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

 

On October 2, on the Sunday after the Exaltation, St. George Parish family had a beautiful service. In addition to Sunday celebration, we also honored our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov on his name day. Fr. Igor headed the Divine Liturgy. He was co-served by the guests from St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York: Abbot Nicodemus (Balyasnikov) and Protodeacon Igor Panachev.

After the Gospel lesson proclaimed by the deacon, the Rector preached the following homily:

“Dear Fathers! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate Sunday after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Our Lord teaches us in today’s Gospel that His every true follower has to deny himself and take up the cross (Mk. 8, 34). Thus a Christian life requires a sacrifice and an endeavor.”
“A lot of us grew up listening to stories of heroes who sacrificed themselves for their country. They were often about heroes of different wars. Sometimes, we heard about people in other countries and even some of the Church’s Saints. But whatever we heard, we may notice that all these stories teach us courage, patience, hard work and self-denial. In some cases, the hero gave his or her own life to save others”.
“Our Savior, Jesus Christ, explained how all of us can be heroes of self-sacrifice. He taught this in today’s Gospel saying that by saying that whoever wants to be like Christ must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Him. Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Christ and the Gospel will save his life. And whoever is ashamed of being with Jesus (in or out of church) and ashamed of His teachings will be rejected by Christ when He returns on Judgment Day”.
“In some instances, a person sacrifices all his or her life to some noble cause and lives to fulfill it. This is seen in many men and women who dedicate themselves to the monastic life. This is also seen when a young mother decides to raise a child without any help from her relatives and renounces her own personal or professional life for this child. But self-denial may also lead to the ultimate sacrifice, not to dedicating, but to losing one’s life in the name of the Gospel. Our calendar is full of different Saints, especially the Holy Martyrs who lost their lives for Christ and for the Gospel”.
“Today we commemorate Holy faithful prince Igor who lived in the XII century. Although he is not a clear example of a person who died for Christ, his tragic destiny showed how the words of today’s Gospel are true. St. Igor became the Great Prince of Kiev at the time of a cruel struggle for the Kievan throne between the two princely factions. He belonged to one of them and he was placed on the throne of Kiev by that group. But after being betrayed by his own subjects who kissed the cross to be faithful to him, after losing a battle to his enemies and after being held captive, St. Igor agreed to renounce this world and to become a monk. He probably understood the words of Christ who said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk. 8, 36). The power of a prince which he lost so fast, and the throne of Kiev which was taken away from St. Igor – all this proved that there is no profit for a man to gain anything if he loses his soul. Therefore, St. Igor being tonsured a monk, decided to retire from the political struggle and to spend the rest of his life in endeavors of piety. However, the evil people from the Kievan nobility decided to kill the prince-monk. They incited the mob who attacked St. Igor in the church, during the Divine Liturgy, seized him and tried to murder. He was first rescued by his brother, but the mob chased Igor further and finally brutally killed him. As I said, although St. Igor did not die for Christ sake, he did die because of the evil which overcame human nature of his enemies. Those people did not wish to follow Christ because they did not deny their sinful nature, their evil desires and cruel passions. A Christian should understand that political, social and other preferences are not so important as our spiritual life”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Dear Fathers! Let us understand our true calling, a calling of a Christian. It is to deny ourselves, to deny our sinful nature, an evil nature and passions. Let us take our crosses by fulfilling our duties and being patient in our lives. Let us follow Christ who Himself is the Way to the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom to which we can come by the way of the Holy Cross”.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns of the Exaltation of the Cross before Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the clergy venerated the Holy Cross in the middle of the church.

Following that Abbot Nicodemus on behalf of the clergy of the Patriarchal Parishes greeted the Rector on his name day commending Fr. Igor for his fulfilling ministry and diligent pastoral care for St. George parish, especially in today’s difficult times of discord between the people and the Orthodox nations. He also conveyed the greetings from our present and former Archpastors, Bishop Matthew of Sourozh, and Archbishop Justinian. Fr. Nicodemus presented Fr. Igor and our parish with the gift from Archbishop Justinian – the covers for the Eucharistic vessels. The Rector thanked Fr. Nicodemus for his greetings and for the gift. Then the church Warden, Olga Roussanow had a speech and on behalf of our parishioners also congratulating the Rector. Traditional Polychronion was proclaimed to Fr. Igor. Then the greetings were also extended to Protodeacon Igor Panachev and a Polychronion proclaimed on his behalf.

Our celebration continued at festal luncheon. The clergy and our parishioners enjoyed delicious meals, and a nice company. A toast was raised on behalf of the Rector celebrating his name day.

Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

 

On September 27 the Holy Orthodox Church celebrates the great feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. On that day we had a festal service at St. George Church headed by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.

Before the reading of the Hours the Rector and the altar server performed a procession with the Holy Cross. They proceeded from the sanctuary to the middle of the church placing the Cross on the stand and then venerated it.

During the Divine Liturgy, after the Gospel lesson, Fr. Igor preached a homily in Russian. The English version of that homily is as follows:

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 Greco-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 single pregnant mother, hope for the terminally ill, and hope for the poor. 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 Only-begotten 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”.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns of the Exaltation of the Cross before Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the clergy and the altar server performed glorification of the feast in the middle of the church and venerated the Holy Cross.

Following the Liturgy the Rector served a memorial Litia requested by Juliana Avraam to commemorate her deceased family members. He also performed a blessing of the mother after 40 days since childbirth over Evangelia (Lilia) Douvris praying for her and her newly-born baby. A memorial meal prepared by Juliana Avraam followed all our services.

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

 

On September 25, on the Sunday before the Exaltation, our parish had a beautiful celebration. In addition we observed feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God transferred to Sunday. The Divine Liturgy in our temple was served by the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. After the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate Sunday before the Exaltation of the Precious Cross. We also observe feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God. That holy day was during the last week and we transferred it to this Sunday. By the way, today is the final day, the leave-taking of that feast, so it would be the same service today, even if we would not transfer the feast”. “Today’s first reading from the Holy Gospel mentions the events from the Old Testament history. It says that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn. 3, 14). Our Lord Jesus Christ compared His mission of salvation to the mission of Moses who led the chosen people of God from the Egyptian captivity to the promised land. The Jews were wandering in the wilderness for the long 40 years. But God was taking care of them. He gave them food and water, He provided for His people. But the people complained and regretted that they left Egypt where they had a lot of food. They forgot that they were slaves in that country, and remembered only some good things they used to have there. A punishment for that ungratefulness to God and to Moses came soon. The Israelites came to an area full of poisonous snakes. Those serpents bit and killed a lot of people. Everybody could perish there if God did not stop that. God told Moses to make a copper snake and to raise it on a pillar. God told that any person who would look at the copper snake will not die of the poison”.
This event is the symbol of what happened on the Cross of Christ, and a prophecy of what is going on with the whole human race. Desert is this earthly life. It is full of poisonous snakes. Evil bites any human from birth and up to the last hour of his or her life. Countless snakes surround human life from all the sides. These are the sins and passions that surround us. There is no cure for that, if not a merciful God, who sends us not Moses, but His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Only if our gaze is turned to Christ, to His Cross, to the copper serpent of our faith, then we get healed”.
Celebrating the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God, we may notice that the Gospel lesson dedicated to that feast does not mention the birth of the Theotokos, moreover, it does not mention the Mother of God at all. That today’s second Gospel reading is always read on the feasts of the Theotokos, but it does not mention Her. It tells that one woman named Martha was busy with much serving while her sister named Mary (and she was not Mary the Mother of God) sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His words (Lk. 10, 39). If we recall today’s second Epistle reading, a lesson dedicated to the Mother of God, we may also notice that it doesn’t mention the Theotokos. It is about our Lord Jesus Christ. In the beginning Holy Apostle Paul says, Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2, 5). St. Paul teaches us to think like Jesus, to imitate Him, to fix our mind on Jesus. In other words, he wants us to focus on Christ, to gaze at Him in the same way as the Jews in the wilderness had to gaze at the copper serpent”.
Dear brothers and sisters! The whole life of the Most Holy Mother of God was in God and in Her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the Church honoring Her assigns such readings from the Sacred Scripture that are not directly about Her, but about Him, the Savior Jesus Christ. The Most Holy Theotokos was humble and modest. She did not speak much, did not stress Her importance. She was giving all the glory to Her Son, considering Herself the maidservant of the Lord (Lk. 1, 38). Listening the words of Jesus sitting at His feet mentioned in today’s Gospel, or having our mind the same as in Jesus Christ mentioned in today’s Epistle – these things are about the life of the Most Holy Mother of God. And it is the same life conduct as we recall in the Old Testament looking and gazing at the copper serpent, an object of salvation”.
Let us then, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, turn our spiritual eyes to our Lord Jesus Christ. The Most Holy Theotokos shows us a perfect example of that. She dedicated all Her life to Her Son, focusing on Him. Every moment of Her life, the life started at Her holy Nativity, was dedicated to the Savior. Every little drop of Her blood was for Him. The New Church Year begins with the celebration of that Nativity of the Theotokos, giving the beginning for the feasts marking our salvation. Thus, let us also, honoring Her, focus on Him, on His Holy Cross, let us ask for the forgiveness and delivery”.

