18th Sunday after Pentecost. Feast of St. Sergius of Radonezh

 

On October 8, on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as commemoration of the repose of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh, our Parish family gathered for a liturgical celebration. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple.

Following the Scripture readings the Rector preached a homily in Russian. He pointed out that the Gospel lesson assigned for this day is about our trust in God. Apostle Peter expressed his human opinion when Jesus told him to try to catch more fish after a night of futile fishing. But he also said, “Nevertheless, at Your word, I will let down the net” (Lk. 5, 5). This situation reminds us of our own life. Often we prefer to act according to our own will, our own understanding of things, not by God’s. The precepts of the Lord tell us not to lie, but we lie and cheat. They tell us to love and forgive, but we are holding grudges and look for revenge. Even the very Christian religion seems to be unpractical to some of the people because it teaches to love your enemy and to forgive while it is not the way most people act. If we do so, we exclude a possibility of a miracle to happen in our lives. Apostle Peter agreed to listen to Jesus despite his human certainty that no fish will be caught, and a miracle happened – the Apostles caught a lot of fish.
The word “nevertheless” is very important here. It is a crucial word in Christian life if it is followed by our trust in God. Let us recall what happened when our Lord was crucified: all the forces of evil were against Him. Judas betrayed Him, the high priests condemned Him, Pilate withdrew and washed off his hands, the crowd shouted, “Crucify Him!” Nevertheless, on the first day of the week what happened? Christ’s Resurrection. On the third day Jesus rose from the dead.
Therefore, we need to trust in God and to build our life according to the word of God. Then a miracle may happen in our life, just as it happened with Peter. And in all our pains and sorrows we should always remember that important word “nevertheless” because the power of Christ may overcome everything and turn evil into good.

The choir prayerfully performed the hymns in honor of Venerable Sergius during preparation for Holy Communion.

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

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

 

On October 1, 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. He was co-served by Deacon John Peters, cleric of St. Nicholas Cathedral. Following the Gospel lesson the Rector delivered the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today is Sunday after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and thus the Gospel lesson is about taking up a cross to follow Christ. It also contains an interesting statement: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk. 8, 36). If our Lord Himself uses such earthly words as “profit” and “gain”, let us make a conclusion using the similar vocabulary: Jesus says that gaining the whole world and losing one’s soul is the world’s worst bargain.”
“Let us imagine, for a moment, that man gains the whole world. It cannot keep him from trouble; it cannot give him peace; it cannot comfort him in sorrow; it cannot purchase him immortality and it cannot secure him a place in heaven when he is gone. All he can do with the world, is to keep it until he dies; he cannot carry any of it with him to the other life. This is why we may hear of the people who are well-known, who are the celebrities, but who commit suicide although they live a very wealthy life. Their treasures don’t even give them a happy life here. And, of course, they don’t give them eternal life.”
“Our greatest treasure is our soul. Therefore, to lose it would be to lose the most valuable thing we may possess. Even the Gentiles could understand that. When a thief stole his lamp, the Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “It is the thief who loses. I bought a lamp; it cost me a few pennies. But it cost thief his soul”. We lose our souls when we are no longer alive to God and to His love. We lose our souls when we place some other person or thing at the center of life. We lose our souls when we move away from God and no longer experience the power of His presence. And we lose our souls when we feel there is no longer any hope of forgiveness. It was to keep us from losing our soul that God sent His Son to be our Savior. Through Him no person need to loose his soul. Through Him, the door to salvation is always open. Through Jesus we can now become alive toward God and toward our fellow humans. Through Jesus we can gain treasures far greater in value than the entire universe.”
“The Gospel today tells us how to follow Jesus and how to prepare for heaven. The Lord says, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mk. 8, 34). If we wish to save our souls, the secret is to deny oneself. It doesn’t mean we need to deny our personality, ourselves as human beings. It means to deny what is sinful and corrupt. It means to say “no” to sin. It means to say “no” to anything that stops on our way to salvation. A famous violin player was asked, what was the secret of his marvelous success. He replied, “Planned neglect. I deliberately neglect other things in order to concentrate on the one task that is all-important”. What makes a great chess player? Planned neglect. What makes a great writer? Planned neglect. What makes a great Christian? Planned neglect of the less important things in life in order to concentrate on the all-important call of Jesus: “Follow Me.””
“If we really follow the Lord, He will bless us and secure our eternity. He says, “Whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8, 35). Losing one’s life for Jesus equals saving it for eternity; it equals gaining eternal life. Returning to an earthly business vocabulary we may say that investing our life in following Christ is to make a good deal. It is to get eternal security. A man once prayed, “Lord, tie me to something eternal. I tie to houses and lands, stocks and bonds, and by some turn of fate, I lose them. I tie myself to a loved one, and a single microbe comes and death snatches her away. I tie myself to a friend, and the friendship vanishes. Lord, tie me to Your program, to service to Your Kingdom, to You, God, that I might be tied to the eternal”.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Being tied to God, the soul finds eternal security. Therefore, let us listen to the words of the Holy Gospel and deny our sinful nature and its inclinations. Let us say “no” to sin and to all that could prevent us from being saved. Let us tie our life to our Savior Jesus Christ, our only Hope who can grant us eternal life and make us gain His everlasting Kingdom!”

