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 while staying with them He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which He said, “You heard from me.” Acts 1:4 (From the Epistle Lesson read on the Feast of Ascension) Friday after the Ascension
Good morning Prayer Team!
If you divide the history of the world into chapters, the first chapter would be “The Creation of the world”. The second chapter would be the period where mankind lived in total unity with God, “a period of Paradise”. The third chapter would be “The Fall of mankind,” that moment when mankind chose to go away from God, which opened up a Pandora’s box of negative consequences. The fourth chapter would be called “The Period of Expectation.” During this chapter, prophets foretold of the coming of the Messiah. Thus, this was an age of waiting, an age of expectation. The fifth chapter would be “the earthly ministry of Christ,” the thirty-three year period in which Christ walked the earth. All of the prophecies from “The Period of Expectation” came true in His person. And this chapter culminated in the crucifixion, the Resurrection, and lastly, the Ascension, the return of Christ to heaven, from which He had come.
With the Ascension begins the next chapter in the history of humanity, which could be entitled: “Living in the kingdom of God on earth, while waiting for the Kingdom of God in heaven.” What does this mean? We are no longer “waiting” for the Messiah. He has come. He told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is not just a far off reality, but it is something we can live in in the present age. This is why in the Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Church, the service begins with the words “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, NOW and forever and to the ages of ages,” to remind us that God’s Kingdom is present in the NOW, as well as forever. We live IN Christ by living as He taught us to live. He taught us how to love one another, how to forgive one another, how to have joy with one another, and how to serve one another. And He taught us that if we live in Him in this life, that an even greater life awaits us. Yes, we can live in Christ in this life and experience His glory and His Kingdom in our life on earth. But this sense of Godliness is constantly tempered by surrounding temptations and our continual succumbing to them. The Kingdom of Heaven will be a permanent glory, permanent joy, permanent perfection. While we get glimpses of these things in life on earth, they will be the normal and permanent lifestyle in the Kingdom of Heaven.
So we live again in an age of expectation. We live in something great, but we await something even greater. In the first age of expectation, when God’s people fell away from Him, He never abandoned them. He gave signs and promises through prophets and miracles so that the people would know that God still loved them and still had a plan for them.
In this new age of expectation, we see the same thing happening. Christ came, and then He left. He ascended into heaven. But He has left us signs and promises and daily miracles so that we know that He is God, that He loves us, and that He has a plan for us. The first promise of God to His people was to promise the Holy Spirit to come to us as a “Comforter”, to inspire, warm and sustain our faith through this life, into everlasting life. And that promise was fulfilled on Pentecost, only ten days after the Ascension.
After Pentecost, God continues to work in the world on a daily basis. As I read today’s brief scripture verse, I realize that like the Disciples, we are told “not to depart” but “to wait for the promise of the Father.” We are to stay faithful to Christ, to “not depart” from His Commandments and to “wait” for His promises to be fulfilled.
There are many times in my life when I have been confronted with a task that seems undoable, or not advisable. Many times I have “heard God’s voice” in my head saying “just trust me and do what seems impossible, and I will help you find a way.” I think we’ve all had that experience. We come to a crossroads on a decision, even a small decision, and we wonder, “Should I?” One thing I can say for certain in my life, when I am faithful to God, He is always faithful to me. He is faithful to me even when I am not faithful to Him. This is what it means to “wait for the promise of the Father.” It means to stay faithful to God, even when things don’t make sense, even when you are waiting “for a break”.
Let’s put ourselves in the position of the disciples for one moment—Christ “left” to ascend into heaven but told them to wait for promises to be fulfilled. That was a moment of decision for them—stay and wait for the unseen to happen, or leave and go their own way. They elected to stay and wait—and their wait paid off in only a few days with the empowering by the Holy Spirit. It continues to pay off to this day in ways large and small for just as God blessed them, He continually to blesses us.
The Angels beholding the Master’s Ascension were filled with great astonishment at how with glory He was lifted from the earth into heaven. To the sacred band of holy Disciples did the risen Lord command: Tarry in Jerusalem and I shall send you another Comforter, who shares the Father’s throne and is of equal honor with Me, whom you see now into heaven taken up, being carried aloft on a cloud of light. (From the 9th Ode of Orthros of Ascension, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
“Wait” with joy for the promises of God to be fulfilled in your life!
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