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
“And His father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”
Good morning Prayer Team!
In today’s series on the Virgin Mary, as we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Her Dormition on August 15, we see yet another great example of her faith. Forty days after the Nativity, Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple for His forty-day blessing, something that was required under Jewish Law. This event is told in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Many of us are familiar with the priest Simeon, and his beautiful prayer, “Lord now let your servant depart in peace,” that is offered over our children when they are forty days old. What most of us are not as familiar with, are the words Simeon offered immediately after that prayer. He said to Mary the above quote, (saying that her child would do amazing things,) and continued, that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul also. Can you imagine your reaction if, as a new parent, the priest of your church said that to you?!
Again, we see the obedience of Mary-she perhaps didn’t fully understand the words of the priest, but she did not waver in playing her part in God’s plan for the world’s salvation. Mary was not a robot, she was a willing participant in God’s plan for the world’s salvation. That plan brought her both pain-she watched her only Son die in the worst way possible-and it brought her salvation, as at the Dormition, we believe that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven.
God has a plan for the salvation of the world. Each of us plays a role in that plan. Each of us is of infinite value in the eyes of God, so each of us plays a role of infinite value in God’s plan for the world’s salvation. Some of these roles involve fame and wealth. Others involve pain and suffering. Perhaps the worst suffering one can have is to watch their child die. Having unfortunately experienced this with several parishioners whose children I have buried, each eagerly says that they would glad trade places and suffer and die in place of their children. We also do not know fully the plan of God and our role in it. Like Mary, we have to be obedient and steadfast in playing our role, even when we don’t fully understand that role. And if that role includes pain and suffering, like the role of the Virgin Mary, even that is something we must learn to accept, if not embrace. Having said that, there are certain pains and people who suffer unspeakably in life, and this is hard to understand (a subject for another day). There are certain things that we won’t fully understand until we meet the Lord, and all things are revealed to us. In the meantime, we need to focus first on the glory of the Lord, be assured of His love for us, and eagerly embrace each victory and each challenge, leaning on the Lord to help us in all things.
Lord our God, thank You for blessings big and small in my life. Thank You for helping me through hard times. Help me to keep my focus on You, even when it feels like a sword is piercing my own soul. Help to not give up hope in Your everlasting mercies, and to trust that each setback, however big, is temporary, when measured against the majesty of Your heavenly Kingdom which You have prepared for those who love You. Amen.
Have a great day!