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.”
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of My people? And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth. Isaiah 53: 3-9 (From a Prophecy Reading at the Vespers on Good Friday Afternoon) Thursday of the Sixth Week of Lent
Good morning Prayer Team!
The entire story of the Passion of Christ is told in prophecies in the Old Testament. Unlike the New Testament, they are not to be found in one book. If you read an “annotated” Bible, you will see references to Old Testament scriptures throughout the accounts of Christ’s Passion. One of the places His Crucifixion is foretold is in the Prophecy of Isaiah, which is quoted above and read on Good Friday afternoon.
The Prophecies in the Old Testament told God’s people what was coming for two reasons: First, so that they would recognize what was happening when Christ came, that HE was going to be the fulfillment of ALL of these things. When all of these prophecies came to fulfillment in ONE person, certainly He would be unmistakably recognized as the Christ. Second, so that until Christ came, the people would have hope that indeed the Messiah was coming, so that in the long years of waiting, that they would not lose hope for salvation.
Christ has come, and did all the things that were foretold that He was going to do. The people in Old Testament times were told to wait for the Messiah. In New Testament times, we have been taught by Christ to wait for His return, and for inheritance of His Heavenly Kingdom. Christ gave us teachings on what is going to happen and how we are to live as we await this future eventuality. So, as in the Old Testament times, we, too, live in an age of expectation. But unlike Old Testament times, we also live in the age of Christ. We have our Messiah. We have His glory in the here and now. And we have His promise for greater glory to come. The Church is here to teach us about Christ and to sustain us in our hope in this life as we journey to everlasting life. Life’s journey will have its fulfillment in eternal life.
This week marks the end of the Lenten journey, which will have its fulfillment in Holy Week. The whole purpose of Triodion and Lent, this journey which now nears completion of its ninth week, was to lead us to this point. We have been given all the “signs”—humility, repentance, charity, fasting, prayer, confession. Hopefully we have embraced these signs. And even if we haven’t, there is still time, the Holy Week journey has not yet begun. We are now on the fast road to the fulfillment of these signs in the Holy Week journey—healing, recommitment, renewal.
In these reflections, we’ve met people who saw signs and missed them—Judas, the Pharisees, the crowds. We’ve met people who saw the signs and couldn’t act on them—Peter, Pilate. And we saw people who missed all the signs and still found redemption—the repentant thief, the centurion, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus.
WE, you and I, we have seen the signs. If you’ve read these reflections throughout Lent, you’ve studied all of them. There are two steps left. The first remaining step I will share today. The second and final step I will share tomorrow. The first of the remaining steps is the Holy Week journey that is about to be upon us. Will we stand with Christ, will we put ourselves “there” with Him? At the tomb of Lazarus, in the streets of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, in the quiet teaching moments of Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday, in the upper room for washing of our bodies and souls, at the table of the Eucharist, watching in the garden, standing at the cross, weeping at the tomb, and finally seeing the tomb empty on Pascha.
The prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ. The teachings of Christ will be fulfilled in eternal life, after we first pass before the awesome Judgment Seat. And the journey of Lent is about to be fulfilled in Holy Week. If you’ve seen the “signs”, prepare yourself to see them fulfilled. And even if you’ve missed all the signs, it’s not too late. Plan out your time these next two days so that beginning on the Saturday of Lazarus you can put the Holy Week journey as your primary focus. Having repented, fasted and prepared, let us move toward healing, renewal and recommitment.
The Lamb, which Isaiah proclaimed, comes willingly to the slaughter, and give His back to scourging, and His cheeks to blows. He turns not away His face form the shame of spittings, and He is condemned to a dishonorable death. The sinless One, willingly submits to all, that unto all He may bestow the resurrection from the dead. (From the Vesperal Liturgy on Holy Thursday Morning, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Make your Holy Week plan today if you haven’t already!
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