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
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’” This is My Name forever, the Name you shall call Me from generation to generation. Exodus 3:15
Good morning Prayer Team!
Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us.
We live in a world that is constantly changing. Technology is evolving so fast that if you have something that is three months old, there is a new and improved version and what you have is already considered “old.” Jobs are eliminated and new jobs are created. The economy booms and busts. Governments rise and fall. Old worlds are explored and new worlds are discovered. Think about all the changes that happened in the world in the last decade, the last century, the last millennium. It’s mind-boggling. There are people who are alive today that remember when there were no computers, and imagine what life would be like today without a computer. It’s hard to imagine.
The Divine Liturgy was set in its current form by the end of the fourth century. The last line of the service was “Through the prayers of our fathers” then, as it remains to today. This line of the liturgy affirms that this service is “timeless”, just as God is timeless. There is a continuity to what we believe and how we practice what we believe.
The Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church shared a common history until the year 1054, when these two churches split, excommunicating one another in 1054 in what is known as the Great Schism. The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, based on the “protest” of Martin Luther of abuses in the Catholic Church. And since then, tens of thousands of Christian denominations have come into existence, based on “protest.” When a group of people in unhappy in their denomination, they simply create another one.
To be sure, the Orthodox Church doesn’t appeal to everyone. There are people who leave the church, just as there are people who join it. However, the beautiful thing about the church is that it doesn’t change often. That doesn’t mean that it never changes, only that change is purposeful. There is a continuity to our practice of the faith. And this not only goes from age to age, it goes from church to church.
The Divine Liturgy is celebrated in virtually the same way in the entire world. In Africa, they incorporate liturgical dance, and in America we use organs and four part harmonies, but wherever the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, it is celebrated by a priest or bishop, bread and wine are consecrated into the Body and Blood of Christ, there is a Great Entrance, a reciting of the Creed and offering of Holy Communion. The same lectionary of Scripture is read in every church the world over. As a priest, I can participate in the liturgy in any church, with any priest, and feel comfortable. I once attended a Divine Liturgy in Mexico that was conducted entirely in Spanish. While I could not understand the words, the actions were all the same. I didn’t hear the priest say “peace be with you all” but when he turned around and offered a blessing from the altar, I knew that he was offering peace to me and everyone else.
This is continuity.
So, when we end the Divine Liturgy each Sunday and leave to go back into our daily routines, we are reminded that we are part of something that is bigger than ourselves. We are part of something that is bigger than our parish. We are part of something that is bigger than our times. In celebrating the Divine Liturgy, we are connected to every Orthodox Christian, in every Orthodox Church, in every century from the time of Pentecost.
Our purpose in life is also not just temporary, restricted to the year in which we live, the town in which we live, or the job which we hold. Our purpose in life is to glorify God so that when life on earth is over, we enter into everlasting life, and we go to live with Christ on a permanent and eternal basis.
The end of the Divine Liturgy reminds us that we are part of a continuum that began with the creation of the world, and continues through its redemption through the saving work of Jesus Christ, and the spreading of the Christian faith through two thousand years since Christ walked the earth, which will continue until His Second Coming. However, we don’t need to wait for the Second Coming to experience the heavenly Kingdom. It is present “NOW and forever” in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. And because we continue to honor the saints and all of the people who have been part of the church in every service, we are connected to Christ, the saints and to our loved one who have departed, until the day we see them again.
In a world where things are constantly changing, it is a comfort to know that Christ does not change, and our encounter with Him in the Divine Liturgy and the Holy Eucharist does not change either. The Divine Liturgy provides a constant source of joy, comfort and purpose.
[One liturgical note here, which is that during the Paschal season, the service does not end with the words “Through the prayer of our Holy Fathers,” but ends with the Paschal hymn “Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down death, and to those in the tombs He has granted life.”]
But Thou, o Lord, art enthroned forever; Thy name endures to all generations. Thou wilt arise and have pity on Zion; it is time to favor her; the appointed time has come. For Thy servants hold her stones dead, and have pity on her dust. The nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory. For the Lord will build up Zion, He will appear in His glory; He will regard the prayer of the destitute and will not despise their supplication. Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord. Psalm 102: 12-18
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Photo Credit: Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston
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