Cheesefare Sunday. Feast of the Meeting of the Lord

 

On February 18, on the Cheesefare Sunday, we had a nice and prayerful celebration in our parish. We also celebrated feast of the Meeting of the Lord transferred to Sunday. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Today is Cheesefare Sunday, the last day before the beginning of Lent. Today the Church wishes us to commemorate the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise. Today we also celebrate feast of the Meeting of the Lord, a great holy day which is always celebrated 40 days after Christmas. On this day we recall that the Most Holy Mother of God brought the Child Jesus into the Temple of Jerusalem to present Him before the Lord and God. By doing so, the parents of Jesus fulfilled the command of the Law of Moses. Since He was the first-born Son of His Mother, according to the Old Testament law He had to be offered to God. His parents had to come to Jerusalem, to the holy Temple and to perform a ritual, a sacrifice for Him. And they did so. They accomplished this after 40 days of His birth because, again according to the law of Moses, the Blessed Mother had to wait 40 days to be considered purified after childbirth to be able to enter the Temple.”
“The Gospel of the feast tells us that there was a righteous man named Simeon who met the Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus in the Temple. Simeon received Christ in his arms. He knew immediately that this Child was the Redeemer promised by all of Israel’s prophecies. Being inspired by the Holy Spirit, Simeon uttered prophetic words which form the hymn sung or chanted at the end of every Vespers service: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word…” (Lk. 2, 25-29). Thus, this holy elder finally met His Lord and Savior, achieved a goal of his life – to unite with God. But holy tradition tells that Simeon waited many years for this moment. The Most Holy Mother of God waited 40 days of purification while Simeon waited much longer – years, even centuries.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord always gives some time to wait, to go through a labor, a test. The number 40 is very much frequent in such spiritual matters. We just said that Meeting of the Lord occurred 40 days after His Nativity. But we may recall that 40 years God made the Jews to wander in the wilderness before they became ready and worthy to inherit the Promised Land. 40 days our Lord Jesus Christ fasted in the wilderness before He began His earthly ministry, His mission of salvation of the world. And 40 days, according to our pious beliefs, human soul after death is waiting to be admitted into the place where it will wait for the Last Judgment- either to heaven or to hell. 40 years, 40 days…”
“Tomorrow we start Lent, the 40 days of spiritual endeavor, spiritual labor and warfare. This is given us to prepare for Pascha, for the feast of the Resurrection of Christ. These 40 days of fast are given us as a symbolic time to return to the paradise lost by Adam but regained by Christ. Just like the Jews in the wilderness aiming to the promised land, just as the Blessed Mother waiting to bring Her first-born Son to the Temple and just as Jesus Christ Himself who fasted in the wilderness, we are supposed to reach our goal: to become ready and worthy to celebrate Holy Pascha, to enter into the joy of our Lord, to feast rejoicing of His Resurrection from the dead. But this symbolic goal must remind us of our main and real goal: to join the Lord Himself in His eternal Kingdom, to enter into His everlasting joy, into the banquet hall of His never-ending feast. It did happen to righteous elder Simeon who waited and was not disappointed. It could happen to us. And it will if we endure the test, if we fulfill the endeavor, if we win the warfare.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us ask our Lord Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother to assist us in our journey towards Holy Pascha. Let us ask them to lead us through these 40 days of Lent and through our life to reach eternal Kingdom of the Lord, so we may, along with holy Simeon say,” Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace!””

The choir beautifully performed the hymns of the Meeting of the Lord during the time of preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing main ideas of his Russian homily. He also made some announcements regarding the beginning of Lent and the service schedule.

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

After the Vespers dismissal the Rector preached a sermon about the importance of forgiveness in our spiritual, as well as our earthly life. After finishing the sermon he asked for forgiveness bending his knees. The parishioners also knelt down and asked their pastor for forgiveness. Then each one of the faithful could come to the Rector to kiss the cross and to express the forgiveness.

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

2018 Annual Parish Meeting

 

The Annual Parish Meeting of St. George Church was held on Sunday, February 11, 2018, following the Divine Liturgy. Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov presided.

Church Warden, Olga Roussanow read the minutes of the last Annual Meeting held in 2017. The Rector reported on financial situation. He informed that parish income in the year 2017 was much higher  than in the previous year, but it was only due to a special donation of 10,000 euros (11,677 dollars) generously made by a Ukrainian businessman and politician. Otherwise, we would have a deficit due to the increasing expenses. Thanks to a generous contribution from Ukraine, we had almost a $ 10,000 surplus.  Thus, financial support of the parish and paying membership dues are very important.

It had been noted that Parish membership increased due to the joining of 3 persons.

