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
Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” John 12: 35-36 (From the Gospel of the Bridegroom Service on Holy Tuesday Evening) Monday of the Third Week of Lent
Good morning Prayer Team!
Most people who know me know that I like to mow the lawn. It is a hobby, exercise I actually like and a kind of “free therapy.” When it is the middle of summer, and it is very hot, I try to mow the lawn towards the end of the day. I know how long it takes me to mow the lawn—usually about two and a half hours (yes, I’m very thorough, and usually mow the neighbor’s too). I check the paper in the morning to figure out what time sunset is. And then I work backwards from that time and start mowing about two and a half hours before the sun is scheduled to set. Once in a while, I’ll come home later than I planned and I’ll run to mow the lawn, in order to “beat the dark.” Why? Because you can’t mow the lawn in the dark, you can’t see what you are doing. A lawn mowed in the dark would look terrible. Once the sun sets on the day, it is impossible to mow the lawn.
The same can be said for our lives. The purpose of our life is to have a clean soul that we are ready to present to the Lord. Every life has a time of sunset, a day and an hour known only by the Lord. That’s the difference between cleaning the lawn of my house and cleaning the lawn of my soul. At home, on a given day, I know exactly how much time I have until the day is over and my chance is gone. In life, we don’t know when the sunset will come.
What we do know, is that just like the opportunity to clean the yard ends once the sun sets, the opportunity to clean our souls ends with the sunset of our lives, with our earthly death. After we die, there is no opportunity to acquire faith, to repent, or to do good deeds. When we die, as we have learned from the teaching on the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), we will stand before the Awesome Judgment Seat of the Lord and answer for what we did in our lives on earth.
We learn in Luke 16:19-31, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus:
There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, (not the man Christ raised from the dead) full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’
From the parable, we learn that once someone goes to either heaven or hell, that this placement is permanent. The placement in heaven or hell is based on what one does or doesn’t do in life. In the case of the rich man, it wasn’t his riches that earned him eternal punishment, but the fact that he was indifferent to a man who would have gladly eaten the crumbs from his table, crumbs he wasn’t eating anyway.
Those who are in hell are able to see those in heaven, which is the worst part of the punishment. They are aware of what they are missing out on. There is a chasm between heaven and hell, so that one may not fall out of heaven into hell, nor can one move from hell to heaven.
In hell, the rich man, who had no compassion for poor Lazarus, finally found some Christian compassion, as he began to care about his brothers, and didn’t want them also to go to hell and eternal torment. Now, the things he didn’t have in his life, compassion and mercy, now he had those things. But it was too late for him to change his place of eternal residence.
Jesus warns us that we have to walk while we have the light, in this case, not just the light of day, but the light of life. However, unlike the hour of sunset that we know for today, we do not know the hour of sunset in life. This is why we don’t try to “beat the dark” but we live constantly in the LIGHT of Christ.
The woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Your Divinity, O Lord, assumes the role of a myrrh-bearer; and lamenting, she brings the myrrh before Your burial. “Woe to me! she said; “For me, night is an ecstasy of excess, dark and moonless, and full of sinful desire. Receive the sources of my tears, You, Who gathers into clouds the water of the sea. Incline the groanings of my heart, You, Who in Your ineffable condescension bowed down the heavens. I will embrace and kiss Your sacred Feet, and wipe them again with the tresses of the hair of my head. Your Feet, at whose sound Eve hid herself in fear, when she heard Your footsteps while You were walking in Paradise in the twilight. O My Savior and soul-Saver! Who can ever track down the multitude of my sins, and the depths of Your judgment? Do not disregard me Your servant, You Whose mercy is boundless. (Hymn of Kassiani, sung on Holy Tuesday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Walk in the Light today!
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