For most of Christian history, learning about Christ could not be done through personal reading, as the majority of the world was could not read. Learning was done through listening to preaching, and through the singing of hymns. The events of Holy Week, from the triumphal entry of Christ in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to the Cross of Good Friday, to the glorious Resurrection on Pascha, have been taught throughout the centuries primarily through song. In fact, the most well-known Orthodox hymn, “Christ is Risen”, provides in twenty-two words, a summary of the Resurrection and its meaning for Christian salvation.
Holy Week in the Orthodox Church is a journey of nine days and nearly twenty services that put us back in Jerusalem two thousand years ago through Scripture, ritual and most especially through hymnology. Scripture captivates the mind. Ritual captivates the eyes. Hymnology is what captivates our emotions and our hearts and what stirs our souls to spiritual renewal. The Greatest Story Ever Sung: Reflections on the Hymns of Holy Week in the Orthodox Church reflects on both the well-known and lesser known hymns of the services of the Orthodox Holy Week. It will take you on a journey not only to the week of Christ’s Passion but to the depths of your own faith.
This book will capture your emotions, warm your heart and stir your soul to spiritual renewal. It will help you remember the saving work of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago and will help you to get more out of the Holy Week services in the years to come.
The foreword is written by Christopher Kypros, a dedicated choir director and composer who has poured his soul into leading choirs in singing these beautiful hymns. The author of the book, Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis, has celebrated the services of Holy Week for over twenty-five years. Consisting of sixty-one short reflections, this book guides the reader from the Saturday of Lazarus through the Agape Vespers on Pascha, taking us on a familiar journey that many of us know through Scripture, but instead leading us by way of the beautiful and powerful hymns that comprise the greatest story ever sung.
As Christians, we reflect the spirit of Christ’s belief in our personal worth. Yet, believing in ourselves can be difficult. No one wants to lack confidence. No one likes feeling anxious. Yet narcissistic living in feeling or behavior is equally dissatisfying. Living at either extreme does not allow us to become the best version of ourselves. The answer lies somewhere in the center, and encouragement is a vital component in finding the balance we seek.
This book is about encouragement, building up others, and creating safe spaces where it’s okay to be honest and vulnerable. These three things—encouragement, reassurance, and safety—foster environments of honesty, confidence, and productivity.
Most people, if asked for an honest answer, would say they lack confidence in at least some regard. Self-doubt leads to low self-esteem, which leads to low productivity, which leads to anxiety, all of which fuel a lack of confidence. This vicious cycle is not a challenge only for teenagers. Many people never break out of this trap, lacking confidence throughout life.
Compounding this destructive habit is an overall problem with dishonesty in our society. In many areas of our lives, it’s not safe to be vulnerable. So we create stories about ourselves based on lies — we don’t tell people we are stressed out, uncertain, or need help, because confessing these weaknesses might cost us our job or reputation, or cause us to be the subjects of gossip. So, we play this game where we are less than honest.
“The Heart of Encouragement” contains 176 reflections, based on 18 verses of scripture — 1 Thessalonians 5:11-28 — each offered with the goal to encourage and build you up in one area of life and, in turn, give concrete ideas of how to encourage and build up other people as well. Most reflections include a daily “Encouragement Challenge” practice to infuse encouragement into our world.
With a forward by Tim Tassopoulos, president and COO of Chick-fil-A, Inc., “The Heart of Encouragement” guides us to find that middle ground, be the best version of ourselves, and help others by our example to do the same.
Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ walked the earth for three years—teaching, ministering, working miracles, dying on the cross and being Resurrected from the dead. Disciples who believed He was the promised Messiah followed Him and listened to His teachings.
A disciple is a student. An apostle is one who recruits disciples and teaches them to follow after Christ. After the Resurrection, Jesus commissioned His disciples to become apostles. As Christians, the first thing we are called to do is be a disciple, to learn about Christ, to believe and to follow. However, that is not all we are called to do. Like the first disciples, we are also commissioned to be apostles, to go and spread the Christian faith to all nations.
