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
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael answered him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1: 45-46 (Gospel on the Sunday of Orthodoxy)
Good morning Prayer Team!
We have all had the experience of being invited somewhere. When we accept an invitation, it is with the expectation that what we will be doing with be a positive experience, like going to a birthday party, or a restaurant.
We have all had the experience of being the “inviter.” When we invite someone to do something with us, it is generally with the expectation that the thing we are going to do with them is going to be positive as well.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy, and the Gospel reading of that day, are all about an invitation. The Apostle Philip had had an encounter with Jesus, and was so moved by the encounter, that he called his friend Nathanael and told him the good news of this Man whom he had met. However, Nathanael responded to the invitation with skepticism—“Can ANYTHING good come out of Nazareth?” And Philip responded with a confident, commanding and calming “Come and see.”
I sometimes wonder what would happen if I put a large sign outside of our church with the invitation “Come and See” on it. I wonder if people would “come and see.” And I wonder, more seriously, if they came, what WOULD they see? Would they see a parish that is alive with Christ? Or would they notice all the people who come in late? Would they take more note of the beautiful choir, or the damaged roof? What would they think if they saw how much money we give to the poor? Would they think we are a church, or more of a club? I’m thankful to the Lord that my parish is continually improving in all of these areas, but I do realize that we have a long way to go. Are we at a point where we want the “world” to “come and see”? An important question for sure for every church community.
What if you wore a shirt that said “come and see” on it, inviting people to Christ via your personal witness for Him? Would people think that YOUR life, my life, reflects a Christianity worth “coming and seeing”? Just like the shortcomings of our parish, would our personal shortcomings show more than our faith? Again, an important point to ponder, especially during this upcoming season of Great Lent. In fact, the entire purpose of Great Lent is repentance, which is cleaning up our Christian life, and our church communities so that people will want to come and see more of Christ based on our witness of Him.
On the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we boldly proclaim a Synodical Statement from the year 843, that “This is the faith of the Apostles. This is the Faith of the Fathers. This is the Faith of the Orthodox. This is the Faith on which the world is established.” (Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes) This is a very bold statement indeed. In many parishes, the “faith” can barely hold up the roof. And in the lives of those who are nominal Christians, it is a faith that is nearly irrelevant.
Since we have inherited the faith of the Apostles, we, too, are called to be like the Apostles. We are called to be Philip. We are called to invite others to Christ. Philip was not very educated, he certainly was not educated in the faith. What he had was curiosity, and this bred desire, and this led to conviction, and this led to recruiting others. Lent is a time for those who are at the “curious” stage to explore the faith deeper. For those who are at the “desire” stage, it is a time to deepen the commitment. For those who are at the “convicted” stage, it is a time to give greater witness. And for those out recruiting, it is time to double efforts and recruit even more people to “come and see” the power of God to transform lives.
As a priest, my ministry is one of recruiting others. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t deepen curiosity, desire and conviction. Truth be told, we all need continual improvement in all of these areas. “Come and see” should be a motto for all churches and all Christians. Great Lent is a time to reflect on the sincerity and truth of this statement, as it relates to our lives. “Come and see” a person who wears a cross but whose life does not honor that cross, or “come and see” a person who carries his crosses with joy and purpose, radiating God’s love to all he meets? “Come and see” a church that can barely hold up its roof, or “come and see” a church that is ready to make a difference in its corner of the universe? Important questions indeed for each of us.
Today has been manifested as a day of festivity, as a day full of happiness. The bright light of very true dogmas shines like lightning. And Christ’s Church is glowing, for she is once again adorned by the replacement and installation now of holy icons and depictions, and the light that they radiate. And a oneness of mind among the believers has God bestowed. (From the Praises of Orthros on Sunday of Orthodoxy, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
“Come and see” and encourage others to do the same.
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