Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. Celebration of the Meeting of the Lord

 

On February 17, on the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, we had a beautiful celebration. On that day we also observed feast of Meeting of the Lord transferred to Sunday.

The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the readings from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily about celebrated feast and about spiritual significance of today’s Sunday.

The idea of the holy day of the Meeting is that a human person should seek an encounter with God the Lord. Such an encounter could take place anywhere but the most proper place for that is the God’s temple. In the events of the celebrated feast we learn that Child Jesus was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem by His Mother to fulfill the demands of the law of Moses. A sacrifice was offered for Him there. Thus a meeting with God took place there. We also learn from the Gospel lesson that another meeting took place there – elder Simeon met His Savior and Lord recognizing Him in the little Child Jesus. In another Gospel lesson about the Publican and Pharisee we also read that two men went to the Temple to pray. They both desired a spiritual encounter with God. But their prayers were different, thus their meeting with God was different. A humble publican had a beneficial meeting while a proud Pharisee was not justified by the Lord. But both went to the same holy place. Therefore, we need to come to the temple of God to seek an encounter with God.
To have a beneficial encounter we also need to do certain pious actions: to pray, to participate in the rites or to offer sacrifices. Holy Family coming into the Temple offered a sacrifice of two young pigeons for their first-born Son, as it was prescribed by the Old Testament law. Nowadays, in our New Testament Church, we no longer offer animals to be slaughtered; our main sacrifice, Holy Eucharist, is without blood. However, we still sacrifice certain things: we light candles, we bring so-called “koliva” for the deceased, we give monetary donations, and, finally, we may sacrifice our time, work, talents for the Church. All such actions make our encounter with the Lord possible.
But the most important thing for our meeting with God to be successful is to have a proper spiritual attitude, an appropriate spiritual state. A publican in today’s parable had it while a Pharisee did not. In the same way, God blessed the sacrifice of Abel of old who brought the best lambs to be offered to God. But God did not look upon the sacrifice of his brother Cain who offered just some kind of the fruits of his work. God knew the attitude of Cain who was not sincere and did not offer a sacrifice with love and proper piety. Therefore, we have to be cautious about our spiritual state if we wish that our meeting with God was beneficial and successful.

During preparation for Holy Communion the choir beautifully performed festal hymns of the Meeting of the Lord, as well as 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 the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification before the icon of the feast singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Meeting. The Rector then preached a brief sermon in English conveying the ideas of his Russian homily.

Following the Liturgy at the request of Olga Vnukova the Rector officiated a short memorial service (Litia) for her newly-deceased nephew Nikolai. Upon completion of the service Fr. Igor expressed Olga his sincere condolences.


37th Sunday after Pentecost. Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church

 

On February 10, on the 37th Sunday after Pentecost, feast of the Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, St. George parish community had a nice celebration. In the absence of our Rector the Divine Liturgy was served by Priest Mark Rashkov.

Following the Gospel lesson Fr. Mark preached a homily.

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

36th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On February 3, on the 36th Sunday after Pentecost we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“The 31st Sunday is practically the last Sunday of our Pentecostal cycle because on the next, 32nd Sunday we will talk about Zacchaeas the publican and start preparing for the Great Fast. Today’s Gospel lesson tells us about the last miracle our Lord Jesus Christ performed before His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem where He underwent His holy Passions. This last miracle was returning the sight to a blind man in Jericho. This event is described by three holy Gospels. Holy evangelist Matthew mentions two blind men, other evangelists – only one. St. Mark tells that the blind man’s name was Bartimaeus. Thus, what is important about him?”
“The Holy Fathers interpret this last miracle before our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem as revealing of the coming of the time of salvation. For this reason the blind man greets Jesus as the “Lord”, the common name for God. He also calls Him “the son of David”, a title deeply rooted in the people’s expectation of the Messiah. The Jews believed that the Messiah was to be born from the heirs of King David.”
“Another important thing is that Jesus knows beforehand what the blind man wants. But He calls him to ask freely that He might answer to that. In the same way our Lord knows beforehand what we want and what we need. But He wants us to express ourselves in prayer, so He might answer us in His mercy. It is not accidental that the Church very often uses and repeats the prayerful words of the blind man: “Have mercy!” “Lord, have mercy!” is the favorite exclamation in the prayers of the Church. The holy tradition says that this prayer was the first prayer of Adam and Eve expelled from the paradise. It is the most ancient prayer. When the Temple of Jerusalem was built the first prayer under its roof was “Lord God, hear us and have mercy!” Sometimes in our services “Lord, have mercy” is repeated 40 times, sometimes even 50 times. Our prayer has to be persistent. Somebody compared such a persistent and repetitive prayer “Lord, have mercy!” to a situation when you fell into a well and try to get out. You cry for help and you don’t stop doing so. You desperately cry for it. In this way we should pray “Lord, have mercy!” many times – asking the Lord for help and mercy.”
“No one should stop or prevent us from asking the Lord for His mercy. The Gospel mentions that the crowd tried to silence the blind man when he asked Jesus for mercy. The multitude warned him that he should be quiet. But he cried out all the more. In our lives many times people or circumstances attempt to silence or to prevent our prayer. Even in the Church we notice how many prayers and services are being abbreviated and simplified. Despite that influence of the world we have to continue praying, keep asking the Lord in our needs. And He will answer our prayers according to the zeal of our faith.”
“We should also keep in mind that our prayers, as well as our hope must be specific. Again, the Lord knew what the blind man wanted from Him the most, yet He asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The man could have asked, “Lord, give me the grace to live with blindness”. Some very spiritually advanced people being blind had a great grace and felt very happy without bodily vision. But the blind man in today’s Gospel asked for the sight. Faith needs to be specific, and Jesus requested to exercise a specific faith and to ask for a certain thing.”
“To conclude we have to understand that our merciful Lord and Savior wishes us to have a firm and persistent faith. Such a faith was found in Bartimaeus, a blind man in Jericho. His faith made him well. If we will have this kind of faith, will be enduring and persistent in our prayers, will be specific in our humble requests, the Lord may grant us what we ask for and make us joyfully follow Him.”