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector had a petition for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian land” at the Great Entrance.

The choir beautifully performed the hymns of the Nativity of the Theotokos during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification in front of the festal icon singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast. Then Fr. Igor preached a brief sermon in Russian conveying the main points of his English homily. He also made some announcements.

14th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On September 18, on the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, we had a beautiful celebration in our parish. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today in the Holy Gospel 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)”.
That parable 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”.
If we recall the lives of the Saints commemorated today, we will also feel pessimistic. For today we honor Holy Prophet Zachariah and righteous Elizabeth, parents of St. John the Baptist. Last Sunday we celebrated the Beheading of St. John, his passing, and today is the memory of his holy parents. A week ago we were remembering the death of a just man, and today we commemorate sorrowful accounts from the life of St. Zachariah and Elizabeth. They both were persecuted because King Herod desired to destroy young St. John, so he wished to destroy his parents. They had to flee but the Forerunner’s father, St. Zachariah, was a priest, and he did not leave the Temple. He was murdered in the holy place, between the table of offerings and the altar of the Temple. So, recalling that we may feel sorrowful and negative”.
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 banquet, a wedding feast. In the times of Christ and in the 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. That wedding garment should be understood as our pure and sanctified soul, a soul adorned with virtues and divine grace. If we take care of the soul, prepare it for God’s Kingdom, then we will be accepted there. So, the Lord won’t throw us out of His banquet hall into the outer darkness. It is totally up to us – whether to come and whether to be dressed appropriately”.
We have to note that at those times of Christ, in the East, the guests did not have to bring their special garment. The wedding garment was provided by the family holding the feast, it was given at the entrance to the banquet hall. That means that the person lacking that dress in today’s parable, person thrown out by the king, somehow did not wish to put the garment on or to receive it. That was his choice. How many people, especially nowadays, do not wish to embrace pious and godly life, to be with the faithful, to receive the divine grace! Thus, such people will be thrown out from the Kingdom of Heaven. But if we do desire to be with the Lord, we will accept His invitation and we will receive the wedding garment at the entrance. That garment is the divine grace to help us, to make our souls cleansed and pure”.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, 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, allyouwho are wearyand 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“ (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”.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, despite some strictness and negativity of today’s Gospel lesson, let us remember that God’s love 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 extended 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 those who will be thrown out. But if we will do our best, we will join the holy ones, we will be among the Saints, in the Kingdom of Heaven, “where the sound of them that keep festival is unceasing, and the delight is endless of them who behold the ineffable beauty” of the Lord’s countenance!”

Since on the first Sunday of September the 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 nicely performed Psalm 33 and a prayer to the Most Holy Mother of God during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made some announcements regarding prayers offered for preservation of creation, as well as regarding the coming feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. Fr. Igor also greeted Phoebe Ching-Huei Li on her past name day proclaiming the Polychronion on her behalf and handing to her the Theotokian prosphora.

13th Sunday after Pentecost. Beheading of St. John the Baptist

 

