4th Sunday after Pentecost. Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

 

On July 14, on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. On that day we also observed feast of the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul which was transferred to Sunday. Service was well-attended. In addition to our parishioners, several Merchant Marine Academy cadets came and prayed at our Liturgy.

After the readings from the Sacred Scripture the Rector preached the following homily I English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today is the 4th Sunday after Pentecost and we also celebrate feast of the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul.”
“Our Sunday Gospel lesson is telling us about a healing of the servant of the Roman centurion performed by our Lord Jesus Christ from the distance. The centurion was a Roman officer under whose command there were one hundred soldiers. It is interesting that today we have representatives of the military present at our church. We welcome them and we are glad that they came on this Sunday when we read the Gospel about a military man, a centurion. He approached the Lord and beseeched Him to cure his servant who was lying at home dreadfully tormented. Jesus agreed to come and to heal him. But the centurion was a Gentile, a pagan, so he considered himself unworthy for Christ to enter into his home. Thus he said to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Mt. 8, 8). These words impressed Jesus and He said that He found no such faith in Israel. The Lord also prophesied that other nations, the Gentiles will come to God and will take the seats along with Jewish Patriarchs of old while many present Jews will be cast out (Mt. 8, 10-12).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The centurion from today’s Gospel is a great example of firm faith and trust in the power of the Lord. It is also an example of humility, a humble attitude of being unworthy before God. All these beautiful virtues can be found in the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul whom we honor today.”
“Our second Gospel lesson today tells us how Holy Apostle Peter expressed his very firm faith in the Lord Jesus calling Him “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt. 16, 16). Jesus was also impressed by that faith and called Peter the Rock on which He will build His Church (Mt. 16, 17-18). But Peter had also a trust and a humble attitude. He trusted heavenly revelation and humbly accepted what heavenly Teacher instilled in his heart, and when he was asked, he professed that truth. Every learning begins with humility and trust in the teacher. Same with the knowledge of spiritual and divine matters. His humility, his trust made Simon Peter “the Rock” on whom the Lord desired to build His Holy Church.”
“Holy Apostle Paul, at first, was not one of the Disciples of Christ. He was an enemy of Christ, a persecutor of Christians. But the Lord appeared to him in a shining light and revealed that He is Christ whom he is persecuting. And Paul humbly followed where Christ was leading him. He also had humility and trust that the One who appeared to him is the Lord and God. And Paul persevered in many labors, sufferings, sorrows and perils. In today’s Epistle lesson we heard how he himself testifies that he suffered more than all other Apostles (2 Cor. 11, 23-32). But Paul did not praise himself for that. On the contrary, he preferred to boast in the things which concern his infirmity. And willing to tell about the revelation he received, he says that it is not profitable for him to boast. But he speaks about himself in the third person: “I know a man in Christ… such a one was caught up to the third heaven… he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. 12, 2-3). St. Paul had such a revelation, he was caught to heaven, but he does not want to boast, to exult himself.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The power and holiness of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul is in such humility. They humbly follow their Teacher and they do not praise themselves for being close to Him. They teach nothing from themselves but only what Christ entrusted them to teach. Holy Apostle Peter even asked to be crucified upside down because he felt to be unworthy to be crucified like Christ. Holy Apostle Paul also repented all his life for being a persecutor of Christ. In his Epistle he called himself a “one born out of due time”, “the least of the Apostles, not worthy to be called an Apostle” (1 Cor. 15, 8-9). He wrote that all his success and miracles he witnessed and made were due to the grace of God, not to his own merits.”
“And because of their faith, trust and humility, Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul are the teachers of the universe, our guides to Christ and to His heavenly Kingdom. We know that usually good students become later good teachers. And good students are those who believe and trust their teacher and humbly receive the knowledge offered to them. Let us remember that the gates of hell won’t prevail not only against the Holy Church built on the rock of true faith of the Apostles, but those terrifying gates will not prevail against us if we will be in the Church, and if we will have faith, trust and humility of the Holy Apostles. Let us then follow Christ with a firm faith, trust and humility as the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul did!”