Further, a future project to change the flooring in the church was discussed. The Rector pointed out that the donation made to our Parish should cover the most of the expenses anticipated in order to complete such a project. It had been recommended that several estimates taken from the companies willing to perform the work of changing our flooring to wood. The work is planned to be done some time after Pascha.

Parishioners discussed also some other issues and concerns.

Meatfare Sunday

 

On February 11, on the Meatfare Sunday, we had a nice liturgical service at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters! Today is Meatfare Sunday, and I will begin this homily by quoting one of the great Church writers, St. Demetrius of Rostov. He wrote:
““Recently we were celebrating the Nativity, the first coming of Christ into this world. Today we commemorate His second coming. Not long ago we were glorifying the Christ born, and now we are hearing about the same Christ who is going to come in His glory. Not long ago we were rejoicing about His first coming, and today we are trembling imagining His second appearance. The One who came the first time and the One who will come again is the same Jesus Christ, but those two comings are different.””
““At the first time He came as a meek and mild Lamb, at the second time He will come as a fearsome and vengeful lion. At the first time He came to take away the sins of the world and to grant forgiveness; at the second time He will come to judge the sins of the whole world and to reward everyone according to his deeds. At the first time He was expected and foreseen by the Prophets but He came in silence. For the second time He will come unexpectedly, but with a great noise and commotion. Then the earth will be shaken, the mountains will tremble, the dead will rise from the graves, all the works of human hands will burn, the skies will change. At the first coming, the eyes of man saw Him as a Baby who was swaddled, lying in a manger, held by His Mother’s hands and nourished by the breasts; in the second coming, we will see Him no longer an Infant, but a Man sitting on the throne with many glories, angry at lawless ones, shaking heaven and earth and ruining the whole universe. Oh, how terrible will be the second coming of the Lord!””
“These were the impressive and beautiful words of St. Demetrius of Rostov, a Church Father who lived more than 3 hundred years ago. If we read his homily on Meatfare Sunday, you may see that nothing had changed over those 3 hundred years. We are still waiting for the second coming of Christ and the human nature is still corrupted by sin, so we expect to be judged. But if we examine the Gospel lesson that we heard today, we may conclude that the Last Judgment of the Lord will be based on one important thing – on our works of mercy. Our good or bad deeds will be evaluated, but the Lord will be looking for the works of love, the works of mercy to bless us. And only if He finds none or not much of them, we will be condemned.”
“This is the way the Church prepares us for the special and saving time of Lent. On the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee we were taught to appreciate a humble prayer. On the Sunday of the Prodigal Son the Church instructed us to repent and convert. And today, on Meatfare Sunday we are reminded that our good deeds, our works of mercy are the most important criteria of our defense before the dreadful judgment seat of Christ. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”, says the Lord (Mt. 9, 13). That means that all our prayers, our conversions may be in vain if we do not practice mercy towards others. That means that all our services, long vigils, our fasts, feasts and keeping all the customs may become useless if we don’t love and don’t show mercy. Those holy traditions are important to make us ready to do those important works of mercy. But if we fail to feed the hungry, to give drink to a thirsty, to take in the stranger, to clothe the naked, to visit a sick or a prisoner, we may not justify ourselves by our prayers, fastings and Church services. St. Paul says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13, 1-2).”
“Thus, the Last Judgment will be dreadful for those who sin, for those who lack love and compassion and for those who fail to do good. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us hurry to do good deeds, to practice the works of mercy. Otherwise, at the end of the world we may resemble those sinners who, according to the words of the Gospel, will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” (Lk. 23, 30). We would prefer not to live through the Last Judgment but, on the contrary, everybody will be alive, for the dead will rise and the living will change to stand at the judgment. Let us prepare by love and by the works of mercy to stand at the right hand of our Lord and Savior and to reign with Him in His eternal glory!”

Since there was no services for the departed performed on Meatfare Memorial Saturday, the Rector added the Litany for the deceased to the Liturgy with commemoration of those who had fallen asleep.

The choir prayerfully performed penitential hymns from the Lenten Triodion during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian stressing the main thoughts of his English homily. He also made some announcements regarding the schedule and Church rules of the coming week.

After the liturgical service Rector and parishioners held Annual Parish Meeting.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Feast of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church

 

On February 4, on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, as well as the feast of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, our parish family held a beautiful celebration. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Scripture readings he delivered a homily in Russian.

