23rd Sunday after Pentecost

 

On November 27, on the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, St. George Parish held a beautiful liturgical celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today in the Holy Gospel we heard a parable about a Good Samaritan in which Christ is telling us about salvation. Some lawyer which means a scholar of Jewish religion asked Jesus a very important question, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Lk. 10, 25). Of course, this scholar tested the Savior, tried to argue with Him and to show Him his knowledgeable superiority. But this question is really important: what should be done to be saved? At this question Christ is asking another, no less important question, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (Lk. 10, 26).”
“Christ puts everything in a right order. He immediately shows who is who in this conversation, who is the Savior and who is the saved one. From now on the lawyer is not testing Jesus but Jesus is testing that Jewish scholar. We should notice that the scholar gave a right answer, he rightly indicated to what Jesus Himself called “the foundation of the law and the Prophets: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Lk. 10, 27).  However, giving a right answer the lawyer does not understand who is his neighbor. In the ancient Judaism the neighbor was considered your compatriot while a stranger was not viewed as a neighbor, thus according to the Law of Moses he could not be loved as oneself. With modern Christians it could be just the opposite: we are readily help to the needy somewhere in a remote country, but we do not notice the need of the people around us.”
“To answer that question, “who is my neighbor”, Jesus tells a parable about a Good Samaritan. This is the parable about Christ who came to save the dying humanity. A Jew who would listen to that parable could relate to the man who fell among thieves. And perhaps the Lord wished to create such an understanding of this parable. But a more profound sense of that story is that this unlucky man represents the whole human kind who had been robbed and bitten by the devil, so being half dead and covered with the wounds of sin, it could not reach its destination which is the Kingdom of heaven.”
“And behold there appears a Samaritan, a man strange to the Jews. Samaritans were considered heretics and sectarians, they were the enemies of the Jews. But he helps that man on the road. That Samaritan is an image of Christ, the Savior of the humanity. And we should notice that our Lord Jesus Christ, although He was born as a Jew, was very often rejected by the Jews and viewed as a heretic. In one passage of the Gospel we read, “The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”” (Jn. 8, 48).  And yet in the parable a man strange and hostile to the Jews is rescuing a Jew. Revealing the mystery of salvation Christ is telling how a Samaritan rescued a man from certain death. But he did not just rescue that man, he also took care of him until he was going to become well, he paid for the care and treatment and he promised to come back.”
“The parable also mentions a priest and a Levite who passed by (Lk. 10, 31-32). What can we say about them? Perhaps these people were not really bad, cruel or indifferent. They were heading to the Temple to fulfill the Law, and to touch a man who could be already dead, would defile them and would make them unfit to fulfill their obligations. Thus, on one hand, they were right in their actions, however the story gives them no justification. Christ made it very clear to His listeners that the Law does not save a man and that the Law can be fulfilled, but a man may die.”
“This is important for us to understand during the days of prescribed fasting. Tomorrow we will begin the Nativity fast. The Church calls us to fast, but the fast by itself is not a goal. You can fulfill the law and fast, but at the same time you may not help the needy, may not fulfill the works of mercy.”
“Thus, this parable is very symbolic. Among the symbols is a Jew on the road who is the whole dying humanity; a Samaritan who is Christ the Savior; bandaging the wounds and pouring of oil and wine is spiritual healing; the inn and the innkeeper is the Church to whom Christ left His wealth, the grace of the Holy Spirit to care about human souls; finally a Samaritan’s promise to come back is our Lord’s second coming. But all these meanings were hidden from the first listeners of the parable. The only thing they did understand is that it is bad to be robbed and bitten while it is good to be rescued. And that initial understanding was enough.”
“Thus when the scholar of law understood what is good and what is bad, Christ gives him a command, Go and do likewise” (Lk. 10, 37). Here the Lord reveals another mystery of salvation. He reveals what do we need to enter into eternal life. Thus in those words – “go and do likewise” – is the answer of Christ to the scholar’s question. Salvation is cooperation with God. It is not enough to be forgiven, not enough to be justified, not enough to be healed – you need to act in the same way, to become like Jesus, to become His Body. As St. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2, 20). It is not enough to know what is good, you need to do it.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Those who know about faith, about good and about morals are many among us, but those who labor are few. The dreamers are many, but the actors are few. The called are many, but those who respond to the calling are few. Therefore, let us fulfill the Savior’s command, let us go and do likewise. Then we would become worthy to enter into eternal life!”

