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
Jesus said to His Disciples, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. The glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and Thou in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given Me, may be with Me where I am, to behold My glory which Thou hast given Me in Thy love for Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known Thee, but I have known Thee; and these know that Thou hast sent Me. I made known to them Thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”John 17: 20-26 (From the First Gospel on Holy Thursday Evening) Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Good morning Prayer Team!
No one knows how long it took Christ to give this discourse. It was probably over a period of a couple of hours. It was a summation of three years of ministry. All the things He had done and taught were about to come to pass, with His impending death now only hours away. The discourse began with hope and with instruction, then turned to the reality of the Christian life, that it is not an easy life.
Jesus followed these words of sober reality with words that again spoke of comfort. He again spoke of the Holy Spirit, in John 16:13, saying “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.” And not only does the Spirit guide us to know the Truth, but sustains our hope and confidence in that truth. This is one of the many reasons why we celebrate the Liturgy so often, so that the Holy Spirit may come down upon us and upon the Gifts we are presenting to God. (See the Prayer of Consecration at the Divine Liturgy)
Jesus warns His followers, then and now, that we will be sorrowful at times because we are Christians and because the world will hate us. He makes the comparison of a woman giving birth, who suffers great pain, which is quickly forgotten when a child enters the world. And He says this is the kind of pain we will feel in this life, but also the kind of joy we can expect as we prepare for eternal life. He says that when we find that joy, our hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you (us).”(John 16:20-22)
In John 16:33, Jesus said to His Disciples “I have said this to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” And likewise, those whose lives are filled with peace and love will overcome the tribulations of the world as well.
Christ ended His farewell discourse with a prayer for His Disciples. The prayer was offered to God the Father, on behalf not only of His Disciples, but on behalf of everyone who will ever become a disciple, which means that this is a prayer us living in the world today. Christ’s prayer is not only His prayer for us, but should become our prayer for ourselves. It offers up His hopes for us.
Verse 21—that they also be in Us—that we live in unity with God.
That the world may believe—that we spread the Word of God and that our witness is accepted by the world.
Verse 22—That they may be one even as We are one—that we seek unifying relationships with one another, and that we manifest God-like love in our relationships.
Verse 24—that they may be where I am—meaning to be with Christ in heaven, at the right hand of God the Father.
To behold My glory—to gaze upon Christ with our own eyes and to not only see His glory but to share in it.
Which Thou hast given Me in Thy love for Me before the foundation of the world—For us to share the glory of God with God, in the same way that God was before the Creation of the world, meaning for us to exist in a state of perfect love with God and with one another, free from the sin of the fallen world, and to share this state of existence on a permanent basis.
Nowhere in this prayer does Christ ask for things to be easy for us. He asks the Father, Holy Father, keep them (us) in Thy name. (17:11) And in verse 26, He asks that “the love with which Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
Christ’s hope for all of us is to one day be with Him, in the way He was with God before the creation of the world. He wants us to live in a world the way the world was before the Fall, when it was perfect. The means to that end are to live a life here on earth with faith, demonstrated by love, aided by the Holy Spirit, which sustains us and guides our church, until the day that we are graced with salvation, a permanent oneness with God. To be one with God needs to be a daily prayer and a daily pursuit in every Christian life. To ask God to show us His glory in some way, large or small, should be a prayer and a hope for each day as well.
Grant peace to the world, O Merciful Lord; You, Who for Your servants’ sake, condescended to take on flesh from the Virgin. Therefore with one voice we praise You, as a loving Lord. (From the 10th Antiphon of the Service of the 12 Gospels on Holy Thursday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
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