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 Fix Begins At Baptism and Continues Through the Sacraments
The Lord said to me “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. II Corinthians 12: 9-10
Good morning Prayer Team!
The best definition of “Grace” comes from the service of ordination of a priest (or bishop or deacon), which says “The Divine Grace which heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking. . .” If the image of God in which we were originally created has been distorted because of the Fall, this distorted image can be fixed only by God’s grace. As we have already discussed, we cannot fix ourselves by ourselves.
The “fix” begins at baptism and continues through the sacraments. At baptism, we are “reborn.” One of the prayers of baptism reads as follows:
Grant that he (she) who is to be baptized in it may be changed, so as put away the old person, who is corrupt according to the deceitful desires, and to the put on the new life, which renews him (her) according to the image of the Creator. May he (she) who is planted, through Baptism in the likeness of Your death, O Lord, become a partaker of Your Resurrection and having preserved the Gift of Your Holy Spirit and increased the Grace entrusted to him (her), receive the prize of the high calling, and be numbered among the first-born whose names are written in Heaven, in You our God and Lord Jesus Christ.
So, through baptism, we put off the old person and put on a new life, renewed according to the image of the Creator. We receive “grace” for the first time, with the prayer that it will be increased in us throughout our lives. We pray that we will eventually be numbered among those whose names are written in heaven.
Baptism isn’t just a ritual where a baby screams (sometimes) as it is dunked in water as boisterous guests snap pictures. Baptism gives us a new heart which replaces our old heart. It gives us a new life which replaces our old heart.
One of the reasons that baptism isn’t the significant event it should be is that we receive this gift when we are babies. Most of us do not remember our baptisms. This momentous day can only be seen through photographs. Imagine if we could experience this creating of a new heart. The reality is, we CAN! In the sacrament of confession, we are “re-baptized” through tears of repentance. Through confession, God can recreate our hearts as well as renew our spirits, as He pours out His Grace on us through the beautiful prayer of absolution that concludes the sacrament.
Many of us carry around heavy burdens that cloud our minds and hearts and souls with guilt and shame. We can’t give ourselves fully to God is we are compromised by guilt and shame. Grace lifts the burden of sin so that our hearts can again come alive and allow us to serve God and love others more completely.
Grace is imparted to us through the sacrament of Holy Communion, when the Holy Spirit takes ordinary offerings of bread and wine and changes them into the extraordinary gift of the Body and Blood of Christ. The other sacraments of the church—Holy Unction, Marriage, and Ordination also impart grace on people. Grace is also imparted through a simple prayer. Anytime we call on the Holy Spirit, we receive His Grace. Grace is what sustains us in our lives—it’s what creates new hearts in us any time we feel that our hearts have been scarred and wounded.
My heart overflows with a goodly theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe. You are the fairest of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one, in your glory and majesty! In your majesty ride forth victoriously for the cause of truth and to defend the right; let your right hand teach you dread deeds! Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you. Your divine throne endures forever and ever. Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity; you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house; and the king will desire our beauty. Since He is your Lord, bow to Him; the people of Tyre will sue your favor with Gifts, the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes; in many-colored robes she is led to the king. Instead of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever. Psalm 45
Call your priest and go for confession when you feel the need to a clean heart and a renewed spirit!
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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