As the Liturgy continued, the Rector included a petition of thanksgiving into the Litany of Fervent supplication due to our recent celebration of Thanksgiving Day. The choir prayerfully performed the hymns dedicated to Holy Apostle Philip whose memory was celebrated on that day.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English to stress the main ideas of his Russian homily.

Following the Liturgy the Rector served a Memorial service (Litia) at the request of Malyshew family to commemorate the deceased Elena, the late wife of our parishioner and Sacristan Andrew Malyshew.

After all our services had been finished the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals, including a Thanksgiving turkey, at the trapeza table.

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

 

On November 20, on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters! Today’s Gospel reading is telling us about the two great miracles performed by our Lord Jesus Christ: the healing of a woman who suffered from a flow of blood and the resurrection of a girl who has just died. Thus we may say that today our lesson from the Scripture concerns women.”
“The woman from today’s Gospel lesson had a flow of blood for twelve years and she spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any (Lk. 8, 43-44). According to the Law of Moses she could not approach people because any woman having a flow of blood was considered unclean. Thus she was not supposed to be in the crowd pressing on Jesus and she was not supposed to touch Him. This law had been given to the people of God as a result of the original sin of Eve which brought certain impurity to all women. Due to the fall of Eve God imposed a number of sorrows upon all the women which were summarized in His words, “In pain you will give birth” (Gen. 3, 16). This pain also includes other difficulties of physiological nature that all the females suffer in this life. And as all humans suffer from different diseases, women may suffer from many illnesses resulting exclusively from their gender. One of such illnesses was the continuous flow of blood suffered by the woman from today’s Gospel. In addition to pain and sorrow that accompany all the diseases, such illnesses made those suffering women unclean and thus made their lives much more difficult. This was the strict law of the Old Testament the remnants of which we still retain in our Church life.”
“But with the appearing of Christ, with the coming of the Son of God into this world, many old ways became overruled. Our Lord came to redeem the human kind from its transgression, came to save the people from their sins. This is why He was the One who would stop the flow of tears of our foremother Eve. And this is why He healed the woman suffering from the flow of blood. Jesus did not condemn her for violating the law of Moses. He did not rebuke her for touching Him. On the contrary, He praised her faith that she so firmly believed that touching the border of His garment will bring her healing (Lk. 8, 48). He manifested that now, in Christ, all the old shame is taken away and a new life with loving and caring God begins.”
“In a similar way, in today’s Gospel, the Lord brings a recently dead girl back to life (Lk. 8, 50-56). Among the results of the original sin the most sorrowful and dreadful outcome was that all the heirs of Adam and Eve have to die. In today’s Gospel lesson we can read about a mature woman who is suffering from an illness and about a young woman, a girl who died. Both were the heirs of Eve and both had to undergo the penalty for the Eve’s fall. But when Jesus Christ appeared He overruled these condemnations. He did not just heal the woman, He even resurrected the girl. In His life-giving words “Little girl, arise” (Lk. 8, 54) the Lord called all the women of the New Testament to arise from sin, to overcome their weak nature and to strive for salvation. He also gave all of us, especially women, the great hope of resurrection and new life in His Kingdom.”
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Human kind had been created as two sexes, men and women. Both have a great and equal value in the eyes of the Creator. But they have different nature and different tasks. Today’s reading from the Gospel mentions to us how the Lord helped the two women showing them His abundant mercy and His life-creating power. But the Lord unites all of us, men and women, in His new life with God. In this new reality many old rules had been set aside. In today’s Epistle lesson St. Paul reminds us that in Christ there is no need for men to be circumcised “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Gal. 6, 15). In the same way St. Paul teaches that in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3, 28). Therefore, let us come to understanding that in Christ Jesus we all should be united and all should follow the steps of our Lord. As men and women we will still be different in our nature, we will still possess different qualities and have different tasks in life, but we all pursue the same goal to be blessed in the Kingdom of God!”

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector proclaimed the Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) to His Holiness, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and of All Rus’ who was celebrating his 70th Anniversary of birth.

Then the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian conveying main ideas of his English homily. He also wished all our parishioners a nice celebration of Thanksgiving Day reminding them that everybody should give thanks to God for His abundant graces bestowed upon us this year.

