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 he who searches the hearts of men know what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:27
Good morning Prayer Team!
Glory to You, O God, our hope, glory to You.
May Christ our true God (who rose from the dead*) as a good, loving, and merciful God, have mercy upon us and save us, through the intercessions of His most pure and holy Mother; the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; the protection of the honorable, bodiless powers of heaven, the supplications of the honorable, glorious prophet and forerunner John the Baptist; the holy glorious and praiseworthy Apostles; the holy, glorious triumphant martyrs; our holy and God-bearing Fathers; (name of the church) the holy and righteous ancestors Joachim and Anna; Saint (of the day) whose memory we commemorate today, and all the saints.
We have spoken throughout these reflections about the connection between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. In fact, one of the reasons that we gather to worship in a church sanctuary, is to be reminded through the depictions of icons on the walls of the church, that we are worshipping together with the saints and the angels. As we are about to leave the church, we are reminded that we do not head back into the world alone. The saints and the angels are continually interceding for us.
This part of the Divine Liturgy is called “The Dismissal” or in Greek “Apolysis.” Every divine service in the Orthodox Church has a dismissal, given for the same purpose, for us to know that we are not alone.
The dismissal prayer at the Divine Liturgy begins with the words “May Christ our true God, as a good, loving, and merciful God, have mercy on us and save us.” On Sundays and during the Paschal season, the phrase “Who rose from the dead” is added after “May Christ our true God.” On major feast days, other phrases are added after “May Christ our true God” such as “who was born in a cave and lay in a manger for our salvation” (At the Nativity) or “who was transfigured in glory on Mount Tabor in the presence of His disciples and apostles for our salvation” (at the Transfiguration) or “who was baptized by John in the Jordan River for our salvation” (at Theophany).
Next, the intercessions of the Virgin Mary are always invoked, as she is the mother of our Lord, our church and all of us. She is always interceding for us. We mention the “power of the precious and life-giving Cross” which is our guide and our hope throughout our lives. We ask for the protection of the angels when we mention “the honorable, bodiless powers of heaven.” Next we ask for the intercession of the saints, beginning with St. John the Baptist and including the Apostles, the Martyrs and the Ascetic Fathers. We also invoke the intercessions of Joachim and Anna, the parents of the Virgin Mary, as well as the patron saint of the church where the service is being celebrated.
When the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, we always commemorate either St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil, the author of the Divine Liturgies. We also commemorate the saint commemorated on that particular day that the service is being offered. For instance on January 17, we would add, “of the Venerable Anthony the Great, whose memory we commemorate today.” And the last phrase is “and of all the saints” emphasizing that we will receive the intercessions of thousands upon thousands of known saints, and the untold number of unknown saints.
It is really amazing to think that one person can enter one church and be surrounded by an infinite expression of holiness through the intercessions of holy people. And equally as amazing is that all of these holy people can make intercession for a single person, that we, in our lowly and sinful state, are still able to enjoy the intercessions of God’s saints.
Going back to “The Holy Gifts for the holy people of God” which was said before Holy Communion, we are reminded in the Apolysis one last time that our purpose in life is to be numbered among these holy people, to find our salvation in God’s Kingdom, and to prepare for this by living holy and exemplary lives, following the example of the saints we are commemorating.
I will extol Thee, O Lord, for Thou has drawn me up, and hast not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to Thee for help, and Thou hast healed me. O Lord, Thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life among those gone down to the Pit. Sing Praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His Holy Name. Psalm 30:1-4
Ask for the intercessions of the saints in your prayers today!
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Photo Credit: St. Athanasios the Great Orthodox Church
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