On March 12, on the Second Sunday of Lent, our Parish family gathered for a nice liturgical celebration at our temple. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is the following:
“On the Second Sunday of Lent we have to come to an understanding that each one of us has very little power to accomplish our journey to the Kingdom of heaven. It has been two weeks after we started this journey, two weeks has passed since we began Lent. And I think that those of us who really tried to keep this fast, had to realize that not much was accomplished. It was difficult to abstain from certain food, but even if we did, it was much more difficult to abstain from passions: from being angry, from being jealous, from judging and condemning others, from being lazy and negligent. This shows us, dear brothers and sisters, that by ourselves we cannot do much about our salvation, our conversion or repentance. We need God’s help. As the Lord says, “Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 5, 15).”
“This why today’s Gospel lesson is telling us about a paralyzed man. His condition is an image of our sinful soul. Although we may wish to be saved, to repent and to enter into the Kingdom of God, we are not able to accomplish it because our souls are paralyzed by our sinfulness and spiritual weakness. We need Jesus who would first forgive our sins and then heal us from this paralysis. Only with God’s help and with His life-creating power we can be made whole. Such life-creating power of God is His divine grace. Without God’s grace we cannot reach salvation. Today the Church commemorates Holy Father Gregory Palamas who was a great spiritual writer. In his writings he taught about divine grace and that a man can acquire it through spiritual life and endeavors of piety. This is why we call St. Gregory “the preacher of grace”.”}
“The divine grace is a gift from God. It is God’s power, His energy which, according to the teaching of St. Gregory, is God Himself. In today’s Gospel story the paralyzed man acquired such grace. He probably did repent for his sins but his repentance was in vain until He was brought to Jesus. Only Jesus could forgive his sins and heal him. Same thing happens to us when we approach the holy Mystery of Confession. Our own strength and our own repentance may not be sufficient for our sins to be forgiven but if it is joined with the power of Christ we are forgiven in the Mystery of Penance.”
“Another important aspect for us to remember today is that we are being saved not alone but as a community of believers. In today’s Gospel the paralyzed man could not himself approach Jesus. Thus he was carried by his four friends who even got on the roof of the building where Jesus was and uncovered the roof and let down the bed with the paralytic right to Jesus. It is after seeing their faith the Lord forgave the man’s sins and made him whole (Mk. 1, 4-5). In the same way, dear brothers and sisters, we are being saved not only by our own faith, but also by the faith of the Church. Who are those four friends of the paralyzed man? Symbolically, they are an image of the four Evangelists who composed the four Gospels and the Holy Gospel is bringing us to Jesus. They first bring us to the Lord and then we become able to acquire His grace. Those four friends may be also considered an image of the four sides of the universe where the Good News of Christ is being preached and where the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is being established to lead all the nations to the Lord.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we do need those four friends. We need the four Gospels, we need the Church, the holy community of those who have faith, so that faith may be seen by the Lord and may produce a miraculous outcome. And when we become brought to the Lord by the faith of the community, of the four friends, then the divine grace may act upon us. This is why, we first need to be instructed by the Word of God and then become able to receive His Mysteries. All this is impossible without the Church, without being with the community of the believers.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, on this Second Sunday of Lent let us realize that we cannot accomplish the journey to our salvation alone. We need the divine grace and God’s help. And we need to acquire it through the Holy Church which is dispensing the divine grace in the Holy Mysteries, especially in the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist. And realizing that, we may successfully use help of our four spiritual fiends and become brought to the Lord, so He could grant us His life-creating grace of salvation.”
Since we did not hold a service on yesterday’s memorial Saturday, the Rector proclaimed the Litany for the departed commemorating the names of our deceased loved ones.
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in English stressing the main points of his Russian homily.
Due to the scheduled Annual Parish Meeting we had coffee and refreshments served after the Liturgy.