On September 11, on the 13th 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. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the readings from the Scripture he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate the 13th Sunday after Pentecost and the sorrowful feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. The first Gospel tells the parable of the vineyard (Mt. 21, 33-42). We heard that story of the owner who built it and was sending his servants to get the fruits in due time. And we heard how the tenants, the vinedressers treated them, them and even the owner’s son. They killed the owner’s son. The second Gospel lesson told us how the holy and righteous man, St. John the Baptist, was executed (Mk. 6, 14-30). So, both Gospel readings today are about unjust killing, about wicked people murdering the innocent”.
“Unfortunately, it is very common in our life that unjust killings and terrible crimes take place. History of mankind is full of such transgressions. And we observe such things happening today. And we should not be surprised at that because this is part of the corrupted human nature. The son of the first man, the son of Adam, called Cain, became the first murderer. Murder is old as the humanity. But, on the other hand, when we hear about such iniquities or atrocities, we become shocked. And this is also because of our human nature. The same nature that is sick because of sin, is capable of terrible things, that same nature is containing the image of God and is called for goodness. And our nature, our soul, our feelings usually react at such things being shocked. Therefore, today we may reflect upon that call and upon what we are supposed to do to make the human kind better”.
“In today’s first Gospel parable, the vineyard is Israel. The owner is God. Israel is hedged around with natural borders. The winepress is the altar, the tower is the Temple. The tenants are the Jews. The servants are those sent by God, the prophets and holy ones who reminded the Jews that Israel was not theirs but God’s. But what did the Jews do? They beat and stoned and killed first the servants. Among them, St. John the Baptist was killed; king Herod ordered him to be beheaded. Then the heir, the Son of God, Jesus Christ was killed. Why? Because the Jews wanted everything for themselves. And so they ceased to be God’s people, they ceased to be Israel of God and were cast out of their land and scattered over all the face of the earth. Israel was given to others: the New Israel, the Church, was born”.
“This is why, we should realize that this parable is also addressed today to us, Orthodox of the New Israel. The vineyard is the planet where we Orthodox Christians live. It is hedged around by the presence of the Church. The wine-press is the altar. And the tower is the Church. And the servants are the Saints or the servants of the Church. And we Orthodox should ask ourselves how do we labor in the vineyard, how do we give the owner His share of grapes and how do we treat his servants? We should ask whether we do not want everything for ourselves forgetting about the true Owner and His rights. Do we act in a manner that suits us?”
“Going back to the Beheading of St. John, we may recall the specific reason why king Herod ordered to execute him. It was because the Holy Forerunner denounced the king for his sinful behavior. He said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mk. 6, 18). Herod committed the sin against the last Commandment of God, he coveted his neighbor’s wife. He took the wife of his brother Philip. That was actually both stealing and adultery. Nowadays such a person would probably feel more protected because now we have such things as divorce, and theoretically, a woman can leave one man and marry his brother. But still, even in our days, certain things which may be viewed as normal for regular people, are not suitable for the leaders of the nations, especially the royalty. [Last week Elizabeth II, the Queen of England passed away. We may recall how strictly the society reacted to certain personal choices of the members of the British royal family]. That is because such people are held to a higher standard. And Herod did not live up to that standard. But since he wanted to continue to live a sinful life, that led him to the unjust killing of the righteous man who was so inconvenient to that king”.
“This is why, dear brothers and sisters, we should ask ourselves whether we do everything lawful, whether we do everything right and that suits us? Because if we don’t, we want this vineyard for ourselves and forget the true Owner. And if we talk about holding the kings to a higher standard, let us remember that our title, a title of a Christian person, a human being who is baptized and belongs to the Orthodox Church – that title is high enough to be held to an appropriate standard. If something is normal for faithless and adulterous generation of this world, it is not suitable for us. Otherwise, we are on the way of becoming like those wicked vinedressers who began to think that the vineyard belongs to them”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us keep ourselves and our immortal souls to the higher standard. Let us worthily and diligently labor cultivating the vineyard of our life entrusted to us by God. Let us be attentive to God’s call and to His servants asking us for the share of the grapes. Let us honor the holy people, the Saints who passed from this life, people like Holy Forerunner and Baptist John. Let us also respect the servants of God sent to while we live – the priests and bishops of the Church. Let us finally honor and respect the Owner’s Son, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified for us because of the wicked people, but Who redeemed our souls to make us good workers of His new vineyard, the New Israel and then to make us worthy of His eternal blessedness!”

During preparation for Holy Communion the choir nicely performed the hymns of the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar server performed glorification in the middle of the church singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast before the icon stand.

Following that the Rector congratulated Moses Dunetz on his past name day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed and the Theotokian prosphora was handed to that parishioner.

Following that the Rector performed the blessing of the students who begin the school year. He had a brief speech in Russian greeting the parishioners on the celebrated feast and expressing his wish that our Orthodox students will really embrace knowledge and wisdom through their school studies.

11th Sunday after Pentecost. Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God

 

On August 28, on the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, our parish family had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk) was present and prayed at the sanctuary. After the readings from the Sacred Scripture the Rector addressed the faithful with the following homily:

Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today is the 11th Sunday after Pentecost. And the Gospel lesson is telling us a parable about a merciful king and an unmerciful lender (Mt. 18, 23-35). It is about the sad situation in the humanity – that someone may be kind and compassionate, but some happen to be cruel and ungrateful. Thinking about that Gospel story we see how imperfect people are. But today, celebrating the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, we may be shown that the Blessed Virgin Mary was, in fact, a perfect human being. So, let us speak about Her”.
The name of today’s feast suggests that we do not celebrate the death of the Mother of God. She did not die, but fell asleep. Thus the feast is called the Dormition, Falling Asleep. Being Orthodox Christians, at every Liturgy we pray that we may also have a falling asleep, a similar end of our earthly life. We ask the Lord that a Christian ending to our lives may be “painless, blameless and peaceful,” and that we may have a “good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ””.
Speaking of the Most Holy Mother of God, we have to remember that She is the first Christian Saint. In Her we can see a perfect Christian. And we can see our own vocation as a reality, being accomplished in Her life and death. She is an example for us, but at the same time, we know that because She is the Mother of Christ, She prays for us, and we can ask in our prayers to Her to be with us now and also at the time of our death. And we believe very strongly that She will be there because, as it was said, She became the first Saint of the Church”.
But speaking about the Blessed Virgin, we have to remember that She was also the first Saint before the Dormition. And the life of the Mother of God can be for us an example of a Christian life”.
Today’s Gospel lesson which is read for all feasts of the Theotokos, tells us that some woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Jesus: “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You”. But the Lord said to her: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Lk. 11, 27-28). If Jesus agreed only with the words of that woman, He would confirm the blessedness of His Holy Mother. And it would be right. But our Lord always wishes us to do more than just right. He does not tell that the woman is wrong, but He adds: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” It is good to be the Mother of the Savior, but it is better to hear the word of God and obey it”.
The Most Holy Mother of God is an example of a human being who obeys the word of God. She did obey when She received that Annunciation that She will bear the Son of God. She was obedient all other days of Her life. That is very important for us. We are Orthodox Christians, and that means that we also have to accept and to be obedient to the word of God. And what is the word of God to us? It is the Sacred Scripture, first of all, the Holy Gospel. The Gospel is like a constitution for us, the main law”.
Secondly, the Mother of God was a human being who prayed, who was always with Christ, not only physically but spiritually – at the first miracle of Christ, She takes the initiative: She was there. And that is also something for us – we are Christians, so we have to stay in the Church. The life of the Church is necessary for us to be saved – not only the Gospel, the word of Christ, but the work of Christ in the community of the Church”.
And the third thing – this is very important – the Mother of God is an example of obedience to Her own Son. And that is also important for us, because we have the Gospel – the word of the Lord; we have the life of the Church; and then we have our Church hierarchy, the bishops. It is important and necessary for us to be obedient also to the hierarchy. The bishops represent Christ, so we have to be obedient to them”.
Dear brothers and sisters! We cannot separate the Gospel, Church life and our obedience to Christ. If we accept those three points, and if we have a life in that spirit, then the end of our life here in this world will be also not a death but a dormition, a falling asleep – a holy dormition – and we will receive from Christ the Kingdom of Heaven”.

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

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar server performed the glorification in front of the festal icon singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Dormition.

After the service the Rector had a brief sermon in Russian and made some announcements.

 

10th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On August 21, on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! We past the great feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Today’s Sunday is between two great holy days – Transfiguration and Dormition. Today’s lesson from the Gospel is about our Lord coming down from the mountain of Transfiguration and facing the evil of this world – a man possessed by a demon. Not long before Jesus was showing His Disciples His shining face of the Son of God, He was conversing with Moses and Elijah, and now He is back to the reality of the corrupt human life. He has to cast out a demon. In order to succeed, the Lord desires to be supported by the faith of the people. Thus that reading again shows us how it is important to have faith. And faith is comforted by prayer and by fasting”.
The child possessed by a demon described in today’s Gospel was tormented in different ways. Sometimes he would fall into the fire, at other times he would fall into the water. In other words the demon, who lived inside the son, was trying to destroy him by burning him to death or drowning him, in order to occupy that soul to all eternity”.
The falling into fire and water also show us how the demons abuse God’s creation. Fire is not a tool with which to burn and destroy, but a gift of God for heating, cooking and other useful activities. Water is not a tool with which to drown, but a gift of God for drinking and washing and other useful activities. Moreover, we can see how fire is also a symbol of the fire of passion and anger which can possess those who are attacked by demons, and water is a symbol of the waves of despair which can also possess those who are attacked by demons”.
We may wonder how did the demon get inside the man’s son and possess him? To this question we have the reply of Christ: “O faithless and perverse generation” (Mt. 17, 17). The demon came into possession of the son through unbelief, faithlessness. Not only the son’s unbelief, but also the unbelief of the father and others around the son who could have cared for him and given him faith. However, as with everything that God allows to happen, there is a positive, providential aspect to this illness. It is clear that because of the illness of the son, the father has been brought to know humility. Thus he calls Christ, “Lord” and asks, “Have mercy on my son” (Mt. 17, 15). This shows humility, not pride. God gives His grace to the humble ones. Thus the possessed son of the humble father was healed”.
Understanding that, we may still ask: What is the solution to the sickness of the son? The answer is “prayer and fasting”, for this is how Christ casts the demon out of the son. Prayer and fasting are the deepening of faith. The Fathers of the Church call prayer and fasting a “two-edged sword”. In other words, where there is prayer and fasting, there is faith. And as St. Theophan the Recluse wrote: “Where there is no prayer and fasting, there are the demons””.
Referring to the word of St Theophan, we could say therefore that much of the modern world has become the dwelling-place of demons. It seems that each day that passes brings us news of some new instability, some new disaster and misfortune. Presently, every day we hear about the atrocities of the war in Ukraine, and we wonder how this could happen in the 21st century, but it did. It did because of the lack of faith in Christ, because of the lack of true spiritual life among those who started that war”.
Dear brothers and sisters! The fact is that, whenever we are faithless and cease to pray and fast, then we lose the protection of the grace of God and we are besieged by the demons and the world falls into fire or water. And when such thing happens, any place, any country or any city becomes the favorite resort of the demons. And as today’s Gospel made it clear, you need prayer and fasting to draw those evil spirits away, thus you need faith. It is all a question of faith. Let us then be faithful in order to be worthy of the Transfiguration of Christ, the glorious event we recently celebrated and continue to celebrate today. Being truly faithful we will be worthy of our own transfiguration, our salvation in Christ. And may the Most Holy Mother of God whose Holy Dormition we anticipate, in whose honor we keep this fast, save us and lead us to Her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ!”

