On December 13th, on the 28th Sunday after Pentecost and on the feast of the Holy Apostle Andrew, we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lessons he preached the following homily in English:
“Today’s first Gospel tells us about a miracle of healing performed by our Lord Jesus Christ over a sick woman. She had a spirit of infirmity 18 years, and was bent over and could not raise herself up (Lk. 13, 11). As in many other instances when our Lord healed the people, He had compassion, He felt for this woman, thus He called her and said, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity” (Lk. 13, 12). He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God (Lk. 13, 13). We should recall that St. Luke whose Gospel we read today, was a physician, therefore he attempted to describe people’s illnesses with precision.”
“If we were present there at that glorious miracle of the Lord, we would probably rejoice for the woman who was healed and for the glory of God revealed. But the reaction of some people present there was different. We read that the ruler of the synagogue was not happy because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. So, the ruler said to the people that they may come to be healed on the other six days, but not on the Sabbath. In such a reaction we see a very formal and superficial observance of the law of Moses. The ruler of the synagogue, as well as all the Pharisees and scribes, kept the letter of the law, instead of the spirit of the law. Such an observance can still be seen in the orthodox Jewish communities. Many of those orthodox Jews populate this city of New York, and we may see how they strictly adhere to the Old Testament regulations, specifically on the observance of the Sabbath day. Thus, these people, as well as their ancestors mentioned in today’s Gospel, kept the letter of the law, not the spirit. This is why the Lord called them hypocrites. He said, “Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?” (Lk. 13, 15). Certain things should be done no matter whether today is Sabbath or any other day. Especially, good deeds of mercy should be performed on each day. Furthermore, Jesus wishes us to understand that such works of love and charity should especially be done on the holy days. Good Christians understand that. We are also called to keep Ten Commandments, to honor and sanctify the Sabbath. For us Sunday is our Sabbath, the holy day of the week, the day of rest and the day of worship. However, we cannot think that a miracle could not be performed on such a day. We further cannot imagine that works of mercy could be prohibited on Sunday. In addition, we agree that certain jobs like emergency help or works necessary for your life or health may be done on Sunday.”
“This is why today’s Gospel teaches us to observe the spirit of the God’s law, not just the letter of it. We have to live by our faith, and not just show that we are so religious. Our piety has to show what is in our hearts. Otherwise we risk to become similar to the Jewish scribes or Pharisees who demonstrated their piety and zeal in external observance of the rituals, but inside of their hearts were evil. Our Lord called them “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Mt. 23, 27). Jesus warned His disciples from the “leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy” (Lk. 12, 1).”
“Honoring today Holy Apostle Andrew whom we name the “First-called”, we may remember that he was free from that leaven of the Pharisees. Although St. Andrew was a Jew he did not fall under that influence of the hypocritical Pharisees and scribes. If we recall today’s second Gospel reading, Andrew was one of the disciples of St. John the Baptist. Thus before being called to become an Apostle of Christ he was a disciple of the Holy Forerunner. He was well prepared to accept the Messiah. This made him the “First-called” while some other disciples were not so ready. If we recall St. Paul, he was a Pharisee himself. Only after his conversion St. Paul freed from that leaven of the Pharisees. Thus it is important to note that holy Apostle Andrew was so much prepared to accept the Christ, and we should imitate him as one of the best.”
“Dear brother and sisters! The spirit of the law is found in the whole works of divine grace. The healing, life-giving, renewing power of God, His grace has no limits. It cannot be limited to the certain days, to the certain places or certain nations. It acts everywhere. And we have to be joyful to receive it and to see it at work. This was the purpose of the Lord to come into this world, that His grace may be shed upon every person. As a sign of that Jesus Himself cured all the infirmities and diseases among the people whom He encountered in pain. And the whole human race had to be healed, made well and straight the way the Lord healed and made straight the woman in today’s Gospel. Thus, dear brothers and sisters, let us be grateful and adhere to His commands, fulfilling first of all the spirit of His law, to be worthy of His eternal ruling.”
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian to convey the main thoughts of his English homily.
Following his sermon the Rector congratulated our parishioner and altar server Andrew Malyshew on the occasion of his name day and expressed to him heartfelt wishes of God’s help, intercession of St. Andrew and many happy years. The traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was sung.
Fr. Igor also expressed his sincere condolences to Olga Vnukova for the loss of her brother Andrei who passed away last week. Fr. Igor noted that today, celebrating St. Andrew the Apostle, we congratulate one Andrew who is here with us and we also commemorate another Andrew who just passed away. It is coincidental but it tells us that in God everyone is living.
After our services the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the trapeza table during the coffee hour.