The choir prayerfully performed the hymns dedicated to the Holy Cross during preparation for Holy Communion.

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

Following the Rector’s sermon our Sacristan Andrew Malyshew congratulated Fr. Igor on the occasion of his coming name day and of his 10th anniversary of serving as Rector of St. George. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed. Fr. Igor expressed his gratitude to the parishioners for their greetings, as well as to Fr. John for coming to participate in this celebration. The Rector also praised the choir for a beautiful singing.

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and an interesting conversation.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

 

On September 27th, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, we had a solemn celebration in our temple. Before the Hours Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov placed the cross in the middle of the church and venerated it.
At the Divine Liturgy, after the Gospel lesson the Rector preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It is a Lord’s holy day but it is not dedicated to some event in the life of Christ, but to the Precious and Life-giving Cross. But the Cross of Christ cannot be separated from the crucifixion. Therefore, in today’s Gospel lesson we hear the sorrowful story of the holy Passions of the Lord, the story of His crucifixion. And 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 Graeco-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.”
“The sign of the cross is often reduced to a good-luck charm. We wear it around our necks or we may make a sign of the cross when we begin something important. But let us remember that the Cross of Jesus Christ does not promise us success, health, or pleasure. The Cross only promises us that Jesus will be with us, no matter how badly we suffer, no matter how badly we fail, and no matter how horribly we feel. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28, 20).  It is through His Cross that Jesus is with us. That is the meaning of the Cross and that is the meaning of our Christian faith.”
“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. The lesson of the Holy Cross is still very hard for us. That is why the Holy Cross became the sign of the Christian faith. Every Orthodox church is adorned by the cross, and the cross is everywhere among the Christian people. It is an emblem of our faith, the most known symbol of Christianity.”
“The Holy Cross is also a sign of hope. When we look on the Holy Cross, we can believe that there is hope beyond our suffering, our failures, and our loss. We can believe that there is hope for the suffering and heavy-burdened. There is hope because God will not abandon us in our sufferings.”
“And finally, the Holy Cross is a sign of love. God sent His Onlybegotten Son because He loved the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross because He so loved the world. And the Cross is stretching its sides as the Lord Jesus stretched His arms on the Cross to embrace us in His infinite love.”
“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.”

Our Cantor, Olga Roussanow beautifully performed hymns dedicated to the Holy Cross during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and altar server performed the rite of Glorification before the Cross and the icon of the feast singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Exaltation. After that the Rector and parishioners venerated the Cross.

