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.
The Feast of Theophany
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all. And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God. Acts 19:1-8 (Epistle on Feast of St. John the Baptist)
Good morning Prayer Team!
If someone asks you “what happened when you were baptized?” how would you answer? Most of us would say “I don’t remember, I was a baby.” Some of us might say “well, they put me in water and I cried,” or something to that effect. When we were baptized, we had the name of the Holy Trinity invoked over us. We were washed clean of sin. And coming out of the baptismal font, for those of us who were baptized in the Orthodox Church, we immediately received the sacrament of Chrismation, we received the Holy Spirit. So, if someone asked you, as St. Paul asked some disciples in Corinth, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”(Acts 19:2) the answer is “YES, you did.”
One challenge (among many) we face as Christians is that sometimes we are content to participate in rituals without knowing or understanding their meaning. There are lots of Christians who answer the questions that Paul posed to the Corinthians with the same answer they gave: “no, we have never heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2)
All the sacraments of the Orthodox Church are effected by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that bestows grace to heal what is infirm and complete what is lacking in us. And this same grace is what allows ordinary to become extraordinary. Grace is what causes bread and wine, ordinary substances, to become the Body and Blood of Christ. Grace is what allows a single man and a single woman to be interwoven as a family in the sacrament of marriage. Grace is what allows a sinful person to be freed of guilt and stain in the sacrament of Confession. Grace is what allows a man to become a priest. Through our baptism and chrismation, we are given access to that grace that comes from the Holy Spirit that we can enjoy throughout our lives. And even outside of the sacraments, we can experience grace through prayer at any time. For prayer is what allows the human being an “intimacy with God” at any moment we desire it.
Christianity is more than wearing a cross or even going to church. Christianity is living a life of grace, enjoying the grace of the Holy Spirit through prayer and the sacraments, and allowing grace to take root in us, to work in us, so that we receive the greatest grace of all, the gift of God that a human being walks out of this life on earth into eternal life in heaven.
Being a Christian requires activity. One cannot be a Christian and have no action as a result. Receiving the Grace of the Holy Spirit is supposed to move us to action. Grace completes what is infirm and heals what is lacking in us so that we can go and do something. If the grace of the Holy Spirit looses and forgives sins, then the person who has been forgiven is supposed to go and radiate the light of Christ, with his or her newfound spiritual freedom. If God’s graces a couple with the sacrament of marriage, they are supposed to live in joy. God doesn’t send His grace on a couple so that they live in misery. If we receive God’s grace through Holy Communion, it is supposed to motivate us to share Christ’s joy with others.
Grace is supposed to change us. It is supposed to motivate us. It is supposed to direct us. When we accept grace, we accept not only a gift but a sacred responsibility. So when someone asks you “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” the correct answer is “Yes I did, and I receive Him continually through the sacraments of the church, and this continually changes me, and moves me towards a closer relationship with God, a greater understanding of the Christian faith, and a greater desire to serve others.” If this is not your answer, and it very well might now be (and there is nothing wrong with that), seek ways to learn more about the faith, and grow in the Spirit, so that this will one day be your answer.
You hallowed the waters of the Jordan River, O Lord; and by Your own might You shattered sin’s dominion, O Christ our God. You bowed yourself, O Savior, beneath the hand of the Baptist, and saved the human race from deception and error. Therefore we intently entreat You to save Your world. (Third Kathisma of the Feast of Theophany, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Experience God’s grace through prayer today. Experience it through the sacraments (specifically Holy Communion and Confession) as often as you can.
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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