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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

13th Sunday after Pentecost

 

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

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

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

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

Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God

 

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

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

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

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

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

12th Sunday after Pentecost

 

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

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

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

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

11th Sunday after Pentecost

 

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

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

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

Transfiguration of the Lord

 

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

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

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

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

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

10th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On August 13, on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy at our parish temple. Following the Gospel reading he delivered the following homily in English:

“The Gospel lesson we heard today is telling about healing of a epileptic. At the question of the Holy Apostles why they were not able to cast the evil spirit out of that possessed boy, Christ answered: “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Mt. 17, 20). That’s what the Lord said. And he also added: “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17, 21). Thus today the Holy Gospel again reminds us about the importance of faith. It also reminds us about the importance of prayer and fasting.”
“Faith, prayer and fasting are the three important things for our spiritual life. In some way they determine our spiritual life in theory and in practice. A theory alone is not enough. Nowadays many people like to say that they believe “in their soul”, and prayers, rituals and participation in the Church life are not necessary for them. This is a hypocrisy and self-delusion. If we believe, our faith must be seen in our actions. Faith is dead without works, says Holy Apostle James (Jam. 2, 17). Therefore faith has to be manifested, first of all, it should be shown in prayer and fasting. Of course, it should be shown also on our moral life, in our warfare against sin. But sin is often conquered only by prayer and fasting. The same way as the evil spirits are cast out by prayer and fasting, our sinful inclinations, our passions and sinful habits should be conquered by prayer and by fasting. A theory alone, a declaration that we believe would be insufficient here.”
“The Lord did not just say about the importance of prayer, but He showed us a personal example of a prayerful life. Recently we read that after a miraculous feeding of the five thousand men by five loaves the Lord “went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there” (Mt. 14, 23). He was praying there the whole night, and only before dawn He went to His Disciples walking on the sea.”
“Why did Lord Jesus Christ need to pray? He was the Almighty God – why did He need to pray? And for what did He pray? He had a great need and a great care – He was praying for the human race and for His Church on earth. The difficulty of the endeavor of the Lord Jesus Christ was that His preaching was addressed to the free will of the people. The Lord prayed for His Disciples whom He patiently taught, making them understanding His Kingdom. He prayed for the future Church, for all of us that by our free will we may stay in His truth. He prayed as a Man leading us to the Kingdom of God.”
“Jesus also prayed a special prayer in the Olive Garden before His crucifixion that He had to undergo for our salvation. Then His soul had been suffering an agony. The Gospel says, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Lk. 22, 44). Some Church Fathers consider that prayer to be the beginning of our Redemption (or even our very Redemption itself).”
“Teaching us to pray by His own example, the Lord also showed us some teachers of prayer among us – the people who fervently prayed. For instance, the Canaanite woman insisted in her fervent prayer and humbly asked Jesus about a healing. And the Lord very often listened to the prayers of such people and granted their requests according to their faith.”
“Fasting has the same powerful meaning as prayer. The Lord Himself showed us an example of fasting when He fasted forty days in the wilderness before His ministry. Again, we may ask: why did Jesus, who was God, need to fast? From what had He cleanse Himself if He was pure? What did He have to fight if He was without sin? The Lord fasted to show us an example and to overcome the temptation of the devil and to make him ashamed. And the Lord fasted to show His human nature. The Scripture says that after fasting Jesus became hungry (Mt. 4, 2). Christ was the true Man, He needed food. And the devil dared to tempt Him as a Man. And the Lord showed us that He was fasting and He was hungry, so we may not make a mistake like some heretics who thought that Christ only seemed to be a man. No, He was a true Man who needed to eat and was tempted but overcame the temptation.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us practice prayer and fasting, so our faith may be living and manifested in our actions. And one more thing. When we hear about a firm faith capable of moving the mountains, we may think that Christianity is a very hard religion. We conceive that Christ is standing on the top of a high mountain and is calling us out, the weak and infirm, to climb to Him, to become almighty and perfect. And we are not able to do so because we are weak and imperfect. This is a false image of Christ. He does not stand on a summit waiting for us to climb up to Him. He comes down to meet each climber on the mountain. He walks beside us. He holds our hand. He helps us to the summit. Without Him we would never reach it.”
“Let us then fervently pray the merciful Savior and our God that He may comfort our faith and give us a strength to live in prayer and fasting, so along with Christ we may overcome the evil power and the sin in our lives and conquer any mountains standing on our way.”

