Lenten Mission Vespers in Hackettstown, NJ

 

On March 19, on the Third Sunday of Lent, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Dean of the Eastern States of the Patriarchal Parishes participated in this year’s second Lenten Mission Vespers served in our Deanery. This day such service had been celebrated at the Elevation of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ.

Mission Vespers was headed by Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes, Archpriest George Konyev and co-served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, as well as by Hieromonk Stephen (Bushman), cleric of the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ, Priest Aleksiy Paranyuk, Rector of St. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls, NJ, and Deacon Andrew Massey, cleric of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ. Unfortunately, Rector of the hosting parish, Archpriest John Kassatkin was ill and could not join our clergy at the Mission service.

Following the Great Prokimenon a sermon in English was delivered by Priest Aleksiy Paranyuk.

After the Vespers dismissal Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes expressed his gratitude to the clergy and lay people present for their participation in the Mission service. Following the service in the temple, a delicious supper was offered to the guests of the Hackettstown church in its parish hall.

Some Changes in our Service Schedule

 

Please, note that we will have a Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on this coming Wednesday, March 22 to celebrate feast of the 40 Holy Martyrs of the Sebastian Lake. The Liturgy will begin at 6 pm.
Please refer to our updated Service Schedule for March.

Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross

 

On the Third Sunday of Lent the Orthodox Church venerates the Holy Cross. This year on this day, March 19 we had a beautiful celebration in our parish church conducted by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.
Before the reading of the Hours the Rector solemnly transferred decorated cross from the altar to the middle of the church and placed it on the stand.

During the Divine Liturgy, following the lessons from the Scripture Fr. Igor preached the following homily in English:

“On this Third Sunday of Lent we come to the very middle of our journey towards Holy Pascha and, as we said before, of our spiritual journey of the return to paradise. On this stop we are offered a rest under the holy Tree of the Cross of Christ. As we venerate that Precious Cross, we have to realize that the only way to the Kingdom of God is the way of the Cross. If we wish to be back in paradise, there is no other way than this.”
“Everyone has his or her own cross in this life. Such a cross consists of our sorrows and sufferings, our worries and cares, our misfortunes and pains. The Lord says, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mk. 8, 34).  It means that we need to carry our crosses and thus we will follow the Lord Jesus who Himself carried His Cross. It is understood that we may not like our crosses and even hate them. But let us remember that this is the difference between the Christian Church which wishes to carry the Cross and the sinful world which desires to reject the Cross and to find an easy way. However, those who attempt to reject their crosses, suffer anyway and suffer even more. For instance, if people do not wish to be patient with each other, and they fight and lose their temper, they suffer. If a person does not want to be abstinent and indulges in drinking or drugs, he suffers himself and also brings suffering to his loved ones. If a married couple does not want to have a child and they decide to have an abortion, that innocent child suffers, but the mother who does it suffers too. Every sin is a pain, and our enemy desires to tempt us not to suffer the cross, but then makes us suffer even more.”
“When our Lord Jesus Christ had been suffering on the cross, the devil through sinful people tempted him saying, “Save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mt. 27, 40). In the same way the devil in many different ways tells us to avoid sufferings and to leave our crosses. But let us remember that our Lord remained on the cross to save us from our sins. If He did not take up His cross, we would not be redeemed. As the Lord teaches in today’s Gospel lesson, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8, 35). Jesus preferred to lose His life for us. As a result, He conquered death and redeemed us. Now it is our turn: if we do not take up our crosses, we do not follow the Lord, and we cannot be saved.”
“Today’s Gospel lesson ends with the following words of Christ: Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the Kingdom of God present with power” (Mk. 9, 1). What do these words mean? They were said about some of the Disciples of Christ who later had a chance to be witnesses of Christ’s Transfiguration. They did not taste death till they saw the divine glory of Jesus on Mt. Tabor. But these same words of Jesus are referred also to all of us. We may also do not taste death till we see the Kingdom of God.”
““To taste death” means to suffer from all that entered into the world when death entered into the world. For when Adam and Eve fell, not only did death enter, but also hard work, pain, sorrow, worry, disease, old age. And all these things are the taste of death. How then are we to overcome them? Only by returning to paradise. And to return we need to carry our cross. Christ is the New Adam and the Cross is the new Tree which is not forbidden. Its fruit is the Resurrection. The tasting its fruit is tasting the Body of the risen Christ. We do it when we receive Holy Communion. And this precisely is the meaning of the words in today’s Gospel that it is possible “to see the Kingdom of God come with power”. If we face up to the difficulties of life with the Cross of Christ, we shall not taste death, those difficulties, in the light of the resurrecting power of the Cross.”
“Everyone has his or her own cross. Let us then carry it following our Savior Jesus Christ. Let us ask Him that His eternal Kingdom may touch our souls. There is no pain, sorrows and sufferings in that Kingdom. Let us look for a comfort in the Holy Cross of Christ and let us put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us on the Cross and who was risen from the dead.”

