Sunday before the Theophany

 

On January 15, on the Sunday before the Theophany, we had a nice celebration in our parish temple. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel reading he preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily, the Rector said that on Sunday before the feast of the Theophany in all the Orthodox churches we read the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. If on Sunday before Christmas we read the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, today we listen to the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. It tells us about St. John the Baptist who preached in the wilderness. The people came to the wilderness to hear his words. St. John was the Forerunner of Christ, the one who was coming before the Messiah to prepare His appearance to the world. But St. John called the people themselves to be prepared. He called them: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight” (Mk. 1, 3).
Often we complain that God does not help us in our life. When we have troubles, sorrows and sufferings, it may seem that God abandoned us. But for God to be with us in our sorrows and for Him to bless us in our lives we need to prepare our souls top receive Him. We need to follow the call of St. John the Forerunner and make an effort, perform a spiritual labor.

The choir prayerfully sang the hymns during the preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in English addressing the main ideas of his Russian homily.
Following the Rector’s sermon our parish Warden Olga Roussanow congratulated Fr. Igor on the occasion of his past birthday and presented him with a small gift. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

At the request of Malyshew family the Rector also performed a memorial service (Litia) in commemoration of Maria Malyshew’s deceased mother Irina.

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

Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

On January 7 Russian Orthodox Church observes feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, also known as Christmas. Despite the winter weather most of our parishioners gathered at St. George Church for the celebration of this great holy day. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.
After the Gospel lesson the Rector proclaimed Christmas Sermon of Venerable Father Isaac the Syrian.
During the preparation for Holy Communion the choir beautifully performed different liturgical hymns of the Nativity.
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and altar servers performed the rite of glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Nativity before the festal icon in the middle of the church.

Following the Liturgy the Rector greeted the faithful on the occasion of the great holy day of God’s Incarnation. He expressed his heartfelt wishes of all the blessings to be bestowed upon us, but especially wished that Jesus who was born in the manger of Bethlehem may be born in our hearts and stay there all the time.

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company. A toast was raised in honor of Fr. Igor on the occasion of the 27th Anniversary of his priestly ordination and a traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

Nativity Epistle of His Holiness, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and of All Rus’

Your Eminences the Archpastors, esteemed Fathers and Deacons, all-honorable monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters!

