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
Therefore He had to be made like His brethren in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18 (epistle reading on December 26)
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him! (This is the Orthodox greeting from December 25-31)
In the Orthodox world we celebrate the Nativity from December 25-31, then the feast of the Circumcision of Christ/St. Basil on January 1, the forefeast of Epiphany from January 2-5, and Epiphany from January 6-14. Having marked a forty day period of Advent, we go into “feast” mode for the next few weeks. In fact, there is no fasting from December 25-January 4.
In order to “balance the equation”, Jesus Christ had to experience all of the things that the human being experiences. And in order to do that, He had to become a human being. Though conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, He was “born” as we are. He fulfilled the conditions of the Law when He was presented in the Temple on His 40th day (which our church commemorates on February 2, and which you can read about in Luke 2: 22:38) He went to the temple like other boys His age and learned the scriptures. At age 12, when His parents went to Jerusalem, (Luke 2: 41-52) He was in the temple, with Jewish scholars and temple leaders, reciting verses of scripture.
Because He was made like us, He understands us. As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, “because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted.” God knows all things, but since the Son of God has walked this earth as one of us, He understands what it is like to be one of us. The Bible tells us that in His earthly life, Jesus felt many of the same things that we feel. He even understands temptation and the assaults of the Devil. In Matthew 4: 1-11, we read an account of the Temptations of Christ, where Christ was in the desert for forty days where He was fasting and preparing for His ministry and at the same time was constantly tempted and tormented by the Devil. Certainly there must have been other temptations. Righteous anger at the money-changers in the temple (John 2: 13-22) could have gone too far but it didn’t. We know that Christ was in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39) as He prayed for the cup of suffering to go away if it was His Father’s will. There were very human emotions of fear, sadness, perhaps even teetering on doubt. There is no doubt that Christ understood the human condition that we all suffered from. Because not only did He suffer a human death, but He suffered from the same conditions we suffer from throughout His earthly life.
But there was a greater reason that Christ came to be with us. Not only did He come to understand us, but He came for us to understand what it is like to be one with Him, to be one with God. He came to save us from our human condition and show us the path to Godliness. Through His ministry, teachings and miracles, He showed us what it means to have love, compassion and mercy. Through His death, He showed us what it means to have faith and total trust in God. Through His Resurrection, He showed us the path to everlasting life. If we live in Christ, and if we die with faith in Christ, then we will also be Resurrected with Christ. Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a Resurrection like His.” (Romans 6:5)
The BEST explanation of the Nativity, perhaps, comes from one of the church fathers, St. Athanasios, who lived in the fourth century and was one of the bishops at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 325 A.D. when the Creed was written. He wrote a treatise entitled “On the Incarnation.” And in the treatise, he wrote:
The Word was made flesh in order that we might be made gods. . .Just as the Lord, putting on the body, became a man, so also we men are both deified through His flesh, and henceforth inherit everlasting life. . .For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”
Christ did not come only to save us from our sins, but to raise us up in glory with Him, to deify US, so that we can live eternally with Christ, in union with Christ, in a state of Paradise, like Christ.
Many people will be making a trip back to the store today to return Christmas presents that were not wanted, or that just didn’t fit right. Make sure that the gift of Christ is something you hold onto and treasure. It’s something everyone wants and needs, and something that fits everyone JUST RIGHT!!!
He whom nothing can contain has been contained in a womb. He is in the Father’s bosom and His Mother’s embrace. How can this be, but as He knows and willed and was well pleased. Fleshless as He was, He willing took flesh. And He Who Is became what He was not, for us. And while departing not from His own nature, He shared in our nature’s substance. So Christ was born with dual natures, wishing to replenish the world on high. (Kathisma from the Orthros of the Nativity, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Strive to be like Christ today!
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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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