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector performed a customary blessing of the new honey. He also preached a short sermon in Russian to stress main thoughts of his English homily.

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

 

9th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On August 6, on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as on the feast of St. Boris and Gleb, our Parish family conducted a nice celebration. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Today we heard from the reading of the Holy Gospel that our Lord Jesus Christ was walking on the water during the storm (Mt. 14, 22-43).”
“The spiritual meaning of that miracle is the following. A stormy sea where the Disciples of Christ sail is a spiritual image of our life. Our Church hymns often compare our human life to a sea. And this is true. Our life could be quiet and peaceful, but it could have some winds, some small problems. But sometimes it could be a huge storm, a storm in our life filled with sufferings and misfortunes.”
“The boat in which the Apostles were sailing is an image of the Church of Christ which helps a man to overcome the difficulties of life.”
“Today we also read that Apostle Peter heard the command of Christ to come to Him on the waters, and he began to walk (Mt. 14, 29). Apostle Peter walked on the waters in the same way as Christ did; he did walk because he had truly believed in the power of God, and he had been given according to his faith. But suddenly he saw that the wind was boisterous and he became afraid. And at the moment he got scared, he began to sink (Mt. 14, 30).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! This is also an image of our life. As long as we hear the voice of God and walk through our life with God, according to God’s Commandments; as long as a firm faith is burning in our hearts; as long as we are certain about our Orthodox way and strife to live according to our faith, – we fear nothing.  No difficulties, no sufferings and pain, no storms of life are threatening us. But the moment we will doubt, that very moment when despair and dejection will appear in our heart, we will begin to sink in that sea of life. That very moment when it will be difficult for us to pray, when it will be hard to refer to God, because some laziness will overcome our soul; that moment when we will deceitfully think that it’s not really a bad thing if we will sin a little, for God is merciful and will forgive us; that very moment when we will act not according to God’s Commandments but according to our human cleverness – that moment we will be spiritually sinking in the depth of sin, in the abyss of the sea of life. Perhaps each one of us felt that way in his or her life.”
“And thus, when Apostle Peter began to sink, he cried out saying, “Lord, save me!” And Jesus told him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14, 29-30). And the Lord stretched out His hand and saved Peter from the depth.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! And this is also an image of our soul. When our soul begins to sink in sins, we should not despair. Like Peter, we should cry to the Lord from the abyss of our heart and say: “Lord, save me!” And the Lord gives us that great Mystery that saves us from the depth of sin, the Sacrament of Penance. In Penance the Lord is stretching out His hand to us and pulls us out from the abyss of sin, to which we are attracted by this world. The Lord saves us through repentance. But He also indicates a reason why we begin to sink: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
“Our lack of faith is the reason for many of our misfortunes and sufferings. And the first thing we should ask the Lord to grant us is a holy and firm faith, so such faith could become a solid foundation for our life. In today’s Epistle reading we heard that we have to build our life upon a solid foundation of faith in our Savior Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3, 9-17).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! By the Divine Providence we gathered today for a prayer. We heard the Gospel story about a miracle performed for our instruction. Let us then ask the Lord that He may grant us a gift of faith. Let us remember that we may safely travel on the sea of life only being on the boat of the Holy Church of Christ. And let us remember that our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ may save us from any depth of sin. And let us, sinful, cry out to Him saying, “Lord, save us!””

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

He also congratulated his relative Maria Mitkevych who attended our service on the occasion of her past name day and presented her with the Theotokion prosphora. Traditional Polychronion was sung.

