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
Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:35
Good morning Prayer Team!
We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us.
If receiving Holy Trinity is the high point of the Divine Liturgy, then one might think that the remainder of the Divine Liturgy is a quiet epilogue to this main event. In modern parishes, where a long Communion line disrupts the flow of the service (I’m not criticizing this, just making the point that an energetic service filled with prayerful exclamations by the priest and joyful responses by the choir and the people is transformed into what seems to be an endless wait for the distribution of Communion to finish), the end of the Divine Liturgy is almost like a gasp of relief.
The better way to see the end of the Liturgy is like the end of a fireworks show. Fireworks shows, if you recall, start with a bang, and then ebb and flow in energy until the grand finale where many fireworks are shot off in rapid succession filling the sky with color until their sudden yet triumphal ending. I try to remember this when celebrating the end of the Divine Liturgy. We are, in fact, still celebrating, not just slinking to the finish line.
The “epilogue” to the Liturgy begins with the above hymn. This is a hymn of triumph. Read the words of this hymn a couple of times: We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us. We should sing these words with the same excitement that one would have saying “I just got promoted” or “I’m getting married” or “I just won the lottery.” They should be EXCLAIMED.
Read each statement which follows slowly and with conviction.
We haven’t just received Communion, we have beheld with our own eyes the Body and Blood of Christ!
We have touched God!
God has come into us!
We have received the Holy Spirit! We have again received grace and mercy and an infusion of all His gifts.
We have found the true faith! This means that our life not only has focus, but it has purpose and meaning. We are one step closer to the Kingdom of Heaven!
We have worshipped the Trinity! We have relived the journey to salvation. We have worshipped the Uncreated God. We have prayed for the entirety of God’s creation.
We have acknowledged sins and shortcomings, the consequences of the Fall.
We have relived the life of Christ, heard from the scripture, reaffirmed faith in the Creed, and partaken both of the Last Supper and Pentecost.
The Holy Trinity, individually and collectively, has blessed us and has led us one step closer to our salvation.
The Biblical quote above refers to the experience of two disciples, one named Cleopas and the other who is unnamed, who were on the road to Emmaus on the afternoon after the Resurrection. This story is told in Luke 24:13-35. The two disciples were talking about all the things that had happened. Jesus approached them, but they didn’t recognize Him. The disciples were sad as they talked about Jesus, their friend, who had died. Jesus played ignorant, asking them questions about what happened. After the disciples explain their confusion in understanding the meaning of the empty tomb, Jesus “interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (24:27)
The two disciples asked Him (still not knowing it was Jesus) to stay the evening with them. “When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight.” Then they returned to Jerusalem and told the other disciples that they had seen the Lord and “how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (24:35)
By the Grace of the Holy Spirit, we come to know Christ in a deeper way in “the breaking of the bread”, Holy Communion. In receiving Communion, we see the True Light, we receive again the Grace of the Holy Spirit, we deepen our faith. Our eyes are opened, and hopefully our hearts as well, to not only a deeper understanding of the faith but a deeper commitment to live the faith. This is yet another reason to receive Holy Communion.
During the Divine Liturgy, after what is often a long Communion line on Sundays, this hymn is sometimes not sung with the proper joy and gusto. It sounds like “We have just stood through a long Communion line and are relieved that it’s over.” This hymn, perhaps above all others, should be almost shouted with joy, for the great gift that God has given us.
O Christ, the true light that lightens and sanctifies everyone who comes into the world, let the light of Your countenance shine upon us, that in it we may behold the unapproachable light. Direct our steps aright as Your commandments, by the prayers of Your most Holy Mother and of all Your saints. Amen. (From the 1st Hour, Holy Cross, Press, Holy Week Book)
Experience Christ in the breaking of the Bread as often as possible!
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Photo credit: The Orthodox Pathway
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