptized in the Jordan. The Spirit of God alights on His head in the form of a dove. And the voice of God the Father is heard saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
As part of the feastday in the Orthodox Church, a service called an “Aghiasmos” or “blessing of the waters” is held. In every church, a large basin of water is blessed, a cross is immersed in the basin and water is sprinkled over the church and over the members of the congregation. In certain places, the service is held outside and a cross is thrown into a body of water, where young men dive in to retrieve the cross.
The purpose of this service is to “re-consecrate” the creation on this feast of the Epiphany. History says that when Jesus descended into the waters of the Jordan River, the river reversed its flow. Not only the river reversed its flow, but the history of humanity reversed its flow, from a human race that was bound by sin and condemnation to one that could find repentance, redemption and salvation.
We know that the first sin of the human race was greed, caused by an ungrateful heart. On this feast day of Epiphany, as we re-consecrate the creation, it is a perfect opportunity to re-consecrate ourselves as children of God. And the first step in doing this is to approach God again with a grateful heart. If gratitude has been part of your daily life, keep coming to God in gratitude. If it hasn’t, then start today. Remember that the manifestation of gratitude is outward acts of thanksgiving. We can be grateful but not thankful, remember the ten lepers. All were happy to be healed. Only one came back in thanksgiving. So, be grateful in heart, but be thankful in work. Gratitude meets the first commandment, to love God with a grateful heart. Thanksgiving fulfills the second commandment, which is to love your neighbor as yourself.
The Jordan River reversed its flow out of sense of respect, awe and fear as the fire of the Godhead, Christ, touched the water. Christ touches us in so many ways—in Holy Communion, in small miracles, even in something as mundane as waking up today. Like the Jordan River, let us chart a new course that points to Christ, by working to make our hearts grateful and our lives thankful, and making these a priority. This week we began a new year, and today we celebrate a special feast, but we don’t need a special occasion to be grateful. Make gratitude part of every day and any day, and if you haven’t thanked God yet, or haven’t thanked Him in a while, start today. If you haven’t manifested your thanksgiving with a gesture of love towards someone else in a while, start today.
Be grateful for what you have. Show your gratitude by offering thanks to God through acts of service to others.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord is God! It is He that made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him, bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations. Amen. (Psalm 100)
Make gratitude and thanksgiving important parts of your life on a daily basis.
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