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
The Lord said this parable: A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and yielded a hundredfold. . .Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life and their fruit does not mature. And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience. Luke 8: 5-8, 11-15
The reading is from the Holy Gospel according to St. (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). Let us be attentive.
Glory to You O Lord, Glory to You.
A Gospel Lesson is part of every Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil. (Only during Holy Week do we hear a Gospel Lesson at Pre-Sanctified Liturgy). When the priest introduces the Gospel reading, he says “THE reading is from the Holy Gospel. . .”, not “A reading.” The reason for this is that the scriptures that are read in the services are done with a pre-scribed lectionary—there are readings assigned to every Sunday, every feastday and every day of the year. You can go to any Orthodox Church in the world on a given Sunday or feastday and hear the same Gospel reading. During the Paschal season, the readings are done primarily from the Gospel of John. After Pentecost, the readings are generally from the Gospel of Matthew. When we see “the Third Sunday of Matthew” on the yearly calendar, that means that it occurs three Sundays after Pentecost. Depending on how early Pascha (and thus Pentecost) falls, there may be anywhere from 10 to 15 Sundays of Matthew before September 6. The Sundays before and after Holy Cross Day have their own specific readings. Then from September 22 through mid-December, we read from the Gospel of Luke. The Sundays surrounding Christmas and Epiphany have their own readings. Then generally the lectionary goes back and picks up readings from Matthew until the beginning of Triodion (pre-Lent). The Sundays of Triodion and Lent have their own specific readings. And during Lent, the Gospel of Mark is read predominantly on weekends. During the weekdays of Lent, other than the feast of the Annunciation, there are no Gospel readings in the daily reading, but rather Old Testament scriptures are read primarily from the book of Genesis and the book of Job. When there is a feastday on a Sunday, the Gospel of that feast “knocks out” the Sunday Gospel reading, which is skipped for the year. For example, if the Dormition of the Virgin Mary is on a Sunday, which also happens to be the 8th Sunday of Matthew, then the 8th Sunday of Matthew is skipped and the Gospel of the Dormition is read in its place. Each feastday of the Lord, of the Virgin Mary, and of the major saints, has its own unique Gospel as well as Epistle reading. The point in sharing this information is so you know that the Gospel readings are not at the discretion of the priest but are set according to the church calendar. The “Kanonion”, a formalized list of what is read each Sunday of the upcoming year, is sent to every priest from the Ecumenical Patriarchate in fall of each year.
Scripture reading is important in the life of every Orthodox Christian. In prayer, we speak to God. In reading of scripture, we hear the words of God to us. Scripture reading should be part of your DAILY routine. It should not be limited to what you hear read in church on Sundays. I’ve heard an acronym for the word “Bible” as being “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” The Bible includes the history of God’s people from the beginning of time through the creation of the early Church. It includes the saving message of Jesus Christ. It includes moral precepts and guideposts for life. Some have described the Bible as “a love letter from God to His children.” Whether you open the Bible to a book that interests you, or read a selection from the “Daily Readings” which can be found on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, whether you read a whole chapter or just a few verses, read something of the Bible each day. The Psalms, for instance, include every emotion. It is good to read this book and catalog what emotions it evokes in you. If you’ve never read the Bible, the four Gospels are a good place to start. The Epistles give advice to modern churches just as they did for early ones. The Old Testament book of Proverbs has “prescriptions” for daily living.
The Parable of the Sower, which I quoted above, is a parable, a story with a hidden meaning and a life application. The application of this parable is easy to identify, though harder to do. If the seed is the Word of God, and it is in all of our hearts, then we are supposed hold it fast in a good and honest heart and bring forth fruit from that seed. We are not supposed to be like seed that falls on thorns, getting choked by the cares of life; or falling away in time of temptation.
It has been customary in the Divine Liturgy for the homily, or sermon, to be delivered after the reading of the Gospel, so that the priest may help interpret the scripture and tell us how to apply the passage to our lives. In many parishes, the sermon is given at the end of the service, for pastoral reasons or practical ones. A priest is always supposed to preach, however, to teach the people, and deepen their understanding of scripture.
Today’s prayer is very short. It is the response offered by the people before and after the reading of scripture. It is said multiple times surrounding the reading of scripture, and is also said after receiving Communion and can be said throughout the day, as a way of reminding ourselves to give glory to God. And why give Him glory—because He has given US glory by creating us in His image and likeness; and the reading of scripture is a constant reminder that He still glorifies us and will glorify us for eternal life if we keep His commandments and place our faith and hope in Him.
Glory to You, O Lord, Glory to You.
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