Commissioned to Be Apostles: Love, Worship, Community, Learning Service contains 151 short reflections offering practical instruction on what it means to be an apostle of Christ. It contains practical and easy ways to model and spread the message of Christianity, both in a church community and in our personal lives. It begins with the Great Commission and examines how the early church spread the message of the Gospel. It discusses our personal foundation as Christians that we receive at baptism and gives instruction on how to effectively participate in the life of the Church. Finally, it discusses how to transform the Church from what it is to what Christ intends for it to be, examining the chasm between the two and how to bridge this gulf.
The title of this book reflects not only our commission to be apostles; it reflects five core values—love, worship, community, learning and service—that will help us fulfill this commission.
Father Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is a Greek Orthodox Priest who serves St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. He has also authored the books Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany; The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and Pascha; Blessed Is the Kingdom, Now and Forever: Reflections on the Divine Liturgy; Let Us Be Attentive: Reflections on the Sunday and Feastday Scripture Readings of the Orthodox Church; and Engaged: Called to Be Disciples, Reflections on What It Means to Be a Christian. He writes a daily reflection called “The Prayer Team,” which can be found at www.prayerteam365.com.
Engaged: The Call to Be Disciples
“There is no better way to live than as a disciple of the Lord Jesus. But how do I actually do that? Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis offers a simple but not simplistic path for those who desire to embark on the greatest adventure of thus life.”
— Fr. John Riccardo, Executive Director of ACTS XXIX
Forty days after His Resurrection from the dead, Jesus gathered His Disciples and “commissioned” them to go out into all the world and spread the Gospel to all nations. Many of them were illiterate fishermen. Not one held a degree from an advanced Rabbinical school. And yet these men took the Christian message and shared it with the whole world. With faith, they changed history and have led billions of people to salvation.
We too are enjoined to cultivate disciples. However, before we can make others disciples or spread the message of salvation, we ourselves need to become disciples — students of the Gospel. Before we can become students, we must answer the call to be a follower of Jesus. And before we can become a true follower of Jesus, we have to understand who Jesus is.
Engaged: The Call to Be Disciples contains 130 short reflections offering practical instruction on what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It begins by reflecting on the simple question: Who is Jesus Christ?
Fr. Akrotirianakis discusses the costs and benefits of being a disciple. His reflections on prayer and stewardship build to the final section on rallying and sustaining confidence in our Christian walk. Although written by a Greek Orthodox priest, this provocative work offers inspiration for Christians of all denominations of what it means to believe, belong and follow.
What is the Bible trying to tell us?
The Bible is the most significant and most widely read book in world history. Both Christians and non-Christians are familiar with its name: everyone knows what the Bible is. However, many Christians struggle to read the Bible. For many, the book is even too intimidating to start. Others struggle to understand what they are reading or to apply it to their lives. The answers, though, are right before you.
Every time a word of Scripture is read in the Orthodox Church, it is preceded by the phrase “Let us be attentive.” Two thoughts come to mind as we contemplate these words. First, we are reminded to pay attention to what we are about to hear. Second, we realize that we need to attend to and act on the information we hear. If the scriptures tell us, as an example, to forgive our neighbor “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22), then we need to be attentive in our lives and make sure that we are more forgiving towards others, including those who hurt us or are our enemies.
May God open your hearts as you read this book so you can better comprehend the messages provided in Scripture and apply them throughout your life’s daily journey to salvation.
I pray that this book will help each of us in not only understanding the Scriptures, but will empower each of us to share our understanding with others. Indeed, this book is titled “Let Us Be Attentive” because in being attentive to the Scriptures, we receive the spiritual nourishment that keeps our personal faith dynamic and enables and empowers us to spread the gospel truth in our church communities and far beyond.
~His Eminence, Metropolitan Methodios of Boston
Recommit yourself to your Christian faith this Lent.
Make the journey to the Cross and the empty tomb.
