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.
Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3: 10-15 (Epistle for St. Thecla, whose feastday is tomorrow)
Good morning Prayer Team!
We know that there is a lectionary of Epistle and Gospel readings for each Sunday of the Church year. This means that around the world, the same scripture readings are offered in every Orthodox Church. Following the Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Cross, we begin to read from the Gospel of St. Luke. Typically in the Epistles, we read from II Corinthians and Galatians. When a major feast day of Christ or the Virgin Mary falls on a Sunday, both Epistle and Gospel lessons from that feast are read, and the regular Sunday is skipped for the year. When a major saint has a feast day that falls on a Sunday, the Epistle lesson for that saint is read, while the Gospel for that Sundayremains. Thus, this weekend, the Gospel will be the First Sunday of St. Luke, but the Epistle lesson is for St. Thecla, whose feast is celebrated on September 24.
St. Thecla lived in the first century. She was born about 16 A.D. so she lived during the time of Christ. She met St. Paul when she was about 18, when St. Paul was preaching at Iconium. Saint Paul mentions his sufferings in Iconium in today’s Epistle lesson, which is why this Epistle is matched with the feast of St. Thecla. Thecla was only 18 years old, when she heard St. Paul preaching. She eventually visited him in prison and was converted to Christianity. Several times governors and rulers try to kill her for her faith but each time she was delivered from death. She again met St. Paul and asked for his blessing to live and ascetic life in the mountains. She died peacefully at age 90. Because she converted so many people to Christianity, she has the title “Equal to the Apostles.”
The reason why this Epistle was chosen for the feast of St. Thecla is because it references St. Paul’s journey to Iconium, which is where he met her. This passage from the Second Epistle to Timothy, however, is more than just a passing reference to the hometown of St. Thecla. It is message to us Christians, living in contemporary times, that just as St. Paul and St. Thecla withstood persecutions because of their Christian faith, that anyone who desires “to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3: 12) If you’ve never felt “persecuted” for your faith, it is a fair question to wonder how strong that faith is. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify Your Father who is in heaven.” Some people will react to our good Christian works by glorifying God, by coming closer to God. Yes, many people will be attracted to the Light. However, some will not be attracted to the Light of Christ. To the contrary, some will become angry at the Light and will persecute those who have the Light.
In some parts of the world, Christians are still being killed for the faith. This is not currently happening in America. But there are plenty of people who are “persecuted” for their faith. Have your kid skip Sunday sports to attend Sunday school and see how long he or she is in the starting lineup and not on the bench. If you are a new employee at certain jobs, tell the boss you can’t work Sunday mornings and see if you have a job. Ask for a religious holiday off and see what happens? Tell your friends who are gossiping to stop, and they will probably start gossiping about you. Even sadder is the comment that has been made to me FAR too many times—tell your boyfriend or girlfriend that you are staying sexually pure until marriage and you may actually get dumped.
Saint Paul is quick to tell us that regardless of the persecutions he endured, “yet from them all the Lord rescued me.” (2 Timothy 3: 11) And likewise God will rescue us. He will be with us, He will provide the words for us. In Luke 21: 12-15, Jesus tells us,
Before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for My name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.
We should expect some degree of persecution for our Christian faith, but we will also be comforted and supported by God’s grace.
All aflame with love for your Creator, from the teachings of the sacred preacher, you disregarded as fleeting all things mundane. And being bold in the face of the penalties, you gave yourself as a beautiful gift to God. Thecla, glorious compassion of the Apostle Paul, we pay you entrée your Bridegroom, Christ, and ask Him to grant us His great mercy. (Apolytikion of St. Thecla, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Stand fast in your 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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