21st Sunday after Pentecost

 

On November 13, on the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, we had a beautiful celebration in our church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. He was co-served by a visitor from the Eparchy of Moscow in Russia, Archpriest Georgi Bolgarsky. Following the Gospel reading Fr. Igor preached a homily in the Russian language. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! The Gospel lesson we have just heard is about casting out the demons from a possessed man in the country of the Gadarenes (Lk. 8, 26-39). This story is very impressive and is presenting us a number of pictures. We hear about the dialogue between our Lord Jesus Christ and the demons, we see that the demons entered a herd of swine which runs violently down the steep place into the lake and perishes there. Then we learn that the man freed from the evil spirits became sound and in his right mind. Let us now reflect upon this story from the Holy Gospel.”
“Being Orthodox Christians we certainly believe in the existence of the evil spirits. Unlike some modern Christian communities who do not take into account the existence of the devil or even reject his personal being, we do believe that he and his evil angels exist. This is why when we say the Lord’s Prayer, we finish it with the words “and deliver us from the evil one”. Many other denominations just say “from the evil”, thus leaving a room for discussion, whether the devil is a real person or just some abstract evil power. For us he and his dark followers are personalities fighting against God and having a powerful influence upon us. Such an influence of the evil one was especially strong in the times before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. People lived under the direct power of their sinful passions and were the toys for the devil. In some instances the evil spirits even entered the bodies of the people, as it was described in today’s Gospel.”
“But with the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into this world the power of the evil one became seriously weakened. Even before His death on the Cross and His Resurrection which became the victory over the sin and death, the triumph over the forces of evil, the Lord chased out the devil from human life. In today’s Gospel story we hear that the Lord delivered the possessed man from the demons. We should also notice that the demons were afraid of Jesus. The possessed man fell down and begged Christ not to torment him (Lk. 8, 28). The demons also beg Jesus not to send them out into the abyss (Lk. 8, 31). Thus, they recognized Jesus to be the Lord of the universe and they had to obey Him. This should remind us that the power of the devil is limited, and he is not as powerful as the Lord. God is the Creator and the demons are just His creatures who raised against Him.”
“However, Jesus permitted the demons not to be cast out into the abyss, but to enter the herd of swine. This tells us that the Lord allows the devil and his angels to stay in this world before His second coming, before the Last Judgment. Then the devil and his demons will be finally condemned and sent out into the everlasting fire. But before that the Lord permits them to perform their evil deeds and to attack us. But the Lord gives us a powerful assistance in this spiritual warfare. The power of the risen Christ which is given to us Christians is able to chase the devil away from us. Holy disciples of the Lord rejoiced that they had the power to cast out the demons, the same way as Jesus could cast them out. Today we commemorate several disciples of Christ who were among the 70 Apostles. So, the Gospel says that “the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”” (Lk. 10, 17). Same power is granted to the whole Christian Church. But many of us are not able to use it because we are often prisoners of our passions and we are too weak to be the agents of the divine power.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The devil has a great influence in this earthly life, so he is even called the prince of this world. His evil demons are constantly attacking us and tempting us to give in to our passions, to commit sins. But the power of the risen Christ, the power of His Life-creating Cross and the divine grace are much stronger than all the intrigues of the evil one. Today’s Epistle lesson instructs us that if a man has been crucified with Christ, it is no longer he lives, but Christ lives in him (Gal. 2, 19-20). That means that if we live Christian life and fight our sinful passions, Christ dwells within us. Not evil spirits but Christ possesses our souls and sanctifies our bodies. Let us then acquire unity with Him through spiritual life, repentance and sanctification of His abundant grace.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector said a few words to welcome the guests from Russia, Fr. Georgi and his Matushka Ksenia. He also congratulated Maria Malyshew on the occasion of her past birthday. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

Following the liturgical service the Rector, our guests and our parishioners enjoyed delicious meals, especially the pelmeni, as well as a nice company at the trapeza table.

