For Every Good and Perfect Gift is From Above

O save Thy people, and bless Thy heritage; be Thou their shepherd, and carry them forever.  Psalm 28:9

O Lord, I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwells.  Psalm 26:8

Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from Above, coming down from the Father of lights with Whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  James 1:17

 

Good morning Prayer Team!

Lord, bless those who praise You and sanctify those who trust in You.  Save Your people and bless Your inheritance.  Protect the whole body of Your Church.  Sanctify those who love the beauty of Your house.  Glorify them in return by Your divine power, and to not forsake us who hope in You.  Grant peace to Your world, to the Your churches, to the clergy, to those in public service, to the armed forces, and to all Your people.  For every good and perfect gift is from Above, coming from You, the Father of lights.  To You we give glory, thanksgiving and worship, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Many outside of the Orthodox world criticize our practice of the faith as being based more in “tradition” than in scripture.  I hope that these reflections on the Divine Liturgy help us recognize that virtually every line of the Liturgy has some connection to scripture.  What the author of the Liturgy has done is to take pieces of scripture from both Old and New Testaments and weave them into a beautiful service whose centerpiece is the Eucharist.  The Scriptures are timeless, in the sense that the Bible hasn’t been changed or added to since it was codified in the fourth century.  Similarly, because the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom leans so much on scripture, it also has not changed since it was authored in the fourth century.

The prayer we are examining today is a beautiful example of liturgical material that is scripturally based, and in this case draws from a few passages of scripture, including verses of both the Old and New Testaments.  In current practice, the priest will offer this prayer before the Icon of Christ.

As we are concluding the Divine Liturgy, our thoughts and prayers begin to transition back to the life we will resume once the service has concluded.  The prayer begins by asking the Lord to bless those who have gathered for the service to praise Him.  For merely gathering for the service, we receive blessings from God.

It is interesting to note, to me at least, that the word “trust” is used only twice in the Divine Liturgy.  It is used here, and it is used very early in the service in an inaudible prayer that quotes the first half of the prayer used here.   Those who put their trust and their faith in the Lord are sanctified, they are made holy.  The path to holiness begins with trust and faith.  And without trust, there cannot be sanctification.

As we are about to depart from the church, we pray that all of God’s people be saved and blessed, including not only those at the Divine Liturgy but all those we will encounter after the Liturgy is over, all that we will encounter this week.  We pray that the whole body of the church be protected.

The prayer then becomes more specific, asking for “sanctification” for those who love the beauty of God’s house. There is a challenge here for each of us.  Do we love God’s house?  Will we be back for the next Divine Liturgy?  And how will we prepare between now and then?

We ask that they may be glorified by God’s divine power.  We ask that God remember, and not forsake, all those who came to the service, who have put at least a measure of their hope in God.

Going back to the macro view of the world, we ask for peace for the whole world, for the churches, for the clergy, to those who serve and protect us, and to everyone.

I have come to believe that “if it’s not good, it’s not from God.”  For every good and perfect gift is from Above, so if it is not good, it is not from Above, it is not from God.  And if it is good, then God is the author of it, because He is the author of everything that is good.

The evil in the world has a human cause—bad things are caused by our own bad decisions and the bad the decisions of others.  “Natural” disasters are in fact, not natural.  God didn’t create the world to have floods and earthquakes.  They are part of our fallen nature (so I guess in a sense that are natural, a result of our fallen, now natural, state). How ironic that when something bad happens, we are quick to blame Him, but when something good happens, we are slow to glorify Him.

God is the author of all that is good.  And everyone partakes on a daily basis of something good.  This is why we continually are supposed to give Him, glory, thanksgiving and worship.

After offering this prayer, as the people sing the hymn that is the topic of the next reflection, the priest goes to the Prothesis, where the Chalice and Paten have been returned, and offers the prayer below.  The whole purpose of the Liturgy has not been fulfilled.  We came to separate from the world, to praise God, to recommit ourselves, to remember what He did for us and to commune with Him in the Eucharist.  All has now been fulfilled.

Christ our God, You are the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  You have fulfilled all the dispensation of the Father.  Fill our hearts with joy and gladness, always now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Thank God for His good and perfect gifts to you!

 

+Fr. Stavros

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Photo Credit: The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America

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Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John…
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