by Rev. Peter J. Orfanakos
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with
you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”
verse is found in the final chapter and verses of the Gospel of Saint Matthew,
Chapter 28, Verses 16-20. It
is known as the Great Commission.
It is read in the Orthodox Church at each and every sacrament of
Baptism. It is also read as one of
the cycle of eleven Resurrectional Gospel lessons read during the Matins
Service on Sunday. Beginning with
the Sunday following the celebration of Pentecost, there is a cycle of Gospel
lessons that are read, and each eleventh week we hear this very powerful Gospel
lesson of Christ appearing to His disciples upon the mountain to which He had
told that He gathered the eleven disciples together in Galilee on a mountain,
were He instructed them to go and “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but
some doubted. And Jesus came and
spoke to them, saying, ‘all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on
earth.’” It is an incredible,
powerful statement that Christ says.
Within it He is not only greeting the disciples, He is informing them
that through Him, resurrection and power to grant life, has come once again
into the world. After blessing the
disciples, He tells them: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
this Gospel lesson at our own baptism to remind us that the sacrament is one of
welcoming, not an end in itself. It is the sacrament to which we are
invited as we become one of the faithful; being one of the faithful comes with
a responsibility on our part.
There is a responsibility to take that
message of love, to take that
message of peace, to take that
faith, to nurture it, to allow it to grow, to bring it to the world, to show
with it, by the example in which we live, so that others - in conversing with
us - in observing us and praying with us - may see within us, that Light of the
resurrection; that Grace of the Holy Spirit, placed upon our breast, during the
Sacrament of Holy Chrismation.
That they may see that Light shinning forth, be called to it, and find
themselves also desiring to be baptized, desiring to become children of God.
called the Great Commission because we see the immensity of what is being asked
of us, and in contemplating that, we recognize that it is not something we can
do on our own. So imagine we are
being called, we are being told to come forth as we take this great weight, as
we try to live up to the examples of Christ and of the Saints themselves.
begin to move forward - even crawl at the time of our baptism - to understand
that it is not a journey meant to be taken alone. That it is through God’s grace, that we become children of
Light, that we carry out this Great Commission. We need to prepare ourselves, we need to be willing, to go
forth, be willing to speak, to communicate, to pray.
lesson ends with a very powerful message: Christ reminding us that He will be
with us to the ages of ages.
Reminding us that the Resurrection, the Life that He grants us, was not
simply something that was done in a period of history, was not simply an act
that took place in the past. It is
gift that continues to take place in the present and will always take place in
the present until the ages of ages.
That is how we are called to live and to celebrate. Constantly glorifying God and giving
thanks to Him, forever. Amen.