On this holy night I extend my heartfelt greetings to you all and from the depths of my soul I congratulate you on the great feast of the Nativity of Christ: the feast of the fulfillment of the promises of old for the salvation of the human race, the feast of the ineffable love of the Maker towards his creation, the feast of the coming into the world of the Son of God who is the Messiah.
The Fathers have spoken much over the centuries on the mystery of the Incarnation of God. And now we, as the Fathers before us, hearken to the words of the Church’s prayers and hymns, with reverence listen to Scripture which tells us of this glorious event, and cease not to be amazed at this wondrous miracle.
In his reflections on Christ’s Nativity, St. Symeon the New Theologian writes the following:  “God, as he came into the world … united the divine nature with human nature, so that the human person could become god, and that the Most Holy Trinity may mysteriously abide in this person who has become god by grace” (10th Homily). And St. Ephraim the Syrian speaks of the Incarnation of God thus: “Today the Godhead sealed itself upon humanity, that so with the Godhead’s seal humanity might be adorned” (Hymns for the Nativity of Christ).
In attending to these wise words, we ask ourselves: in what manner may we be adorned with this divine seal? How can we attain the likeness of God, to which all people have been called since the creation of the world? How are we to live so that “Christ be formed in us” (Gal 4:19)? The answer is simple: let us observe the commandments of the Savior. Together with the apostle Paul I address you all, my beloved: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). Cover all things with love and you will find peace and tranquility of soul. Be of generous spirit when forgiving all – and in your hearts there will reign the joy which “no man taketh from you” (Jn 16:22). “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Lk 21:19) – and you will inherit life everlasting.
How important it is that we Christians not only call upon others to follow lofty moral ideals, but endeavor to embody these very same ideals in our everyday lives and in the first instance in ministering to our neighbors. And then by God’s grace we may obtain within ourselves the true fruits of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal 5:22-23).
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb 10:24). When we overcome conflict and division, we speak convincingly to the world of the Savior who is born and in our deeds we testify to the unusual beauty and spiritual power of the Orthodox faith.
We have embarked upon the year 2017. Exactly one hundred years separates us from events which radically transformed the life of Russia – a great multinational country, and plunged her into the madness of civil war, when children rose up against their parents and brother against brother. The subsequent losses and afflictions which our people endured were in many ways determined by the destruction of our thousand year-old statehood and the struggle against the peoples’ religious faith, generating a profound division within society.
With awe and reverence we recall the great endeavors of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Church of Russia, through whose prayers, we believe, the Lord never abandoned our people and granted to it the strength to accomplish many great feats of labor and military feats leading us to victory in the most terrible of all wars, to restoring the country, to achievements which evoke admiration.
We give thanks to God for the miracle he has revealed to the world – the resurrection of faith and piety within our people, for the restoration of holy sites once destroyed, for new churches and monasteries, the construction of which is a visible sign of the profound changes that have taken place in peoples’ hearts.
Over recent decades there have been and there remain today many difficulties and hardships. But they are all transient, and that is why we are not afraid of them. The experience of the past century has taught us many things and is to serve as a warning against many things.
Let us fearlessly tread the paths of salvation, “for God is with us.” Let us be stronger in our faith, “for God is with us.” Let hope assert itself within us, “for God is with us.” Let us grow in love and accomplish good, “for God is with us.”
Let us place all our hope in the Lord, for he is “everlasting strength” (Is 26:4) and, as the apostle Peter testifies, “there is no salvation in any other” (Acts 4:12). May the light of Christ illumine all our earthly path, and may this path lead us to the kingdom of heaven, which the Lord has prepared for those who love him.
As I spiritually rejoice today together with all of you who live in various countries, cities and villages, yet making up the one Church of Christ, my prayerful wish is that each of you shall enjoy health of soul and body, peace in your families and success in your labors. And may the Lord and Savior who was born in Bethlehem grant to each of us the opportunity with renewed strength and with all our heart to feel his presence in our lives.

+KIRILL
PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUS’

The Nativity of Christ
2016/2017

Sunday before the Nativity

 

On January 1, 2017, on the Sunday before the Nativity, we gathered to have a liturgical celebration in our parish temple. The Rector of St. George, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Today’s lesson from the Gospel is the beginning of the New Testament. It gives us a long list of Hebrew names that compose the family tree of Jesus Christ on the human side. As we read these names, we review some two thousand years of the human history. And we learn that the history of mankind is composed of the lives of different persons.”
“Some boy undertook to read the Bible to a blind man each day. As he began reading the first chapter of Matthew which contains a list of names in the genealogy of Jesus, the boy said, “Let’s skip all those names, sir.” The blind old man said, “No, please keep reading”. The boy read with effort through all those “begats” of Matthew. Then he noted tears on the blind man’s cheeks. “What is so emotional about a list of names?” the boy asked. The blind man replied, “God know everyone of those fellows, and He knew them by name. That makes me feel important to know that God knows me and He knows my name.””
“God knows us by name and calls us by name. When Adam, seized with remorse and fear, was hiding from God, in the darkest thickets of the Garden of Eden, he heard God’s voice calling Him by name, “Adam, where are you?” (Gen. 3, 9). Indeed it is a personal call of God to each one of us that creates the person and crowns him with glory and honor. The Prophet Isaiah said, “The Lord called me from the womb, from the matrix of my mother He mentioned me by name” (Is. 49, 1). The uniqueness of each person is symbolized by his or her name. In another chapter of the Scripture God says to Moses, “I know you by name” (Ex. 33, 17). This is a great personalism of the Bible: God knows my name, I matter to Him because He loves me and cares for me!”
“So, the Gospel of Matthew that we heard today begins with a long list of names. At the end of the list we find the name above every name, the name of Jesus. The procession of the human kind passes through the centuries and comes to rest in Bethlehem. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Mt. 1, 20-21). The whole story of the Nativity is wrapped up in that one name: Jesus, the name which means literally “God saves” or “God is salvation”.”
“God knows my name and in His grace He granted me to know His name that I may call upon Him freely and enter into His presence boldly. “Jesus” is the name of my God! “Jesus” is the name of my Savior! “Jesus” is the name by which demons are cast out. “Jesus” is the name that enables God’s power in me! “Jesus” is the name that beats in my heart and on my lips, so I keep praying, “Lord Jesus, the Son of God, have mercy on me!” “Jesus” is the name that forgives and cleanses me! “Jesus” is the name that opens the gates of heaven!”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Jesus calls us by many names. He calls us servants, followers, disciples, co-workers. He calls us friends, His holy nation. He calls us children, living stones of a new temple, temples of His Holy Spirit. All of these names are important. They bestow upon us God’s honor and love, but none of them is so important as our own personal name, the name we received at the holy Baptism: Andrew, Olga, Anthony, Mary, Paraskeva. God called us by name, he knew us before we were born. He made us and formed us in the womb of the mother. He called us into existence. He loves us with His everlasting love. He wants us to be with Him forever. He came to be born at Christmas not just in Bethlehem but in our own hearts.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The Lord Jesus is asking everyone of us: “Will you receive Me? Behold, I have been standing, calling and knocking at the door of your soul all these years. I come to release you from sin and death, to set you free, to bring you God’s love and power, to help you achieve your fullest potential as My child. This is Jesus calling you! Do you hear Me?””

