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
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us. . .Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; let all the peoples praise Thee. Psalm 67: 1, 3
We’ve all experienced sunlight on us. We’ve probably all had the experience of being cold and then being warmed by the light of the sun. If you haven’t seen a sunrise or a sunset in a while, I encourage you to take time and see one of each. While the sunsets, in my opinion, are more beautiful than the sunrises, there is something about seeing the first speck of pre-dawn light, which occurs well before the sunrise. The sunrise is the climax of something that lasts almost an hour. And as you watch the transformation from dark to dawn, the anticipation for the light to break through becomes more and more intense, until it happens.
There is a saying that “it is always darkest before the dawn.” On face value, this doesn’t make any sense. It is just as dark from the time the last light fades away until the first specks of light appear, which could be many hours. At the end of the day, however, we welcome the darkness because it signals our time for rest and respite from the long day. We are almost relieved for the darkness. When we rise and are ready to take on a new day, we can’t wait for the dawn and the light, which is why it seems darker before dawn than just after dusk.
There are many people in all nations that feel that sense of darkness before the dawn. They yearn for a better life. That might mean they yearn for material things, like food and water, or shelter and clothing. It might mean that they yearn for something emotional, like love and belonging. And it might mean that they yearn for something spiritual, like a light to fill their inner darkness, a hope to fill their inner sorrow, a fullness to complete their empty spaces. Everyone recognizes the need for material basics, like food and water. When we don’t eat or drink for a few hours, we are reminded of this need. Most people recognize a need for love and belonging. It is perhaps not a daily need, but everyone needs an emotional lift at least occasionally.
What people don’t realize is the need for spiritual fulfillment. People think they can fill darkness with material gain, or emptiness with an emotional lift. The truth of the matter is that there are certain things that can only be filled with God. Just like we can sit all day and all night under the lights of a room, but no artificial light can compare to the light of the sun. We can work all day at a job that will bring material benefit, and we can spend each night with friends that will bring us an emotional lift. But no job and no friends can compare to the light of Christ, which always shines in our dark spaces.
Psalm 67 asks God to be gracious to us and bless us and to make the light of His face shine on us. And it is a reminder to us, that all peoples should praise God. Because no matter what the earth yields as an increase (Psalm 67:6), it is God who offers the greatest blessings. At a time when many in our world where many are in darkness and anxiety because of the pandemic, this is a time to run to God, in prayer, and in (social-distance and safe) worship, to praise Him, and to receive Him, to let His light shine us, in fact to invite His light to come upon us.
And at a time when much of our country (and also other pockets of the world) are covered with the darkness of anger and rage, this is a time to ask God to shine His light on dark places, to replace anger with love, to replace prejudice with honor, to replace what is wrong with what is noble and true.
The Old Testament had 613 commandments, which no one could keep. They couldn’t even remember them. Of these, ten are known as the Ten Commandments. And even still the people could not keep these. Christ made it simple—He reduced the commandments to TWO—love God and love your neighbor. If all the nations are to bless God, we must start with these basic commandments. Love God—let His face shine on us, to come out of the darkness and embrace His light. Love Neighbor—see each neighbor as if he or she was God Himself, and be quick to serve and easy to forgive.
It is darkest before the dawn, because it is before the dawn that we are the most tired of the darkness. Most of us are tired of the darkness that 2020 has brought on our lives. And while the pandemic and civil unrest may last awhile longer, the Light of Christ can dawn on us at any time, any time we embrace Him as our Lord, and serve one another as children of the same Lord.
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; let all the peoples praise Thee! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for Thou dost judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; let all the peoples praise Thee! The earth has yielded its increase; God our God, has blessed us. God has blessed us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him! Psalm 67
Let the Light of Christ shine on you and through you 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.
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