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

Following that the Rector and the altar server came out of the sanctuary before the stand in the middle of the church and venerated the Precious Cross.

2017 Annual Parish Meeting

 

The Annual Parish Meeting of St. George Church was held on Sunday, March 12, 2017, following the Divine Liturgy and coffee hour. Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov presided.

Church Warden, Olga Roussanow read the minutes of the last Annual Meeting held in 2016. The Rector reported on financial situation. He informed that parish income in the year 2016 was higher  than in the previous year, especially due to a special donation of $ 2,000. However, our deficit grew due to the increasing expenses. Although we did not have any special spending and our only renovation project of painting the church inside was done as a voluntary work donated by Andrew and Vitaliy Malyshew, we still had to cover certain parish expenses. The Parish is in a great financial need. Parishioners still do not cover our spending. In addition, during the last year we lost some of our members, so the church attendance has become lower.

Following the discussion of financial situation it was pointed out that Parish Treasurer, Sophia Kay left our Parish and a new Treasurer should be elected. After some discussion it had been unanimously decided that the duties of the Treasurer have to be temporarily imposed on our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.

Among other issues discussed at the Meeting were our plans regarding the Patronal feast of St. George, a possibility of having a Russian-language version of our parish website, as well as some other concerns.

Second Sunday of Lent

 

On March 12, on the Second Sunday of Lent, our Parish family gathered for a nice liturgical celebration at our temple. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is the following:

“On the Second Sunday of Lent we have to come to an understanding that each one of us has very little power to accomplish our journey to the Kingdom of heaven. It has been two weeks after we started this journey, two weeks has passed since we began Lent. And I think that those of us who really tried to keep this fast, had to realize that not much was accomplished. It was difficult to abstain from certain food, but even if we did, it was much more difficult to abstain from passions: from being angry, from being jealous, from judging and condemning others, from being lazy and negligent. This shows us, dear brothers and sisters, that by ourselves we cannot do much about our salvation, our conversion or repentance. We need God’s help. As the Lord says, “Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 5, 15).”
“This why today’s Gospel lesson is telling us about a paralyzed man. His condition is an image of our sinful soul. Although we may wish to be saved, to repent and to enter into the Kingdom of God, we are not able to accomplish it because our souls are paralyzed by our sinfulness and spiritual weakness. We need Jesus who would first forgive our sins and then heal us from this paralysis. Only with God’s help and with His life-creating power we can be made whole. Such life-creating power of God is His divine grace. Without God’s grace we cannot reach salvation. Today the Church commemorates Holy Father Gregory Palamas who was a great spiritual writer. In his writings he taught about divine grace and that a man can acquire it through spiritual life and endeavors of piety. This is why we call St. Gregory “the preacher of grace”.”}
“The divine grace is a gift from God. It is God’s power, His energy which, according to the teaching of St. Gregory, is God Himself. In today’s Gospel story the paralyzed man acquired such grace. He probably did repent for his sins but his repentance was in vain until He was brought to Jesus. Only Jesus could forgive his sins and heal him. Same thing happens to us when we approach the holy Mystery of Confession. Our own strength and our own repentance may not be sufficient for our sins to be forgiven but if it is joined with the power of Christ we are forgiven in the Mystery of Penance.”
“Another important aspect for us to remember today is that we are being saved not alone but as a community of believers. In today’s Gospel the paralyzed man could not himself approach Jesus. Thus he was carried by his four friends who even got on the roof of the building where Jesus was and uncovered the roof and let down the bed with the paralytic right to Jesus. It is after seeing their faith the Lord forgave the man’s sins and made him whole (Mk. 1, 4-5). In the same way, dear brothers and sisters, we are being saved not only by our own faith, but also by the faith of the Church. Who are those four friends of the paralyzed man? Symbolically, they are an image of the four Evangelists who composed the four Gospels and the Holy Gospel is bringing us to Jesus. They first bring us to the Lord and then we become able to acquire His grace. Those four friends may be also considered an image of the four sides of the universe where the Good News of Christ is being preached and where the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is being established to lead all the nations to the Lord.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we do need those four friends. We need the four Gospels, we need the Church, the holy community of those who have faith, so that faith may be seen by the Lord and may produce a miraculous outcome. And when we become brought to the Lord by the faith of the community, of the four friends, then the divine grace may act upon us. This is why, we first need to be instructed by the Word of God and then become able to receive His Mysteries. All this is impossible without the Church, without being with the community of the believers.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, on this Second Sunday of Lent let us realize that we cannot accomplish the journey to our salvation alone. We need the divine grace and God’s help. And we need to acquire it through the Holy Church which is dispensing the divine grace in the Holy Mysteries, especially in the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist. And realizing that, we may successfully use help of our four spiritual fiends and become brought to the Lord, so He could grant us His life-creating grace of salvation.”

