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
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved. Psalm 62: 1-2
If you ask the average person what is the first thing they do each morning, the answer is generally “check my phone” or “put on the coffee and then check the phone.” The phone gets checked for most of us before we brush our teeth, put on deodorant, get dressed or anything else. Even prayer generally loses to the phone.
Like everyone else, my spiritual side competes with my material side constantly. I’ve made it a habit so make the sign of the cross when I get out of bed and offer a short prayer, and then I confess, it’s straight to the phone to see what I missed while I was sleeping. As I write this message, I actually feel a little embarrassed about this, and am now feeling motivated to change that. I should give the Lord at least as much time as I give the phone in the morning.
Psalm 62:1-2 reminds us that “from Him (God) comes my salvation.” Our salvation doesn’t come from our phones, our bank accounts, our friends, social media or politicians. It comes from the Lord. Thus, our souls should wait for the Lord with eager anticipation, and we should open them to the Lord with eager anticipation. If the Lord, then, is our rock and our salvation, our fortress, then our hearts should not be greatly moved by the material threats to our health and to our economy. Let’s be honest—we’re all concerned about both right now. We’re concerned about our health and the health of our children and families and we are concerned about the economy, regardless of which political party we identify with.
Here is a practical suggestion for some morning in the near future. Watch the sunrise. But don’t just watch the sun rise, watch the whole gamut from total darkness, to the first sliver of light to the brightening of the sky, to the sunrise itself, to the sun going from orange to yellow. This is a lot like how the Christian life works. It is darkest before the dawn, so the saying goes. Discovering Christ is like that sliver of light that breaks through the darkness. It is still not daylight, but it is not dark. As we get to know Christ, our souls take on that pre-dawn glow where it is light enough to see but not bright with sunlight yet. As we grow in Christ, our hearts become aflame with His grace, the same way that the sun breaks over the horizon.
In parts of Alaska, in summer, there is no darkness. The sun may set for a brief period of time, but it is not dark for a couple of months. Dusk goes immediate to the pre-dawn light without the darkness of night. THIS is how we ideally should maintain our Christianity. Once we have Christ, it should never be totally dark in our lives. It may not be totally bright, but it should never be totally dark.
In terms of waiting, I don’t wait for the next day’s news or an election or a change in the weather or even the recovery from the pandemic to brighten my soul. Because it’s the Light of Christ that we want to wait for, because “from Him comes my salvation.” (62:1) And if God is truly our fortress, then we “shall not be shaken,” (62:6) not by the pandemic, the economy or any other kind of uncertainty. Again, easier said than done.
I’ve watched many sunrises this summer as part of my effort to get into some kind of shape. And the process of going from darkness to light is beautiful and fascinating. Even though the world might be in chaos, this cycle does not change. The beauty of the sunrise is unaffected by anything “ugly” that the sun may rise on. We should ideally treat our souls in the same way—allowing them to “awake” to Christ on a daily basis. So that our first thought each day is not, “what did I miss on my phone,” but “let the Light of Christ allow my soul to come alive and my heart to rejoice as I begin each day, regardless of what’s going on in the world and what challenges I might encounter.”
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved. How long will you set upon a man to shatter him, all of you, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? They only plan to thrust him down from his eminence. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Men of low estate are but a breath, men of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no confidence in extortion, set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God; and that to Thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For Thou dost not requite a man according to his work. Psalm 62
Take time to allow the Son of God to “rise” in you as you wake each morning!
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.
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