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
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 1:18)
Good morning Prayer Team!
God’s grand plan for our salvation involved incarnating the Word of God into the flesh, for God to become like one of us. And this would happen in a way that was both miraculous and understandable. The understandable part was that He would come into the world as a new-born baby. The miraculous part was that the conception would be by the Holy Spirit, an immaculate conception. And a woman would bear God’s Son in her womb and give birth to Him. So, God would bring His Son into the world through one of us.
The Virgin Mary was the woman that God selected for this task. She was born in a miraculous way to elderly parents named Joachim and Anna. When she was three years old, she was taken to the temple by her parents and given to the service of the Lord. After being raised in the temple for ten years, she found herself living in a small town called Nazareth, where she was betrothed (engaged) to a man named Joseph.
Historically, we believe that Mary was about 14 when she was visited by the Archangel Gabriel. He greeted her with the words “Hail, O Favored One, the Lord is with you! Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. . .The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Luke 1: 28-35)
Can you imagine being in Mary’s shoes? Visited by an angel? Told you were going to do something that no one would believe?
Would you run? Would you doubt? Would you answer with confidence?
Mary answered “Behold I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) We don’t know if Mary answered with fear or with confidence. What we know is that she ANSWERED the call of God. The other thing we know is God’s plan for salvation couldn’t have come about if she hadn’t answered “YES”!
The lessons we learn from Mary are two—God calls everyone to something in their life. There is no one who is uncalled. Some are called to a certain vocation, or to be parents, some are called to serve in the military, or to uproot their lives and move somewhere. Have you heard God’s call for your life? Have you answered? How have you answered?
The second lesson we learn is that just as Mary was part of God’s plan for our salvation, we, too, are part of God’s plan for our own salvation. God has provided the path to salvation. He has even provided the means to go down the path—the church, the scriptures, the clergy, etc. But we have to walk down the path ourselves. We work in concert with God in order to attain salvation.
Mary is the model of what we are supposed to be, because she said YES to the call of God. May we follow her example! Mary is called Theotokos, meaning, “God-bearer.” We are called to be the same!
O Virgin Theotokos who gave birth to the Savior, you reversed the curse to which Eve once was subject. For you have become the Mother of the Father’s good pleasure, and you hold in your embraces God the Logos incarnate. The mystery admits to inquiry; we all glorify it by faith alone, and with you we cry aloud and say “O Lord incomprehensible, glory to You.” (From the Praises, in the Orthros of the Nativity, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
May we strive to be servants 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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