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector had a petition for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian land” at the Great Entrance.

The choir nicely performed hymns of the Transfiguration during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector encouraged faithful to spend the rest of the Dormition Fast in proper abstinence and piety preparing for the major Theotokian feast.

Transfiguration of the Lord

 

On August 19th Holy Orthodox Church celebrates feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. On that day we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

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. So, 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. But we should also note that in this event Christ also showed the true face of humanity, the face of a blessed and incorrupt Man. For humans disfigured that face by sin, and Christ transfigured to show its first glory”.
Speaking of that holy event, we may recall the place where Transfiguration occurred: Mt. Tabor itself. This mountain is for us some kind of an image of perfection. Like the Disciples, in order for us to see the Transfiguration or to hope to be transfigured ourselves, we will have to ascend, to be lifted up from our present condition. Otherwise any transfiguration or change for the better in our lives is impossible”.
It is interesting that people who had an opportunity to go to the Holy Land, pilgrims who were blessed to be at Mt. Tabor tell that Tabor is not a mountain at all. It is rather a long, sloping hill with many rocks and boulders, many obstacles on 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 quick and swift climb. It’s not happening fast, in one day. Salvation takes the whole life. It is a long ascension upon 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 in 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 Year (and the Church Year ends in September), we should ask ourselves many questions. We should ask what little sacrifices we have made since 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 grace of God 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, disfiguration 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 performed festal hymns of Transfiguration.

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


After the dismissal of the Liturgy Fr. Igor congratulated the parishioners on the occasion of the holy day.

9th Sunday after Pentecost. Procession of the Precious Wood of the Holy Cross

 

On August 14, on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, feast of the Procession of the Precious Wood of the Holy Cross, as well as memory of the 7 Maccabees Martyrs, we had a nice and rich celebration in our temple.

Before the reading of the Hours the Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov solemnly transferred the cross from the altar to the middle of the church and placed it on the stand.

