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.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
The Five Feasts of the Virgin Mary
Your divine throne endures forever and ever. Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity; you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor. Psalm 45:6-9
Good morning Prayer Team!
For the first fourteen days of August, the Orthodox Church has a solemn fast period as we prepare for the feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on August 15. Throughout this period of time, the church celebrates the Paraklesis Service of Supplication to the Virgin Mary, fervently asking for her intercessions to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As we prepare for this feast this week, the prayer team reflections will be based on the five feasts of the Virgin Mary—Her Nativity, Entrance into the Temple, Annunciation, Presentation of Christ, and her Dormition. Each feast has a different theme, as each commemorates a different event in her life. Taken together, these feasts not only offer a biography of the greatest human being that has ever lived, but they give us a portrait of what makes a good Christian life. On August 13-15, we will discuss the Scripture readings from the Feast of the Dormition. And on August 16, we will continue our series on “Engaged: Called to be Disciples.”
The Nativity of the Virgin Mary is celebrated each year on September 8. There is an apocryphal Gospel of St. James (which is not included in the canon of scripture) which speaks to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. Her parents, Joachim and Anna, were both advanced in age, when they were told by God that they would have a daughter. Back in Biblical times, not having a children was seen as a sign that one did not have favor with God. In modern times, we do not have such a stigmatism. Children are a by-product of marriage, not the reason for marriage. Therefore marriages without children can be just as successful as marriages with them.
The first part of the Virgin Mary’s story was the faith of her parents, who accepted this prophecy from God, knowing that they were old and that they would not raise her, that she would be raised in the temple for a life of service to God.
The first step in the Christian life is faith. In fact, it requires faith just to take the first step. Faith is when you don’t know what the outcome is and you still forge ahead. It takes faith to take the first foray into prayer, into reading the scriptures, into worship, into doing things you’ve never done before. And it takes faith to keep going. It takes faith to believe when you are confronted with something that seems impossible. Like having a child in old age, as God asked Joachim and Anna to do, or losing a child at a young age, as God would have the Virgin Mary do.
There is a divine plan for the world—Joachim and Anna were called to play an important role in it. Same with the Virgin Mary. And so it is with EACH of us. Each of us is called to play a role in our world. Some roles make people famous. Most roles are rather obscure. It takes faith to embrace your role and do your part. Joachim and Anna were still believing devoutly, even when the rest of the world wondered if they had lost faith with God. They hadn’t. And they didn’t shy away from what He was asking them to do, bear a child. Nor did they shy away from the role they would play as parents, guarding her for two years and then giving her to the temple. What if they had said no?
One of the challenges in our lives is to embrace our respective roles with joy and with faith. Each of us plays an important role in society. It doesn’t matter if we are not recognized with fame and fortune. The Lord knows what we are doing and the role we are playing, whether we embrace it with joy and sincerity or push it away. The challenge is, will you embrace your role? Do you have the faith to embrace the role He has called you to play?
Your Nativity, O Theotokos, imparted joy to the entire earth, for out of you has risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God. He nullified the curse and instead gave His blessing; and causing death to be neutralized, He granted us eternal life. Nativity of the Virgin Mary. (Apolytikion of the Nativity of the Theotokos, Fourth Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Live out your role(s) with faith today!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
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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