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.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6: 10-17 (27th Sunday after Pentecost)
Good morning Prayer Team!
In today’s Epistle lesson from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, he make an extended analogy about Christians putting on the whole armor of God. The Christian life is compared to a battle “against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11) As Christians, we are soldiers in the army of God. The battle against the devil and evil is very real, and it is very serious. We fight not only against other people, but against evil itself, “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (6:12) That means that the fight for God is not only in the places that are Godless but in the very places of God, in heavenly places like the church, and in places like the family. The devil attacks relentlessly and he attacks good people in their good places, namely our church and in our homes.
Saint Paul talks about the specific way we are to clothe ourselves, again making an extended military analogy. Soldiers are careful to cover themselves entirely with armor, lest their enemies’ ammunition fight a week spot or an uncovered spot and injure or kill the soldier.
Armor was put over the loins because an injury from an arrow or a spear would hit either major artery, causing death, or hit a muscle, rendering a soldier unable to walk. Girding the loins with truth (6:14) means to protect the means of how we march in God’s army. It means to surround ourselves with friends who will encourage us in our walk. It means to keep ourselves away from dangerous influences and bad habits that can inhibit our growth.
The breastplate of armor covered over the heart and all the vital organs. Damage to this area of the body would almost certainly be fatal. The “breastplate of righteousness” (6:14) means that we must keep our hearts and spirits safe from attack. And when either comes under attack, we must pay swift attention to the wound, lest it become fatal. The core of our faith is protect with prayer, worship and receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confession on a regular basis.
Saint Paul reminds us to wear “equipment of the Gospel of peace” (6:15) on our feet. If we are supposed to “take the Gospel to all nations, and make disciples of all nations,” we need “shoes” that are up to the task. In this case, this refers to knowledge (Orthodoxia) and practice (Orthopraxia) of the faith. For is we walk with little to no knowledge of the faith, we have nothing to share. And is we walk without practicing the faith, we will not be able to inspire others.
Soldiers carry shields in front of their armor as an extra layer of protection. It is better that an arrow hit a shield than the armor of a soldier because the armor is the last defense. Having a “shield of faith” puts an extra layer of protection between our hearts and souls. Some examples include friends that encourage us in our faith, a Spiritual Father who guides us and hears our confessions, and continuing to learn more about the faith so that we are “armed” to do battle with those who challenge, question or belittle Christianity. Friends and a Spiritual Father are also a great help in times of temptation or times when our faith is tested.
The helmet of the soldier protect his head from falling debris, things he won’t necessarily see until it is too late to get out of the way. The “helmet of salvation” is also work for our spiritual protection. Since a helmet covers the head, when I think of the “helmet of salvation,” I think of the stimulation of mind, through continued study of the Scriptures and of the faith. Study adds an additional layer of protection to our Christianity.
Finally, the sword. The sword is the offensive piece of the soldier’s equipment. While everything else is worn or carried for protection, and while the sword is also used for protection, the sword is also used on the offensive. The sword is used as the soldier marches forward. For the Christian the “sword” is the purpose of his or her Christianity—which is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to all nations, to make disciples. All of the other “equipment” metaphorically reminds us that we have to protect and safeguard our faith, and live a life of faith. The “sword” reminds us that we also have a sacred obligation to spread the faith, to share the news, to bring others to Christ.
Rejoice, O peoples, and be exultant. An Angel sat on the stone of the tomb. And he announced to us the good news and said: Christ has risen from the dead, as the Savior of the world; and He has filled the universe with sweet fragrance. Rejoice, O peoples, and be exultant. (Third Resurrectional Praise, 2nd Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Prepare for “battle” each day by putting on the whole “armor.”
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
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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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