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
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying “Go and search diligently for the Child, and when you have found Him bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.” Matthew 2:3-8
Good morning Prayer Team!
The Bible has fixed the length of the journey of the Magi as being just under two years. When they arrived at the palace of King Herod, he secretly ascertained from them what time the star appeared. Herod felt threatened by the idea of a “King of the Jews” who could threaten his reign over the land. After the visit of the Magi, when they went back to their country without telling Herod the whereabouts of the Christ-child, Herod “was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time he had ascertained from the wise men.” (Matthew 2: 16)
It was just under a two year journey from the time the star appeared until the Magi appeared in Bethlehem and found Christ. As we read in Matthew 2:11, it says: “and going into the house they saw the Child with Mary His Mother.” So, unlike the traditional manger scenes that show shepherds and Magi arriving at the same time on Christmas night, it was only the shepherds that went to the cave and worshipped at the manger. The Magi worshipped Christ as a “Child”, not as a baby. They met Him in a house, not at the cave.
It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to walk across the United States. That seems like it would be a difficult task. It is made easier because we have paved roads, milepost markers and GPS to tell us where we are at all times and how far we have to go and to keep us from getting lost. There are restaurants where we can find food, hotels to find shelter and most importantly, a finite destination. You know that in 3,000 miles you are going to hit the ocean. So, walking 5 miles a day, it would take you less than two years. Parts of India, are in fact, 3,000 miles from Bethlehem. So, a five mile a day pace might have been the speed of the Magi.
Now imagine you took that walk across America without the benefit of a road, with no road-side hotels and restaurants, with only the sun to guide you by day and the stars to guide you at night. While a five mile walk on a paved road might not seem like that big of a deal, how about crossing the Rocky Mountains without a road in the middle of winter?! You wouldn’t be moving at five miles a day for sure! And most challenging of all, imagine that you started walking across America without knowing how far it is across America, or what is on the other side, you just walk and walk and walk, wondering if it will ever end, and wondering even HOW it will end and WHERE.
This was the journey of the Magi—as the popular carol says “field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.” This was a journey of faith and trust, patience and perseverance, for nearly two long years.
The journey of the Magi in many ways mirrors the journey of the Christian life. We have our “star”. We believe that it leads somewhere special, which is eternal life. But the journey is long. We don’t have mile markers and sign posts to tell us how close we are or how far we still have to go, just like the Magi didn’t. The journey is fraught with hardships. Just like the Magi must have endured bad weather, we too must endure “storms” in life. Just like the Magi had to leave creature comforts they probably missed, so we also must leave behind certain “comforts” that are not in line with Christianity and just follow. I’m sure there were days that the Magi wondered if they would ever reach their destination, where they didn’t make much progress, where they wondered if they were going in the right direction, and there were probably days when they realized they had taken a wrong turn and back-tracked. All of these things are part of the Christian journey. But just like the journey of the Magi, we believe our journey will end with us beholding Christ with our own eyes.
I’ve heard it said that “80% of life is just showing up.” And that’s true. When you don’t “show up”, nothing can happen. But when you “show up,” that’s when things happen. I often think as I watch especially the older members of our church, who have been coming for decade after decade to this church, and wonder, “do they ever get tired of the Christian journey?” And while I’m sure that they all do, just like I do at times, they keep showing up, they keep putting one foot in front of the other so to speak and making progress towards the star which shines over the ultimate destination, the Kingdom of Heaven. I may not make progress every day, or at every service or in every prayer. Sometimes I just show up with my body but not my mind. However, over time, I feel like I am making progress in my journey. And I hope you feel the same way about your own journey.
If your journey is going well, keep your eyes on the star. If your journey is not going as well as you’d like, make sure you keep your eyes on the star. And if your journey isn’t going well, get your eyes back on the star. And keep walking, keep moving, keep following, keep showing up, keep trying. And most especially find other “Magi,” others who are following the star, so that they can encourage and support you in your journey, and you can support and encourage them in theirs.
Ours is not a star that leads to nowhere, but a star that leads to Christ, in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Teach me Thy way, O Lord, that I may walk in Thy truth; unite my heart to fear Thy name. I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify Thy name forever. For great is Thy steadfast love towards me. . .Show me a sign of Thy favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame, because Thou, Lord, hast helped me and comforted me. (Psalm 85/86: 11-13, 17, read at the Royal Hours of the Nativity)
Keep on walking!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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