In his homily the Rector compared the parable about Prodigal Son to the sad situation in which the society of former Russian Empire found itself after Russian Revolution. Like the Prodigal Son it went away from the Father’s house which was the traditional living, to a far country of godless existence and erroneous conduct. It began to build a new Tower of Babel but very soon it felt hunger and need. But not every member of that society fell into that delusion. Many faithful sons and daughters of the Orthodox Church wished to remain with their traditional belief and in the Holy Faith. They were persecuted and murdered by godless authorities. Therefore, we now have so many Martyrs and Confessors in the Russian Church. Thank God, they did not betray their faith and now they are our intercessors in heaven. Fortunately, in the recent decades the society of the former Soviet Union understood its error and began to return to a normal living. However, not all wish to follow the example of the Prodigal Son who returned to the Father’s house. Some did repent, converted to the Orthodox faith but still many did not. And the society in Russia as a whole did not repent for the crimes of the past. There are still monuments to the leaders of godless regime and the streets and towns are still bearing names of the murderers and persecutors of the Christians.
What should be done in this situation? Christianity is a religion of seeming contradictions. We are being saved only as a community, in the Church. But, on the other hand, salvation is a totally personal affair. We wish that the society may be saved as a whole, but we realize that what is really important is that each one would save his or her soul. Therefore, we need to save our own souls. We ourselves need to repent and to follow the example of the Prodigal Son. And then we need to pray to the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church that as many as possible could be saved and find their way back to the Father’s house.

During the time of the preparation for the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed the hymns from the Lenten Triodion which begin to be sung on this Sunday, starting with the words “The door of repentance open to me, o Giver of life…”. After those hymns the singers also sung the hymns dedicated to the New Martyrs and Confessors of Rus’.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a brief sermon in English stressing the main points of his Russian homily. He also congratulated the altar server Anton Malyshev on the occasion of his past nameday and handed to him a Theotokian prosphora. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

Following the Liturgy the Rector performed a memorial service (Litia) to commemorate all the deceased who suffered during the time of godless persecutions.

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

 

On January 28, on the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, we had a liturgical celebration at St. George Church. In the absence of the Rector, the Divine Liturgy was served by Priest Mark Rashkov, a cleric of St. Nicholas Cathedral.

Following the Gospel reading Fr. Mark preached a homily on that Scripture lesson containing a parable about two men who came to the Temple to pray (Lk. 18, 10-14). A public sinner whom was the Publican had been justified in the eyes of God yet a superficially just Pharisee was not because of their inner attitude and the content of their prayer. The parable teaches not to exalt oneself but to be humble.

This time our Choir Director, Olga Roussanow was not able to come to the church because of her illness, but our singers managed well to sing a beautiful Liturgy.

Sunday after the Theophany

 

On January 21, on the Sunday after the Theophany, the 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 on the assigned reading (Mk.1). He pointed out that our Lord Jesus Christ in the very beginning of His ministry preached the repentance because such is the necessary beginning of following the Lord and Savior. Repentance must be understood in the Greek language of the New Testament as a “reform of one’s life”, a full conversion, and not just as a fervent prayer or contrition for our sins. Faithful need to learn how to repent and confess their sins. But it is impossible to repent by our own power, without God’s help. Our sinful nature does not permit us to do so. And the enemy is always offering us a “broken mirror”, a false image of ourselves. We need to reject that broken mirror and to look at ourselves in a true image. Then we will be able to reach the Kingdom of God preached by our Savior.


The choir prayerfully performed liturgical hymns during preparation for Holy Communion.


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

Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord

 

On January 19th Orthodox Church celebrates great feast of the Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord. Our parish had a beautiful celebration of that holy day led by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. He served the Divine Liturgy at St. George Church. Following the Gospel lesson the Rector preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily the Rector preached about the great mystery of God’s Incarnation which is celebrated during our major winter holy days – the Nativity and Theophany. Again he recalled that those two feasts used to be celebrated together because celebrating Incarnation we celebrate the Theophany – God being with us, appearing to the world. As we have been dying in Adam, we became alive in Christ. This is why we also need true Theophany which is to see Christ in our lives and to follow Him. We need to pray that we may receive the fruits of the saving endeavor of the Lord. What does it mean? It is not enough to declare that we are Christians. It is not enough to say, “I believe in Christ!” It is not even enough to be baptized, for many of us were baptized in the young age. We need to follow Christ and make our lives following Him. Let us remember that we are not alone but God is with us.
The Rector also wished that holy water being blessed today in our temples and at different fountains of water may assist us with divine grace and grant us God’s blessing and help needed for our health in the body and salvation in the spirit.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns of the feast during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the Prayer behind the Ambo the Rector performed the Great Blessing of water.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers came before the icon stand and performed the rite of glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Theophany. Then Fr. Igor congratulated parishioners on the occasion of the great holy day.