Do you want to put your spiritual life into high gear this Lent and Easter season? Does your spiritual life need renewed energy? Are you still trying to understand why Jesus died and rose from the dead?
Regardless of your Christian denomination, this book will deepen your faith and understanding of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. Great Lent is meant to be a time for spiritual evaluation and growth. The themes of this book—the repentance of the Prodigal Son, the journey to the Cross, the joy of the Resurrection, and the command to go forth and preach the Gospel—will lead you to recommit yourself to the Christian Faith and find the road back to Christ. And unlike other books of Lenten reflections, this one doesn’t end with the Resurrection. There are over fifty reflections to be read after Easter to ensure that the goals set during Lent become habits lasting long after we celebrate the Resurrection.
Lent and Pascha (Easter) in the Orthodox Christian Church is an undertaking like no other. Orthodox Christians follow four weeks of preparation before Lent, a forty-day Lenten journey, and eight days of Holy Week. The Feast of the Resurrection kicks off a fifty-day celebration, which culminates with Ascension and Pentecost.
The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection is a series of short daily reflections on the scripture readings of Holy Week and the accounts of the Resurrection and post-Resurrection appearances of Christ. Designed to guide its readers through the journey, it will both inspire and reinvigorate your faith through meditation, prayer, and a deeper understanding of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Hear the Christmas story as you’ve never heard it before.
Make the journey to the manger along with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the magi.
Has the Christmas season become the most stressful time of the year instead of the most wonderful time? Do you struggle to keep Christ in Christmas?
The story of the Nativity is told in a mere 40 verses of scripture: 19 in the Gospel of Matthew, 20 in the Gospel of Luke, and 1 in the Gospel of John. Yet nearly each word of every verse is packed with meaning. We are all familiar with holiday words like “joy” and “glory.” Have you ever wondered about their deeper meaning? The glory of the Lord (Luke 2:9) is not just part of the Christmas story but something we can experience in our own lives. Joy reminds us of the child-like innocence we used to have and can recapture.
In Luke 2:20 we read “And the shepherds returned.” The shepherds were still shepherds; witnessing the miracle of the Incarnation of Christ didn’t change their status. It changed their hearts. Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections for Advent, the Nativity, and Epiphany is a series of short daily reflections on the scripture readings of the season, to be read during the Orthodox Christian Advent and Nativity season between November 15 and January 7. Spending a few minutes each day reading and reflecting on these scriptures will not change your status either. It will change your heart. You will better understand the “good news of a great joy,” and why “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
And as you prepare to again celebrate God’s greatest gift to us,
you will be able to offer with a more grateful heart your gifts to Him.
Pray the Divine Liturgy instead of just watching it. Understand and appreciate the mystery so that the Divine Liturgy becomes more powerful and meaningful for your life.
Many Orthodox Christian “witness” the Divine Liturgy without being real participants in it. Perhaps this is why Orthodox Christians are perpetually late or miss the Divine Liturgy altogether. After all, for many, it is just a ritual that will be repeated virtually the same way next week. When we examine each petition and action of the Divine Liturgy, we realize that each one calls us to participate.
The word “liturgy” comes from two Greek words: “leitos” (meaning “people”) and “ergon” (meaning “work”). Liturgy literally means “the work of the people” and implies that this is a divine work of all the people. When one comes to worship and truly does the work of the Divine Liturgy, it becomes more than a ritual; it becomes alive.
The Divine Liturgy is a parable. To the untrained eye and the unopened heart, it is a ritual involving a man in robes, a choir, altar boys, processions, incense, and candles. But to the one whose heart is open, whose eye is trained, and who yearns to experience God in the Divine Liturgy, the Divine Liturgy opens the gates to the kingdom of heaven and allows the most common of people to enter the kingdom of heaven for a short period each week.
Blessed Is the Kingdom, Now and Forever: Reflections on the Divine Liturgy will help the reader understand and appreciate the mystery that unfolds before us each time this service is celebrated. This book will arm you with knowledge on how to pray the Divine Liturgy so that this service will become more powerful and meaningful in your life.