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
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
The Serpent Got Us to Believe a Lie
Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. Genesis 3:1-7
Good morning Prayer Team!
God made mankind in His image and likeness. God placed mankind in a garden of Paradise. God walked with mankind in the garden, in the cool of the day. Mankind was unashamed before God. Mankind saw God as a friend. This was the state of paradise in which mankind lived.
God gave mankind the gift of free will. Mankind was not forced to live in a state of Paradise with God. Because where there is force, there can’t be love. God created us out of love. Love is a choice. God gave mankind the choice to love God, or to go away from Him. The choice centered around a tree that God forbid mankind to eat of. Mankind had a daily choice to make. Walk with God. Or partake of the tree.
The serpent came to mankind and got mankind to believe a lie. The serpent told mankind that God forbade them from eating of one tree because God was afraid that man would become like God. Therefore, God was not the “friend” He came off as. Rather, God was an enemy.
As we read in Genesis, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6) Indeed both bought into this lie, that God was an enemy, holding out on them and not sharing everything in the garden. In the moment that they ate the fruit, their eyes indeed were opened, “and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.” (3:7) Because now they didn’t see God as friend. They felt ashamed to come into His presence in their nakedness. And so to this day, we see God now either as an enemy (it is His fault that we live in the fallen state in which we live) or we are ashamed to be in His presence.
When our favorite relative comes to visit, we run to the door and can’t wait to greet them. If the Lord God Almighty came into the room in which you were, you’d probably duck and cover, unable to look at Him because of the burden of sin which we all carry.
When Adam and Eve heard the familiar “sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” (3:8) instead of running to the Lord as they usually would, they now cowered in shame, hiding themselves among the trees of the garden. “But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’” (3:9-11)
The first lie that mankind bought into was the lie of his own ego. The serpent challenged mankind to see itself as equal to God. This actually sounds preposterous. How can the “created” possibly be as great as its Creator? The serpent got mankind to feel that it was the center of the universe. This spiritual overthrow is called ego, and it is manifested by ingratitude for the blessings of God.
Failure to be thankful led mankind to the second lie—“If God isn’t the boss of me, then I don’t have to follow any of His rules.” Mankind went and wantonly disobeyed God.
The third lie was that if one does something wrong, that there is no such thing as repentance. When confronted by God in the garden, when God asked Adam “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (3:11) instead of asking God for forgiveness and repenting, Adam made an excuse: “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”(3:12) Likewise, Eve also did not accept responsibility and repent, saying “The serpent beguiled me and I ate.” (3:13) Believing a lie, leading with ego, disobedience, and failure to repent combined to result in the Fall of mankind, away from the presence of God, out of Paradise. The result also included a change in the relationship of man to God (though not from God to man). Man continued and continues (in large measure) to see God as an enemy, or at least not as a friend. There is a resulting struggle for mankind to find spiritual intimacy with God. And Paradise seems to be a faraway reality, and many followers of God question whether it is even real. More on all of this to come.
The truth is that God remains friend and spiritual intimacy remains as close as a prayer.
In the beginning, when You fashioned man in Your image and likeness, You put him in Paradise to have dominion over Your creation. But by the envy of the devil, man was deceived; and he ate the fruit and thus became a transgressor of Your commandments. Therefore, O Lord, You sentenced him to return to the earth, from which he had been taken, and to pray for repose. (Idiomelon of the Grave Tone, Funeral Service, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
We get glimpses of Paradise in this life. They come in prayer and worship, among other ways. Make both part of your regular life.
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
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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