The choir nicely performed hymns in honor of St. Peter and Paul during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector performed the rite of glorification in the middle of the temple singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Holy Major Apostles. He also preached a short sermon in Russian stressing the main ideas of his English homily.

Our celebration continued after the service at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious and abundant meals and a nice company.

3rd Sunday after Pentecost. Nativity of St. John the Baptist

 

On July 7, on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, our St. George parish community had a beautiful celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel readings he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost and great feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.”
“The first Gospel lesson tells us how our Lord Jesus Christ Himself teaches us to set our priorities in life. He says to care first about our soul, about eternal and spiritual things. “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6, 31-33). Thus the Gospel tells us to put spiritual things first. It further teaches us to do our best and then leave the rest to God, to trust in God. Modern life, on the other hand, tells us to constantly worry, to be stressed. Such a worry only causes depression, for it excludes God and His loving Providence. On the other hand, there is nothing inevitable in the life of those who believe in Divine Providence. Even the most terrible situations can end up positively if we let God into our lives and societies. If we include God then we can exclude worry and depression.”
“The model presented in today’s Gospel had been fulfilled by those who devoted all their lives to God and spiritual endeavors. The ascetics, mostly the monks and nuns chose a difficult but spiritually rewarding path of abstinence and renunciation of the worldly things. They elected a life without worries of this world. And one of the examples of such life was Holy Forerunner and Baptist John whose Nativity we celebrate today.”
“Today’s second Gospel lesson that tells us a story of St. John the Baptist’s birth, also mentions that “the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Lk. 1, 80). Thus St. John lived in the deserts, not in the world. He led a monastic kind of life. Therefore, his life is an example for those who follow the advices of the Lord to renounce everything and to follow Him. In the Church St. John the Baptist is called “an earthly angel” and “a heavenly man”. This is why on his icons he is shown sometimes as having wings. These are not, of course, physical wings; they are the spiritual wings of one who prays unceasingly, which is the task of all, but especially of those in the monastic life.”
“St. John, being the Forerunner of Christ is also called a star compared to Christ who is the Sun of Righteousness. Our Lord Himself called him the greatest one. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Mt. 11, 11). We may wander and ask whether Jesus called St. John greater than Himself. But we have to listen carefully to the words of Christ: He says “born of women” while Jesus was born of a Virgin, not of the woman while St. John’s birth was from a woman. Although it was special and extraordinary, it was humanly natural.”
“The Holy Baptist stands at the very end of the Old Testament, but also at the very beginning of the New Testament. That is why he appears at the beginning of the Gospels. He opens up a new way and answers in a new way the old question which people have posed from ancient times. John the Baptist who never married, who remained a virgin, who prophesized, tells us that the purpose of life is to be spiritually fruitful. This is his prophetic revelation to us. Whether we are called to marriage and having children or not, we are called to bring forth spiritual fruit, to improve the world and not to worsen it, to be fruitful, and not to be barren, as his parents had been. But his parents were barren physically until the Lord blessed them with a child while all of us are called not to be barren spiritually.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Being inspired by today’s two readings from the Holy Gospel, let us seek what are really and truly important – spiritual and eternal things. Let us trust God that He in His Divine Providence will provide for all our needs. Let us also honor and imitate Holy Forerunner and Baptist John. No matter whether we live a married or single, worldly or monastic life, we should bear a spiritual fruit and thus be blessed by the Lord through the prayers of His Holy Forerunner and Baptist John.”

The choir prayerfully performed hymns in honor of St. John the Baptist and his Nativity during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English addressing the main ideas of his Russian homily. He also made some announcements regarding the following Sunday celebration.