Since we did not hold a service on yesterday’s memorial Saturday, the Rector proclaimed the Litany for the departed commemorating the names of our deceased loved ones.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in English stressing the main points of his Russian homily.

Due to the scheduled Annual Parish Meeting we had coffee and refreshments served after the Liturgy.

Clergy of the Eastern States hold a Meeting

 

On Sunday, March 5 following the Lenten Mission Vespers served at St. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls, NJ clergy of the Eastern States Deanery gathered to hold a Deanery meeting.

After a delicious supper served at the parish hall Fr. Igor opened the meeting and expressed his gratitude to all those in attendance. The Dean welcomed Priest Aleksiy Paranyuk as a new clergyman of the Deanery who was appointed Rector of St. John the Baptist Parish in Little Falls in August, 2016. Fr. Igor also welcomed the two newly-ordained deacons, Fr. Andrew Masey and Fr. Nicholas DeGraaff. They serve in our parishes in Hackettstown and Garfield.

The clergy further discussed a number of administrative and pastoral issues which concern our Eastern States Deanery.

Lenten Mission Vespers in Little Falls, NJ

 

On March 5, on the First Sunday of Lent, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Dean of the Eastern States of the Patriarchal Parishes participated in one of the traditional Lenten Mission Vespers served in our Deanery. This day such service had been celebrated at St. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls, NJ.

Mission Vespers was headed by Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes, Archpriest George Konyev and co-served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, as well as by Archpriest John Kassatkin, Rector of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ, Archpriest Mikhail Kapchits, Rector of St. Nicholas Church in Bayonne, NJ, Hieromonk Stephen (Bushman), cleric of the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ, Priest Aleksiy Paranyuk, Rector of St. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls, NJ, Deacon Andrew Masey, cleric of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ and Deacon Nicholas DeGraaff, cleric of the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ.

Following the Great Prokimenon a sermon in English was delivered by Archpriest John Kassatkin.

After the Vespers dismissal the Parish Rector expressed his gratitude to the clergy and lay people present for their participation in the Mission service. Following the church service, a delicious supper was offered to the guests of the Little Falls Church in its parish hall.

Sunday of Orthodoxy

 

On March 5 the Church celebrated the First Sunday of Lent, also known as Sunday of Orthodoxy. On that occasion we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily the Rector pointed out that if we consider Lent to be a symbolic journey of returning to paradise, the initial stage of that journey is the first week of Lent. It is known for a strict fasting and repentance. Now when that first week is over, on the First Sunday of Lent we may take some rest and see where are now spiritually. First of all, we should realize that God is always with us. We may not see or feel His presence but He is with us always. In today’s Gospel lesson we heard about the encounter of our Jesus Christ with one of His future disciples, Nathanael. Nathanael suddenly believed that Jesus is the Son of God when Christ told him that He saw Nathanael when he was under the fig tree (Jn. 1, 48-49). We do not know exactly what was going on when Nathanael was under that fig tree, but it is certain that being there Nathanael had to experience some very personal and intimate moment. He thought that he was there alone. But God saw Him; God was there with him. This is why Nathanael believed that Jesus is the Son of God. And this why Jesus being God and knowing Nathanael’s inner thoughts could say about him that he is “an Israelite indeed in whom there is no deceit” (Jn. 1, 47).
Thus, another important lesson for us today is to be a person with no deceit, a good person with no evil thoughts and evil deeds. Only being such a person we could return to paradise, to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
However, we may say that all of us are sinful and we are unable to live this life and avoid being evil. But the Lord is with us even in this situation. He does not turn away from a sinner. He gives us an opportunity to repent and to live a pious life. And He does it through the Orthodox faith the triumph of which we celebrate today. God leads us to eternal life through His Holy Orthodox Church and gives us guidance, so we may not deviate from the right way. Therefore, the third and final lesson of today’s Sunday is to adhere to the Orthodox faith. Only through that true faith we will be able to accomplish our journey back to the Kingdom of heaven, to God’s paradise. Then the prophetic words of our Savior which we heard in today’s Gospel will be fulfilled: “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafteryou shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (Jn. 1, 51).