After the Hours the Rector served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today, on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, we also celebrate feast of the Procession of the Precious Wood of the Holy Cross. We have the Cross in the middle of the church for veneration. On this day the Church also commemorates the Old Testament Martyrs, called the Maccabees who suffered for the faith in true God. It is the first day of the Dormition Fast, and our devout people know that on this day we bless the new honey and should have the blessing of water”.
Speaking of the water, we recall that today our Sunday Gospel is about Jesus walking on the waters (Mt. 14, 22-33). That was a quite impressive picture for the Apostles: to see their Teacher walking upon the Sea of Galilee. Believing that Jesus is the Lord and the Son of God, we may say that it was nothing strange about it. If Christ is God, then the laws of nature are not controlling Him. If He is the Creator, He can override the laws of creation. God can do anything. And thus, that picture of Jesus walking on the sea is supposed to convince us and convince His Disciples that He is actually the Son of God. The Gospel mentions that first they thought that they see a ghost (Mt. 14, 25). They thought so because they had never seen a man walking on the water. When Jesus spoke to them and told them not to be afraid, they recognized Him (Mt. 14, 26)”.
It was important to convince the Apostles and later all the Christians that our Lord Jesus Christ was a real human person but, at the same time, He was the Son of God. And it was important to remember that it was actually Him who performed the miracles and later suffered for us on the cross. Not just once, at the Sea of Galilee, the Apostles thought that they see a ghost when Jesus was before them. When He rose from the dead and appeared to them, they also perceived Him to be a ghost (Lk. 24, 37). But He was real. And some heretics in the old times taught that real Christ could not be crucified; it was only a vision, an illusion of Him being on the cross; the real Jesus was spared. No, we believe and we proclaim it in the Creed that our Lord was crucified, suffered and was buried. Honoring today the Holy Cross we have to remind ourselves of that truth, of that divine reality – that God actually became Man and suffered on the cross. Jesus was not some magician who could show how He walks on the water, perform other magic tricks. He was the Son of God, He performed not tricks but true miracles. And later He did not create some illusion of being crucified, but actually “humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross”, as says St. Paul (Phil. 2, 8)”.
First Jesus lifted Himself above the stormy waters of the sea, conquering the laws of nature, showing the Disciples that He is able to do that. Then later, at the end of His mission, He lifted Himself above the sinful earth on the Precious Wood of the Cross to show His love. He submitted Himself to death because of that love. And then, on the third day He rose from the dead, He trampled death by death, He lifted Himself again – above the law of the sinful world. And He showed His divine power. And among many of His gifts for us He left us the gift of the power of His Precious and Life-giving Cross”.
Dear brothers and sisters, in today’s Gospel we also heard that Jesus invited Peter to walk on the waters with Him. And that is something else besides the power of Jesus being the Son of God. That is telling us that Christ is calling His faithful people to act along with Him, to override the usual laws of this world being in union with Him. Having true faith we can be part of His miracles, we can participate in His divine works and we can lift ourselves above our corrupted nature. And following Christ we may also bear our own crosses and be ready to die with Christ in order to be resurrected with Him and to live with Him in the age to come”.
The Gospel says that Holy Apostle Peter did actually walk on the water along with Christ. He probably made a couple of steps but then he became afraid of the wind and began to sink (Mt. 14, 29-30). Thinking of that we should conclude that Peter, in order to continue walking on the water, had to have stronger faith and to focus on Jesus, not on the wind. Same thing with us: in order to be lifted above our corrupt nature, in order to override it, to become holy, we need a strong faith and a focus on what is godly and spiritual. Faith is a gift and we need to pray for it. But our focus on Christ and His Cross is something we have to exercise. God will certainly help us in both things – in acquiring faith and in supporting our focus on Him. In today’s Gospel Jesus stretched out His hand and rescued Peter (Mt. 14, 31). In the same way Jesus is ready to save us. But we have to desire to be saved. The Holy Cross is also among us to help us, to rescue us from the evil things in this world. The Church always reminds us of the Cross. Every church has a cross above its dome. That should also help us to focus on Christ, on what is godly and spiritual. Of course, it is easier in a Christian country where you have a lot of churches. Being there you can look any direction and see the cross. It is much harder in a non-Christian land but still you can find a cross somewhere”.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us cherish the strong faith and let us focus on our Lord Jesus Christ being helped by His Holy Cross. May its invincible, ineffable and divine power strengthen us in our fidelity to the Lord. May the Precious Cross preserve us on our journey to salvation bestowing upon us the grace of Christ and leading us for the eternal blessedness!”

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector had a petition for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian land” at the Great Entrance.

Before the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed hymns of the celebrated feast.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector congratulated our young parishioner, Elena Malyshev on her past 8th birthday and proclaimed the Polychronion on her behalf.

Following the Divine Liturgy we had the Lesser Blessing of Water performed by the Rector in the middle of the church. After that service Fr. Igor blessed the new honey and sprinkled the temple and the faithful by the newly-sanctified water. At the end of the celebration the Rector and parishioners venerated the Holy Cross.