Sunday before Exaltation. Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God

 

On September 24, on the Sunday before Exaltation of the Cross, our Parish also observed feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God. Divine Liturgy in our temple was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Following the lessons from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today the Church celebrates Sunday before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. And we also celebrate feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God which we decided to transfer it to this Sunday. But even if we did not transfer it for today, we would still commemorate that feast because the Church continues to celebrate it for several days. But the Church already prepares us for another great holy day, feast of the Exaltation. Thus today we would have to reflect upon those two important matters: on the birth of the holy Theotokos and on the words of Christ heard in today’s Gospel telling us that “God so loved the world that He gave His onlybegotten Son…” (Jn. 3, 16).”
“The Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God is the first holy day of the New Church year. “The present Feast is for us the beginning of feasts” – says about it Ven. Andrew of Crete. It is understood because the birth of the One who had to give birth to the Savior of the world should be considered as a beginning of our salvation. “Thy Nativity, o Virgin Theotokos, has proclaimed joy to all the universe” – we sing today in the troparion dedicated to this feast. The troparion goes on and explains that the universe should rejoice in the birth of the Mother of God because from Her the Sun of righteousness, Christ our God, is risen. He broke the ancestral curse and gave the blessing; He destroyed death and granted us life eternal.”
“If we recall the story of the Nativity of the Mother of God, we could observe that Her parents, Joachim and Anna, were advanced in age but were childless. In those times and in the Jewish society it was considered a great misfortune and reproach. It could be viewed as a curse. But the whole human race was under a similar curse, lived in a great misfortune of sin. Although children were born to the people, they had no future of holiness and pleasing God.”
“Sometimes people say that eternal life means our continuation in children. It is true to some extent. Our sons and daughters look like us, behave like us, have our traits. Joachim and Anna thought that they did not have such a continuation. They were first deprived of the hope to have a future in their children. But even people blessed by the offspring could not have the true eternal life. Every generation before the coming of Christ lived under condemnation, lived in the fallen state. Children looked like their parents, behaved like their parents and repeated their parents’ sins and mistakes. Only with the coming of the Divine Savior into the world, only with the incarnation of the Son of God, the human race was given a future to become holy and to join God in the eternal life. Such life was granted, the ancestral curse was broken through Jesus Christ redeeming us. But in order to accomplish that Jesus had to be born as a Man. And His birth was given by the Most Holy Theotokos. She had to come to this world first. And She did, and today we celebrate Her wonderful Nativity.”
“Holy grandparents of God, Joachim and Anna, became blessed. They conceived a child, gave birth to the holy Virgin Mary. In the same way God, in His endless love, blessed the whole humanity and gave His only begotten Son. Humanity was perished, but God wanted it to live. Preparing to celebrate another holy day, feast dedicated to the Precious Cross, and observing Sunday preceding that solemnity, let us understand how God acted for us. His love freed us from the curse of our ancestors. God gave His only Son for us to grant us life, life everlasting. Instead of childlessness of Joachim and Anna He gave them a child who bore Christ into the world. They were blessed with life, with the continuation of their family. And all of us became blessed with life.  Instead of absence of hope God gave the future. Instead of death He granted life.”

Our Cantor, Olga Roussanow performed beautiful hymns of the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and altar servers came out of the sanctuary and performed the rite of glorification in front of the festal icon, singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast.

The Rector also preached a short sermon in English addressing the main thoughts of his Russian homily.

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

14th Sunday after Pentecost. Beheading of St. John the Baptist

 

On September 10, on the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, St. George Parish held a nice celebration. In addition to the Sunday observance we celebrated feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist that had been transferred to Sunday. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the readings from the Scripture he preached the following homily in English:

“Today along with our Sunday celebration we observe feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. Both Sunday Gospel lesson and the reading of the story of the Beheading of the Forerunner may give us a sad and negative impression. In our Sunday Gospel assigned for today we hear a parable of the Wedding Feast. It shows that so many people neglected the invitation of their king, and even among those who came to the banquet there were people not dressed appropriately. Our Lord finishes that parable by saying, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt. 22, 14). And in the Gospel story of the execution of St. John the Baptist we hear that this just man was killed by the unjust people and there was no one to defend him.”
“Listening to such sad stories we may recall the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart” (Is. 57, 1). St. John was beheaded to honor the request of a loose dancing girl and because of the hatred of her adulterous mother, and no one took it to heart. The birthday banquet of king Herod was not stopped, no guest became indignant and no man became frustrated that such a righteous man was murdered. And in some time after that crime, another villainy had been done, another just Man was killed – our Lord Jesus Christ. Not to honor the request of some dancing girl, but to please the angry crowd an innocent Person of Christ was crucified. And no man took it to heart. We say “no man” because a small number of the Apostles and the Most Holy Mother of God were like a drop in the ocean of the enemies of Christ.”
“These two examples of the execution of St. John the Baptist and of Christ suggest that evil is very successful and reigning in this world while good is very often defeated and humiliated. It may also be observed through the whole history of mankind. It is seen right now in many places of the world. And today’s Gospel lesson about the Wedding Feast may lead us to a conclusion that our human nature is so corrupt and ungrateful that God won’t allow most of us to enter into His Kingdom. Thus today we may tend to think negative and become filled with pessimism.”
“But let us try to think positive. The whole idea of the Kingdom of God where all of us are invited should overcome all kinds of pessimism. Our Lord is describing His eternal Kingdom in an image so understood to the people – as a wedding feast. In the times of Christ and in East weddings were celebrations of human love, and the families that made them attempted to invite as many guests as they could. So the Lord compared His Kingdom to such a feast. Everyone is welcome. It is now our own choice whether to accept that generous invitation. If we accept and do our best to get there, to enter into God’s Kingdom, to participate in His everlasting celebration of Love – we will be there. And our garment will be appropriate if we will prepare and put such garment on. So, the Lord won’t throw us out of His banquet hall into the outer darkness. It is totally up to us.” “Even if we fail to do our preparation, even if it seems difficult for us to accept God’s invitation, the Lord is always willing to help us. He provides His divine grace, He assures us that if with men it is impossible, with God everything is possible (Mt. 19, 26). And despite that only few are chosen, the Lord keeps saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11, 28). And the whole Scripture is full of very optimistic and positive assurances of God’s love and willingness to save everyone. But on the other hand, of course, God won’t save us without our desire to be just. The book of Revelation says, He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteousstill; he who is holy, let him be holy still (Rev. 22, 11). God gives us a choice. If we are unjust or filthy, He will judge us; if we are righteous and holy He will bless us.”
“Sometimes God allows unjust to be punished even before His judgment, even in this life. The punishment of Herod, Herodias and her foolish daughter was terrible. They suffered a very tragic death. But as regards St John who called and still calls to repentance – his name lives on forever.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, despite the sadness of today’s Gospel lessons, let us remember that God’s justice will always prevail. Let us also remember that we are all invited to share in the joy of our Lord in His eternal Kingdom. An invitation is sent and the doors of the banquet hall are wide open. The Wedding Feast is waiting for us. It is now up to us whether we will accept that invitation, do our best to come and be dressed appropriately. If not, we will join king Herod, Herodias and her foolish daughter the dancer. We will join those who condemned Christ. But if we will do our best we will join the holy ones, we will be among the Saints such as John the Baptist, the Most Holy Mother of God and our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Since in the beginning of September the Russian Church holds a special day of prayer for the preservation of God’s creation, during the Litany of fervent supplication the Rector offered special petitions for that cause.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns dedicated to the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, as well as in honor of the Saints commemorated on this day (Ven. Moses the Black and Ven. Job of Pochaev).

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian explaining the main ideas of his English homily.
The Rector also congratulated our parishioner Moses Dunetz on the occasion of his nameday, the memory of Ven. Moses the Black. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!) had been sung.
After that the Rector offered a prayer for the schoolchildren who begin their new school year and performed a blessing of the young child Elena Malyshev who is starting her school year by entering the preK group.

After the liturgical service the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the trapeza table.

