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
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (Epistle of Palm Sunday)
Good morning Prayer Team!
I could write an entire week of reflections on this verse alone! It makes mention of virtues that are fast disappearing in our world today. As we reflect on this verse today, think of the meaning of these words, what St. Paul is referring to and how the world has turned these words around.
Truth—Jesus tells us in the Bible “The truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32) We live in a world where dishonesty is almost expected, and sadly, in some professions, required. The truth is the highest authority—without truth, none of the virtues that follow are possible. There is no nobility, or justice, or purity, nothing can be lovely, or of good report if it is based in a lie. The ultimate source of truth is the Lord.
Nobility—We are obsessed with control. Yet, there is no nobility in doing something when you know exactly what the outcome will be. That’s why it’s a noble thing for a firefighter to rush into a burning building to save someone, or a patient to wage a battle with cancer, or a person to listen to someone who needs comfort, because in any of these situations, a person does not know the outcome, but takes a chance anyway.
Just—Just is what is fair, not in the eyes of society, but in the eyes of God. Just means doing the right thing, even if it is not popular.
Purity—A pure white sheet is a piece of cloth without any stain, wrinkle or blemish. We were each wrapped in one of these after our baptisms. Purity is under constant attack—it is hard to keep a body pure, to not engage in overindulging in food or alcohol, or for those yet to be married, to stay pure in body and wait for marriage. It is hard to stay pure in mind when we receive messages of violence in movies and distrust of contemporary leaders. It is hard to stay pure in spirit when the faith is constantly under attack. Yet, to fight the battle for purity is not only noble, it is rewarding.
Lovely—There is beauty in each person because each person is created in God’s image and likeness. It is so sad when I hear someone call another person “ugly,” because it is so untrue. There are no ugly people. There are people who do ugly things, but every person is innately beautiful because God made them that way.
Good report—It’s hard to watch the news most days because the reports are anything but good. In fact, a good friend of mine says to me, during the occasional “woe is me” conversation that all of us have with our friends, “tell me something good.” Today in your friendships, and in your marriages (for those who are married) focus on saying something good to your friends, or your spouse. Even if you can’t muster anything good to say about them in particular, say something good to them. We need more good reports in the world.
Truth, nobility, justice, purity, loveliness, and good reports, these are virtuous things upon which we should meditate.
One mantra I use to live my life is “If it’s not good, it’s not from God.” Only good things come from God, so if it is not a good thing, it isn’t from Him. Truth, nobility, justice, purity, loveliness, good reports—these are good things that come from God. Dishonesty, distrust, injustice, ugly behavior, bad news—these are not things of God. So meditate on the things of God today, and make an effort to work at ONE of these virtues—truth, nobility, justice, purity, loveliness or a good report—work at ONE of these today. Then pick a different one tomorrow until you’ve had one day with each of them. Then try two on a day, and so on, until all six become part of your daily life.
One last note, which is that on Palm Sunday, we read the Epistle from Philippians 4:4-9. It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that the Epistle doesn’t continue all the way to Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This is because Philippians 4:13 provides us one of the best mantras for the Christian life. That all things are possible through Christ. And that Christ will give us the strength to endure every trial. I encourage you to read Philippians 4:4-13, truly a spiritual treasure.
In heaven upon the throne, on earth upon the colt, You were carried, O Christ our God; and the praise of the Angels, and the hymns of the children, You received as they cried to You, ʺBlessed are You, the One, who is coming to call Adam back again.” (Kontakion, Palm Sunday, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Focus on truth, nobility, justice, purity, loveliness and good reports today! Or pick one today and a different one for the next several days!
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