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.
Fruits of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2: 13-14
Good morning Prayer Team!
Most of you will probably recognize today’s Scripture quote as being from the story of the Nativity. A multitude of the heavenly hosts appeared in the skies over Bethlehem. Though Bethlehem was filled with people, the spectacle was witnessed only by humble shepherds.
While most of us are familiar with this passage, and even the hymn of the angels, many of us, if we were to quote this hymn, would quote it incorrectly. Many would say “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill towards men.” The correct translation of this hymn is “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” The subtle difference is an important one. When we translate this “And on earth, peace, goodwill towards men,” it makes it sound like peace is a gift given to all people. When this verse is translated corrected “and on earth peace among men with who He is pleased,” we realize that peace is a gift from God Himself, through the Holy Spirit. And peace is a gift granted to those with whom God is pleased. Peace is a gift granted to people of goodwill, people who have pleased God. If a person lives a life that is not pleasing to God, if a person lives without goodwill towards others, he or she will not receive this gift of peace from God.
So, what exactly is the “peace from God”? The answer comes from Philippians 4: 6-7: “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 your minds in Christ Jesus.” When we work in sync with God, when we go to Him in prayer and supplication, but also with thanksgiving, then we are granted “the peace of God, which passes all understanding.” If the Holy Spirit mystically bestows His grace upon people in the form of these fruits we are discussing, then just like love and joy, peace is not something we can quantify. It is not something we can hold in our hands, or carry in our pockets. Rather people of peace carry peace in their hearts. A mouth can lie—a person who has no peace can say that he does. But a heart cannot lie. The person who doesn’t have a peaceful heart can hide it neither from himself nor from God. This is why we continue to pray, to cultivate thanksgiving, and to demonstrate love, because these things fill the heart with peace. Gestures of good will bring us closer to God and to one another, and the net result is peace.
Peace doesn’t come because we checked a box and went to church. Peace comes when we open our hearts to Christ in worship. Peace doesn’t come because we had the loudest voice or because we won. Peace comes from a heart that is quiet so that it can hear God, and from a heart which is soft so that God can rest in it. Peace does not mean one is passive or disinterested. Nor does it mean that we can’t have passion or opinion. It means that passion and opinion are expressed in a Christian way that does not harm our hearts or the hearts of others.
There are three categories of people when it comes to peace: People who are experiencing the peace of God; people who aren’t or who haven’t; and people who have experienced it, have fallen away and are working their way back to peace. Psalm 34: 13-14 gives us sound advice when it comes to pursuing peace in our lives: “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace, and pursuit it.” Indeed peace is a gift that is granted from God. And God grants this gift to those who are pursuing it. Peace is not a birthright we receive merely because we are alive. It is a gift from God to those who not only desire peace, but who work at it, it is for people of goodwill, people who have pleased God.
Lord, thank You for the many gifts which you generously bestow on me. Help me to cultivate peace in my heart, and peace with those who are around me, so that I may receive Your peace which surpasses all understanding. Help me to be a person of goodwill, to keep my tongue from evil, to depart from evil and to do what is good in your eyes. May I seek to please You in all that I do today. Amen.
Do things to please God 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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