On May 8, on the Sunday of Myrrh-Bearing Women, as well as feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, we had a beautiful service at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy. He was co-served by our guest, Priest Nenad Flora, Rector of St. Seraphim Mission in Dominican Republic. After the reading from the Holy Gospel Fr. Igor preached the following homily:
“Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Christ is risen! On this Sunday after Pascha we honor Holy Myrrh-bearing Women, righteous Joseph and Nicodemus who participated in the burial of our Lord Jesus Christ. Later some of them became the witnesses of His Resurrection, as we heard in today’s Gospel lesson. A huge stone was rolled against the door of the tomb where Jesus was laid, but when He rose from the dead the stone became rolled away. As we think today of that tomb of Jesus, other tombs come to mind – tombs where Jesus is buried today, strong tombs, heavily sealed, tombs that are designed to keep Jesus isolated from our lives”.
“A Monk of Eastern Church writes: “In many souls, Jesus seems to be buried as if in a sepulcher. He seems to be paralyzed, immobilized, even dead. He is covered by a heavy stone; the stone of sin, of ignorance, of indifference, the stone of bad habits that have accumulated over years.” Buried by those errors we cry out like the Myrrh-bearing Women: “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” (Mk. 16, 3)”.
“The sin is the first stone by which we can cover Jesus in His sepulcher. Our sins don’t let us give our Lord a place in our life; they keep us away from Him. First of all, it happens when we let our sins rule over us. Then we serve sin, not our Lord. And second, when our sins, or a particular sin of ours, keeps us away from God”.
“The second stone is ignorance. What kind of ignorance buries Jesus? The ignorance about Him. Ignorance about our faith, ignorance about religious matters, ignorance about basic, but very important things in our life. Many people don’t know our faith, why we believe in this or in that. Many people don’t know the pious traditions: why we do certain things in our Church, what we are supposed to have in our Church. I can speak hours telling you the stories of people’s ignorance about faith, Church life and other spiritual things. For instance, today we celebrate feast of the Holy Apotsle and Evangelist Mark who wrote the second Gospel. By the way, today’s Gospel reading about the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women was from the Gospel of St. Mark. This Apostle was a disciple of the Holy Apostle Peter, and he also traveled along with Holy Apostle Paul. St. Mark was not one of the 12 but one of the 70 Apostles. So, many people, if they recall St. Mark they would be confused. If they won’t find him among the 12 Apostles, they would wonder why he is an Apostle. It is an ignorance. We should know that there were 12 and also 70 Apostles of Christ”.
“I read a story about a Lutheran pastor who was in the Soviet GULAG and being there he was trying not to forget basic accounts of his religion. So, he was recalling the names of the Apostles. The author of the story says that the minister was enumerating, “Peter, Paul” and so on. Right there we find a mistake. Either the pastor forgot that St. Paul was not one of the 12 or the author confused the names. Ignorance!”
“So, ignorance. This is the great stone that keeps Jesus buried in the tomb. If you don’t know something – ask, inquire. Talk to the priest, ask or simply listen when the priest is telling you about it. You can call the priest or text the priest with your questions, and he will be happy to answer and to make you knowledgeable, not ignorant”.
“The third and the greatest of the stones is indifference. Indifference is what keeps Jesus buried in the terrible grave of apathy. A priest once stopped in a coffee shop and sat at a counter next to a man. The man glanced at the priest and asked where his church was. When the priest told him, he said, “That’s the church I go myself”. “Isn’t that strange?” the priest said, “I’ve been a rector there for five years and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you.” The man replied, “Come on, Father, I didn’t say I was a fanatic”. It is OK to be fanatic about football but there is something wrong with you if you are serious about Jesus. It is that kind of indifference that keeps Jesus buried. It is an extremely heavy stone and it needs to be removed if Jesus is to become a living presence in our lives”.
“In addition, there are the people who bury Christ in their hearts, in their souls. They are the people who tell us: “I may not come to church, but God is always in my soul”. It is a very popular attitude, especially among the people from our old countries. Some famous Russian priest who already passed away said about that attitude, “Then do everything in your soul! Eat in your soul, drink in your soul, get married in your soul”. But, as we all know, people prefer to eat, drink, get married and do other things not in their souls but by their bodies and by actual facts. However, many do not wish to actually practice their faith but keep God “in their souls”. Such people don’t participate in the Liturgy. They don’t receive the Sacraments. They don’t support the work of Christ through His Church. They seldom pray and yet – they tell us – God is in their souls. Maybe He is! But then, that’s where they keep Him dead and buried”.
“If there are those today who claim that God is dead, it is also because we Christians have buried Him in our sins, in our ignorance, in our indifference, in our souls. And if we have buried God, there is no wonder why we are so anxious and worried people today”.
“Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters! Roll the stone away from the tomb and let the Risen Christ step out of our indifference, out of our sins, out of our ignorance, even “out of our souls” into our lives and see what happens as a result! It will bring the great power, the great peace and the great joy! Christ is risen!”
During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector had a petition for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian land” at the Great Entrance.
The choir prayerfully performed hymns to the Holy Apostle Mark, as well as Paschal hymns during preparation for Holy Communion.
Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector congratulated our ladies on the occasion of this Sunday which is the Orthodox Women’s day. He also greeted them on the occasion of today’s celebrated Mother’s Day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed. Then Fr. Igor also greeted Mark Deleon and Tamara Gusnezow on the occasion of their past name days, proclaiming a Polychronion on their behalf and dividing the Theotokian prosphora among them. Finally, Fr. Igor expressed his best wishes of God’s blessings and success for the pastoral ministry of Fr. Nenad Flora who will soon be returning to his missionary community in Dominican Republic.
After the Liturgy the Rector performed a memorial Litia requested by Olga Kniazeva.