20th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On November 6, on the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, we had a nice liturgical celebration in our parish. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Gospel lesson is telling us about life beyond the grave. It is describing the destiny of the two human souls after death. It tells us about a rich man who lived very nice life and a beggar who suffered. They lived totally different kinds of life, but their lives came to the same end: both of them died. However, this was not the end of their existence. They continued to live, and their destiny became different again (Lk. 16, 19-31).”
“So, today we may talk a little bit about life after death. This subject is very mysterious and pretty much unknown to us. People had always been puzzled by the question, “what happens when we die”.”
“The Church of Christ teaches us that death is a separation of the soul from the body. It also teaches that after death the soul continues to live and awaits its future resurrection and the Last Judgment. When we recite or sing the Creed we finish up by saying, “I wait for the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting”. But even before the resurrection of the dead the souls of the dead people are alive. Furthermore, after death they already receive a partial judgment according to their deeds. Today’s Gospel story about a rich man and Lazarus describes what happens to the human souls after they are judged. After his death, poor Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom while the rich man ended up in hell.”
“Today we can reflect what is expecting us beyond the grave. Unfortunately, many contemporary people do not hear much truth about that. Teaching of the Church, the opinion of the Holy Fathers and even direct words of the Sacred Scripture regarding life after death are often replaced by the ideas of different preachers, by the authors of popular books or simply by some charlatans who dare to speak different false things about that subject. This why many of us tend to think that after death “everything is going to be just fine”, we will suffer no longer, we will probably go to heaven, and so on. Well, let me tell you that according to teaching of Christ it is not totally so. For many of us, first experiences after death may not be pleasant. After all, not all of are going to end up in heaven. And for the most of us the first experiences after death are not going to be easy. Why? Because we will enter in a totally different world of which we know very little. When you go to a different country, even if you know about it, you still need some time to get used to the local life, to adapt to the climate, language and customs. Many of us came to America, so we had to get used to the life here. For many of us it was not easy. Some immigrants even after many years of living in the United States cannot feel totally home here. This happens in this world. But what is going to be when we will have to enter into a completely different reality of life beyond the grave? It will certainly be difficult. It is not quite easy for a soul to start living without a body. Our funeral hymn composed by Venerable John of Damascus reflects that in the following impressive words, “Woe is me! What manner of ordeal does the soul endure when it is parted from the body! Alas! How many are then its tears, and there is none to show compassion! It raises its eyes to the angels; unavailing is its prayer. It stretches out its hands to the people, and finds none to succor…” Thus, dear brothers and sisters, the beginning of life after death is not quite easy.”
“But we are not going to be there alone. Today’s Gospel tells us that the angels accompanied Lazarus and carried him to the bosom of Abraham. Just as at the hour of death the dead body is surrounded by relatives and friends, so also is the soul which abandons the body is accompanied by the spiritual beings related to it. The virtuous soul is surrounded by bright angels of light, while a sinful soul is surrounded by dark and evil beings, that is, the demons. Thus, while the soul of Lazarus was escorted by good angels, the soul of the rich man, as St. John Chrysostom says, “was claimed by certain fearful powers”. St. John also says, “If we need a guide to go from one city to another, the soul certainly needs guides, when separated from the body”. The All-merciful God sends His holy angels to help the righteous souls to start their life after death, while the souls claimed by the devil become surrounded by evil spirits. Therefore, we have to realize that life after death is not going to start just as a fairy tale. It is going to be a serious beginning of our eternal existence. We are going to be judged according to our deeds. And we have to prepare ourselves for this.”
“The rich man in today’s Gospel was condemned not because he was wealthy, but because he had not done enough to help others, particularly, the poor Lazarus who was lying at the gates of his house. This was a person near him, his neighbor in a very literal sense, but he did nothing to help Lazarus, to make his life easier, to show him love and compassion. We are going to be judged by the same principles. Our life, our actions and our choices are going to be evaluated in the same manner. This why it is important for us to realize what is going to happen and to prepare. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself stated when He anticipated His sufferings and death, “For the ruler of this world is coming, but he has nothing in Me” (Jn. 14, 30). The ruler of this world is the devil. He was coming even when our Lord Himself was going to die. He was coming to attempt to claim what belongs to him. But he had nothing which could belong to him in Jesus, since Jesus was without sin and was the Son of God. It is different with us who are the sinners. The evil one will try to claim what is his because of our transgressions. And in the case of the sinful and unrepentant souls he, unfortunately, will be successful.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us not fool ourselves but prepare by good deeds, prayer, acts of charity, repentance and receiving of the Sacraments. Let us be aware that the time will come when we will be confronted with life after death, with the judgment of Christ and with anticipation of the Last Judgment. Thus let us prepare in order to be blessed and carried to the Abraham’s bosom.”

