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.
The Five Feasts of the Virgin Mary
And inspired by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.” And His father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2: 27-35
Good morning Prayer Team!
One of the beautiful Traditions in the Orthodox Church is the forty day blessing of babies. This Tradition actually comes to us from the Old Testament where baby boys were brought to the temple when they were forty days old and baby girls when they were eighty days old. (We now bring both boys and girls in when they are forty days old in imitation of Christ.) So, Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple on His fortieth day, to do for Him what the Law required.
Most of us know the story—there was a priest named Simeon who had been promised by God that he would not die until he saw the Christ. That day, Simeon came to the temple and when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus there, he took Him in his arms and offered the beautiful prayer above, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace. . .”
The part of the story that we are less familiar with is what happened next. Obviously Mary and Joseph were very happy to bring their child to the temple, and they marveled that this elderly man had offered such a beautiful and special prayer over Him. But then Simeon turned to Mary, the happy mother, and said something that must have made her think—maybe it made her sad, or afraid, we don’t know. Simeon said to her “Behold this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”
Yes, she would feel the sword pierce her own soul, the sword of pain at the loss of her only Son, who would be killed in a most heinous and humiliating way. Many of us have felt swords pierce our own souls, as we’ve mourned losses of loved ones, of jobs, of opportunities, and the pains that are part of every human life.
What we often forget is the last part of this verse, “that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” Our souls aren’t pierced with swords so that good things can come out of our pains—I don’t believe God specifically inflicts pains on people. He does allow pains to happen, and in them, there is always an opportunity for something good to happen, for thoughts out of many hearts to be revealed. Sometimes when the pains happen, we don’t know what positive will come out of it. Or we may see positive LONG after we’ve felt the pain.
There is no saint who did not suffer in some way for his or her faith. Whether that suffering was private—struggling against temptation, or forgiving detractors—or more public—loss of reputation, exile, torture, martyrdom, imprisonment—each person that is a saint had their share of trials.
Here are three quick ways to deal with trials that come our way:
- PRAY—the most important way to face anything is to face it with Christ at your side.
- Get encouragement from others—talk about your trials with other people you can trust and who will encourage you.
- Keep your eye on the prize—the prize is salvation. Trials come and trials go but salvation is the constant goal. Keep your eye on the prize at all times.
Christ doesn’t tell us to go looking for pain and suffering. Some Christians actually believe that we have to look for these things as part of our spiritual growth. No, we aren’t supposed to look for pain and suffering. But when they “find us”, we are to face them the Virgin Mary did—with her grace. She faced many trials in her life because of her choice to carry Christ. If we choose to be a Christian, we shall as well. The Virgin Mary is a role model for what it means to face suffering with grace. May we follow her example.
Lady full of grace, rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, for Christ our God, the Sun of righteousness has risen from you and He illumined those in darkness. And you, righteous Elder, be glad in heart, receiving in your embraces the One who liberates our souls and bestows on us the Resurrection. (Apolytikion of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, First Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Keep Christ and the example of the Virgin Mary in mind in your trials today!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
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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