Deanery Meeting of the Eastern States Clergy

 

On Saturday, June 29, the Eastern States Deanery clergy gathered in Saint John the Baptist parish in Little Falls, NJ to hold a Deanery meeting. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov attended that meeting.

At the beginning, the clergy welcomed two newly-ordained clerics of the Deanery – Priest Nicholas DeGraaff, who was ordained on the feast of Saint Nicholas in 2018 and serves at the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ, and Deacon Artemy Kulikovsky, who was ordained on Bright Saturday in 2019, and serves at the Church of All Saints, Pine Bush, NY. 

The clergy also talked about the current situation in their respective parishes. In general, our parishes are hurting from low attendance and participation at the Divine services and events (some more than others), but everyone remains committed to doing their best with what they have – be it leading their communities in worship, educating them, or being present in the greater communities. 

To conclude the meeting, St. George’s Rector and Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, updated everyone on the upcoming Convocation of the Patriarchal Parishes to be held in Antiochian Village September 30 – Oct. 3, 2019 reminding that registrations have to be submitted by September 7.

2nd Sunday after Pentecost. Sunday of All the Saints of the Land of Rus’

 

On June 30, on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, as well as Sunday of All the Saints of the Land of Rus’, our Parish family gathered for the liturgical celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian.

The Rector pointed out that separate celebration in honor of our Russian Saints followed after the Sunday of All Saints is needed because those Saints of our Church are closer to us by flesh and blood. They are our relatives. The Church can be compared to a large family. And in every large family we have our close relatives like parents and brothers or sisters, and we also have more remote relatives. Some of those remote relatives are even unknown to us. It is the same with the Saints who are from our land – they are closer to us than some holy people of Middle East. Thus such a celebration makes sense.
Feast in honor of our local Church Saints is also needed to understand that a holy life in Christ and different endeavors of holiness are not things that belong to some far countries. Our land of Rus’, being a Christian country for more than a millennium, produced many Saints. The Russian Church has is own Venerable Fathers, glorious Martyrs, Hierarchs and teachers of the Church, as well as righteous men and women.
Coming to an understanding why do we need that celebration, we may ask how should we worthily honor our Russian Saints. We pray to the Saints asking for their intercession before the Lord. But that’s not enough. We should also imitate the Saints in our own lives. Here we have liberty to choose any Saint who is close to us for some reason and try to follow his or her example.
In the conclusion of his homily the Rector wished the faithful to have a warm intercession of the Saints of Rus’ and that their assistance from above may produce a beautiful fruit of our own sanctity and lead us to salvation.

The choir beautifully performed the hymns dedicated to the Russian Saints during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector said a few words in English conveying the ideas of his Russian homily and made some announcements.

 

Sunday of All Saints

 

