Ascension of the Lord

 

On May 17 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. Our parish was visited by a ROCOR cleric, Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk) who prayed during the Liturgy in the sanctuary.

After the Gospel lesson the Rector preached a homily in Russian. He pointed out that at His glorious Ascension into heaven our Lord ascended both with His divine and human nature. Thus it is a spiritual comfort for us to be aware that our human nature had been also ascended with Jesus and thus the Lord prepared there a place for us.
Fr. Igor also addressed the question why Jesus gave His Disciples some time after His Ascension, before He sent the Holy Spirit upon them. He did not sent the Spirit right away because the Lord wished the Apostles to prepare, to become aware of that and to be certain about their life decision to follow Christ. God never wants to force us to follow Him. Therefore, the Apostles had to be free to decide. They also had to be patient awaiting the Holy Spirit and to stay together in prayer.
At the conclusion of his homily the Rector called the faithful to pray the Lord and His Blessed Mother (who was present at the event of the Ascension along with Holy Apostles) to strengthen our spiritual efforts to acquire the divine grace leading to heaven and to make us patient in our earthly journey towards heavenly goal.

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 May 13, 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.

The Rector addressed the words of our Lord Jesus Christ pronounced in the Gospel lesson: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn. 9, 5). To confirm those words the Lord granted sight to the man born blind. Jesus is the Light of the world, not only for the blind whom He healed but for all of us. We are called “out of darkness into His marvelous light, as holy Apostle Peter says (1 Pet. 2, 9). And holy Apostle Paul calls us “the sons of light” (1 Thes. 5, 5).
But are we really worthy of such a great calling and of such a great name? Alas! Many of us know little about the truths of Revelation and thus remain in darkness. Others, even if they know those truths, have a little faith and thus they close their spiritual eyes to the light of Christ. And others engage in the fruitless works of darkness by committing sins.
Those of us who were born in Soviet Union have some excuse: that society desired to raise us atheists, to educate us in spiritual darkness. But here, in America, we see another movement: the society which once was based on Christian values, now keeps rejecting them and leading people into spiritual darkness. And the people themselves easily agree. It looks like they blind themselves on purpose. They leave the Church, live a secular and non-religious life.
Was it supposed to be this way? Was the light of Christ granted to us, so we stay in the darkness? Did we become Christians to live like pagans? Therefore, we need to do everything possible to live in the light of Christ. If we are in spiritual darkness because of our ignorance of the truths of Revelation, let us learn them. If we are in darkness because we don’t firmly believe in those truths, let us pray, so the Lord may strengthen our faith. And if we are in darkness due to our sins, let us convert and repent. Let us appear the sons of light not only by name but by the very life in Christ!

The choir prayerfully performed hymns assigned to the Sunday of the Blind man and Paschal Aposticha 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.

On the occasion of Mother’s Day the Rector congratulated all our ladies and extended his heartfelt wishes to them. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

The Rector also expressed his gratitude to all our parishioners, especially our ladies who did a lot of work to prepare for our Patronal feast of St. George celebrated last Sunday. The guests of the Parish, including His Grace, Bishop John were very pleased with our celebration and a warm welcome.

Patronal Feast of St. George

 

On May 6, on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman our Parish family had a beautiful celebration. On that day the Church commemorates Holy Great Victorious Martyr George. This is a Patronal feast of our Parish.

Our festal celebration was headed by our Archpastor, Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk. His Grace arrived after the reading of the Third Hour and was greeted by our Parish Warden Olga Roussanow at the entrance to the temple. Bishop John entered the church where he was met by the Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.

During the Sixth Hour the Bishop was vesting in the altar. Then the Divine Liturgy had begun. It was concelebrated by our Rector, as well as by Archpriest Lawrence Bacik, Rector of St. Elias Church in Battle Creek, Michigan, and by Deacon Alexey Golubov, cleric of St. Nicholas Cathedral. Two other cathedral clerics, Archpriest Yaroslav Lutoshkin and Priest Mark Rashkov were praying during the Liturgy and assisting in the altar.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Bishop along with the serving clergy came out of the sanctuary to the middle of the temple and performed the rite of glorification singing the troparia, the kontakion and the magnification in honor of St. George.

At the end of the Liturgy His Grace had a speech. He congratulated the Rector and parishioners on the joyful Patronal feast of St. George. As a response to the Bishop’s speech Archpriest Igor Tarasov greeted His Grace in our temple.

After the liturgical service the celebration of our Patronal feast continued at the trapeza table where His Grace, the clergy, our parishioners and guests together enjoyed very delicious food and a nice company.