During the preparation for the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed the hymns of the Nativity.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian to stress the main points of his English homily. He also congratulated the parishioners on the occasion of the civic New Year and encouraged them to prepare appropriately for Christmas.

 

Sunday of the Holy Forefathers

 

On December 25, on Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, our parish held a nice celebration in our temple. The Rector of S. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily the Rector pointed out that the Forefathers are the righteous men and women who lived before the coming of Christ into this world. At this time of the year, when we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, we commemorate those Old Testament times when the Holy Forefathers lived. All of them were just but they realized that they were not able to achieve righteousness by their own abilities. Only God could help them to be just. For instance, Adam and Eve could not resist temptation, but following their expulsion from paradise they repented and kept praying God.
Lives of the Forefathers were the images and symbols of the events in the life of Christ. We can learn about them in the Bible. Thus it is very beneficial for us to read the Sacred Scripture.
Holy Forefathers lived by faith and were saved by it. Therefore, we also need to acquire such a faith. Unfortunately, our faith is weaker, thus we need to ask the holy righteous ancestors to pray for us.

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

Following the liturgical service the Rector and the parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company during the coffee hour.

Celebration of the Patronal Feast at St. Nicholas Cathedral

 

On December 19, on the holy day of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker our cathedral church in New York celebrated its patronal feast. His Grace, Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk led the Divine Liturgy on that occasion. Bishop John was co-served at the Liturgy by a number of clergy including the Rector of St. George Church in Bayside, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. 

Festal service at the Cathedral was attended by many faithful, among whom was our parish Warden, Olga Roussanow.

At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy Bishop John performed a short Prayer service before the icon of the parish Patron, St. Nicholas. His Grace also preached a brief homily and greeted the parishioners on the occasion of the patronal feast.

After the Liturgy His Grace, clergy and the faithful continued their celebration of St. Nicholas feast at the luncheon held in the cathedral hall.