8th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On August 7, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

Today, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, and our reading from the Holy Gospel tells us about miraculous feeding of five thousand men by five loaves of bread and two fishes (Mt. 14, 14-22)”.
This special miracle tells us that the power of God is endless and God Himself is infinite. In that miraculous multiplication of bread He just showed some of His eternity. It is more important in this miracle for us to see a symbol of another miracle happening with us every time when we become present at the Divine Liturgy, a miracle of the Eucharist. For every time at the Liturgy bread and wine become the true Body and Blood of Christ. And the Eucharist is accessible not only to five thousand men but to all faithful Orthodox Christians. The same Christ is being offered on the sacred altar in every temple and is being distributed in Holy Communion at every Liturgy. When the priest is breaking the holy Lamb and prepares it for the Communion, he says the following words, “Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God; broken but never divided; ever eaten, yet never consumed…” Thus Christ in the Holy Communion is being broken into many pieces yet is never divided; he is being eaten by the partakers yet is never consumed. And if the five loaves of bread were consumed even after they were multiplied, leaving only the fragments and crumbs, the holy Bread of the Eucharist never ends on the earth”.
Dear brothers and sisters, we need to be faithful to that treasure. Coming to the temple for the Divine Liturgy we become worthy of the greater miracle than the one happened in the desert with those five thousand men. They were given plain bread while we are given Christ Himself. The five loaves of bread, though they were multiplied, were finally finished but the Eucharist will never be finished until the end of this world. Those people were filled with the material bread while we are fed with the Bread from heaven. Their visible advantage is in the fact that Jesus Himself was present with them. But with us the same Jesus is also present though being invisible”.
Therefore, let us become aware of the importance of the holy Liturgy and the importance of being faithful to the Lord and follow Him. The Gospel tells us that the multitude of people followed Him to the desert. They were listening to His words and remained with Him until night (Mt. 14, 15). We can imagine how these people left their usual business and forgot about their cares following the Lord into wilderness. And among us, contemporary Orthodox Christians, there are many those who on Sunday prefer not to come to the church and not to participate in the Divine Liturgy. They find excuses and reasons why they could not come to the temple and to become united with Christ, to be faithful to Him, especially on this holy day of the Lord”.
This is why, dear brothers and sisters, we need to be aware what kind of treasure we possess. Someone said that if the people truly knew what kind of thing is happening in the church during Divine Liturgy, they would not hesitate to attend but even if they were infirm, they would crawl to the church to be at the Liturgy! But people do not do that. People do not appreciate the miracles happening all the time. Do not appreciate due to the lack of faith. But the people who really believe, do not need miracles. But on the other hand, such people see miracles all the time. They appreciate them, discern them in our life”.
Today we commemorate the Dormition of the Righteous Anna, mother of the Most Holy Mother of God. Our pious tradition holds that St. Anna was barren, she could not have children. Along with her husband Joachim she had to suffer from moral reproach, because being childless was considered a curse and a shame among the Jews. Both Joachim and Anna were righteous people who lived according to God’s Commandments. They invited God into their lives. And God visited Joachim and Anna and blessed them with the holy Child. Anna conceived in her old age and bore Mary, the Mother of God. This tells us that if a person believes, miracles do happen. Just as the breads were multiplied in the desert, Joachim and Anna were given a blessing to be fruitful and multiply. This also, dear brothers and sisters, tells us that God may act in our lives and work His miracles”.
“Righteous Anna shows the miraculous things after her Dormition that took place before the birth of Christ. The relics of the holy grandmother of Jesus are in different sacred places. I saw her left foot on Mt. Athos, in the Skete of St. Anna. That foot is maintaining temperature of the human body although St. Anna is fallen asleep for more than 2 thousand years! I venerated that relic and I felt the warmth of that foot. There is another foot in a different monastery on the Holy Mountain. And some relics of St. Anna are in Rome. Some are in Canada, at the famous shrine of St. Anna in Quebec where Roman Catholics venerate that holy person. They hold a forearm of St. Anna. I was there many years ago. Recently the Pope visited that place and served his Mass there. A lot of people were healed at that place, so there is a collection of crutches in that shrine, the crutches the sick left after being healed”.

Thus, dear brothers and sisters, miracles do happen around us. Wonderful things do exist in God’s world. However, if someone has no faith or has little faith, such person would not notice those miracles or won’t be convinced by them. Let us then cherish our faith and attempt to feel God’s presence. Nowadays Jesus does not walk through our cities and villages, but He is spiritually present everywhere. But He is even more present in the holy temple, in our sacred rites and Sacraments, especially in the Most Holy Eucharist. Let us then appreciate that gift and discern the miracles of God in our lives to be worthy of salvation, of life everlasting!”

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector had a petition for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian land” at the Great Entrance.

The choir prayerfully performed the hymn to the Most Holy Theotokos (The Magnificat) during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector had a speech in Russian. He made the announcements regarding the upcoming Church celebrations in August and stressed the main ideas of his English homily.