 

 

13th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On September 3, on the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Today’s reading from the Gospel is telling us a parable about evil tenants of the vineyard. This parable speaks about the history of Israel, about the relationship between God and His chosen people. However, we may interpret this parable in a number of other ways. We may say that today’s Gospel parable is related to us. The vineyard is then our life and soul. And here in some way we resemble those evil tenants.”
“Our life and our own soul is the vineyard the Lord planted exclusively for us. He granted us the gift of life, He gave us different other gifts to support that life. If we are Christians, let us recall that being baptized we are given an opportunity to live a blessed life in God’s eternal Kingdom. We are also chrismated by the seal of the Holy Spirit and we are able to live a holy, joyful and happy life. But we are called to bring the Lord and Creator “His share of the grapes”. That means that our life has bear a fruit, our soul has to show the works of mercy, love and piety. We are expected to love our fellow men, to show mercy towards the needy and we are also expected to be pious. In the parable we hear that the owner dug a winepress and built a tower (Mt. 21, 33). The winepress is the altar and the necessity of offerings. The tower is the temple. Thus we are called to make sacrifices and to honor the temple. We are expected to live a pious and religious life.”
“Let us now ask ourselves, “Do we bring the Lord His share of the grapes? Do we bear a fruit of love, mercy and piety?” If we are honest, we may see that it does not happen all the time. Therefore, we resemble those evil tenants, those wicked vinedressers.”
“But we may try to justify ourselves and say, “Do we kill the messengers of God like those evil tenants?” Let us think. Do we always listen to voice of our conscience? Remember that our conscience is the voice of God within us. Do we listen to that voice sent to us by God or we try to silence, to hush it, to kill it in ourselves because we do not wish to change our sinful life? How many times our conscience chastised us but we silenced it and chased it away, so it may not disturb us in our way of living? Then we may ask, “Do we kill the “heir of the owner”, the Son of God?” But if we read the Holy Fathers and if we are knowledgeable in spiritual matters, we may recall that every time when we sin, we crucify our Lord Jesus Christ. For the Son of God took all our sins upon Himself, and thus every our sin is a mockery of His sacrifice on the Cross.”
“Realizing all these things makes us understand that the parable of the wicked tenants is related to us. Very often we do not fulfill the will of the Lord, do not bear a good fruit in our lives, and disrespectfully treat our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. What should we do to change our attitude? Jesus asked the Jews in today’s Gospel, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: the stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone” (Mt. 21, 42). Here Jesus was speaking about Himself, the Chief Cornerstone on which our salvation is built. Therefore, our only way is to put Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of our life. It would mean that we will have to base our lives on the faith in Christ, to live a pious and religious life according to the Gospel, to show the works of mercy and love. Only then the Lord will not treat us as the wicked tenants of His vineyard but will award us and bless us for eternity.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Hearing that serious and convoluted parable about evil vinedressers, let us pray that the Lord Creator, through the intercession of His Blessed Mother, will grant us strength and ability to cultivate the vineyard of our life and our soul entrusted to us, so we may bear a good fruit of piety and Christian life leading us to life everlasting!”

Our Cantor, Olga Roussanow beautifully performed hymns in honor of the Most Holy Mother of God during preparation for Holy Communion.

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

Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God

 