On June 23, on the 1st Sunday after Pentecost, the Church celebrates memory of All the Saints who pleased the Lord by their pious lives. On that day we had a nice service at St. George Church. Our parish Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters! Today, on the 1st Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate All Saints Day. And this celebration gives us the answer to an important question: why the whole history of salvation of the human race took place? Why did God create man? Why did God incarnate and become Man? Why did God accept suffering and was crucified on the cross? Why did He die and rise from the dead? Why did He ascend into heaven, and why did He send the Holy Spirit from His Father to His Apostles?”
“This whole history of salvation is remembered in our Church holy days, in our calendar. We celebrate the Nativity of Christ, His Baptism in the Jordan, then we commemorate His Entry into Jerusalem, His sufferings, and then on Pascha we celebrate His Resurrection. After Pascha, 40 days after we celebrate the Ascension into heaven. Then, after 9 more days, we mark the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost. And today, on Sunday after Pentecost, we sum up: what are the results of the whole history of salvation? And they are the following: that people who follow Christ can acquire salvation; they can become the Saints, they can become Holy.”
“Thus, today’s feast gives us an answer why all this occurred. And all this happened, so the holiness may shine in the hearts of men. The purpose of our Lord to come into the world is that we could become Holy.”
“This is marvelous because we constantly say that we are sinful people. Yet the Lord came into the world, so we may become not sinners but Saints. However, we may say to ourselves that we are not Saints. We are not holy for we acknowledge our weaknesses, recognize our unworthiness, understand our sins and realize our shortcomings.  God calls us to holiness but we are sinners. It is easy to fall into despair. But God established His Holy Church, a gathering of the Saints, and the Church does not allow us to be fall into despair, because everyone of us, with no exceptions, every baptized person has a gleam of divine grace. And as much as we are united with God, so much holiness is manifested in our life. Despite our unworthiness, despite our shortcomings, despite our sins, holiness is possible for us. The Lord gives us His grace to change our unworthiness, because He took our sins upon Himself, He came to correct our shortcomings.”
“Celebrating memory of All Saints we see how very different people, children and elderly, men and women, educated and illiterate, rich and poor – are being glorified as Saints by the Church. People of various nations, of different intellect, of different cultural level are honored as Saints because holiness does not depend on those things. Salvation and holiness depend only on how much we open our soul to the grace and operation of the Holy Spirit.”
“And today, rejoicing about those fruits that the Church gave to our life, rejoicing about millions of Saints who fulfilled their calling from the Lord Jesus Christ, let us ask the grace of God for ourselves, let us ask the Lord to bless our life journey that we may become Saints despite our falls and our sins. And we may be holy because for that reason our Lord Jesus came into the world, so no one who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.”
“Let us then turn to the multitudes of the Saints glorified today by the Church and let us ask them to elevate their prayers for us, sinners, that we may follow the holy Commandments of God and live along with our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom shall be glory into the ages of ages. Amen.”

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian explaining the content of his English homily. He also reminded the faithful of the beginning of St. Peter’s Fast dedicated to the works of the Holy Apostles.

 

Pentecost. Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

 

On June 16 of this year all Orthodox Christians celebrated Pentecost, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. Our St. George parish family had a beautiful celebration in our temple. The church was nicely adorned with greenery. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.

Following the reading from the Holy Gospel the Rector preached a homily in Russian. He addressed our Christian faith in the Most Holy Trinity, in One God in Three Persons. Such faith is important because it opens for us a way to salvation. Those who know that God is one may have a fear of God but such a fear is not that saving fear that is described in the Scripture. Such a fear is not caused by one’s love of God. That fear leads to despair. That kind of faith only in one God is seen among the Muslims. And they do not recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and God. They fear one God but are not able to approach Him, to be with Him. We Christians tremble before one God, but we also rejoice that we are united with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ who became Man for our salvation.
There are many other people who believe that God may be incarnate but they invent many other gods and see them in the whole world. They worship the forces of nature. These are different followers of the pagan cults, the ancient ones like Hindus and the new ones like various followers of the occult teachings, astrology and sorcery. They worship the spirits thinking that they serve the true gods. In fact, they worship the demons and do not know the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit. But we, Orthodox Christians, are blessed to know the Holy Spirit because by the Holy Spirit the world is alive and the Church of Christ exists.
That is why it is so important to know the true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit because our salvation depends on that. Thus it is a great blessing and happiness to be an Orthodox Christian and to know the true God one in the Holy Trinity.

The choir piously performed the hymns of the feast during the preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar server performed the rite of Glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast before the festal icon in the middle of the church. Then the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing the main thoughts of his Russian homily. He also congratulated our men on the occasion of the Father’s Day. A traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was performed.

After the Liturgy the Rector served Pentecostal Vespers with kneeling prayers.

Following the services the Rector and parishioners continued their celebration of the feast at the trapeza table enjoying delicious food and a nice conversation.