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian stressing the main ideas of his English homily. He also congratulated our parishioners Maria and Anton Malyshev on the occasion of their past name days. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

35th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On January 27, on the 35th Sunday after Pentecost, the Rector of St. George Church served the Divine Liturgy at our Parish temple. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily Fr. Igor stressed the three points regarding the Gospel lesson about a conversation between our Lord Jesus Christ and a person who asked how to inherit eternal life (Lk. 18, 18-27).
First, the person in the Gospel reading wished to praise himself that he is so just that kept all the Commandments from his youth (Lk. 18, 21). Such an attitude is very dangerous spiritually because if we regard ourselves “good” or “just”, we delude ourselves. The enemy of mankind is the deceiver, and he is willing to support such an attitude. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is very much spread in America. People tend to praise themselves, to say, “I am a good person!” But the Lord teaches differently. In today’s Gospel He says, “No one is good, but God alone” (Lk. 18, 19). And all our Orthodox prayers are filled with the spirit of penance and awareness of our imperfection. When we approach Holy Communion, we pray: “I believe, o Lord… Thou came to save sinners from whom I am the chief”. Although we are repenting and cleansing ourselves before Communion, we still recognize that we are very sinful, not good. But, we are not desperate and we claim to be the partakers of Christ.
Secondly, am outer keeping of the Commandments is not sufficient. It is one thing not to break any of the Commandments formally, and another thing to keep them in our hearts. A person may never commit a murder but may have hatred in his heart and may wish evil to another. And the Lord said that everyone having anger against his brother kills him in his heart (Mt. 5, 22). A person may never commit adultery but may have such filthy thoughts that it is shameful to imagine. And thus the Lord taught that if that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt. 5, 28). The state of our soul is sometimes more important than our outer actions. And in today’s Gospel the Lord indicated the main passion of the person who spoke with Him – his attachment to the wealth. Perhaps that man had never stolen anything from anyone, yet he desired riches or was jealous about others’ wealth, so committed a spiritual theft. Thus we should avoid sinful thoughts and vicious feelings and dreams.
And finally, the third thought from today’s Gospel lesson is that if we wish to enter into the Kingdom of God, we need to attempt to build that Kingdom (or a similarity of it) around ourselves in this life. We have to care about our neighbors, to show love and justice. Everywhere – at our home, workplace or parish – we need to built a similarity of paradise. Otherwise our life may become similar to hell.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns of the feast of the Theophany since this was the last day of its celebration.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification in front of the icon of the Theophany in the middle of the church. Then the Rector preached a short sermon in English and made some announcements.

Following the Liturgy the Rector served a short memorial service (Litia) requested by the Malyshev family and Olga Vnukova commemorating their deceased relatives, as well as those who died during the siege of Leningrad 75 years ago.

After all the church sevices the Rector and parishioners enjoyed the delicious meals and a nice company at the trapeza table. A toast to Fr. Igor who recently celebrated his birthday was raised and traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) sung in his honor.

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 nice celebration of that holy day headed 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 and ineffable mystery of the Theophany which consists of God appearing to mankind as the Son of Man and becoming close to us. Thirty years after His birth the Son of God finally revealed Himself at the Jordan River when He came there to ask a Baptism from St. John. Our Lord Jesus Christ had no sin but He did not disdain to come to Jordan where the sinners were baptized as they repented. He did not consider a humiliation to stay along with those sinful people because God loved the world and sent His Son to redeem it. Thus the mystery of the Theophany is in God’s love towards mankind and towards each one of us.

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.