Before the Liturgy dismissal the Rector performed prayer service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy solemnly declaring the Orthodox faith and proclaiming eternal memory to the champions of that faith and the polychronion to the Church hierarchy and Orthodox Christians.

Following the dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing the main thoughts of his Russian homily.

 

Cheesefare Sunday

 

On February 26, on the Cheesefare Sunday, we had a nice and prayerful celebration in our parish. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Gospel he preached the following homily in English:

“Today, on Cheesefare Sunday, on the last day before the beginning of Lent, the Holy Church commemorates the expulsion of the first man from paradise. This remembrance is offered for our spiritual reflection, so we could become aware what we lose when we commit a sin. Adam, being the first man and God’s favorite creation, had everything to enjoy eternal blessedness because he was with God. Adam was given the only commandment: to abstain from the forbidden fruit. This was a commandment of obedience and abstinence. And it was not difficult to keep because there were a lot of other fruits in the Garden of Eden which Adam could eat and enjoy. But the enemy of the human kind tempted Adam sowing the seed of distrust to God in Adam’s soul. He made the first people think that they could live without God and become “like gods” themselves.”
“This is an insane, a futile, a disastrous, and a terrible idea that man can exist without God!”
“But the devil tempted the first people and said to them, “Did God tell you the truth? No! If you disobey Him, you won’t die, but become like gods”. And first people believed the devil. They decided to violate God’s commandment. And they did.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! This Lent that starts tomorrow is given to us to teach those two important virtues, the virtues of obedience and abstinence. And we could learn how to follow them through repentance, through the awareness of our sins. Such awareness was offered to Adam and Eve by God Himself. He did not expel them from paradise right away when they committed their sin. He spoke with them and attempted to incline them to repentance. But Adam became afraid and, instead of asking for forgiveness, began to justify himself saying that it is not his fault. He said that the wife God gave him, she brought the fruit, so he ate. Thus Adam did not see that he was guilty, but he blamed his wife and he also blamed God who gave him the wife.”
“Very often we also complain about our life and blame others for our misfortunes. We blame other people with whom we interact in our life. We say that it is their fault. Or we blame the circumstances of our lives. But we cannot choose the time and place of our birth. If we were born in this age, from these parents, then it was God’s will. And if we are unhappy with God’s will, we repeat Adam’s fault. And we may even dare to say that it is God’s fault that we commit sins.”
“In a similar manner, when God spoke with Eve, expecting her repentance, she also failed to ask for God’s forgiveness. She blamed the serpent. She said, “This is the devil’s fault, not mine!” This can also remind us, dear brothers and sisters, of how we blame the devil for our sins. We blame him and we forget that the devil is not able to force us to sin. We ourselves decide. And if we did not wish, we would never commit a sin.”
“Therefore, the first man and the first woman did not have a spirit of repentance, so their connection with God became broken. And thus because of violation of God’s commandment the sin came into this world, and along with the sin there came death. This happened because when Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise, they have lost the main thing – the communion with the Source of life. Therefore, the diseases, sufferings and death came into the world. This is why in these days before Lent the Church is reminding us about those biblical events, so in them we may see the history of our own falls. In them we should see our own sins. And seeing them, we should do what Adam and Eve failed to do – to repent.”
“The all-merciful Lord is expecting our repentance. He opens to us the doors of repentance and calls us to unite with Him. Dear brothers and sisters! Let us hear that call! Let us ask for His blessing for the coming time of Lent, a time so needed for our improvement and purification.”

The choir beautifully performed the hymns of repentance at the time of the preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the Divine Liturgy the Rector performed Vespers with the Rite of Forgiveness. After the singing of the Great Prokimenon he changed his priestly vestments to the Lenten color of black.