 

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the I Ecumenical Council

 

On June 9, on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows::

“Dear brothers and sisters! On this Sunday following the Ascension of the Lord we celebrate the memory of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. We should remember that this was the first gathering of the Christian Bishops from the whole world. It took place in the 4th century. That Council adopted most of our Creed that we recite in our daily prayers and sing it during every Liturgy. Today we may wonder why those Ecumenical Councils gathered and what kind of gatherings they were.”
“We believe that the Head of the Holy Orthodox Church is Jesus Christ Himself. There is no other head. Our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior who came into the world, became Man, lived a human life, died on the cross, risen from the dead and ascended into heaven – He is the Head of His Body, the Church. Roman Catholics believe that the head of the Church is the Pope of Rome but we, Orthodox always remember that only Jesus Christ can be the Head of His Church. But since Christ sent His Apostles to preach to different nations, they went to various countries where they made the disciples different people. Thus today we know Orthodox Christians from many nations and from different ethnic background. Holy Apostles being enlightened by the Holy Spirit began to speak different languages and they also brought the grace to the nations they preached. And in each country which became Christian local communities of the believers, local Churches were established. Some of them became known as local independent, autocephalous Orthodox Churches.”
“There are 15 such local Orthodox Churches in the world: the Church of Constantinople, of Alexandria, of Antioch, of Jerusalem, our Russian Church, then Georgian, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian Churches, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Czech and Slovak Lands, the Church of Greece, Polish Church, Albanian Church, and the Church in America (OCA). All these Churches are independent and have their own hierarchy and their own first hierarchs – either Patriarchs, Metropolitans or Archbishops who head that local Church. We know that our Russian Church is headed by His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill. Orthodox Church in America is headed by Metropolitan Tikhon. They are the heads of the local Churches but the Head of the whole, Universal Church is Jesus Christ.”
“All these Churches hold the same holy Orthodox faith. They are independent in their administration and their internal life but they have the same faith, the same teaching. They all belong to the same Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church. And to define the truths of faith Universal Church called Ecumenical Councils. The decisions of those Councils are mandatory for all Orthodox people, for every local Orthodox Church. We believe that Ecumenical Councils are led by the Holy Spirit., and that their decisions are inspired by Him. If Catholics believe that the Pope of Rome is infallible when he preaches on faith or morals, we Orthodox believe that not a particular person but the whole Church is infallible, cannot make a mistake because the Holy Spirit would not let her to fall into an error.”
“There were 7 Ecumenical Councils in the history of the Church. At each of the Councils the Holy Fathers condemned certain false teachings called heresies. All the heresies of those times were condemned by those Councils and the true teaching of the Orthodoxy defined. After those Councils many new heresies emerged, and who knows, maybe there will be called a new Ecumenical Council to condemn them and to teach us again. Some attempts to prepare such a Council are being made.”
“Today we honor the Fathers of the First Council who despite the pressure from different powerful people and parties made right definitions of faith. Inspired by the Holy Spirit they declared the truth that our Lord Jesus Christ is true God, one in essence with God the Father.”
“Let us then glorify the Fathers of the First Council. Let us pray to them that despite various modern heresies we may be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ who established His Church on the earth strengthened by the holy hierarchs of the Councils. Let us give Him glory for the ages of ages!”

The choir beautifully performed the hymns of the feast of the Ascension and dedicated to the Holy Fathers of the First Council.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector congratulated our youngest parishioner, Elena Malyshev and her family on the occasion of her past name day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

Ascension of the Lord

 

On June 6 of this year the Orthodox Church celebrated great feast of the Ascension of the Lord. St. George parish had a nice celebration on this day. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.

After the Gospel lesson the Rector preached a homily in Russian. He explained that Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven cannot be compared to the “ascension” of the first man into space in 1961. Our traveling by airplanes or flights into the outer space are only lifting upon the earth and in this earthly and visible world. Our Lord ascended into heaven meaning He passed over to the spiritual, invisible world, heaven which is the abode of God. The Son of God was there before His human birth and He returned there after accomplishing His mission of salvation.
The Lord also is waiting for us to join Him in heaven since all of us will have to leave this earthly world. Therefore, we need to prepare for that making all possible efforts to be worthy of heaven. We need to prefer heavenly, spiritual things and despise and avoid things which are inferior, passionate and sinful. Living in this inferior world does not mean adhere to all the passions and sins of this world. We do respect and follow certain laws and rules of the earthly life but we should avoid the evil things of this world.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar server performed the rite of Glorification in front of the festal icon singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast.

