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.”
And His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
Good morning Prayer Team!
Having prayed for the unity of the faith and for the communion of the Holy Spirit, let us commit ourselves, and one another, and our whole life to Christ our God.
The last “petition” before Holy Communion summarizes two themes of the Divine Liturgy. The theme of “unity of the faith” goes back to the early part of the Liturgy where we prayed “for the stability of the holy churches of God and for the unity of all.” The unity of the faith refers to all of the ways in which we desire unity. The first sense of unity that we want is with those who are close to us—our families and our friends. The second type of unity refers to the “communities” we belong to—this begins with our church community. How can we expect to have unity in our neighborhoods and in our workplaces if we don’t have unity in our church? Third, there should be harmony between church communities. After all, we should all be striving towards the same goal. This is why our church encourages dialogue and prayer with other churches. No, we are not going to share the Eucharist. The ultimate goal is unification of the churches. Can this goal be achieved? Only God knows that. But working together with other Christian groups promotes unity of the faith.
Modeling Christian behavior in the workplace, on the athletic field, in our children’s schools, in our neighborhoods, when driving, etc., promotes unity among people. If we are supposed to love God and love our neighbor, then unity with our neighbor is as important as our personal unity with the Lord. The ultimate level of unity is the unity of all people. However, since we can’t even wrap our minds around this idea, all people united, with must strive for unity in as big a circle as possible. Certainly unity is possible in families, among friends, and in an individual church community.
The second theme we recall is “the communion of the Holy Spirit.” The first prayer of the Orthros (which is traditionally celebrated before the Divine Liturgy), as well as a silent prayer offered by the priest before celebrating the Divine Liturgy, is dedicated to the Holy Spirit:
Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, present in all places and filling all things, treasury of blessings and Giver of Life, come and abide in us, cleanse us from every stain and save our souls, o Gracious One.
If the Holy Spirit is the bestower of grace, the source of our talents, the “Heavenly King,” the “Comforter” and the “Spirit of Truth,” then we want the Holy Spirit to “abide in us”, “to cleanse us from every stain,” and to “save our souls.” We want the experience of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit empowered the Apostles to preach the Gospel in all languages. We want His grace to help go from ordinary to extraordinary people.
And combining these two themes of unity of the faith and communion of the Holy Spirit, we want these things together. We want to commit not only ourselves to these ideas but one another. And we need each other to lean on for encouragement. So, we not only work on committing ourselves and one another, but we can rely on others to work at committing us.
The Christian life is not compartmentalized into a neat package that we only unwrap on Sunday mornings. The Christian life is supposed to be a continuous growth in Christ and glorification of Him. So, we not only seek to commit ourselves during the Divine Liturgy, but ultimately, we pray that our whole life becomes an extension of the Divine Liturgy. The themes that are repeated continually throughout the Liturgy—peace, safety, commitment, intercession of the saints, the call to be attentive, grace, gratitude—these are to be applied to life every day. If we are to reach the Kingdom of God, they need to be applied to every day. And if we are applying them to our everyday life, then we can go through life with a joy and a confidence that we are indeed well on our journey to everlasting life. Because committing our whole life unto Christ our God in this life, is the necessary preparation for living in His presence for eternity.
There is a response to this petition offered by the priest, and it is a confirmation by the people, that we are supposed to commit ourselves, one another and our whole life to who? To YOU, o Lord. Yes, our whole life is not supposed to be about advancement of career, or increasing our financial bases. It is supposed to be about the Lord, our commitment to Him, and our preparation to be with Him forever, in His Kingdom.
Lord, thank You for the very gift of my life. Help me, in some small way, to grow in my faith every day of my life. Help me to be a person who works for unity. Inspire me to encourage others. Give me discipline so that I can be someone who brings people together. Allow me to enjoy the communion of the Holy Spirit. Help me each day to be more committed to the faith. May I model a Christian behavior that inspires others to be more committed as well. Amen.
Be a unifier!
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