Since we had no services on the previous day which was the St. Demetrius Memorial Saturday, the Rector proclaimed the Litany of commemoration of the deceased which is not usually taken in our parish on Sundays.

The choir prayerfully performed some hymns in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos due to the celebration of Her Icon called “Joy of All Who Sorrow”.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English to convey the main ideas of his Russian homily.

 

19th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On October 30, on the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, 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 the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Gospel lesson is telling us a very famous parable about the sower who went to sow seeds (Lk. 8, 5-15). As the Lord Himself interpreted that parable, the seed is the Word of God. It is sown in the good soil of human minds and hearts and it bears fruit a hundredfold. But not all soil is able to receive the seed. And the Lord gives us a certain classification of four different kinds of soil. One of them is good while three other kinds are not. Today we will attempt not to discuss those types of soil, but to focus on the words of Jesus at the end of the parable: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Lk. 8, 8).”
“There is a story of a woman who was convinced that most people at the social gatherings don’t really listen to what is being said to them. She decided to test her theory. Engaging in small talk at a party, she said cheerfully to another person, “By the way, just before leaving my house, I shut my husband”. “Oh, really?” came the reply, “How nice for you, dear…””
“Jesus has much to say about hearing in today’s Gospel lesson when He calls those who have ears to hear. Speaking about sowing of the Word of God in today’s parable He teaches that we do not all listen attentively. Our heating is defective. There are thorns and rocks that have to be removed; hard soil that has to be plowed. Hearing demands attention. It requires shutting out the distractions of the world. In order to hear the Word of God it is also important to have an inner ear attuned to His voice. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me,” said Jesus (Jn. 10, 27).  So, the life of God within us begins only with the sound of His voice. And our faith is born from the hearing of the Word of God. Holy Apostle Paul said, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by preaching of Christ” (Rom. 10, 17).”
“There was a meaningful custom in the early Church, a special rite of the Opening the Ears of the Catechumens (those who were preparing for Baptism). St. John Chrysostom mentions that saying, “By grace of this sign your spiritual ears will become receptive to the word of God; you will understand the mysteries about to take place, and become sensitive to the fragrance of the Spirit”. Nowadays we do not have that custom but similar ritual we still preserve in our rite of Baptism. When the priest anoints different parts of the body with holy oil, he also anoints the ears saying, “May his ears be for the hearing of faith”. It is necessary for us to keep our ears open for the hearing of faith. We also need to pray that the Lord may unstop our ears, keep them open, that we may be sensitive to the voice of God in our lives.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! We have two kinds of ears: the outer ear and the inner ear, the physical hearing and the spiritual hearing, the ear of the mind and the ear of the heart. The Rite of the Opening of the Ears was designed to open the inner ear, so we might listen to God’s word not only with the mind, but also with the heart.”
“There is an old story about someone who went to heaven and saw a lot of what looked like dried mushrooms. On closer look he discovered that they were human ears. They were the ears of people who on earth went to church, listened with pleasure to the word of God, but did nothing about they heard. The word of God never got beyond the ear. It never penetrated the mind and heart to become a life dedicated to the service of God. The result was that after death only their ears were saved; only their ears reached heaven. “He who has ears, let him hear!””
“It is sad to say that some people attend the church for years but do not really pay attention to what is being said, proclaimed or preached in there. In our parish there was an occasion when someone did not notice that we had the Lord’s prayer proclaimed, did not notice it because it was done in Georgian language!”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, since we have ears, let us hear. Let us open our ears, especially our inner, spiritual ears to receive the word of God. Let us allow His word to grow in us and to produce a rich fruit. Let us prepare our hearts as good soil for the seed of the Word of God sown, so it can bear fruit a hundredfold!”

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian to stress the main points of his English homily. He also reminded parishioners that on the next day, October 31, the Church commemorates Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke. Since our secular world engages in the non-Christian celebration of Halloween and many people on that day participate in the works of darkness, the Rector encouraged faithful to answer that challenge by spending that day in reading the Gospel of St. Luke.

Since October 30 is the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions in Russia, some parishioners desired to have a Memorial service performed following the Liturgy. The Rector served the Litia to commemorate all Christians killed or persecuted under the Communist regime in former USSR.

After all our services were finished, we enjoyed delicious food and a nice company during the coffee hour.

