On July 20, on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Rector of St. George Church celebrated Divine Liturgy in our temple. Since our Cantor and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow went on vacation, a substitute cantor had been summoned to sing the responses at the Liturgy.
Following the Gospel lesson the Rector began to preach. First he pointed out that we are finishing to reason about Sunday lessons from the Epistle, and today is the last sermon from that cycle of homilies. Then the Rector said to the faithful present:
“In today’s Epistle lesson St. Paul is giving many short advises to the Christians in Rome. These are the exhortations to practice certain virtues. They are reminders to the Romans and also to us that true Christian faith is useless without works. St. Paul says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the Saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom. 12, 9-16).”
“Each one of those advises could be discussed or interpreted extensively enough to preach a pretty long homily. Therefore, let us choose one of those timeless and precious exhortations and reflect upon it today. For instance, St. Paul today is giving us an interesting command when he says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12, 10). In other words the Apostle teaches us to outdo one another in showing honor. We have to attempt to show respect, honor and love to our fellow Christians and other people more than it is normally done. And this is the main Christian idea – to outdo something, to do something more than it is expected. Many of the similar advises are contained in the Holy Gospel of our Lord. For instance, Jesus says, “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Mt. 5, 41). And in the same manner, they can be observed in the Apostolic Scriptures. In today’s Epistle St. Paul tells us about honoring our brethren, and outdoing one another in that. In his another Epistle he writes, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2, 3). It means that St. Paul wishes us to practice treating one another as superiors. It means to be so mature in Christ that one does not have to feel superior to anyone – that is the test of a growing Christian.”
“To many people, the most important thing in life is to have a front seat, to be served, to be sought after. The aim of a Christian, on the other hand, is never to place himself on display or to be concerned with his own interests. This is why when two Disciples of the Lord, Apostles James and John approached Jesus with a request to be given two most important, closest seats to Him in His glory, the Lord rebuked them and said, “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.” (Mk. 10, 43-44). A Christian way is not to be served, but to serve and to outdo one another in that.”
“In the city of Weimar, Germany there is a statue of Goethe and Schiller, two great poets. The German people honor both of them very much and sometimes argue which one among them is greater. Schiller and Goethe were friends. They met together frequently and enjoyed talking to each other. If Goethe heard people say that he is the master poet of the Germans, he was quick to reply, “But do not forget Schiller”. And Schiller would always say the same about Goethe. The sculptor of the statue in Weimar expressed their mutual friendship beautifully. He has put a wreath of laurel leaves in Goethe’s hands. The poet is raising his hand to place the wreath on his friend Schiller’s head. But Schiller does not wish for the crown, which he thinks Goethe deserves more. He is thrusting it back, as if saying, “No, it is more fit for you to wear than me”. Thus, the two friends nobly disagreed, each refusing to be crowned. But in their hearts they loved one another, appreciating each other’s qualities. They fulfilled St. Paul command of today’s Epistle lesson, “in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12, 10).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Preoccupation with self causes much trouble and distress in human life. We need the love of Christ which thinks more of the happiness of others than it thinks of its own. This love is proud to serve. This love outdoes others in showing honor. The Christ-like love knows that in forgetting self it will find self, and that in losing self it will fulfill itself. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10, 45). Our Lord “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2, 8). He outdid others in showing us honor and love. Let us then do likewise!”
The number of parishioners attending the Liturgy was relatively small but almost everyone present received Holy Communion.