On January 22, on the Sunday after the Theophany, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in English:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate Sunday after the Theophany. Last week we had a great holy day of Theophany, which is the Baptism of Christ. The Gospel of today says that after Christ was baptized, He began to preach the same theme as St. John the Baptist did. He appealed to the people saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4, 17). Why? Because after we have been baptized, we are always tempted and the only way to end temptation is to repent. Our Gospel lessons proclaimed on Sundays do not tell us all the details of the life of Christ, but those lessons are rather some short messages telling us about His teaching. But if we read the Gospel of Matthew we would learn that after being baptized Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Christ did not fall after temptation and began His ministry. Thus His first sermon to the people was to repent because the Kingdom of heaven is near. But what exactly do these words mean? What is repentance? What is the Kingdom of heaven?”
“Sometimes we hear how people say, “We are sinful, but we will repent…” They may imagine that repentance is some abstract thing, a mood or an idea. But it is not just an idea, a thought. First of all, it is an action. Repentance is a change of mind which leads to a practical and visible change in our way of life. It does start in our mind, but it must produce action.
“Repentance is a conversion to God. Every time we repent, we must undertake a mini-conversion. Because if we commit a sin, especially a grave sin, we turn away from God, and we need to come back. It is like being lost on some road. Very often if we took a wrong highway we need to exit and go back. Our highway system is very comfortable. We can easily find our way. If we are lost we usually take an exit and go back to get to a proper route. Thus, repentance is like an exit from the wrong highway. We get out, come back and find the right way.”
“If this is repentance, what then is the Kingdom of heaven? First of all, the Kingdom of heaven is Christ Himself Who spoke these words to the people of that time, before whom He stood. The Kingdom of heaven was indeed at hand, for He stood before them. Secondly, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand and stands before us here and now. The Kingdom of heaven is here and now, but it depends on our willingness to accept Christ. At this very moment each one of us is in fact able to meet God and enter into His eternal joy, but only if we wish to do so through deep repentance. The joy of the Kingdom of heaven is a state of our soul, a state of our mind, and it is open to all those who wish to accept Christ.”
“Yes, it is true that our well-being does depend on whether we have a roof over our heads, enough money to pay our way in the world. But none of these things is absolutely essential, for there are people who have all these things but are still unhappy, they do not have the Kingdom of heaven. And there are people who have none of these things and yet they are happy, they have the Kingdom of heaven.”
“Some people marry and then divorce, remarry and re-divorce and do this even several times, and each time blame the others for the divorce. In fact it is them who bear the problem inside themselves, in their selfishness and hardness of heart. Some people may go from country to country and from job to job, blaming each failure on others. In fact the problem is carried in their suitcase, the problem is with the instability of the person, their inability to get on with others.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The presence of the Kingdom of heaven depends ultimately not on our circumstances but on us, on our interior disposition, on our ability to repent. Indeed it is only if we repent that the Kingdom of heaven at hand. Therefore, let us ask our Lord baptized in the Jordan to grant us a desire and an ability of true repentance.”
The choir beautifully performed the hymns of the Theophany during preparation of the faithful for Holy Communion.
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian to convey the ideas of his English homily.