Sunday before the Theophany. Circumcision of the Lord. Feast of St. Basil the Great

 

On January 14, 2018, on the Sunday before Theophany, as well as feasts of the Circumcision of the Lord and of St. Basil the Great, we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we have a combined celebration of at least three feasts. On this day we celebrate Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as commemoration of St. Basil the Great. And today is Sunday before the Theophany. In addition, many of us remember that today is the civic New Year, so-called the “Old New Year”. First of all, let me tell you that the New Year’s Day is not so important for the Church celebrations. It is not even something absolute or unchangeable. The New Year in Byzantine Empire was on September 1, the way it is still observed in our Church calendar. Our ancestors, ancient Slavs celebrated their New Year on March 1. It was rather Western European custom to begin the New Year in January, as we do now. This is why the New Year’s Day is not so important in the Church than celebration of other, more religious feasts.”
“Our authentic Christian and folk tradition knows three winter holy days celebrated on the row: Nativity, Circumcision and Baptism of Christ. And the period of their celebration is called “Sviatki” in Russian tradition. Today we are in the very middle of that festal period. We just finished celebrating Christmas and are preparing to celebrate Theophany. Between those great holy days we have today’s feast of the Circumcision. Sometimes we may hear that our people are wandering why we, the Christian Church, celebrate the Circumcision of Christ, since we don’t practice circumcision.”
“To answer that question we should look at all these three winter holy days as connected and proclaiming for us one great message: God became Man, God came to the world; He did it to save mankind. This is why Nativity and Baptism of Christ used to be celebrated on one day and was called the Theophany. This was done in the Ancient Church, but later the Church decided to introduce a separate feast of the Nativity to replace a popular pagan celebration in honor of the sun. Therefore, the idea of both Christmas and Theophany is that God became Man, appeared to the world to save it. And becoming Man, He had to follow the rules given by God Himself to the men. One of those rules was to circumcise male children after 8 days of their birth. This was in the Covenant between God and Abraham and this was in the Law of Moses. And Child Jesus had been circumcised on the 8th day of His birth. It took place, and we commemorate it. And this commemoration teaches us to follow the rules of the Church. Jesus followed the rules of the Old Testament Church although He was to establish the Church of the New Testament. So we should now obey all the rules of our Church. The Saint whom we honor today, St. Basil the Great, was, by the way, a prominent maker of the different Church rules. His memory today also reminds us of those important things.”
“Today’s feast offers us a great mystery to reflect on: Infinite and Eternal God becomes a little Child and does not despise to be circumcised. But keeping in mind His future, we understand that Jesus also did not despise to be crucified. Thus, circumcision was only the beginning of His humble service and sacrifice for the human race. Today’s hymn calls Jesus an “eight-day-old by Mother and beginningless by Father”. This is the mystery of our faith: a beginningless and endless God becomes a Man, He condescends to our nature to save it. This is why today’s troparion says, “glory to Thine Providence, glory to Thine condescendence, o only Lover of mankind!””
“This is why, dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate today’s feast. And again, it is not a separate feast but a part of our wonderful celebration of the Incarnation of the Lord. Today’s Sunday Gospel lesson is telling us about St. John the Baptist who was preparing the way for our Lord Jesus Christ. St. John called the people saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight” (Mk. 1, 3). We are also called. We called to open our hearts to the Lord, to prepare ourselves for His coming and to prepare ourselves to follow Him. Let us recall the events of the Nativity. When our Lord was about to be born into the world, the Holy Family came to Bethlehem but could not find any place to stay. Human dwellings shut their doors for the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. This was because the human souls were also closed for the Son of God coming into the world. Let us not repeat what those people did in those times. Let us open our souls to follow Him, so that “whoever believes in Him may perish but may have eternal life” (Jn. 3, 16).”

The choir prayerfully performed hymns dedicated to St. Basil the Great and to the feast of the Circumcision during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian addressing the main ideas of his English homily.
Following the Rector’s sermon our sacristan Andrew Malyshev congratulated Fr. Igor on the occasion of his birthday. Parishioners presented the Rector their gifts, among which was an artistic portrait of Fr. Igor created by Vitaliy Malyshev. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

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

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company. The toasts to the Rector had been made and Fr. Igor was presented with a birthday cake.

 

Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas

 

On January 7 Russian Orthodox Church observes feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, also known as Christmas. Most of our parishioners, as well as some visitors to our temple 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 preached a short sermon expressing a desire that we may keep the Newborn Infant Jesus in our hearts all the time, not just during Christmas celebration. He called the faithful to imitate righteous Joseph, the head of the Holy Family who preserved and defended Infant Jesus. Remembering that if we receive Holy Communion, we receive Jesus Himself physically and spiritually, we should keep Him and His grace just as like on this holy day, so the Lord may be 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 his successful defense of the doctoral thesis and awarding him a PhD in Theology.

Sunday before the Nativity

 

On December 31, 2017, on the Sunday before the Nativity, St. George Church parish family had a nice celebration. In the absence of the Rector he Divine Liturgy was served by Priest Mark Rashkov.
Following the Gospel lesson Fr. Mark preached a homily.
The choir beautifully performed the hymns of the feast.
After the liturgical celebration parishioners labored together to decorate the Christmas.