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
Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight; for I give you good precepts: do not forsake my teaching. Proverbs 4: 1-2
Let us be attentive.
Two scripture readings are part of each Divine Liturgy. One is from either the Acts of the Apostles or one of the Epistles. The other is from one of the Gospels. (The Pre-Sanctified Liturgy during Great Lent has scripture readings from the Old Testament, two prophecies. During Holy Week, a Gospel lesson is added to the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy in addition to the prophecies. Old Testament prophecies are read at many vespers services, while New Testament scriptures are part of nearly every other service in the Orthodox Church—Paraklesis, Baptism, Wedding, Funeral, Orthros, etc.)
Every time a reading is introduced in a service, we are given the book from which it is taken, but not the specific chapter and verse. For instance, we may hear, “The Epistle is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” but the chapter and verses are not stated. The reason for this is that chapters and verses were not added until the 15th century.
And every time after a reading is introduced in the service, the priest or deacon gives the prompt, “Let us be attentive.” We are told to pay attention. Why? Aren’t these readings from the first century? Why are they important today?
We are told to pay attention because the things that affected the early churches still affect our church today. For instance, when St. Paul writes in I Corinthians 13:3, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing,” this message that love is the greatest of virtues rings as true for the church in the 21st century, as it did in the first. These lessons that we hear in the Epistles are timeless.
In Galatians 5:22-23, we read “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such there is no law.”
In Titus 3:9, we read, “But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile.”
In Romans 5:3-4, we read “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”
In each of these passages, we read messages that are applicable to our lives today. St. Paul, and others, were writing to the churches of the 1st century, and continue to speak to our churches of the 21st Century. This is why the Epistles are read in our churches at the Divine Liturgy. And this is why we should be attentive to their words. Solid spiritual advice to today’s churches and today’s parishioners. Amazing how the spirit inspired the authors of the Epistles to write things that are timeless in their value.
Remember this: It is not enough to merely hear what is read. It is important to apply what you hear to your life. To be not only a hearer, but a do-er. This is why we must be attentive—attentive to what is heard, and attentive in our lives to apply what is heard to our everyday lives, to our everyday decisions, in our everyday challenges.
Lord, thank You for the timeless gift of Scripture which You inspired to be written centuries ago. Thank You for giving us this timeless advice to guide us through our lives today. Help me to understand what I read and what I hear and help me to apply what I hear to my life. Continue to grow in my heart a love for reading scripture and help me to find comfort and direction in its many beautiful passages. Amen.
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