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
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased!” Luke 2:14
Good morning Prayer Team!
Most of us are familiar with the hymn of the Angels at the Nativity. Most often we remember it as “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.” This translation denotes that God’s gift of peace is for all people. Certainly, His wish is for peace to reign among all people. But the most correct translation of this phrase is “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among men with whom He is pleased!” In this translation, we learn that peace is not a right granted to everyone who merely lives and breathes, but rather it is a Gift, a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that is bestowed upon those who please God. Peace is a trait that is cultivated by each person, and those who cultivate it well, reap the fruit of their work.
The easiest way to understand the hymn of the angels is this: Peace is available to anyone who wishes to work for it. Now, what kind of peace are we talking about here? Because one can work as hard as they want and still may not be able to escape the violence of a war-torn country or rough neighborhood.
Saint Paul writes in his Epistle to the Philippians: “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) There is a spiritual peace that can only come from God. This peace passes all understanding, because it is neither a military peace nor a material peace. For those who know the peace of God, they have this intangible quality about them. They almost seem to rise above petty conflict. This kind of peace is cultivated through prayer and meditation on the scriptures. It is also found in service to others.
As a practical matter then, if you want peace, focus on being grateful first and foremost. Being jealous about what you don’t have often leads to conflict. Being grateful for what you do have is a step towards peace. Focusing on God through prayer brings peace. Losing sight of God brings conflict, so make dedicated time each day to focus on God. And as we do in the liturgical services, make offering a prayer for personal peace as well as peace in the world part of your daily prayer ritual.
One of my favorite songs that is played during the Christmas season is “Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin with Me” by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson. The lyrics are as follows:
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth the peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father, brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me let this be the moment now.
With every step I take let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
I remember a few years back, there was a school shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six students and teachers were killed. This happened only two days before our Sunday school Christmas program was scheduled. I remember thinking was it even appropriate for our children to be singing and laughing when in Connecticut, there was mourning for children the same age as our children doing the program. We decided that we would have the program but that we would conclude it with this song. And when the time came, I remember asking for all of the doors to the church to be opened, so that symbolically we could sing this song to the whole world. Indeed, if we are to bring peace into the world, it starts with us, with our individual witness for God, in peace and in service to others. If we truly want peace, we must first do what is pleasing to God by making Him the source and center of our lives. Then we can find peace as individuals, and then in small groups and then in large groups and then build from there.
Today’s hymn is called the “Great Doxology”, which precedes the Divine Liturgy just about every time the Liturgy is celebrated. It is actually the last hymn of the Orthros, or Matins, service. It incorporates all the elements of prayer—glory (Glory be to You who showed us the Light), thanksgiving (We praise You, we bless You, we worship You, we glorify You, we give thanks to You), repentance (Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You), and supplication (teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. . .have mercy on us). But the Doxology begins with the Hymn of the Angels, chanted for the shepherds as they announced the Incarnation of the Son of God in the flesh. The Doxology not only gives glory to God as we begin a new day on the calendar, but it continually reminds us of the “New Day” that dawned in the history of humanity, when the Creator became part of His creation at the feast of the Nativity. Remember, it’s Christmas all year round in our church!
Glory be to You who showed the Light. Glory in the highest to God. His peace is on earth, His good pleasure in mankind.
We praise You, we bless You, we worship You, we glorify You, we give thanks to You for Your great glory.
Lord King, heavenly God, Father, Ruler over all; Lord, only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and You, O Holy Spirit.
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, who take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us, You who take away the sins of the world.
Accept our supplication, You who sit at the right hand of the Father, and have mercy on us.
For You alone are holy, You alone are Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Every day I will bless You, and Your name will I praise to eternity, and to the ages of ages.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, this day, that we be kept without sin.
Blessed are You, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Your name to the ages. Amen.
Let Your mercy be on us, O Lord, as we have set our hope on You.
Blessed are You, O Lord, Teach me Your statutes.
Lord, You have been our refuge from generation to generation. I said: Lord have mercy on me. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.
Lord, I have fled to You. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God.
For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we shall see light.
Continue Your mercy to those who know You.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us (3)
(Great Doxology, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Have a peaceful day!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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