Following the service the Rector preached a short sermon in English to stress the main thoughts of his Russian homily and congratulated the parishioners on the occasion of the great feast.

Sunday of the Blind Man

 

On June 2, on the Sunday of the Blind Man, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:
“Today the Holy Church in the Gospel story is telling us about a miracle performed by our Lord Jesus Christ when He healed a man born blind. That man never had a sight; he was born blind and he had no eyes. And behold, the Lord performs a miracle which is inconceivable for men. How did it happen?”
“The Lord spat on the ground, made clay with the saliva; thus He made the new eyes for that man. Then He anointed the spots on the face of that man where the eyes should be and told him to go to a pool of Siloam and to wash (Jn. 9, 6-7). And behold, the man began to see. This should convince us that our Lord Jesus Christ offers us the way of salvation through the Church rituals, through the ceremonies in which we materially touch something holy. We kiss the holy icons and the cross, we also kiss the relics. We sprinkle ourselves with holy water. And we consume the Body and Blood of Christ under the species of bread and wine.”

“But there are many of false teachers who say that those rites and the use of materials are not needed. They teach that we should believe in God spiritually and to come to know Him spiritually. In this way they are playing with the words of Christ that we heard in the Gospel lesson of the past Sunday: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4, 24). But, firstly, worshiping God in spirit and truth does not contradict the use of the holy objects or materials. And secondly, the Lord Himself is giving us an example of the use of a material and of the bodily touch with such a material in today’s Gospel story.”
“Of course, God can do anything and He was able to heal the blind man by His word or command alone. But Christ is making clay and is anointing the eyes of that man. Thus He shows him His love, desiring to touch the sick. And He also shows us that if the man’s body is made of matter, it needs a material touch, it needs a material intervention, some kind of a “surgery”. In the very beginning of the Sacred Scripture, in the book of Genesis, we read that God “formed man from the dust of the ground” (Gen. 2, 7). Thus He created man from the matter, from the same elements of which the world consists, from the same molecules and atoms. And that earthly body of ours needs the God’s touch, and the Lord is showing us that.”
“And the Lord established His Holy Church on the earth, so through the Church Sacraments and rites we would touch the sacred or materially receive the Sacraments through different materials, and that we were aware that the Lord is with us and that His divine power is sanctifying both our soul and our body.”
“Sadly, not everyone understands that. But today we read in the Gospel that also in the times of Christ not everybody was understanding that. Today we heard that the Jews, especially the Pharisees, did the whole investigation of the healing. They summoned the healed blind man many times and kept asking him how it happened. They called his parents and interrogated them. Then they began to accuse Jesus for being a “sinful man”. Finally, they got into a fight with the healed man and chased him away. People who had the eyes turned out to be blind because they failed to see the Son of God in Jesus.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we need a God’s blessing not only for our soul but for our body also. And if we understand that and believe in that, our soul won’t be blind as it was with soul of those Pharisees who performed an investigation of the healing.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The Holy Church enables us to have a spiritual sight and to receive the blessing of God. By its holy rites and Sacraments it often bodily touches us to convey its spiritual power, the divine grace. We were baptized by water, chrismated by the Holy Chrism, we are anointed by holy oil in the Mystery of Unction. And finally, we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. Without those things there is no Church life, no divine grace and no salvation. The Lord Himself comes to us in those holy rites in the same way as he touched the man born blind and healed him.”
“Let us then glorify the risen Christ who granted us eternal life. Let us follow the example of the healed blind man and worship the Lord Jesus (Jn. 9, 38). Let us worship Him always and remain faithful to Him, to His Holy Church and let us follow Him in our life on His way of salvation!”