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company. A toast in honor of Maria celebrating her name day was raised.

8th Sunday after Pentecost. Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Six Ecumenical Councils

 

On July 30, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Six Ecumenical Councils, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

”Today’s Gospel reading is telling us about the feeding of the five thousand and the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes.”
“First of all, we should note that it was a very large number of people, because it was five thousand men. If you add women and children, you may conclude that the crowd was probably about fifteen or more thousand. We should consider that this large number of people followed Christ on foot in the heat of the day into the wilderness and without food. What faith and devotion they had, these people who followed Jesus! Now compare this to us, modern Orthodox who are reluctant to come to church on Sunday. We drive the air-conditioned cars and we still don’t come.”
“Reflecting further, we can see that this miracle took place not for the personal vanity or glory of the Savior, but out of compassion for the people. We can see this in many miracles of Christ and it is mentioned again in today’s Gospel how the Lord healed the sick. Each miracle of Christ is an act of love performed out of compassion.”
“Let us now examine how Jesus performed that miracle. Our Lord took up the five loaves and fishes, and then looked up to heaven and thanked the Father and blessed the food. St. John Chrysostom interpreting this Gospel lesson says that in this way Jesus showed that He is equal to God the Father. Jesus look up to heaven, prays to His Father but He Himself begins a miracle. Here He also sets us Orthodox the example of praying before eating. How many Orthodox often forget even to make the sign of the cross before eating! And yet the Savior Himself, “by Whom all things were made”, asks for the blessing of the Father before eating.”
”The miracle takes place in a deserted place and when the day is over. According to St. John Chrysostom, this shows us that Christ is not limited by space and time. St. John wrote about this event the following beautiful words: “Although the place is a desert, He who feeds the universe is present. Although the day is over, Christ and His words are ever-present, never submitting to time or element.””
“And St. John Chrysostom says that by blessing and multiplying bread and fish, Christ shows that He is also the Lord of Land and Sea.”
“Another aspect of today’s Gospel story is that in this miracle we see how Christ not only feeds us with material food, but also with spiritual food, for, as it is written in the Holy Scriptures, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8, 3; Mt. 4, 4). Today we commemorate Holy Fathers of the six Ecumenical Councils. There were seven Councils, and six of them defined the dogmas of Orthodox faith. Thus the Fathers of the six Councils were given us and confirming spiritual nourishment of the true faith leading to eternal life. Nowadays people are looking for different diets to stay physically healthy. The Ecumenical Councils came up with a spiritual diet for us: they defined what is spiritually healthy for us to consume, and what is harmful for us as a spiritual food.”
“Performing the miracle of multiplying the breads, our Lord gave also spiritual food to the people. We may see that spiritual nourishment in the numbers mentioned in this Gospel. There were five loaves of bread. The number five represents our five senses that are fed by the Bread of Life. In our prayers of thanksgiving after Holy Communion we mention our five senses that are to be enlightened. There were two fishes. They represent the two parts of the New Testament, the Gospels and the Epistles, which were written by fishermen become fishers of men, for we are spiritually fed by their writings. There were twelve baskets of fragments? They represent the twelve Apostles who preach to the ends of the universe, the fragments who feed our souls with the words of Christ through the Holy Spirit.”
”Dear brothers and sisters! Let us open our minds and souls to Christ our true God. Let us follow Him anywhere His divine Providence would make us to go. Let us strife to be with Him, so we too may be fed and filled with the Bread of Life.”

The choir beautifully performed hymns in honor of the Holy Fathers of the Council, as well as in honor of recently celebrated Holy Equal to the Apostles Prince Vladimir.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a brief sermon in English stressing the main points of his Russian homily. He also congratulated Valentina Malyshev on the occasion of her past name day and her birthday. The traditional Polychronion was proclaimed.

