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
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6
Good morning Prayer Team!
And grant that with one voice and one heart we may glorify and praise Your most honored and majestic name, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
As we move toward the conclusion of the Anaphora, we hear a call to unity, “that with one voice and one heart we may glorify and praise” the Lord. The theme of today’s reflection is on unity, expressed in several ways in the Divine Liturgy.
First, it is the Tradition in the Orthodox Church that only one Divine Liturgy is celebrated in the church on a given day. (In some large communities, where the church is too small to hold the congregation, more than one Divine Liturgy is held, but an additional Liturgy requires an additional priest to celebrate it, as the priest may only celebrate the Liturgy and commune once per day.) There is no Tradition of several Liturgies being celebrated throughout the day. This is because the intention of the Liturgy is to bring all the faithful together in one Eucharistic assembly.
Secondly, we are all called to worship. At the Divine Liturgy, especially on Sundays, the intention is for the whole body of the church to be present, so that all may glorify God as one. If you miss the Divine Liturgy, your voice is absent from the “one voice” of the community.
Third, we are called to unity using the image of the heart. Our body has many parts, but it has one heart. The heart unifies the body, because the blood pumps through the healthy body at the same rate. In order to have a healthy church, the congregation should seek to move as one, to have a collective heart that beats in unity. When there are factions, antagonists and agitators in the church, it damages the heart of the church because it stifles unity.
So, what are the things that allow us to come together in unity? The last prayer, offered quietly by the priest, gives us the answers.
Remember Lord the city in which we live, every city and country, and the faithful who dwell in them. We all share the same space. Even though we may have a private home or apartment in my city, we share the same city with everyone who lives in it. We share the same roads, the same schools, the same parks, the same air. We are all part of a greater whole. And it is incumbent on us to see ourselves not only as private citizens, but as members of our cities, and as Americans. We have not only a duty to our families and ourselves, but we have a responsibility to society, to the greater whole. In remembering our city and our country, we seek to work together so that all may enjoy freedom and blessings.
Remember Lord, the travelers, the sick, the suffering and the captives, granting them protection and salvation. Years ago, when I served as the Deacon to the Metropolitan of Boston, I will always remember one prayer that he often offered: “Lord remember those who are suffering because we are indifferent to them.” When I offer this prayer at the Divine Liturgy, praying for the sick, the suffering and the captives, I often think of the “forgotten.” After calling us to remember those that we call to mind, the next prayer brings to mind those that are forgotten, that are not on anyone’s mind. Indeed if the Liturgy is offered on behalf of all, we also include the forgotten. And unity can only be achieved when all are accounted for, including the forgotten.
Remember, Lord, those who do charitable work, who serve in Your holy churches, and who care for the poor, and send Your mercy upon us all. The final line of the prayer asks for the Lord to remember those who minister to the forgotten—those who are doing charitable work, those who are laboring in the churches and those who are caring for the poor. Many people who help the poor are doing so as volunteers or in very low-paying positions. They have a great love for the work they do, and for those for whom they do it. They sacrifice their own sustenance in many instances. So, we are praying for their strength. Most people who work in our churches do so as volunteers. If the church is the spiritual hospital, working to heal those who have been wounded, then each person who labors in the church has the potential to be a part of that healing. Whether it is the greeters, the ushers, the altar boys, the parish council members, the Philoptochos, the Sunday School teachers, or others who volunteer their time, we are praying for everyone who works for the church that their efforts may glorify God. I purposely use the caveat, that their efforts may glorify God. Unfortunately, there are some in parish leadership who do not belong in parish leadership. Sometimes their efforts actually harm the flock rather than help it. So, in praying for those who serve in the church, we pray that their efforts will be Christ-centered, seeking in all things to glorify God. And we also pray that others will be inspired to step forward and work in the church. Unity is only possible when we all are working toward the same goal, with focus, purpose and harmony.
And grant that with one voice and one heart we may glorify and praise Your most honored and majestic name, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. Having mentioned all the faithful, the remembered, the forgotten and those who labor, we pray that all can come together with “one voice and one heart”, praying in unity, with hearts that beat together in unison, to glorify God as we travel through the Liturgy to its climax of unity of Holy Communion.
Remember Lord the city in which we live, every city and country, and the faithful who dwell in them. Remember Lord, the travelers, the sick, the suffering and the captives, granting them protection and salvation. Remember, Lord, those who do charitable work, who serve in Your holy churches, and who care for the poor, and send Your mercy upon us all. And grant that with one voice and one heart we may glorify and praise Your most honored and majestic name, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Strive to have your voice and your heart speak and beat in time with Christ today!
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Photo credit: St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral
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