The choir prayerfully performed Paschal Aposticha and hymns assigned to the Sunday of the Blind man and during the preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in English conveying the main ideas of his Russian homily.

After the Liturgy we enjoyed some delicious food and a nice company at the coffee hour.

 

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

 

On May 26, on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, we had a nice liturgical celebration in our temple. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“In today’s Gospel lesson we heard how our Lord Jesus Christ was having a conversation with a Samaritan woman and how He was explaining to that plain and uneducated person the meaning of the faith. Jesus compared faith to the living water, the water that makes someone alive and strong. Our Lord compared faith to the water because water is necessary for our life. Human body needs water and if it does not get it, it dies. In the same way human soul needs faith, and if it does not have it, it dies.”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with the Samaritan woman and explained to her how one should worship God. He said that true worship must be “in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4, 23). And we attempt to worship our true God in spirit and truth. Today we gathered here, at our parish temple, to have this service of the Divine Liturgy. The Samaritan woman asked Jesus where it is a right place to worship true God – in Jerusalem where the Jews had the Temple, or on Mt. Gerizim where the Samaritans had their sanctuary (Jn. 4, 20). The Lord answered her that “the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father, and … when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4, 23). The words of Christ came true, and now we, Christian people, worship everywhere on earth, but we worship in the holy places we call the churches, or the temples of God. Each Orthodox church can be compared to a well from which we draw the water, a living water to make our souls alive.”
“Some people may ask, “Why do you need a church if God is everywhere?” We may answer to that: “Yes, God is everywhere. But water is also everywhere in the world, it is in the air. But if you are thirsty, you don’t drink from the air, but you come to the well”. Such a well of the living water is the holy temple of God.”
“The Samaritan woman asked the Lord, “You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?” (Jn. 4, 11). So we may have difficulties to understand how we get the living water of God’s grace attending the temple. People with no faith or little faith don’t see how it is possible. But the Lord said, He who believes in Me… out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (Jn. 7, 38). We need to believe, then we will be able to come to the source of the living water which is given to us by our Lord for our salvation.”
“By coming to the temple, by supporting the church we fill that holy place with the living water. Overcoming different temptations and obstacles we support our Orthodox faith in this mostly non-Orthodox environment. Could you imagine a city or a town living without water? Could the inhabitants survive without it? However, many cities and towns live without Orthodox churches, even in the old country […]. And if people have no water in their town, they suffer and have to go far to get the water, they get sick and contaminated. In the same way people live spiritually without holy churches: they do not have the saving spiritual water.”
“Truly, as a man uses water to wash away the dirt from his body, he needs a church to wash away the spiritual dirt. He needs the church to repent, to cleanse his soul, so it can become pure. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Mt. 5, 8). He needs it to be filled with the grace of God. It is also true that if a man is thirsty and has no water, he can attempt to get it from other sources, and then becomes poisoned. In the same way if people have no pure faith, the Orthodox faith, they seek to get it from the wrong hands – from the false religions, from the false teachers, from the sourcerers or astrologers who offer them poisonous drinks.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! We are very happy to have our parish temple, a source of the living water. We are sinful and imperfect like that Samaritan woman, but she believed that Jesus who spoke with her was Christ, the Savior of the world. Thus we also will believe in Him and keep that holy Orthodox faith, we will quench our spiritual thirst at the well of our holy temple, so we may cleanse, so we may become spiritually whole, so we may be filled with true life in Christ and inherit in Him life eternal. Let us glorify the Risen Lord Jesus Christ who abides with us until the end of time and who is giving us true living water!”

The choir prayerfully performed the Aposticha of Pascha and the Stichera of the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman before Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian stressing the main ideas of his English homily. He also congratulated Vitaly Malyshev on the occasion of his birthday and expressed heartfelt wishes to him. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.