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
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
I began to write the reflection that follows this one about how to remain pure, and as I was writing, I realized that we don’t even know what purity means. We all know what gossip is, so writing a message on how to guard one’s tongue didn’t require a whole lot of definition. Same thing with guarding our time or avoiding drug and alcohol abuse. We know what these things are, so we could get right to the point of discussing how to hold fast to what is right in regards to them. Because we don’t use the word “purity” much in our society, many of us don’t even know what this word means. So before we discuss how to remain pure, let us first define what the word even means.
What do you think of when you hear the word “pure”? What images come to mind? I think of newly fallen snow that hasn’t been walked through. It is pure white, unblemished by footprints. When the sun comes out and glistens off freshly fallen snow, it is one of the most beautiful sights for the eyes to behold. When the snow has fallen on grass, as the snow melts, the grass below emerges and is a brilliant green color. However, when the snow has fallen on the street, as it melts it intermingles with the dirt, salt, tire tracks and whatever else is on the street and it becomes very ugly.
Pure water emerges from mountain springs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay pure for long, as animal bacteria end up in the water so that even water from the mountain stream must be boiled before one can drink it. Even fruit that is picked from the tree (before it is packaged and shipped to a store) is not pure. Pesticides sprayed on trees and the impure air that the trees grow in necessitate a washing of the fruit before it can be eaten. It’s hard to find things that are pure.
Philippians 4:8 connects purity with honor, justice, things that are lovely, graciousness, excellence and praiseworthiness. If we are to recover the concept of purity, it is related to these things. Pure is a white piece of paper before anything is written on it. Does that mean that once we write something on the paper, it is impure? I would argue the answer depends on what is written on the paper. If a person writes a love letter to his or her spouse on the pure white paper, the paper is still pure. If a person paints a beautiful picture on the paper, it is still pure. When a person puts the same pen or paintbrush and authors a letter or a picture of hatred, the same paper, pen and paint become impure based on their use.
Pure thoughts and actions go to things that are honorable. So honesty helps one stay pure.
Pure thoughts and actions go to things that are just. So when one is fair, when one learns the art of compromise, when one has the humility to forgive, purity is there.
Pure thoughts and actions go to things that are lovely. When we appreciate beauty in nature, and beauty in others, their talents, their gifts, when we encourage other and show gratitude, purity is there.
Pure thoughts go to things that are gracious. When we put others ahead of ourselves, when we appreciate others for who they are, rather than pressuring them to be something they aren’t, or labeling them, purity is there.
Pure thoughts go to things that are excellent. Excellence has more to do with effort than result. As an example, I can give my most excellent effort to paint something and it probably won’t be all that great, because I am not an artist. When we learn to appreciate the strengths of others and recognize their strengths, rather than just their weaknesses, purity is there.
Pure thoughts go to things that are worthy of praise. The One most worthy of our praise is God. When we praise God, through prayer, song, worship, or actions of love, purity is there.
We don’t think about purity very much which is why it is not a priority action in the lives of many. Maybe we’ve become desensitized to the idea of purity, or we’ve become so busy we’ve forgotten what purity is and why it’s important.
There is one other area of purity and that is our bodies—our bodies are composed of our physical body, our minds and our souls. And this is what we will discuss in the next reflection. However, before addressing why we need to hold fast to purity, it is necessary to understand what purity is, because many of us have never learned, and even more have simply forgotten.
Lord, I come before You today asking that You put thoughts of purity into my mind, so that I can bring them forward in my life, serving You and others. Help me to understand what purity is, so that I can be pure in my body, mind and spirit. Help me to rejoice in truth, in honor, in justice, in purity, and in things that are lovely. Help me to be gracious, to give my best effort, to rejoice in the excellence of others, and to be quick to praise others and build them up. In a world that has forgotten what purity is, help me to learn what purity means and to practice it in my life. Amen.
Meditate on the concept of purity today!