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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros 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
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” John 20:19
Good morning Prayer Team!
Peace be with you all. And with your spirit.
We are about to become one with the Lord in the receiving of Holy Communion. This is one the most important moment of the Divine Liturgy, as it is (or should be) the entire purpose for which we came.
There are two other instances when the priest says to the people “Peace be with you all.” The other two times are before the Gospel and before the reciting of the Creed. That is because we want to come to these events in peace. We want to be at peace to hear the Word of the Lord through the Gospel. We want to be at peace as we confess our faith. And now we want to be at peace as we receive Holy Communion.
As with all petitions and prayers of the service, there is a response. And as with all the responses, the entire congregation is supposed to respond, not just the choir or the chanter. Never is this more appropriate than with this directive. The Lord, through the hand of the priest, offers us peace. The priest blesses the people with the prayer that they have peace. It’s like when someone wishes you a “good morning,” they mean that they wish for you “to have a good morning”. And you should wish them the same in return, that you wish for them to have the same good morning they are wishing for you to have.
When the priest says “peace be with you all,” he is praying to God and wishing on you that you will have peace, that you will have absence of conflict, that you will have the peace of God, the kind of peace that is beyond our understanding, (Philippians 4:7), this is what he is offering to you. And this demands two responses. It first demands an immediate response from the people to the priest—“And with your spirit”—which means that the people are wishing for the priest to have peace as well. The second response is that in our lives, we are to spread peace to all, so that “all spirits” are in peace. This exchange of “peace” should be implied in all of our interactions—we should be people who encourage peace, and in response, people should bring peace to us as well.
Going back to “peace be with you all,” and the response, “and with your spirit,” the Liturgy is “work” for all the people. It is not only the priest and choir that are working. Nor is the liturgy a production where the priest, choir and chanter are the cast, and the congregation is the audience. I said once in church, in a sermon about congregational singing, the priest doesn’t say “peace be with the choir since they are the only ones who will answer.” He says “peace be with you ALL” and the response should be, to your priest, “and with YOUR spirit.” The priest includes all but himself in this gift. He doesn’t say “peace be with me,” or “peace be with you and me,” but with humility and love wishes “peace be with you all.” With the same humility and love, let us respond back, “And with YOUR spirit,” so that the spirit of the priest or bishop who is offering the blessing receives also the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.
Lord, thank You for the gift of peace that surpasses all understanding. Thank You for the many ways I experience peace in my life. Help me to be a person of peace, who offers peace and helps settle conflict. Surround me with peaceful people. Bring peace into the many corners of the world from where peace is absent. Sooth the conflicts, soften the peace-takers, replace the strife with the peace that can only come from You. Amen.
Have a peaceful day!
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