On September 20, on the Sunday before Exaltation of the Cross, St. George parish had a proper liturgical service. We also observed feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God which was falling on the next day. Despite a small number of people attending the temple we had a nice celebration.
Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the readings from the Scripture he preached a homily:
“Today’s 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 recalled that to teach His disciples about His own mission in the world, the mission of salvation. And He compared His mission 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 at Calvary, 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 passion that surround us.”
“We remember that when Adam and Eve, our ancestors, committed the first sin, they were tempted by a serpent. And when we may become bit by a snake? When we meddle with a snake, come into a close contact. Adam and Eve sinned because they entered into a contact, a conversation with the snake. When we commit sins, we do the same. We converse with the snake. We enter into a close contact with it. And it bites us with the deadly poison, it pours that poison right into our soul. And there is no cure to any man. No cure, if not a merciful God, who sends us not Moses, but His Onlybegotten 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. Just as the copper serpent had no poison, so Christ was similar to all of us, being one of us. He experienced all human sorrows, the pains and sorrows which encounter us in the desert, in our human life. He was similar to us in everything, except sin. Thus as the copper serpent was similar to a living serpent but was not poisonous, so Jesus was not sinful. And when we turn to Him, He will deliver us from the evil. We have to turn to Him and gaze at Him not just with our external eyes but with the eyes of our heart and with our faith. We have to ask for the forgiveness of our sins, and beg for the sanctification of our lives. Then the Lord will grant us deliverance from all the snakes of this world. Evil in the world is extremely frantic. It seems that only a few men left who actually turn to Christ and His Holy Cross. But we know about the best kept secret of life: what is sin and what is death, and where salvation is. Only the cross of Christ is giving us such a salvation.”
“Let us also remember how such a salvation was actually obtained. Our Lord was born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Since today we celebrate feast of Her Nativity, Her Birth, let us remember that She was the one who brought our Savior into the human world. As we sing in today’s troparion to Her, “The Sun of righteousness, Christ our God, has shone from You!” Without Her we could not have Jesus, our Savior. and if today we celebrate the day of Her Birth, we celebrate the beginning of the history of our salvation.”
“The Most Holy Mother of God had always been with Her Son, if not physically then She was always with Him in spirit. She followed with Him to Calvary and She was standing besides His Cross. Thus the Theotokos has a special connection to the Sacrifice on the Cross made for all of us. And being always with Christ in His earthly mission, She is always with Him in His glory. The Mother of God now stands besides His throne in the blessedness of heaven. Therefore, we should always remember that She is our Helper and Protectress. Our salvation comes from Jesus Christ alone, but also through the Most Holy Mother of God. Let us honor Her and ask to save us!”
“Let us then, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, turn our spiritual eyes to the holy Cross of Christ, let us ask for the forgiveness and delivery. Let us remember that God redeemed us, purchased us with great price of His own Blood shed on the Cross. Let us also ask the Most Holy Mother of the Savior to help us in our journey to salvation. Let us pray that She may be with us always in this life, as well as at the hour of our departure from it. Thus, we would not die but have life everlasting.”
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector performed the rite of Glorification in front of the icon of the feast, singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos.