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
We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Fruits of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23
One of them, a lawyer, asked Jesus a question, to test Him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22: 35-40
Good morning Prayer Team!
The Bible is intimidating to many people, based on its sheer length. The books of the Law in the Old Testament, specifically Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, list 613 commandments that the children of Israel were to follow. These were not suggestions. They were commandments. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I could memorize 613 commandments, let alone keep them.
These 613 are summarized in Ten Commandments, which most of us are familiar with. Many of us can recite the Ten Commandments, or at least most of them. Keeping them, of course, is another story. Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments into two commandments: Love God and love your neighbor. Seems simple, right? Love God and love your neighbor. Certainly much easier than memorizing 613 commandments.
And for those who can’t even remember two commandments, these two commandments can be summarized into one word: Love. Love is the first fruit of the Spirit. All of the remaining fruits stem from it. And without love, one can’t have any of the other fruits. So, we’ll start our journey through the nine fruits with love.
Saint Paul writes in his treatise on love in I Corinthians 13:4, that “love is patient and kind.” Two of the fruits used to describe love. In fact, love is found in the remaining eight.
Sin can be described simply as “failure to love.” We cannot sin and love at the same time. In I John 4: 18, we read “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.” Just as sin and love cannot exist together, neither can fear and love. Take the opposite of each fruit—sadness, conflict, impatience, unkindness, evil, harshness, unfaithfulness, and ego (which overrides self-control) and you won’t find love in these moments. That’s not to say that loving people don’t lose their patience or don’t always exercise self-control. It means that in the moments we are losing patience and not exercising self-control, in these moments we are not loving, nor bearing Godly fruit.
If we were to wake up and focus on one thing each day, it should be love. Because everything else in the Christian life will follow.
The sign of the cross, something we as Orthodox make each day, something that most of us wear around our necks, is a reminder of God’s love for us. It is also a reminder of the two great commandments. The vertical bar of the cross reminds us to love God, and that He loves us. The horizontal bar reminds us to love one another, and that God died out of love for everyone.
Perhaps the best way to start your day is to make the sign of the cross and say “I will love God, I will love my neighbor” as you make the sign of the cross. Make the sign of the cross several times slowly, repeating these words as a mantra, as a pep talk for yourself as you begin your day: “I will love God, I will love my neighbor.” You can use this mantra throughout the day.
When you get into your car to drive, make the sign of the cross and say “I will honor God in my driving, I will look out for my neighbor on the road.”
Before your workday, you can make the sign of the cross and say “I will honor God in my work, I will be a good co-worker to those with whom and for whom I work.
If you have need to have an unpleasant conversation with someone, make the sign of the cross and say “I will honor God in this conversation, and I will speak the truth with love to my neighbor.”
If we keep love at the forefront, and lead with love, then everything else will follow.
Lord, thank You for loving me. Thank You for loving me enough to die on the cross for my sins. Thank You for forgiving me when I ask for forgiveness and for accepting my repentance when I turn back to You. Help me to be a person of love, loving others as You love me. As You led with love, help me also to lead with love in my life, loving You and loving my neighbor. Amen.
Focus on loving God by loving others today!
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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