 

18th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On October 23, on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Council, we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Parish Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian.

Reflecting on the Gospel story of the resurrection of the young man in the city of Nain the Rector said that from the men’s perspective it is a story about human grief. We encounter sorrows all the time of our life. The most terrible sorrow is our death which is inevitable. All this causes grief. But we should not live in such a negativity. How to deal with grief? A very constructive way is to let the tears flow. It is natural for us to cry. However, some cultures and teachings do not approve of that. The ancient stoic philosophers used to say, “Do not mourn. Self-control is the answer to sorrow”. Reading today’s Gospel story we may think that our Lord Jesus Christ teaches the same. He said to the widow of Nain who mourned the death of her son, “Do not weep” (Lk. 7, 13). But Jesus never condemned those who wept. On the contrary, He taught, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt. 5, 4). And Jesus Himself wept when His friend Lazarus died (Jn. 11, 35). As to the widow of Nain, the Lord told her to stop weeping because He had already come and was about to comfort her.
St. Paul teaches us not to mourn as those who have no hope (1 Thes. 4, 13). We need Christian hope. We may weep and mourn but we should remember that our sorrow will find comfort when we will encounter Jesus. Same happened in today’s Gospel lesson: there were two processions that met. One was a funeral procession which signified despair, grief and sorrow, the helplessness and hopelessness of man. At the head of it was a dead man. Another procession signified salvation, hope, joy and eternal life. At the head of it was Christ, the Son of God. Small wonder that the people cried out, “God has visited His people” (Lk. 7, 16).
As God has visited His people resurrecting the son of a widow in Nain, so He visits us to grant us hope and comfort in our sorrow.

During the Divine Liturgy the Rector for the first time proclaimed one of the Little Ektenias in the Georgian language which will hopefully be the constant practice in our parish if we have Georgian-speaking people attending the service.

The choir beautifully performed the hymns dedicated to the Holy Fathers honored on that Sunday.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector delivered a short sermon in English stressing the main ideas of his Russian homily.

17th Sunday after Pentecost. Celebration of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God

 

On October 16, on the 17th Sunday after Pentecost we at St. George Church also celebrated feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God transferred to the following Sunday. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the readings from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters! Today, we celebrate feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God. We commemorate our Lady’s miraculous appearance in the church in Constantinople and saving of the imperial city from the attack of the enemies happened in the 8th century. The two holy men, Andrew and Epiphanius saw the Holy Mother of God appearing in the temple and covering the city with Her veil. After that the city was spared and the enemies retreated. This was a remarkable example of the special intercession of the Blessed Virgin for the Christian people.”

“We should always remember to honor the Most Holy Mother of God and pray to Her in our needs. And we have to remember that we will receive according to our faith and devotion. We must show the zeal and piety in order to attain help.”
“Our times are no less troublesome for the Church and Christian people than the times when the celebrated event of the Protection took place. The holy city of the Church and Christian civilization is now under attack from many enemies. Especially it is attacked from the two most dangerous sides. On one side it is being attacked by today’s liberal and godless society which demands the Church to renounce her spirit and the teaching of Christ in favor of the ideals of fallen and sinful humanity. On the other side Christian civilization is being taken over by the Muslims who come to live to Christian countries and wish to influence them by their faith. It is no secret that Muslims are also involved in the most of the acts of terror.”
“Considering these two challenges we Christians face in today’s world, we should ask ourselves a question, “What is so different about us that other people would see that we are right?” Or, “What can we offer to this world, so others could follow us, instead of following the false calls of our challengers?” Today’s first Gospel lesson is giving us an answer. Our Lord says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return” (Lk. 6, 32-35). If we follow what the Lord said we make a difference in the world.”
“In today’s world everybody is looking for an average. We hear that constantly: the average American, the average husband, the average wife, the average child. If you think of that you may learn that averages are dangerous. A man who trusted the average data tried to make across the river whose average depth was two feet. He drowned in water twelve feet deep! But we are told that average means normal. On that basis the people are told that pre-marital sex is normal while self-control, chastity and virginity are abnormal because an average young person engages in pre-marital sex. We are told that an average husband is unfaithful, so infidelity in marriage is normal while being faithful is abnormal. If an average person is doing it, no matter what it is, it becomes normal. The average thus becomes our idol whom we worship at the altar of public opinion.”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to be not average but above average. If an average person loves those who love him, we ought to do more. If an average person lends to those from whom he expects to receive back, we need to do more. If an average person loves his friends and hates his enemies, we ought to love both our friends and our enemies. Are other people, for instance the Muslim people, righteous? We Christians are called to be more righteous. Are the Muslims generous? We are called to be more generous? Are the liberals in our society understanding and tolerant? We are called to be more understanding and more tolerant. For this reason the Lord called His disciples the light of the world, the salt of the earth. The Saints were not average. They were above average.”
“Especially all these things are true about the Most Holy Mother of God. She was certainly way above the average. And this is why She is now our Protectress in heaven. And our second answer to the questions we ask should be the following. We may prove that we are different and can offer something others cannot offer to this world. We may prove it by offering our prayers to the Most Holy Mother of God, by venerating Her and by asking Her to cover the whole sinful world by the veil of Her Protection.”