 

7th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On July 23, on the 7th Sunday after Pentecost, we had a beautiful 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:

“This Sunday again the reading from the Holy Gospel is telling us about the healings performed by our Lord Jesus Christ. He returned the sight to the blind and he healed the mute. The blind men followed Him crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” (Mt. 9, 27). Let us remember today who was David. He was the King of Judea blessed by God; he was one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ.”
“The Old Testament Scripture tells us a lot about holy king David. Since childhood days many of us were probably thrilled to the story of David defeating Goliath. The Philistine giant, Goliath was feared by the Jews who fought the Philistines. And he dared them to choose a warrior to fight him, cursing the Jews and making fun of them. For forty days the Jews could not find anyone willing to meet Goliath in the battle. Finally, a shepherd boy named David undertook that seemingly impossible task. He met and conquered the giant with the simplest of weapons, and with no visible armor.”
“Each of us, in some sense, has a giant to fight. For some of us it is a physical ailment. For some it is a bad habit. For many of us it is fear of the future. For others, it is deep sorrow disturbing our peace. And generally, speaking of our spiritual state, the most fearsome giant is our sinful nature, our passions that threaten our salvation. Day by day we are battling our own giant, and we may ask, what are our chances to defeat it?”
“Let us recall that the match between David and Goliath seemed to be a hopeless encounter. David was not trained as a warrior. But in answer to Goliath’s cursing and taunting, he replied: “You come to me with a sword… But I come to you in the name of the of the Lord of hosts” (1 Sam. 17, 45). This was the secret of this battle. And as we fight our giants, this must be the secret – the battle is the Lord’s and our main weapon is God’s strength.”
“As we read the Scripture, we see others facing giants. They may not appear so literal and so spectacular as Goliath, but they are just as real. Moses, for instance, feared the Egyptians and ran away. But God found him and told him to go back to Egypt, to liberate his people from slavery. Moses still feared that, but God assured him that He would be with him, that He would supply the words and the power. Moses obeyed and put his trust in God, and the story of his return to Egypt to free his people is very much known.”
“Much later the Jews led by Moses finally reached the borders of the promised land. And they sent the spies to investigate that land. After weeks of observation those spies returned full of terrifying impressions. They said, There we saw the giants… and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Num. 13, 34). After hearing this report most of the Jews became very afraid to cross the border but two of those spies, Joshua and Caleb told them to have faith in God because the people of Canaan, even if they are so great and fearsome, they have no power against God who is with His people.”
“Let us not forget that our Lord Jesus Himself was facing His own giant of persecution and crucifixion. Inspiring the Apostles He said, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16, 33). And He went forth to conquer the mightiest giant of all – death.”
“The two blind men in today’s Gospel lesson faced the giant of physical blindness. But they came to Someone Who was the real Giant. In the power of their faith in Him the giant of blindness was overcome. “According to your faith be it done to you,” Jesus said to them (Mt. 9, 29).”
“Today we commemorate Venerable Father Anthony of the Kiev Caves. He was also facing a giant of his own. If we read his life story we may be convinced of that. St. Anthony faced temptations and a lot of difficulties in his ascetic endeavor. But he trusted in God and saw his goal of ascetic life. So he conquered all these obstacles.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! When like David, like Moses, like Joshua and Caleb, like the two blind men, and like Venerable Anthony, we look at life with faith in the Lord, the giants become cut down in size. We no longer grovel before them. For we are not grasshoppers in the presence of overpowering giants, but sons and daughters of Almighty God, clothed in the armor of Christ, trusting in Him. Being created in God’s image, we ourselves are supposed to be not grasshoppers but giants. If we invite Him to come and live within us, then there is a real giant in each one of us.”

The choir beautifully performed the hymns in honor of Venerable Anthony of the Caves during the time of preparation for Holy Communion.

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

After his final sermon the Rector congratulated our parishioners Olga Roussanow and Olga Vnukova on the occasion of their nameday coming tomorrow, on July 24. Fr. Igor proclaimed traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) to them and presented with the Theotokion prosphora.

Our celebration continued after services at the trapeza table. The Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company. a toast was raised in honor of our Olgas celebrating their nameday.