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
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein; for He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of his salvation. Such is he generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors! That the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors! That the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory! Psalm 24
When an Orthodox Church opens for the first time (called a Thyranoixia) or is consecrated, all the faithful gather outside of the church. The presiding bishop stands at the door of the church, and knocks on it with his bishop’s staff. He offers the words from Psalm 24: “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors! That the King of Glory may come in.” (Psalm 24:7) A priest, who has remained inside the church answers back, “Who is this King of Glory?” (v. 8) The bishop then replies, “The Lord, strong and might, the Lord, mighty in battle! He is the King of glory!” (v. 8, 10) The dialogue takes place three times. Then the door of the church opens, and the faithful enter in and the service begins. In the case of a “Thyranoixia”, the faithful enter the church for the first time and begin to praise God in their new spiritual home. In the case of a consecration, the faithful enter into the church that is now be set apart forever as a house of God.
The same dialogue takes place within us, probably several times a day. It is that same battle we have described between good and evil, between salvation and temptation, between the Lord and the devil, who battle for our souls. We are each given many opportunities to serve others, to worship, to show our love for God and for our neighbor each week, if not each day. And at each moment when this opportunity presents itself, it is as if God is knocking on the door of our hearts, “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors! That the king of glory may come in.” In our minds and hearts, there are two choices—either open the door and let Him enter, or keep the door closed. Often times, there is a hesitation, like the question posed by the priest in the church, “Who is the King of Glory?” As if to say, why should I do this thing that God has placed in front of me?
We probably don’t think of this image often, of Christ knocking on the door of our hearts. I reminded of the verses in Revelation 3: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne, as I Myself conquered and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (3: 20-21) What a beautiful image this paints, of the Lord knocking on the door of our home, a desire of our Lord to have a personal relationship with us, to sit and share a spiritual intimacy with us, and then to grant us a heavenly reward.
There is nothing wrong with having questions about “Who is the King of Glory?” This is why we study and learn, on our own and in the context of a church community. Because we are not necessarily ready to open the door to our hearts and let the Lord in, if we don’t know Him, or if we feel He has disappointed us.
However, the ultimate goal of the Christian life is to open the door at all times and let the King of Glory reside in our hearts and in our minds, and to have the driver’s seat of our lives. Allowing God to come in is a choice, however. We can see from the icon that He knocks at the door and waits to be let in. He doesn’t force the door down. I remember hearing once that there is a door between us and God which has only one doorknob and it is on our side of the door. We have to choose to open the door and let the Lord in. This is a daily choice. He knocks every day, desiring to be with us. It is our choice to answer.
If you’ve never opened your heart to Christ, make today a Thyranoixia and let Him in for the first time. And if He already resides in your heart, make today like a consecration, and ask Him to help you stay set apart (holy) today.
Prayer of Protection from the Coronavirus
(Prayer by Grace Bishop Alexis (Trader) of Bethesda)
O God Almighty, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation visible and invisible, in Your ineffable goodness, look down upon Your people gathered in Your name. Be our helper and defender in this day of affliction. You know our weakness. You hear our cry in repentance and contrition of heart. O Lord who loves mankind deliver us from the impending threat of the corona virus. Send Your Angel to watch over us and protect us. Grant health and recovery to those suffering from this virus. Guide the hands of physicians, and preserve those who are healthy that we may continue to serve You in peace and glorify Your most honorable and majestic Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Open the gates to your heart today and let the King of Glory enter!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.