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
I wash my hands in innocence, and go about Thy altar, O Lord, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all Thy wondrous deeds. O Lord, I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwells. Sweep me not away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, men in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord. Psalm 26:6-12
We certainly have emphasized the importance of hand-washing in the last few months. We know that keeping our hands clean makes it less likely that we will pass along germs.
The importance of having clean hands pertains not only to washing them, but keeping them clean from the stain of sin. Our hands can be used to work iniquity or to do acts of charity.
The verses of Psalm 26 which are quoted for today’s reflection are also a prayer that every priest or bishop offers before celebrating the Divine Liturgy. During this prayer, the priest or bishop actually washes his hands. The prayer reminds the priest not only of the importance of having clean hands before handling the Holy Gifts, but the importance of keeping one’s hands (and indeed one’s whole self) clean of sin, so that one is in perpetual preparation to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.
Think about what occupies your hands most during the day. My hands spend a lot of time on a computer keyboard and on a steering wheel. I think it is safe to say those two things are the places I find my hands most often. How often do my hands hold a Bible? How often do they play a board game with my family? How often are they used to pat someone on the back for a job well done versus how often are they lifted up in anger? How often are they put together for a prayer?
Are our hands hands of holiness? Innocence? Anger? Sinfulness?
Whether one is a priest or not, Psalm 26 reminds us that we should wash our hands in innocence so that we can go about the altar of God, “singing aloud a song of thanksgiving” (Psalm 26: 6-7) and telling of the wonder of God.
We are to desire the beauty of God’s house, the place where His glory abides. (26: 8) We are supposed to delight in worship. Psalm 26: 9-10 warn of those who are far from God, bloodthirsty and evil people who are motivated by bribes. Verse 11 is a pledge to walk with integrity, but also a recognition that we often fall short. Thus we ask God to redeem us and be gracious to us.
In this time where we are more intentional about hand-washing, I encourage you to print out a copy of the verses from Psalm 26 and put them up near your sink at home. Pray these verses at least once a day when you wash your hands. The benefit will be two-fold. First, it will take you about 30 seconds to offer these words as a prayer, insuring that you take the suggested amount of time of 30 seconds to wash your hands. Second and most important, you will quickly memorize the words of this Psalm, and hopefully by checking in with them at least once (and hopefully multiples times) a day, we will internalize and practice what they say about the innocence and integrity that ultimately lead us to holiness. Prayer helps keep our feet on the level ground which is spoken about in verse 12. And as for the great congregation, this refers not only to the people who gather for worship on Sundays in church, but to the crowds of people who gather out in the world, who are thirsty for integrity. Offering a witness for Christ in what we say and how we act is a great way to “bless the Lord” in the “great congregation” that is our society. Sadly, our society is a congregation that gathers for everything but worship of Christ it seems. Most are satisfied worshipping at the altar of “self-indulgence”. There is no integrity to this at all. Rather let us focus on innocence and integrity, so that our own feet can be on level ground, and we can encourage others to have their feet on level ground as well.
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.
Keep your hands clean today, not only by washing them for 30 seconds each time, but by keeping them clean with the soap of innocence and the lather of integrity.
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.