26th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On December 18, on the 26th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as feast of St. Sabbas the Sanctified, we had a nice celebration in our Parish. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters! The first Gospel lesson we have heard today is about the importance of being grateful. It is also read for the Church services of thanksgiving. When the Holy Fathers speak about prayer – and prayer is our communication with God – they indicate that the highest sort of prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving. The Fathers say that this is the prayer by which the Angels constantly praise the Lord before His heavenly throne. And they find joy, happiness and the whole sense of their existence in that prayer. Thus it is very desirable to learn this kind of prayer, the prayer of thanksgiving.”
“Our spiritual experience shows that it is much easier to learn the prayer of petition. Our very life forces us to ask God for help. When we are in trouble, we begin to pray and to ask God to help us. We also ask for health, for success in our deeds, for the forgiveness of our sins. This kind of prayer is also important. Because of our sorrows and misfortunes we convert to God and pray to Him asking for something. And because of this prayer we understand that our life without God has no sense and that He is the only one who can really help us.”
“It is good that we realize that. But we should also realize that God is the only one who can heal us from our sins. And if we may remember to give thanks to the Lord for His help in our life situations, we often forget to be grateful to God for His power to heal us from sin. This happens because we get used to our sins. They become our second nature. And we do not notice them. This attitude of not noticing our sins, not realizing our sinfulness is very dangerous for the soul. And one of the results of such an attitude is our inability to be grateful to God.”
“To realize how bad is ungratefulness we can imagine a very casual example. Let’s say we rescued our next door neighbor from a great danger. Let’s say that we saved his life. It may happen – life is full of surprises. And let’s imagine that after a week or so this person does not wish to talk to us, to say “hello” and even look at our side, turns his face away from us. Would we like that? Of course, not. We would be offended and shocked. Comparing that example to our own spiritual situation we may see that God is the one who rescued all of us from a great danger of being condemned, He saved us from our sins, from our spiritual death. He also established His Church on the earth; and the Church holds the keys to eternal life. The Lord granted us the greatest Mysteries which make our souls alive, heal them from a sinful state. The Lord opened for us His embrace, so we may not perish in sin and in our wickedness. But we ungratefully turn away from Him and do not wish to see the Lord in our life. How evil is such ungratefulness!”
“Today we heard about such ungratefulness in the Gospel lesson (Lk. 17, 12-19). Our Lord healed ten lepers. Leprosy is a terrible disease when the human body is decaying but a sick person does not feel pain. Thus it is an image of a sinful soul that does not feel its sins. And those ten lepers lifted their voices crying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Lk. 17, 13). And the Lord performed a miracle. He sent them to the priests to be examined, and while they went, they became cleansed. And behold, only one of those ten returned, began to glorify God and thanked Jesus. And the Gospel indicates that he was a Samaritan, not a Jew. Again, we hear that Samaritans who were heretics and enemies, could be better than the Jews who were expected to be more pious and just. Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Lk. 17, 17-18).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us hear these words of Christ which can be related to us, the ungrateful ones. Where are we who were healed by God from sin? Where are we who are born in the font of Baptism and anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit? Which is our gratefulness to the Lord? How do we show it? Do we glorify the Lord? Do we praise Him by our life? Where are we, the Christians called for eternal life? Will we give thanks to our Lord and Savior! Let us hear that voice of Christ! And let us give thanks to Him by our words, our deeds and by our lives!”

During the time of preparation for Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed hymns dedicated to Venerable Sabbas.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian to stress the main ideas of his English homily. He also congratulated our Sacristan Andrew Malyshew on the occasion of his past name day wishing him God’s help, good health and success in his service to the Church. Traditional Polychronion was sung.

 

St. George’s Rector Blessed a Home Care Office in Rego Park

 

On Sunday, December 11, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov was invited to perform a blessing of the Seniorcare Home Health Agency office in Rego Park, NY.

The Rector came to Rego Park after Sunday Liturgy. He performed an abbreviated Blessing of water and the rite of Blessing of the office. Fr. Igor was assisted by our parishioner and choir singer Olga Vnukova-Stateikin.  

Following the rite of blessing our Rector preached a brief sermon on the importance of the Church blessing and spiritual direction for any area of human life, and also encouraged the office staff to attend the holy temple.