On August 28, on the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, our Parish held a beautiful celebration. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Today we celebrate the most important feast in honor of the Most Holy Mother of God, Her Dormition. This is the day when our Lady fell asleep and ended Her earthly life. She was taken up to heavenly glory along with Her soul and body. Holy Scripture does not tell us about the last days of the Most Holy Mother of God. In fact, it does not tell about Her much at all. This is why the Protestant churches which do not recognize any other sources of Revelation except the Bible, do not honor Theotokos at all. But we, Orthodox Christians, acknowledge two sources of God’s Revelation, Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. While the Scripture does not tell us about today’s feast, it is very much described in the writings of the holy Fathers of the Church, it is very much mentioned in the Holy Tradition. Thus, let us recall what the Tradition tells us about it.”
”According to the ancient Christian tradition, the Most Holy Mother of God lived in the household of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian to whom our Lord Jesus Christ entrusted His Blessed Mother when He was dying on the cross. St. John and the Blessed Mother lived in several places, but later She came back to Jerusalem, to finish Her earthly life at the holy place of Passion and death of Her divine Son. The M.H. Mother of God attended the place of the Lord’s Tomb where She prayed. One day holy Archangel Gabriel appeared to Her at the Lord’s Tomb and announced that shortly She is going to pass away. The Blessed Mother prepared to that day. Now a great miracle happened: all holy Apostles were taken by invisible angelic force and arrived in Jerusalem around the bed of the Blessed Mother to farewell Her. She fell asleep at the third hour which is in the morning. After that holy Apostles buried Her conducting the funeral rites. The burial procession went through the city of Jerusalem. Some Jewish people hostile to the Christians attempted to attack the Apostles but the procession was miraculously enveloped with the cloud, so they could not see and find it. All they did is to hear the chants of the funeral prayers and hymns sung by the Apostles. One of the Jewish priests named Apphonias reached the procession and tried to overthrow the coffin with the holy body of the Theotokos. But the angel invisibly cut his hands off. Apphonias repented, was healed and followed the procession becoming a zealous follower of Christ.”
“After the body of the Most Holy Mother of God was buried, She appeared to the Apostles when they came back to the house to eat together. The Holy Mother said to them: “I will always stay with you!” On the eighth day after the Falling Asleep of the Most Pure Virgin holy Apostle Thomas arrived in Jerusalem. He desired to venerate the holy body of the Most Holy Mother of God. When the Apostles opened Her tomb to let St. Thomas to venerate the relics, they discovered that it was empty. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not allow His Mother’s body to stay in the tomb but took it to the heavenly glory.”
“Thus in the Most Holy Mother of God the statutes of nature are being overcome, She did not die, She fell asleep to be in the Kingdom of Her Son. Death is conquered again. As the Son of God and Son of Mary conquered death by His own death in His holy Resurrection, so He conquered death in His Mother’s Dormition. Death is a result of sin. Thus, let us fight the sin to acquire life. It is hard, but if we do fight the sin God is coming to help. He will make miracles for us. In today’s feast we hear about a number of unbelievable miracles. We may even say that the whole story is so unbelievable. But even in our own life God can perform wonderful and incredible things to make us alive in His heavenly Kingdom. Let us strive for it with the help of the Most Holy Mother of God who is saving our souls from death.”

Our Cantor, Olga Roussanow beautifully and prayerfully sang festal hymns dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector along with the altar severs came out of the sanctuary and performed the rite of glorification in front of the festal icon singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Dormition.

The Rector also delivered a short sermon in Russian stressing the main ideas of his English homily and congratulated all present faithful on the occasion of the greatest holy day of the Most Holy Mother of God.

12th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On August 27, on the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as Prefeast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy at St. George Church. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in English:

“Today is the 12th Sunday after Pentecost and we listened to a Gospel story about a rich young man. We heard what happened: the young man walked away sorrowful. He failed to acquire eternal life. What was wrong with him?”
“First of all, the young man had a wrong question because he had a wrong attitude. He wanted to follow God and he was keeping the Commandments as he knew them, but he was thinking in a small way, but God is big. That young man was thinking in little boxes, and the Christian life does not fit in boxes. The man says, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” (Mt. 19, 20). The Lord tells him. He has asked for it; he is going to receive it: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor” (Mt. 19, 21).”
“The young man went away sorrowful because the giving up his wealth did not fit in one of his boxes. This was a terrible tragedy. This was a man who was sincere; this was a man who wanted to be saved. This was a man who was doing things that few people even try to do, and he was still not saved. His failure was all because of his possessions. It was a tragedy that he walked away. He did so much and gained so little.”
“Here the Gospel is concerned with material wealth. Our lives are concerned with this very much. The love of money, love of possessions, love of comfort that comes from money, love of “security” – all this strangles most Christians. It should concern and strangle most Christians because most churches are small and poor. It should be not this way.”
“The Church has never looked at wealth as inherently evil. It is a holding on to wealth that is evil. A person who is seeking salvation and eternal life can possess wealth but he would use it to make the world better, to support his Church, to help the needy and to do many possible good works. Such wealth would not stop a man to enter into the Kingdom of God. But if possessions make us their slave, we are in a great danger of losing our salvation.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be like that rich young man. The scary thing about him was that he had virtues. He was zealous, he adhered to the law, and he even had desire to know more, and yet he was not saved, because of his adherence to riches. Don’t think that you are immune to this. I doubt that anyone here present follow everything better than that rich man because no one among us can say that he or she kept all the Commandments. There is no one among us that can say that they could stand before God without shame. We still and always have work to do, not only to keep the Commandments, but also to support our church, to be a cheerful giver.”
“The Christian life is a totality. The great mistake of the young man was that he saw salvation as limited set of things that he could do – “1,2,3, a. b, c”, and God said, “All of it”. What should I do? All of it. This a very serious task for us – to embrace all. This is why the Church in its wisdom tells us to work a little bit at a time. You cannot become holy in one day, but if you struggle, it may occur in your lifetime. But even if you won’t become holy in your lifetime, God may still save you if you struggle, and there will be a room reserved for you in His mansions. Dear brothers and sisters! Don’t allow yourself to be condemned because of something as foolish as attachment to money and to all other material things. May the Lord by the prayers of His Blessed Mother help us and save us!”

The choir was beautifully singing the hymns during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian to address the main thoughts of his English homily.

11th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On August 20, on the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church headed the Divine Liturgy at our parish temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he delivered the following homily in English:

“Today’s Gospel lesson tells us a parable about an unmerciful servant who owed a lot the king, but could not forgive a much lesser debt of his fellow servant (Mt. 18, 23-35).”
“Recently we celebrated Transfiguration of our Lord. Jesus Christ changed His appearance before His disciples, showed them His divine glory, revealed His true self. In today’s Gospel the unmerciful lender also reveals his true self. He shows that he may be very respectful and polite with his king whom he owns a huge amount of money, but when he sees another servant, just like him, who owns him, he turns into a mean and arrogant villain. He chokes that poor person, demanding the money back and throws him into a prison. Just minutes before a man who begged for mercy, becomes himself unmerciful. Just a moment prior a person was bowing before the king paying respect and showing that he is a kind individual. Now he turns into a monster. This is also some kind of transfiguration, transformation, change. It reveals who that servant really was.”
“Very often this kind of changes happen to the people. They behave nicely with some, but show their arrogance with the other. A famous Russian writer Chekhov very nicely described this kind of behavior in his short story called “The Chameleon”. In that story a small town police officer is investigating an accident which involved a dog bite. Some dog bit a person, and the policeman is trying to find out who is the dog’s owner. First he is angry about that dog, but when someone tells him that the dog belongs to a general, the policeman totally changes his attitude and is trying to defend the dog. Told later that the dog is not general’s, that policeman becomes angry with the dog again. This is why that author of the story calls him a chameleon, for chameleons change their color depending on the color of the environment.”
“This sin is called hypocrisy. Hypocrites were especially chastised by our Lord Jesus Christ. Hypocrisy is a sin against other people and against ourselves. Our Lord desires us to wear our true face and to show it to the others.”
“We are all humans and we should have love and solidarity among ourselves. Our Lord Jesus Christ became the Savior of the whole humanity. We all are in the same position. Yet today’s parable tells us how often people act against themselves, against others. It teaches to do the opposite. Our Lord warns us that we will be punished like the unmerciful servant. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses”(Mt. 18, 35). Because God forgives us, we in return are obliged to grant this gift of forgiveness to others. Especially, we should do it considering that we all are humans and as such, may make mistakes, may commit sins or trespasses. When each Christian forgives from his heart, true reconciliation and healing come to the Christian community, the Church. And if every person would also follow this rule, true peace would dominate in the human society.”
“Therefore, let us truly fulfill what we say every time when we recite the Lord’s prayer. Let us truly do what we are supposed to do because we state: “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Notice that in the Lord’s prayer we say nothing about love. We are supposed to love one another, but the love in the Lord’s prayer is in the words of forgiveness. If we love, we are ready to forgive. Let us forgive, be merciful and understanding. Let us show others our true face, avoiding being hypocrites. But let our faces shine with the grace of our Lord.”

