On September 18, on the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, St. George Church had a nice celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in English:
“Today’s Gospel lesson tells us a parable about vineyard and about its evil tenants. The story was addressed to the leaders of the Jews, to those who did not accept Jesus as their Messiah and who wished to destroy Him.”
“The meaning of this parable is quite simple. The landowner is God the Father. He planted a vineyard which is Israel, the holy nation of God, the Church of the Old Testament. The tenants are the leaders entrusted with the care of God’s people. According to the parable they did not wish to give the owner His share of grapes. God sent His servants to them. Those servants are the Prophets, sent by God in the times of the Old Testament to proclaim His will. The tenants beat and killed the servants. The Jewish leaders persecuted the Prophets and really killed some of them. Today we commemorate Holy Prophet Zachariah and righteous Elizabeth, parents of St. John the Baptist. St. Zachariah was a priest in the holy Temple and he was one of the latest Prophets before Christ. He was killed right in the Temple, between the offering table and the altar. Such was the destiny of many Prophets. Since those servants of God were mistreated and not listened, God sent His onlybegotten Son. The Jewish leaders might honor the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. But in their envy and impiety they murdered the Son as well. He was cast out of the holy city of Jerusalem and crucified, just as the landowner’s son in the parable was cast out of the vineyard and killed.”
“The biggest mistake those evil tenants made was to think that the vineyard was his own possession, not the property of the landowner. And the leaders of the Jews also began to think that Israel is their own possession, so they can rule over it without God and without His Messiah.”
“Now all of us, the true followers of Christ, became the holy nation of God. We are His Church, the Church of the New Testament. Thus it is important for us is to be the new and worthy tenants of God’s vineyard. And the lesson of this parable remains as a stern warning for us too. We may also commit the same grave mistake as those tenants of the parable. We may begin to see ourselves not as humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord but as its owners. Such a danger is closer and more real for us the clergy – bishops, priests, and deacon, who are called to work at the vineyard of the Lord. It is the danger of forgetting that the vineyard of the Church is not our property, but His, who, in the time of the harvest, will demand of us “to bear fruit.” And such an error had been committed by the Church of Rome. The popes began to see themselves the supreme authority in the Church, forgetting that the head of the Church is Jesus Christ Himself. This is why the Russian writer Dostoyevsky pictured that attitude in his “Legend about the Great Inquisitor”. In that story of the great Russian thinker, the Roman Catholic prelate tells Jesus Himself that they do not need Him, that they perfectly manage without Him and that His coming is very inconvenient for their ruling over the people of God.”
“But the same danger may await us, the Orthodox clergy. We may also think that the Church is our own property, not God’s. God gives us a warning through Prophet Isaiah: “What more could have been done for My vineyard than I have done for it?” (Is. 5, 4). Indeed, He planted the vineyard, He called us to work and cultivate His spiritual grapes. Yet, He is the vine; we are the branches. If we remain in Him we will bear much fruit; for apart from Him we can do nothing (Jn. 15, 5).”
“Sometimes we also hear that the lay people make the same mistake when they talk of the Church as if it was their property, as it belonged to them. They do it because they or their parents played some role in the construction or decoration of the building. My dear, if the Church is yours, then it is not the Lord’s, and if it is not the Lord’s then it is not the Church!”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us all of us, clergy and laity, avoid the mistakes of the evil tenants. Let us avoid their ungratefulness, their hardening of the hearts. Let us instead repeat and proclaim with gratitude the last words of today’s Gospel: “This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Mt. 21, 42).”
Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian conveying the ideas of his English homily.
The Rector congratulated our long-time parishioner Natalia Soho on the occasion of her past name day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was sung.
Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company.