Before the Communion of the faithful choir beautifully performed the singing of the hymns dedicated to the Protection of the Mother of God.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector along with the altar servers performed a rite of Glorification in front of the icon of the feast singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Protection.

The Rector also preached a short sermon in Russian addressing the main points of his English homily. He also called the parents bringing their children to the church to teach them to behave properly during the Divine Liturgy, especially at the most solemn moments of the service.

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

16th Sunday after Pentecost. Passing of St. John the Theologian

 

On October 9, on the 16th Sunday after Pentecost and feast of the Passing of St. John the Theologian our Parish community had a nice celebration in our temple. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.

Following the Scripture readings he preached a homily in Russian. In that homily he pointed out that according to the story from the Gospel assigned for this day (Lk. 5, 1-11) the human understanding of things may be different from the God’s view. We should trust God and His perfect vision of the things. Although God is ineffable and incomprehensible He may also be very close and approachable to us. Holy Apostle and Evangelist John whom we honor today could stress this in his writings. He said, “God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4, 16). Therefore, if we abide in love, God is within us although He is so ineffable and unapproachable. In Christ all impossible things become possible and man unites with God.

The choir directed by Olga Roussanow prayerfully sang the hymns of the feast.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers performed a rite of Glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of St. John the Theologian. The Rector also preached a short sermon in English expressing the main thoughts of his Russian homily.

Sunday after Exaltation. Celebration of the Rector’s Name Day

 

On October 2, on the Sunday after Exaltation, we had a beautiful service in our parish temple. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Following the Gospel lesson he delivered the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters! Today we celebrate Sunday after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Our Lord teaches us in today’s Gospel that His every true follower has to deny himself and take up the cross (Mk. 8, 34). Thus a Christian life requires a sacrifice and an endeavor.”
“A lot of us grew up listening to stories of heroes who sacrificed themselves for their country. They were often about heroes of different wars, especially the Second World War. Sometimes, we heard about people in other countries and even some of the Church’s Saints. But whatever we heard, we may notice that all these stories teach us courage, patience, hard work and self-denial. In some cases, the hero gave his or her own life to save others.”
“Our Savior, Jesus Christ, explained how all of us can be heroes of self-sacrifice. He taught this in today’s Gospel saying that by saying that whoever wants to be like Christ must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Him. Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Christ and the Gospel will save his life. And whoever is ashamed of being with Jesus (in or out of church) and ashamed of His teachings will be rejected by Christ when He returns on Judgment Day.”
“In some instances, a person sacrifices all his or her life to some noble cause and lives to fulfill it. This is seen in many men and women who dedicate themselves to the monastic life. This is also seen when a young mother decides to raise a child without any help from her relatives and renounces her own personal or professional life for this child. But self-denial may also lead to the ultimate sacrifice, not to dedicating, but to losing one’s life in the name of the Gospel. Our calendar is full of different Saints, especially the Holy Martyrs who lost their lives for Christ and for the Gospel.”
“Today we commemorate my patron Saint, Holy faithful prince Igor who lived in the XII century. Although he is not a clear example of a person who died for Christ, his tragic destiny showed how the words of today’s Gospel are true. St. Igor became the Great Prince of Kiev at the time of a cruel struggle for the Kievan throne between the two princely factions. He belonged to one of them and he was placed on the throne of Kiev by that group. But after being betrayed by his own subjects who kissed the cross to be faithful to him, after losing a battle to his enemies and after being held captive, St. Igor agreed to renounce this world and to become a monk.  He probably understood the words of Christ who said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk. 8, 36). The power of a prince which he lost so fast, and the throne of Kiev which was taken away from St. Igor – all this proved that there is no profit for a man to gain anything if he loses his soul. Therefore, St. Igor being tonsured a monk, decided to retire from the political struggle and to spend the rest of his life in endeavors of piety. However, the evil people from the Kievan nobility decided to kill the prince-monk. They incited the mob who attacked St. Igor in the church, during the Divine Liturgy, seized him and tried to murder. He was first rescued by his brother, but the mob chased Igor further and finally brutally killed him. As I said, although St. Igor did not die for Christ sake, he did die because of the evil which overcame human nature of his enemies. Those people did not wish to follow Christ because they did not deny their sinful nature, their evil desires and cruel passions. A Christian should understand that political, social and other preferences are not so important as our spiritual life. Nowadays people tend to be very passionate about their political preferences or social views, making others who hold different views their enemies. Hostility and enmity became a usual attitude. But we should understand that this leads us to a sinful passion. And we should avoid that attitude remembering that our political positions should not interfere with our spiritual life.”
“Remembering about the Holy Martyrs honored by the Church we should also remember that there are also persecutions and murders going on at this minute. Christians are harassed and killed all the time all over the place. This is not new, but it is a new manifestation of an old hatred of Jesus and His Church and His Gospel.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us understand our true calling, a calling of a Christian. It is to deny ourselves, to deny our sinful nature, an evil nature and passions. Let us take our crosses by fulfilling our duties and being patient in our lives. Let us follow Christ who Himself is the Way to the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom to which we can come by the way of the Holy Cross.”