 

 

Christmas Reception at the Russian Consulate

 

On Tuesday, January 15, an official Christmas Reception was held in the Consulate of the Russian Federation in New York City. 

The reception was attended by the representatives of St. George Church: our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov and our Warden and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow.

Among the distinguished guests at the reception were present Bishop Irinej of Eastern America (Serbian Orthodox Church), Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan (ROCOR), clergy of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, the Russian Church Abroad, the Antiochian, Serbian and Bulgarian Patriarchates. Consuls General, as well as representatives from other nations’ diplomatic missions and various secular organizations in America, were also attending.

Sunday after the Nativity

 

On January 13, on the Sunday after the Nativity, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“On Sunday following the feast of the Nativity of Christ we honor the so called Fathers of God, righteous Joseph the Spouse, king David and Apostle James, brother of the Lord. They were relatives of our Lord Jesus Christ by flesh, as well as the representatives of the family to which Christ belonged as a Man. The Lord came from the tribe of Judah, from the family of David, the ancient king and Prophet of the Old Testament time. According to the Prophets, the Messiah had to come from that tribe and from David. Righteous Joseph, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also came from that family. He was the guardian of Jesus and was considered His father in the eyes of the people. And Holy Apostle James was one of the sons of Joseph from the first marriage, thus he was a stepbrother of Christ, so we call him the Lord’s brother. Those three Saints from the human family of Christ are honored today to make it clear that the Son of God truly became Man and had His human relatives.”
“Today we should especially mark the role of St. Joseph the Spouse in the early life of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our Orthodox tradition we somehow do not pay much attention to that Saint. Today is the only day in our calendar when we commemorate him. Catholics do really honor him much more. If a Roman Catholic is asked whom he honors the most, he would say, “Jesus, Marry and then Joseph”. If a Russian Orthodox is asked, he would probably name St. Nicholas after the Lord Jesus and His Blessed Mother. This is the way we traditionally honor the Saints. But if we think about it, St. Joseph was very important person in history of our salvation and in the very life of our Savior.”
“Today the Gospel tells us how righteous Joseph was taking care of the Holy Family, how he protected the Child Jesus. He received a revelation in a dream from the Angel and he took the Child Jesus and His Mother and fled with them to Egypt. He stayed there until the danger had passed, then he brought them back to the land of Israel. The reason for all these wanderings was that king Herod became disturbed by the birth of Christ and he was afraid that a new king of the Jews was born, and that He would claim his throne. First Herod tried to find out from the Wise Men where that King was born and staying, but the Wise Men received the revelation and did not return to Herod and did not reveal him the place of Christ birth. Then, as the Gospel says, Herod sent his warriors to put to death all the male children in Bethlehem who were under two years of age. But at that time St. Joseph had already left Bethlehem along with the Holy Family and Christ had been saved.”
“A strange thing happened: the Savior of the world was saved by St. Joseph. The Savior of mankind was saved by a man. Therefore, we should remember the endeavor of righteous Joseph the Spouse and honor him, despite the fact that he has no separate feast in our calendar.”
“In addition, dear brothers and sisters, we should think today about the cause of salvation. How does it occur? What does it mean that Christ saves us?”
“Today we heard the Gospel story about the first years of the life of Christ. It gives us an answer to those questions. Let us see: God was born into the world; everything is in the power of God.  What happens next? Herod being full of anger desires to out Jesus Christ to death. What happens then? An Angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him to take the Child and His Mother and to flee to Egypt. Thus, in fact, as we already said, Joseph saves Christ. How come? Christ came to save everyone but here Joseph takes Mary and Her Child and escapes saving them?!”
“Here is, dear brothers and sisters, an answer to a question: “How our salvation occurs?” It occurs when the will of God and the will of man are working together. Joseph listened to the Angel and made great efforts, undertook a long journey, performed a great labor. In the same way our own salvation is our common labor with the Lord. The Lord open for us the doors of salvation, the Lord shows us the way of salvation. But we have to fulfill that task – to enter those doors or to walk that way of salvation. God cannot force us to do that; God cannot save a man without the man’s will. Our human will has to coincide with the will of God.”
“In these bright and holy days of Christmas when we celebrate the coming of our Savior into the world, let us honor holy relatives of God, especially the most worthy guardian of the Holy Family, righteous Joseph the Spouse. Let us also fervently pray the Savior who was born for us that we may have the force to walk the path of salvation. Let us fervently learn the God’s Commandments, let us live under the protection of the Holy Church and let us walk on the way of salvation to the life everlasting.”

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

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar server performed the glorification of the Nativity before the festal icon because that day was the final day of that feast’s celebration.

