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
“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46
Good morning Prayer Team!
No one goes to high school or college with the intention of staying there forever. When I went to high school in 1986, I was immediately identified as a member of the class of 1990. And when I went to college in 1990, I was immediately called “Class of 1994.” From the first day at each school, I was called by the year I would be finishing. Even from the first day at a new school, the focus is on the last day, the graduation day.
When graduation day comes, there are two emotions. One is usually some sense of nostalgia, even sadness, as one chapter of life is about to come to an end. One looks back and remembers the happy moments, relishes in the memories, and in some way grieves what is about to be lost. The greater, emotion, however, is one of joy and accomplishment. First the accomplishment of what one came to do has been realized. No one goes to school with the idea of being there forever, but finishing a program and going on to something greater. And second the joy of moving on to something greater, be it another level of school or the start of a career. The whole point of going through to school is to finish and go on to something greater.
Life on this earth is like high school or college. We are on this earth, in this life, for a finite period of time. During this time, we learn, we teach others, we master knowledge through repetition, and we evaluate where we are through tests and exams. Eventually graduation day comes, and those who are ready, those who have completed God’s course of study, inherit eternal life. They graduate into heaven. And those who have failed to complete God’s course of study inherit eternal punishment. They graduate into hell. Christ tells us that on graduation day, whatever place one graduates to will be permanent. So we have to be ready for graduation day because we never know when it’s going to come.
Sometimes I think that the length of life is a lot like the college experience. Some go to college for two years, some four, some five, some eight and some even longer, in order to finish their course of study. Some get an Associate’s Degree while others will study for a Doctorate. And in life, some graduate at age ten, others at age one hundred. Unlike college, though, it is the Lord that determines the date of graduation.
Our role in life is to work every day at our “studies”, moving each day closer to our graduation. As devout Christians, when we know that the day of graduation is near, it is natural for us to feel sad as life comes to an end and we look back with nostalgia for what has been, and in some way mourn what will no longer be. However, the greater emotion we should feel at the end of a well-lived Christian life should be the joy of graduating to something bigger, everlasting life.
Anyone who has sent a child away to college has felt the sadness of separation, mixed with the joy that your child has gone on to something greater, to fulfilling their dreams. When one of our loved ones graduates from this life, we should have the same emotions as the parent sending a child away to college—the sadness of separation, mixed with the greater joy that our loved one has gone on to something greater, to receiving the Kingdom of Heaven which God has prepared for all those who graduate this life, having completed His course of study.
Lord, as I begin a new day, this day brings me one day closer to my graduation date. Be with me in my “studies” today. Help me to be a good student of Your commandments. Help me to find joyful moments every day, and as I get older, help me to look with joy, rather than fear, when I think about my graduation day. Remember my loved ones (list their names) who have graduated from this life and place them in Paradise, where all of the saints and the righteous dwell. Amen.
Glorify God in your “studies” today!
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Photo Credit: Colorado Christian University
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