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, 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
Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him, bless His name! Psalm 100:4
Good morning Prayer Team!
We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, and we pray to You, Lord our God.
The moment of consecration is about to happen. This is a consecration of gifts, bread and wine, that we have presented to God from His own gifts. It is also a moment of re-consecration of ourselves. We also are gifts that He has created. Why do I say re-consecration of ourselves? Because as we kneel, the priest prays in the altar, “send down Your Holy Spirit upon us, and upon these Gifts here presented.” The Holy Spirit consecrates ordinary things—bread and wine—into extraordinary things—the Body and Blood of Christ. And at the same time, He re-consecrates us ordinary, sinful people, into extraordinary people—children of God. So as we kneel down at each Liturgy, we should kneel with hearts that are open to receiving the Holy Spirit yet again. We should bring to mind imperfections that need healing. We should recommit ourselves to Christ, to our marriages, to our children, to our jobs, to all of the positive roles we hold in life. As the Holy Spirit comes down on the Holy Gifts, we should allow His grace to wash over us, the way the water washed over us at baptism, the way forgiveness washes over us in confession, the way grace washed over us at our weddings. We should be open to the same grace at this moment of the Liturgy.
The hymn that is sung during the consecration is a simple hymn of praise and thanksgiving. The words are simple. They call us to humility.
We praise You—To praise someone means to acknowledge something great that has happened. We are not praising a good test score or an athletic achievement, however, when we are praising God. We are praising our Creator, who has done something remarkable in creating us. We are praising our Creator, who has done something wonderful in saving us from our sins. We are praising our Creator, who continually makes ordinary into extraordinary by His divine Grace that is sent so freely and easily upon us.
We bless You—In past centuries (and this is shown multiple times in the Old Testament), a father would give his blessing to his son when he was about to die. In modern times, a father gives a blessing for his daughter to get married in some cultures. To bless someone is to give them both honor and freedom. Usually, we speak of God’s blessings on us. It seems odd that we would “bless” God. In this instance that is what the hymnographer wrote—We bless YOU! When I think of this phrase of the hymn, I think of us giving God our blessings and permission to be Lord of our life. As He re-consecrates us as His children at each Liturgy, we, too, play a role in this action, as we re-consecrate ourselves to Him. We give Him the control of our lives. We reaffirm that He is our God and our Lord. He is the Savior and the director.
We give thanks to You—We are supposed to thank God in all circumstances. In this most important moment of the Divine Liturgy, we offer thanks for the great gift that we are about to receive—The Holy Spirit coming down on us to heal what it is infirm and complete what is lacking in each of us, as well as coming down to consecrate the Holy Gifts so that they can become the spiritual medicine we all need for the sustaining, healing and perfecting of our souls. This moment of awe should fill us with thanksgiving.
And we pray to You—In Psalm 25:21, we read “May integrity and uprighteness protect me, because my hope, Lord is in You.” I never pray for wealth or power. I pray for things like integrity, success, wisdom, patience and stamina. Prayer is a statement that our hope rests in God. This is why we pray so often—It is our connection with God that is possible at any moment that we want or need it. So, as we kneel before God, we use this moment as an important connection between us and Him, in the beautiful prayer that is about to be offered on our behalf.
Lord our God—The hymn does not actually says “Lord our God” in its original Greek. It says only “our God.” Many people think of God as a trinket—they wear a cross as a good luck charm. Some people think of God as a friend, someone to go to for help and to lean on. God is our Lord, our Savior, our hope. He cannot be fully comprehended. This is why we kneel before Him. I don’t kneel at any other time in my life except in prayer and worship. I don’t kneel before friends, even good friends. I kneel only before God, as a sign of deep respect and humility. He is God, I am His servant. The acknowledgement on our knees of God as Lord of our life, should have an effect after we get up from our knees. As we leave church after each Liturgy and resume our lives, our roles, our worldly stresses, we should remember that we have knelt before God, and have placed again, our faith and our hope in Him.
I am fortunate to have served in the altar with many good liturgists during my formative years. One of them, when we knelt in the altar, and before he began the prayer of consecration, as the choir would begin to sing this hymn, he would actually say the hymn before beginning the prayer. Perhaps that is because as a priest, we don’t hear this hymn as we are offering the prayer of consecration. I’d like to think that before being a priest, he saw himself as a child of God and wanted to reaffirm his faith before invoking the Holy Spirit on the Gifts. I have heard many priests and bishops do the same. And in my priesthood, I have made the same my practice:
We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You and we pray to You, Lord our God: If I was to write out the Liturgy, grammatically, as it is done, my use of this hymn would have a colon after it. Having praised, blessed and thanked God, it is now time to offer THE prayer to God, asking Him to consecrate the Gifts we have presented, so that they can become the Body and Blood of Christ, which is the entire purpose for which we have gathered at the Divine Liturgy.
Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to Your holy name and glory in Your praise. Praise be to the Lord, the God is Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say “Amen!” Praise the Lord. (Psalm 106:47-48)
Praise, bless, thank God and pray to Him today!
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