The choir prayerfully performed the hymns dedicated to the Holy Cross, as well as to St. Igor commemorated on that day. We were glad to welcome the guests from St. Nicholas Church in Whitestone, Thomas and Alexandra Zedlovich who joined our choir in singing during the service.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy our parish Warden, Olga Roussanow congratulated the Rector on the occasion of his name day presenting Fr. Igor with a gift. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

After being greeted on his name day the Rector also congratulated our parishioners Vera Koretz and Sophia Kay on the occasion of their past name day and proclaimed the Polychronion for them.

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners, along with some guests of the Parish, enjoyed delicious meals and an interesting conversation. The toasts to Fr. Igor, as well as for Vera and Sophia were raised.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

On September 27 the Orthodox Church celebrates feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross. On that holy day e had a liturgical celebration in our temple. Before the reading of the Hours St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov placed the cross in the middle of the church and venerated it. After the Hours he began the Divine Liturgy.

Unfortunately, during the reading of the Holy Gospel one of our parishioners, Vitaliy Malyshew, felt very ill and fainted. The Rector paused the reading but very soon was able to finish it. But the service had to be interrupted to assist the ill and to call an ambulance for him. After the ambulance took Mr. Malyshew to the hospital the Rector could resume the service of the Liturgy.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector performed the rite of Glorification before the Cross singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Exaltation. At the end of the celebration he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters! Our today’s celebration was interrupted by an unfortunate incident. It happened during the reading of the Holy Gospel. And such a thing happened during such an important and holy moment not for the first time. It proves to us that the evil force exists and attacks true Christians. But, dear brothers and sisters, all the evil forces can be conquered by the power of the Precious and Life-creating Cross of Christ!
“Today’s Epistle lesson proclaims that “we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1, 23). To the ancient Greco-Roman world, the Christian claim of the cross was complete foolishness. If you are familiar with Greek mythology, you remember that Greek gods could also take on human appearance. For instance, Zeus did it to chase after women, causing more harm than help. We, Christians, believe that God assumed a human body and soul, not to find pleasure but to enter into our pain. This is the mystery and the glory of the Holy Cross.”
“God enters into the depth, the pit of human experience through Jesus’ crucifixion and death. We are not alone. We wish that the Holy Cross meant that we don’t have to suffer, but it means that God chose to suffer with us. God’s ways are not our ways.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we must always exalt and lift up the Cross of Jesus Christ. We must exalt and honor that sign of our faith, the sign of our hope and the sign of God’s love. If the Greek gods played their games with humans, the God of Jesus Christ suffered with human kind. And He suffers with us. Exalting the Precious and Life-giving Cross we should realize that God is indeed with us.”