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
We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ
But when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4: 4-5
Good morning Prayer Team!
I have often been asked “What exactly does one need to believe in order to be a Christian?” In my humble opinion, there are three things that one needs to believe in order to be a Christian.
First, we need to believe that God created the world. In other words, someone greater than us made us. Second, we need to believe that the world is fallen. And third, we need to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who through His death and Resurrection redeemed the world. Let me address each briefly here.
As Christians, we believe that God created the heavens and the earth. And it’s not only because we read that in Genesis. The theory of evolution tried to debunk the story of creation as told in Genesis. When I think of creation, I think of playing dominos. If you set out one hundred dominoes and you knock down the first one, which domino knocks down the one hundredth domino? Was it the ninety-ninth? Or the first? Whether God’s hand was present in every step of creation, or if He began the first step of an evolutionary process, the fact is that in the beginning, there was God. Because science can go back to the first thing, be it a big bang, or a collection of gasses that caused the big bang, but it will never be able to explain who or what created the first thing, which is that God created the first thing that was ever created, because He alone is uncreated.
God created us in His image and likeness. He created us perfect. He did not create us imperfect. His intention for us was to share a union with Him. Mankind fell. God told the man and woman He created that they could do anything they wanted in the world, except eat from one tree. God did this, not to tempt us to disobey Him, but to establish free will. To create us without free will would have established us as either robots or slaves, not as children of God. Mankind decided to partake of the tree which was forbidden. And this caused the Fall of mankind, opening up a “Pandora’s Box” of problems for humanity. Where mankind had once lived a harmonious, “carefree” existence, there was now the need to work, there was either too much rain or too little, there were other disasters in nature, there was sickness, strife, and eventually death for every human being.
God, in His mercy, did not like to see the human race that He created living like this. So, God established a covenant with His people, with Abraham, in Genesis 15, where God established a relationship with His people and those people established a relationship with Him. The covenant with Abraham lasted forty-two generations—the names of each of these generations are given in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter One, and are read the Sunday before the Nativity each year. During these forty-two generations, God’s people experience triumph (deliverance form the hands of Pharaoh in Exodus 14) and setback (the fall of Jerusalem and deportation to Babylon in 2 Kings 24). They were given inspiration through the mouths of Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah, that one day there would be a Deliverer.
Saint Paul writes in his Epistle to the Galatians that God sent for His Son “when the time had fully come.” God knew that the only way that the world could be saved was for His Son to be incarnate, to come to earth like one of us, to live among us, to show us how to live, to show us how to live in harmony with God, to die for our sins and to open the path back to Paradise for us. In other words, Jesus came to earth to balance the equation that had fallen out of balance with the Fall. He was going to live in the world, at each point along the way choosing to live in harmony with the Father. He was going to die and rise again, to show us that through death, we can rise to a better life.
Now all that was needed in the plan was to bring Jesus Christ into the world like one of us. Someone would need to carry Christ into the world, and provide a human birth for Him, since He was fully divine but would also become fully human. And for this important task, God chose a young girl named Mary.
We are preparing to celebrate the feast of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary on March 25, so come back tomorrow to hear more of the story.
Gabriel appeared to you, O Virgin Damsel, revealing the pre-eternal plan of God. And as he saluted you, he called out and said, “O unsowed earth, rejoice, unconsumed bush, rejoice. O rejoice, depth hard to apprehend. Rejoice, O sacred bridge that conveys to heaven. I say, rejoice, O ladder that is lifted up and was seen by Jacob the patriarch. Rejoice, O divine jar of manna, and the lifting of the curse. Rejoice, Adam’s recovery. Rejoice, for the Lord is with you. (From the Kekragaria of Vespers of the Annunciation, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
If it is God’s plan for all of us to be saved, do your part today!
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.
Photo Credit: Dover Beach
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