 

Sunday of the Paralytic: Head of the Foreign Institutions of the Russian Church celebrates the Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral

 

On April 29, on the Sunday of the Paralytic, we had no services at St. George Church because our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov was summoned to serve at St. Nicholas Cathedral along with His Grace, Bishop John. They both welcomed a distinguished guest of the Patriarchal Parishes, His Eminence, Archbishop Anthony of Vienna and Budapest, head of the Foreign Institutions of the Moscow Patriarchate. Archbishop Anthony came to the United States to officially visit our Parishes by the blessing of His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill.
On that Sunday His Eminence celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral being co-served by His Grace, Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk, the Administrator of Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes and the Cathedral clergy.

Our parishioners, including our Warden, Olga Roussanow and our Sacristan, Andrew Malyshev attended that solemn service.

Following the Scripture readings Archbishop Anthony preached a homily about celebrated Gospel story of the healing of the paralytic at the Sheep Gate Pool.

At the end of the service Bishop John had a speech welcoming Archbishop Anthony at the Cathedral. Archbishop Anthony expressed his gratitude for the heartfelt welcome and presented Bishop John with a holy Panagia.

Following the Liturgy our Rector as the Chancellor was invited to join Archbishop Anthony and Bishop John at the luncheon where they had an opportunity to discuss the life of the Patriarchal Parishes.

Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women

 

On April 22, on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women we had a beautiful service at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily the Rector addressed the special ministry of women in the Church. Holy Myrrh-bearers were serving Christ along with the Apostles. However, they had a different kind of ministry: if the Apostles were elected to become the messengers of the Gospel and to perform the service which is now known as the ministry of the bishops, the ministry of the Myrrh-bearing Women was to help and to serve in different needs of Christ and the Apostles. In Christian and spiritual setting should be no discussion of such secular issues as “gender rights” because all these human perceptions are limited and relative. Today’s Gospel lesson is telling us that Myrrh-bearing Women were the first ones to learn about the Lord’s Resurrection, not the Apostles. In the human and secular world we are accustomed to call women “a weak gender”. But the Holy Myrrh-bearers were not afraid to go to the Lord’s Tomb to anoint the body of Jesus while His male Disciples were frightened and gathered secretly, behind the shut doors. This shows that human stereotypes are often relative.
The only concern of the Myrrh-bearing Women was who will roll away the stone from the tomb. This is another example of one of the typical human worries which sometimes are in vain. As we know, the stone had been already rolled away because Christ has risen from the dead.
Therefore, we Christians should seek what is not limited or relative but what is eternal and spiritual. And the history of the Church tells us that Christian women were very dedicated to preserve faith and thus fulfilled that ministry of the Myrrh-bearers. In the years of Communist yoke in the old country Holy Orthodox faith was kept first of all by women, especially the elderly grandmothers (the “babushkas”). Very often they baptized their grandchildren and brought them to the Church.
The Rector called the parishioners to pray to the Holy Myrrh-bearing Women to help us to preserve our faith and to hand it over to the next generations.

The choir prayerfully performed the Aposticha of Pascha during the time of preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing the main thoughts of his Russian homily. He also congratulated our ladies on the occasion of this Sunday which is the Orthodox Women’s day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.
Then the Rector congratulated and proclaimed the Polychronion to the parishioners Vladimir Piankov and Natalia Tsyvilyova on the occasion of their past birthdays.

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company. The toasts to our ladies and to the birthday celebrants were raised.

Antipascha. Sunday of St. Thomas

 