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

Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas

 

On January 7 the 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 came to St. George Church for the celebration of this great holy day. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he 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 the birth of the Son of God. He preached a short sermon about the significance of God’s Incarnation. As the Ukrainian Christmas carol says, “Heaven and the earth exalt today”. This is true because in the Nativity of Christ heaven and the earth rejoiced in the beginning of salvation. Heaven and earth united, divinity and humanity came together in this holy event. Therefore, we also need to rejoice and to seek what is divine to sanctify our lives.

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

Sunday before the Nativity

 

On January 6, on the Sunday before the Nativity, as well as on Christmas Eve, we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. He preached a homily in Russian after the reading from the Holy Gospel.

Fr. Igor explained that the First Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew read on this day and containing the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ has two important meanings for us. First, we should understand that human ties of relations between ancestors and heirs are established by God. All of us have parents and ancestors. And our common ancestor is Adam, the first man created by God.
Secondly, and this is the most important to understand on this Sunday, is that genealogy of Christ recorded in the Gospel shows that Jesus was the true Man, not some Spirit or some Angel who came to the world. It shows that He was the true God and true Man, God incarnate and born. As a true Man He had His human ancestors.
In Christ the divine and human nature united, so we can unite with God. And as the Gospel precisely says where Christ was born and where He could be found by the shepherds and the wise men, our faith precisely tells where Jesus can be found now: in the Holy Orthodox Church.

The choir prayerfully performed the hymns of the Prefeast of the Nativity before Holy Communion.

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

Sunday of the Holy Forefathers

 

On December 30, on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy at our Parish temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Preparing us for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, the Holy Church proposes today to glorify the Holy Forefathers, to look at them by our spiritual eyes and to benefit from their spiritual example. We call the Forefathers those people who lived before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world. They were His ancestors by flesh. And such ancestors were basically all the Saints of the Old Testament.”
“The time of the Nativity Fast is a symbolic commemoration of the Old Testament times, a long period of time when the mankind was expecting the coming of the Savior. More than five thousand years passed from the moment of the fall of our ancestors, Adam and Eve, and from their expulsion from paradise until the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those times are described in the Old Testament Scriptures. And we symbolically pass through that period in forty days of our fast before Christmas. And apart from today’s celebration of the Old Testament just, in this period we may find many days of commemoration of the Old Testament Prophets in our Church calendar.”
“For instance, today the Church honors Holy Prophet Daniel. In the 6th century before Christ Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonian king Nabuchednezzar who captured four noble Hebrew young men: Daniel, Ananias, Azarias and Misael. They were brought to Babylon where the king wanted them to become his servants. They were supposed to adopt the local customs and language. So, it became a time of a great test for their faith in one and true God. When the king ordered them to be fed from his own table, Daniel did not wish to eat the unclean food and convinced the king’s official to give them just fruits and vegetables. After ten days the Hebrew captives looked better than the ones who ate the king’s food.”
“This example from the life of today’s Saints is telling us about the benefit of fasting. But it also tells us that you can preserve your faith even in difficult circumstances. Even living among the people strange to the true faith, you may not lose your faith but to preserve and even make it grow. And this is an example for us who live among the majority of non-Orthodox people or even people who lately became almost faithless.”
“The Book of Prophet Daniel further tells that the king ordered to erect a huge idol made of gold and commanded all his subjects to worship that man-made image. The three Youths refused to do it because they kept the true faith in one God. The king got very angry and ordered them to be thrown into a fiery furnace. But a great miracle happened: the three young men were protected by God and the fire and heat did not harm them. This is an example of the true confession of faith shown by those three youths.”
“Thus faith in the true God was the main thing in the lives of the Old Testament Saints, in the lives of the Forefathers. According to that faith they were expecting the birth of the Messiah. That same expectation of the birth of the Savior is an important spiritual experience during these days of the Nativity Fast. We are expecting Christmas holy day and we prepare ourselves for that feast, preparing a dwelling place for the divine Child in our hearts, for the Holy Infant who came into the world for our salvation. And the whole spiritual sense of the Nativity Fast is in preparation of the human soul for the encounter with the Lord born for us.”
“As the Holy Forefathers waited for the birth of the Savior in the world, so we are now waiting for the feast of the Nativity of Christ and we are spiritually striving to purify ourselves, to improve our shortcomings, to repent our sins, to make ourselves worthy of the encounter with the Lord.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Being blessed by the Church of Christ, let us look at those righteous men and women and let us ask for their prayers for us, the sinners, so we may worthily and with spiritual joy and benefit spend the rest of the Nativity Fast and enter into the great celebration of the Holy Nativity of Christ!”

Before Holy Communion the Choir Director, Olga Roussanow prayerfully performed hymns dedicated to Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Youths whose memory was celebrated on that day.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian addressing the ideas of his English homily. He also made some announcements concerning preparation for Christmas celebration. At the end the Rector handed presents from St. Nicholas to the parish children.

Following the Liturgy the Rector performed a memorial service (Litia) in commemoration of the newly-departed Vera Koretz.