After the Vespers dismissal the Rector preached a sermon in Russian which was a short version of his homily preached at the Liturgy in English. After finishing the sermon he asked for forgiveness bending his knees. The parishioners also knelt down and asked their pastor for forgiveness. Then each one of the faithful could come to the Rector to kiss the cross and to express the forgiveness.

Following the services of this special day the Rector and parishioners joined at the Blini Lunch. We enjoyed delicious meals, especially the blini, nicely prepared by our ladies.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Feast of the Three Hierarchs

 

On February 12, on the Sunday of Prodigal Son, as well as feast of the Three Hierarchs, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, we had a nice celebration in our parish church. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the lessons from the Sacred Scripture he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today is another Sunday preparing us for Lent. It tells us about the Prodigal Son, giving us a perfect example of repentance. “Open me the doors of repentance,” – the Church is praying these days of the preparation for the saving time of fast. It is for us now to understand how much important is to practice repentance.”
“Today we also celebrate a memory of the Three great Hierarchs and Teachers of the Church, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. Those holy men lived in the 4th and 5th century and did a lot to define the teaching of the Church. All three of them were revered by the Christian people and each one of them had a day of commemoration in the month of January. However, after several centuries some pious people began to consider St. Basil to be more important, yet others venerated St. Gregory more than other hierarchs, and, finally, St. John also had his own followers. A great number of Christians became divided in their veneration. But all three Hierarchs appeared in a dream to some pious bishop named John and told him that all three of them are equally blessed by the Lord and should be equally venerated by the Christian people. Some time after that appearance the Church introduced a new holy day to honor those three Hierarchs together. This feast we celebrate today. The Three Holy Hierarchs resemble of the Most Holy Trinity being united by one faith and one spirit but being three different persons. As such, they had different personalities but served one purpose of glorifying God and ministering to the Holy Church. In the same way all members of the Church are different, but together we represent a unity in faith.”
“But if all of us are different in our personal traits, we are all similar in one thing – all of us commit sins and need to repent. If last Sunday we could say that most of us could not relate to the Pharisee and to the publican, because those two men are the examples of some extreme way of life, today we should acknowledge that all of us resemble the Prodigal Son. We are all like him. This is due to the whole condition the human kind has – the condition called sin. As the Prodigal Son from today’s Gospel parable, the human race journeyed to the far country, away from God. And it is able and it should come back to the Father’s house.”
“The Almighty and all-merciful God is the Creator of man. Man is God’s most final creation. We were made according to the God’s image and likeness. Thus, we are the children of God, and God is our Father. We were created good and perfect, and we could eternally stay at our Father’s house, in paradise. But like the younger son in today’s parable, we left our home. Enjoying the free will, an ability to choose, having our portion of the Father’s inheritance, we decided to leave Him. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were driven away from paradise to a far land of sin. The whole human race became remote from God and wasted its precious possession, the divine gifts of grace, through the sinful life. It had to endure all kinds of misfortunes, just as the Prodigal Son had to be starving in the far country. But the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ came to that land of misery and redeemed the man who was enslaved by sin. He came to restore the fallen image of God the Creator in us. He showed us the way of coming back to the Father’s house. And He ensured us that the doors of that house are now open to us. More than that, the loving Father is expecting us and is willing to run to meet us and to embrace us! Now, through Him, we acquired back the right to call God “the Father” and use the Lord’s prayer beginning with the words “Our Father”.”
“To complete such a safe return home, we need to follow our Lord’s instruction of repentance. Only the doors of repentance will lead us to the Father’s house. There is no other way. And the image of such repentance is shown in the conduct of the Prodigal Son. We first need to come to our senses, as the Prodigal Son “came to himself”, and realize our sinful state. Then we have to come to a decision to repent, to return to the Father. Then we must arise, we must act upon our resolution. And we must return, come back, repent, confess our sins and ask forgiveness. We have to humble ourselves and declare: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son!” (Lk. 15, 21). Then, the all-merciful Lord will accept our repentance, will embrace us with His love, enrich us with His grace and order to begin a celebration in our honor.”
“Therefore, let us begin loving and practicing the saving deal of repentance. Let us seek the doors of returning to the Father’s house, our home and hope to meet our loving Father at the steps and to enjoy His eternal blessing.”

During the time of preparation for the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed the penitential hymns as well as the hymns dedicated to the Three Hierarchs.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing the main ideas of his Russian homily. He also congratulated a young parishioner Maria on the occasion of her past name day, as well as her past birthday. Traditional Polychronion was proclaimed.

Our celebration continued during the coffee hour when the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company.