On April 15, on the Sunday of Antipascha, also known as Sunday of St. Thomas, we had a nice service at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“The joyful week of Pascha, the Bright week has passed, and we celebrate Sunday after Easter. It is called St. Thomas Sunday, or Sunday of the Antipascha. That Greek word does not mean that it is something “against Pascha”, it is rather something “across Pascha”, it is the next Sunday standing across Pascha in the calendar. But a true and more precise meaning of that word is some kind of “substitution for Pascha” or a “renewal of Pascha”, of the feast of the Resurrection of Christ. After one week of Pascha we gathered again to be assured again that the joy of the Resurrection of the Lord is still with us. And today we hear the Gospel story about Holy Apostle Thomas who also made himself sure of Christ Resurrection.”
“How did it happen? When the risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared to His Disciples, they rejoiced seeing Him. He rendered them His peace, He sent them to preach His Resurrection, He gave then\m His Spirit, so they could loose and bind the sins of men. Apostle Thomas was not present then along with his brethren, the Apostles. And when he joined them and saw how they joyfully tell that they saw the risen Christ, he did not believe them. Perhaps, seeing their joy and excitement he thought that because of their agitation they only imagined Christ to be risen. Apostle Thomas said, “No!”“Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (Jn. 20, 25). Some people may say, “What a stubborn man! Why didn’t he believe?””
“But if you think about it, you may realize that the stubbornness of Thomas can be understood and justified. In a Stichera of today’s feast we sing, “O blessed unbelief of Thomas…” Thus his unbelief was pleasing the Lord and saving, in addition, it was sincere. If many of us had such a blessed unbelief of St. Thomas, we would avoid many mistakes in spiritual life. Thomas did not believe the other Apostles not because he did not believe in God, but because he was afraid to make a mistake in his faith. He did not wish to be deluded or deceived because of the human feelings and emotions. He was seeking the Truth.”
“Unlike Thomas, we often become gullible. Very often we may be attracted to any account about some “healer” or a “clairvoyant”. Even the Church people often become fooled. And those who are not living the Church life are very easily deceived when they hear about some fortune tellers like the famous Vanga, about some healers who “charge the water” from the TV, about astrology and other similar things. And thus people forget about Christ, about the Church, about the Commandments.”
“But Holy Apostle Thomas teaches us to have a believing but sober mind. Such a mind has to be based on the holy Orthodox faith. For Thomas, in fact, was not an unbeliever but a believer who was seeking to confirm his faith. And when the next time Jesus appeared to the Disciples, and Thomas was with them, he had a chance to confirm his faith. Jesus invited Thomas to examine His body with the wounds of crucifixion. What did Thomas do? He worshipped Christ saying, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20, 28). He did not need to stretch his hand to touch Christ. His heart filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit recognized the risen Lord.”

“Dear brothers and sisters! The same thing occurs when unbelievers say to us, “Why do you tell us about Christ? How can you believe in Him? Have you ever seen Him?” And we may respond because through the grace of the Holy Spirit it becomes revealed to our hearts. Just as Thomas believed we may believe. According to or own spiritual experience we know that Christ was risen. We feel it when we pray in the temple. We feel His help in our life when we pray to Him. And such a spiritual experience is given to us through the holy Church. God is with us because we are in the holy Orthodox Church. God is with us because we are being sanctified by the Holy Mysteries. God is with us because we strive to live according to His Commandments.”
“And so, Jesus Christ talking about His Church says to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20, 29). We became worthy of such a high name. The Lord calls us who never saw Jesus in person, “the blessed ones”. Thus what a great name the Lord is giving to us, Orthodox Christians!”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us keep and cherish that greatest inheritance of ours, our holy faith, a faith that grants us eternal life. Let us fear to be gullible and to draw away from the Church of Christ. Let us be afraid to be deceived by the false teachers. Let us glorify our risen Lord Jesus Christ both by our words and by our lives!”

The choir beautifully performed the Apostichas of Pascha and of St. Thomas Sunday during preparation for Holy Communion.

Since we did not hold a service on Bright Saturday when the Paschal blessed bread, called the Artos is usually distributed, the Rector proclaimed the prayer for the breaking of the Artos following the Ambo prayer.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian explaining the ideas of his English homily. Then he distributed the Artos among the parishioners.

Bright Saturday celebration in Philadelphia

 

On Bright Saturday, April 14, the Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk celebrated Divine Liturgy in St. Michael the Archangel Church in Philadelphia, PA.

His Grace was co-served by a many clerics from the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, including the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Clergy gathered for the traditional paschal greeting of their Archpastor.

At the Little Entrance, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, Bishop John presented the palitsa to the Rector of St . Michael Church, Priest Gregory Winsky. Bishop John also awarded the gold pectoral cross to Priest Joshua Genig. 

Many approached for Holy Communion which was distributed from two chalices.  After the Prayer behind the Ambo, Bishop John read the prayer for the fracturing of the Artos.  Afterwards, the clergy and faithful performed a procession around the entire city block. Many native residents stopped to see the gonfalons, clergy processing singing Paschal hymns. 

Returning to the church, Bishop John thanked the assembled clergy and faithful for traveling many miles to serve and celebrate the Risen Lord together. A banquet was held in the parish hall by the parish sisterhood, sponsored by parishes of the Atlantic States Deanery.

HOLY PASCHA

 

On April 8 of this year 2018 all Orthodox Christians celebrated the greatest holy day, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Pascha.

Celebration at St. George Church began at 11:30 PM on Saturday, April 7. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov performed Midnight service at the Lord’s Tomb and transferred the holy Shroud to the altar.