25th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On December 11, on the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily the Rector pointed out that after frequent reading of the Holy Gospel we may learn that the main Commandment of Christ is the Commandment of love. The very coming of Christ into this world was a manifestation of God’s love. This is why Jesus performed different miracles of healing. One of them is described in today’s Gospel lesson (Lk. 13, 10-17). Our Lord healed a woman who had a spirit of infirmity and was bent over for 18 years. But that healing provoked an improper reaction from a ruler of the synagogue because Jesus performed a healing on the Sabbath. That person forgot that Sabbath was the Lord’s day, thus it should be dedicated to the works in honor of the Lord, to the works of love. We should remember that when we find different excuses not to help our neighbors.
The Rector also stressed that the sick woman is an image of our sinful soul. Our souls are also bent over by sin and they cannot see the heights of heaven. In the Church language, heaven means the God’s dwelling, an invisible world. Our souls in sin cannot see God, but can only see the ground beneath our feet, the earth. And the earth means this material world which contains good things, as well as evil things, it contains sin. Such is the state of our souls. But we should not fall into despair. The same Jesus Christ who healed the woman who had been bent over, can heal our souls if we desire so. In order to be healed we need to be with the Church, in a gathering of the faithful. In today’s Gospel story the sick woman encountered Jesus in the synagogue, in a place of gathering of the believers. And we also encounter God in the temple. And if that sick woman met Jesus once in her life, we meet the Lord every time in our Christian temples. We meet Him in a mystical, but also a very efficient way.

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

24th Sunday after Pentecost. Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into Temple

 

On December 4, on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as on the feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into Temple, our parish family gathered at St. George Church for a nice celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the readings from the Gospel he preached a homily in English:

“Today’s first Gospel lesson is telling us about a wealthy man whom God called “fool”, although he was not a fool by this world standards. He was a good and successful businessman, a landowner. Yet he was fool in the eyes of God because he grew rich for Himself instead of becoming rich toward God.”
“Our Lord says, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Lk. 11, 23). It happens that a man is working all his life gathering his wealth, taking a good care of his business, worrying about making more and more riches and thinking that it will sustain him for many years. But at the end it turns out that all these efforts are useless because this treasure is gathered without God. God is not there, thus it has no worth. Thus all such man’s labors become unsuccessful and fruitless. The only true wealth and true possession is the one which a man does not lose here on earth, but takes it along with himself into afterlife. Such a treasure is gathered in the Lord.”
“How could we become rich toward God? All our actions and all our desires need to be in accordance with the faith of Christ. They need to be in accord with the Commandments of God. Jesus Christ has to lead our lives. Then we could gather the treasures that will be in Christ and become rich toward God. And such a treasure will never be taken away from us. Just as Mary from today’s second Gospel lesson listening to the words of Christ acquired a better part than her sister Martha who worried about unnecessary things. The Lord said that Mary will not be deprived of her chosen part (Lk. 10, 42).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! We are living in the world where we may find two areas: the area of good and the area of evil, the area of truth and the area of falsehood. The true wealth which may never be taken away from us consists of things belonging to the good and to the truth. And the good and truth belong to Christ. Therefore, if we do not labor and do not gather with the Lord, we cannot acquire any good or any truth. And if we possess anything without Christ, it is illusionary, not real, not valuable. Therefore, all our efforts and our works will be useless.”
“Celebrating today’s feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God, we see the Virgin Mary as a four-year-old girl brought to the Temple by Her parents Joachim and Anna. Their daughter was the most precious treasure they possessed. And they wished to offer that treasure to God. Most Holy Virgin stayed in the Temple until such time as She Herself will accept to become a temple, Her womb becoming the dwelling for God Incarnate. The Virgin becomes the Mother of God, She who from that day on inhabits the Temple, Herself becomes the Temple of God. What treasure can be greater than that?”
“Through the Most Holy Virgin we clearly see that we all become what we inhabit.  If we choose to live in a world of violence, greed, envy, lust, thirst for power, those vices will dwell within us. We will become them. We become what we inhabit. But if we inhabit the Church of God, then the Church of God will inhabit us. In the words of the Apostle Paul, we will become living temples of God.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us ask ourselves: which world do we inhabit? Do we inhabit a world of evil or a world of God? And which world therefore inhabits us? Which is our choice? Or to ask: in which area do we labor? In the area of truth or in the area of falsehood? Do we gather with Christ or do we scatter? In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks to us: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk. 11, 28).  Let us, therefore, not only hear the words of Christ, but also keep them, inhabiting the world of God, the area of good, so that God will then come and inhabit us.”

The choir was prayerfully performing for the first time of this year the pre-Nativity hymns, as well as the hymns of the feast of the Entrance.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers performed a rite of glorification in front of the icon of the feast. The Rector then preached a short sermon in Russian to convey main ideas of his English homily.