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.”
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
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. II Corinthians 1:6
Good morning Prayer Team!
With two days left until Holy Week starts, as we anticipate the journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, today’s word of encouragement is to participate in the services. There are several ways that we can participate that I would like to highlight for you.
First, the services put you THERE. The services transport us to the events of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. The services of Holy Week narrate for us, in this one special week of the year, what happened two thousand years ago in Jerusalem. And they help to put us there.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to see Lazarus come forth from the tomb? Or to wave a palm branch on a dusty road in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday? How about to sit on the Mount of Olives while Jesus was teaching? Or around the table in the upper room where He offered His last discourse to the Disciples? How about sitting with Peter keeping warm by the fire in the house of the High Priest, hoping to not be recognized? Or one of the women who witnessed the crucifixion? How about the courage of Joseph who took the body down from the cross, or the women who anointed Him? How about the journey in the middle of the night and finding the tomb empty? We have the opportunity to experience these things next week in our services. As we go through this narrative, put yourself there.
Second, be attentive to the services. Listen to the words, pray the prayers, participate in the actions. Bow your head, kneel, lift up your heart and your hands. There are many gestures of worship in all of our services, but most especially during Holy Week.
Third, sing. You don’t have to be in the choir to sing. The intention of the choir is to lead the singing of ALL the people. And there are lots of opportunities to sing. No, you don’t have to sing the Hymn of Kassiane on Holy Tuesday—enjoy the choir singing that beautiful hymn. But the response “Lord have mercy” will be offered hundreds of times during Holy Week, same thing with “Amen.” These are things we can ALL sing. We are invited to sing the Lamentations to Christ on Good Friday. When we walk in the procession on Good Friday night, it is also a time to sing (not to talk or check our phones). And of course on Pascha, we should sing “Christ is Risen” with great joy and enthusiasm. Christianity, and Orthodoxy, is not for the timid, it is for the bold. Imagine if Christ had been timid, or His disciples. We wouldn’t have this faith today. So, let me suggest that we make a bold presentation of our faith and SING the beautiful and meaningful hymns surrounding the death, burial and Resurrection of Christ.
If you strive to be purposeful and involved when it comes to worship, if you soften your heart and open it to God in worship, then you will walk away with a heart that is filled and renewed. I remember when I was a child, I was a goalkeeper on my soccer team. The coach always talked about having “soft hands” when playing (the same holds true for baseball, basketball and football players, anyone who handles a ball). Because a stiff hand cannot catch a hard shot. Only a soft hand can. This seems to contradict logic—shouldn’t one be “stiff and stoic” when playing? Actually, the more stoic and stiff one is, the less nimble he is to reach for and catch the ball as it comes to him. The same is true for worship. We need soft hearts in order to receive God. So, resist the temptation to stand stoically when you worship. Come with a soft heart, ready to praise, worship and sing to God.
Give ear to my words, O Lord; give heed to my groaning. Hearken to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to Thee I pray. O Lord, in the morning Thou dost hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for Thee, and watch. . .But I though the abundance of Thy steadfast love will enter Thy house, I will worship toward Thy holy temple in fear of Thee. Psalm 5:1-3, 7
Participate in the services each time you worship!
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: Clergylaity.org
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