Right after midnight joyful Paschal celebration began. The Rector assisted by the altar servers led faithful in the procession around the temple. At the end of the procession everyone stood in front of the closed church doors where Fr. Igor began Resurrection Matins and proclaimed the Easter greeting, “Christ is risen” in Slavonic and English languages. Faithful responded and sung Paschal troparion. Then the priest opened the doors of the temple and faithful entered into the church.

After the Matins the Rector served the Divine Liturgy. The Gospel lesson on Pascha is traditionally read in several languages. The faithful had an opportunity to listen the verses of the reading in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Church Slavonic, English, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian, Belorussian, Polish and Spanish. Following the Gospel reading Fr. Igor proclaimed Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom on Pascha.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector greeted the parishioners on the occasion of the greatest Christian holy day, wished them to be blessed by the Risen Christ.

Following main services the Rector blessed Easter food.

Rector and parishioners continued their celebration of Pascha at the table where they had an opportunity to enjoy delicious meals after the long time of Lenten restrictions.

                 CHRIST IS RISEN!       ХРИСТОС ВОСКРЕСЕ!

Holy and Great Saturday. Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God

 

On April 7, on the Holy and Great Saturday we had a solemn celebration at St. George Church. This year this day fell on the feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God, so the Church services combined hymns and readings of the two holy days. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served Vespers with the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. After the reading of the Epistle the covers on the stands in the temple, as well as vestments of those who served were changed from black to the festal color of blue.

Following the readings from Sacred Scripture he preached a sermon in Russian. Fr. Igor stressed that this year we have an amazing spiritual coincidence of the two profound holy days having a great meaning. Feast of the Annunciation tells us about the very beginning of our salvation while Great Saturday tells us about the end of that mission. At the same time we rejoice of the Good News about future birth of the Savior, and we see the Lord’s Tomb with the Shroud in the middle of the church telling us that our Lord died and was buried. The very beginning and very end of the earthly life of Jesus came together today in one celebration.
On Great Saturday we have to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ underwent His sufferings and a humiliated death on the cross, that He was buried – all for our sake, so we may be saved and inherit eternal life. Christ died and descended into hell, so when He was risen from the dead, He could lead the souls of the just from that place. Christ died, so death could no longer have an absolute power over us. But this is also the meaning of the Annunciation. What was proclaimed to the Blessed Virgin by that Archangel had been fulfilled.
The Rector called the faithful to pray that our life could bear good fruits, at least remotely resembling the fruit of the life of Christ. Fr. Igor wished that our souls finish their earthly journey with the gracious salvation in Christ Jesus who today was announced to be born into the world and who conquered death by His death.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns of the Holy Saturday and of the Annunciation.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector performed traditional for this day of Holy Saturday Blessing of the bread and wine.

Holy and Great Friday

 

On April 6, on the Holy and Great Friday we had two special services in our parish temple. This day is the most sorrowful day in Christian calendar. On Holy Friday we commemorate crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, His death on the Cross, as well as His burial. St. George Church’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served Vespers with the procession of the Shroud at 4:00 PM.

Following the Scripture readings concluded with the Gospel lesson about the Holy Passions of Christ the Rector preached a sermon in Russian. He pointed out that it is hard to comprehend the concept that God died for us on the Cross. How can God die? However, sometimes in our life we think that all which is good has died. The recent tragedy in Kemerovo, Russia could be a sad example of that. How can the parents of those children who died in fire in Kemerovo accept that? But today we will carry the Shroud because God the Father lost His Son, Jesus Christ. Even if we begin to reason that God should not have sorrow, we may recall the Most Holy Mother of God who was human and who definitely felt a great sorrow for the death of Her Son. Thus if the Son of God Himself died a cruel death and was laid in the tomb, we should not despair when we see death, a death even very cruel and senseless. But we should understand that the Son of God died because of our cruelty, because we lack true love in our hearts. Our vanity, our pride, our impurity, our senselessness have laid Jesus today in the tomb. And if we won’t acknowledge that, it will be difficult for us to acquire salvation. The mystery of the love of Christ is such that He took upon Himself all our sins and transgressions and had to die for us. In the conclusion of his sermon, the Rector called the faithful to come and worship the Lord’s Tomb being aware of our unworthiness and asking for forgiveness, worshiping with the eternal hope because we know that Christ is not just a man who died but the true God who conquered death by death.

At the end of this service holy Shroud had been solemnly carried out from the altar to the middle of the church and placed there for veneration.

At 7:00 PM the Rector celebrated Matins on the Lord’s Tomb. Most of this service was performed before the Shroud placed in the middle of the church. After the Great Doxologion the Rector, altar servers and parishioners performed the procession around the church. The priest carried the holy Shroud resembling burial of the Lord.