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 Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
During this pandemic, there are many ways in which each of us has grown. When this is over, we will be able to look back in some ways with joy, over strides we have made. However, in other ways, this pandemic has exposed each of our weaknesses, because it has probably exacerbated some of them.
Confidence is a struggle for many people. And anxiety can erode away the confidence of even the most secure people. When I look back at this time of Covid-19, personally, I will be most proud of my resourcefulness, being able to adapt and create somewhat meaningful worship and ministry experiences virtually. I can say also that my confidence is certainly not flying high these days. Concerns first and foremost with the overall physical health of our country and its citizens tops the list. Concerns about our economy and how it will affect my personal economy erodes confidence. Concerns about how our churches will rebound from this, politics, how long it will be before we return to normal, and will there be some kind of new normal that I won’t like, these are concerns that cause me anxiety, and run down my confidence.
This is one of the reasons why I love the Psalms so much, because they are a place we can run to when we need a boost of confidence, when we need a message of encouragement. Such is the case with Psalm 27.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1) If you are feeling anxious today, read this verse, over and over again. If the Lord is indeed our light, then we should not feel like darkness is closing around us. If the Lord is our stronghold, then we shouldn’t feel weak or anxious. Of course this is easier said than done.
There is a popular Christian song/hymn entitled “On Eagle’s Wings.” Which is based on Psalm 91. The refrain says “And He will raise you up, on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His Hand.” When I think of this song, I imagine a very large cushion, and falling into it and having it just absorb and wrap around me. This is what I imagine it feels like to be enveloped by God as the stronghold of my life, as my salvation in times of trouble.
Psalm 27:4 reads: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” In this time of uncertainty, there are so many things we cannot do. But one thing we can do, at all times, is seek the Lord. We can dwell with the Lord in not only our churches, but in our homes, and anywhere else we invite the Lord to be with us. The Lord doesn’t need times to be good to dwell with us. In fact, my relationship with the Lord is often the strongest when the times are not good. Because it is at these times that I realize that my bank account cannot be my stronghold, nor can my house, or my health—the Lord is the stronghold of my life. And I should seek after Him all the days of my life, on both the good days when it feels like I am in control, and on the bad days, when I most certainly know that I am not.
Psalm 27:13 is a good verse to affirm repeatedly. It reads: “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Many of us think we are only destined to see bad things this year—no vacations, limited social interaction, maybe even a more intense return of this virus in the fall. Believing in the goodness of God takes away anxiety and builds confidence. I believe that no matter what happens this year, I will see the beauty of God, in nature, in other people, in acts of kindness, and in the comfort He brings when I am anxious.
The Psalm concludes with encouragement to “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!” (27:14) One of my favorite restaurants is the Cheesecake Factory. The food there is always good, the desserts are great, but the wait is usually long. I can’t tell you how many times I have been frustrated by the wait, but the frustration is quickly forgotten after I’ve enjoyed a good meal. Most of us have had this kind of experience. We wait for something and eventually our wait is rewarded.
Our lives are a blink in the span of eternity. So while the wait may feel long, for the end of this virus, or the coming back of the economy, or just life in general when it feels long and less than positive, in the span of eternity it is really nothing. Once we have waited, keeping our focus on the Lord, when we are called for our “table,” just like in the restaurant, we will see that the wait was definitely worth it, because the reward will not be a temporary meal that we will eventually have to wait for again, but eternal life!
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.
Be patient in the wait, have confidence in the Lord, and let confidence win over anxiety in your life today!
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.