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

Transfiguration of the Lord

 

On August 19, on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, we had a nice liturgical celebration. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in English:

“Today we celebrate great feast of Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ. That celebrated event took place before the three chosen Apostles. Our Lord showed them His divine glory, He made them see His true face, the face of the Son of God. When we reflect upon this holy and awesome event, we usually emphasize the divine nature of the Lord and that we, the followers of Christ, are invited to acquire His divine nature, to become like Him through pious and godly life.”
“Speaking of that, we may point out an aspect of this feast which is often overlooked: Mt Tabor itself, the place where the Transfiguration occurred. This Mt Tabor is for us a figure of perfection. Like the Disciples, in order for us to see the Transfiguration or to hope to be transfigured ourselves, we will first have to climb, to be lifted up from our present condition. Otherwise any transfiguration or change for the better in our lives is impossible. Last Sunday we were talking about an image of Christ helping us to climb that spiritual mountain of our perfection, and today it is easy to recall this.”
“Now it is interesting that pilgrims who have been blessed to go to Mt Tabor and their photographs show us that Mt Tabor is not a mountain at all. It is rather a long, sloping hill with many obstacles, rocks and boulders, in the path of those who ascend it. And our transfiguration or salvation is like Mt Tabor. Even if we try really hard, we are not guaranteed salvation through a fast and swift climb today. Salvation takes the whole life. It is a long climb up a long slope, which is why the Lord gives most of us so long to live. Salvation is a long struggle which requires determination and perseverance, patient long-suffering.”
“Our spiritual progress is not sudden and dramatic. And there are many obstacles in our path in our daily struggle. To pick up our prayer books in the morning and again in the evening is a struggle and there are always obstacles on our path. We have meals to prepare, traffic to beat, phones to pick up. Religious life means that we have to make little sacrifices all the time, to overcome little obstacles. There are prayers to say, fasts to be kept, donations to be made and confessions or Communions to be prepared. And if we are more active in our parish, then there also cleaning of the church to be done, flowers to be bought, a service to be prepared for the choir.”
“As we come now towards the end of the Church’s Year (and the Church Year ends in September), we may well ask ourselves what little sacrifices we have made since this feast last year. How far have we ascended up our own Mt. Tabor? How have we changed over this last year? What have we done to lead a better life since then? How have we improved? What have we given God that we did not give Him before? It is this that people usually call progress. But as I like to say quoting our fabulous Saint, Holy Hieromartyr Hilarion Troitsky: we Christians need not progress but Transfiguration; for progress is a movement forward, but we need to move up, to heaven. Thus we may ask: what way am I a better Orthodox Christian than a year ago?”
“Dear brothers and sisters! We are called to struggle daily, whatever the rocks or boulders are on our way, whether they are pride or selfishness, lust or discouragement, envy or judging of others, we have to struggle to ascend our personal Mt. Tabor, we have to fight for our personal transfiguration. If we do not do this, then the Church will move away from us. For we can both go up and go down a slope. We can be transfigured by the love of God or we can be disfigured by the love of sin. And like transfiguration, regress is not sudden and dramatic, it is a slope, as we say, a slippery slope.”
“May the Lord Jesus Christ who transfigured upon the mountain help us and number us among His closest Disciples to see His heavenly and everlasting glory!”

Before the rite of the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully sang festal hymns of Transfiguration.

Following the Ambo prayer the Rector performed traditional Blessing of fruits.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy Fr. Igor preached a short sermon in Russian and congratulated the parishioners on the occasion of the holy day.