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
On that day the Lord their God will save them for they are the flock of His people; for like jewels of a crown they shall shine on His land. Zechariah 9:16
Good morning Prayer Team!
Save, o God, Your people and bless Your inheritance.
After everyone who is going to receive Communion has received, the priest covers the Holy Chalice, and says “Save o God, Your people and bless Your inheritance.” Having prayed for each person to be granted “remission of sins and eternal life” the priest collectively blessed the congregation, asking God to save all of His people and bless all those who have inherited the faith, to bless everyone with remission of sins and eternal life.
The priest then returns to the altar table and sets the chalice down on the altar. If he didn’t transfer the particles of bread for the Virgin Mary, the Saints, the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant before distributing Communion, he does it at this point.
This prayer, “Save o God Your people” should be heard with great joy. Through Communion we are both blessed in this life and one step closer to being saved for eternal life.
What do I mean “one step closer?” Are we not already saved? In many churches, people are taught that we have already been saved by the death and Resurrection of Christ. If this is so, then what is the work of the church? Why participate in the life of the church if salvation has already been achieved?
In the Orthodox Church, we believe that our salvation is possible because of the death and Resurrection of Christ. Without the saving work of Christ, no one can attain salvation. However, salvation is a gift that is given by the Lord to those whom HE deems worthy, based on their faith and works and ultimately His grace. So, I have the potential to be saved and I am working my way towards salvation each day. It is a continuous action.
One practical way to think of salvation is to relate it to marriage. If someone asks me “are you married?” the answer is yes. However, marriage is a continuous action. I was married on a specific day, I am married today, and I hope to be married tomorrow. And because I hope to be married tomorrow, I am working on my marriage today.
In terms of our salvation, we have the potential to be saved because of the death and Resurrection of Christ. We begin our journey the day we are baptized. We work on salvation today. And we hope to be saved for eternal life. And because we hope to be saved for eternity, we are supposed to work on our salvation today.
A second practical way to look at our salvation is to use a cup, some rocks, and water, to illustrate the process of faith, works and grace that are needed in order to inherit eternal life. The cup represents faith, what we believe. But an empty cup, while providing a structure in which to hold something, if the cup holds nothing, it is just an empty cup and has little value.
The rocks represent works. If we have works without faith, it is like spilling out rocks on a table. They have no order to them. A cup filled with rocks represents the life of faith, manifested in good works.
Now, if you try this experiment at home, fill a cup with rocks, you will see that the cup is not full. There are still empty spaces. Pour water into the cup and fill it to the top and then the cup is truly full, there is no more room. The water represents God’s grace, poured out a spoonful at a time in Holy Communion. The goal of our life is to have our cup filled when we go before the awesome judgment seat of Christ. So, we need a strong faith, a good cup. And we need lots of good works, or rocks to fill the cup. But no matter how strong our faith or how filled our cup, we need the water of God’s grace. We don’t receive grace in one shot for our whole life. Because if I receive all the grace I’m going to receive in my life today, what happens in a year from now when I am spiritually infirm and spiritually incomplete? We need the grace continuously and in Holy Communion, we can be filled, and being filled, on a continuous basis, so that at the end of life, we find our cup filled and running over with God’s love and presence and ready to be with Him for eternal life.
In asking the Lord to save His people and bless His inheritance, we are asking for God to continuously fill us with His grace, and to sustain us on our way to salvation through the gift of Holy Communion.
I thank You, Christ and Master our God, King of the ages and Creator of all things, for all the good gifts You have given me, and especially for the participation in Your pure and life-giving mysteries. I pray You, therefore, good and loving Lord, keep me under your protection and under the shadow of Your wings. Grant that to my last breath I may with a pure conscience partake worthily of Your Gifts for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life. For You are the Bread of Life, the source of holiness, the give of all good things, and to You we give glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Thanksgiving Prayers following Holy Communion)
Work on your salvation today!
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Photo credit: Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church
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