On July 9, on the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, 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:
“Today’s Gospel does not give us a lesson of what we should do, but rather shows us what we should avoid, what we should not do. It shows us a shocking reality of the existence of the power of evil. But it also teaches us that we need to avoid not only the powers of the evil one, but an attitude of desiring to be away from God, to be spiritually on our own.”
“Today’s Gospel draws a terrible picture for us: two demon-possessed men came out from the tombs, “exceedingly fierce, so that no man might pass by that way” (Mt. 8, 28). Christ permitted the demons to enter into a huge herd of swine. The possessed ones were healed, but the whole herd of swine jumped from the cliff into the lake. So, we can only wonder and be impressed by a terrible force of evil which could do so.”
“And speaking of the evil forces, we may see that those possessed men stayed out of society, living in the tombs. And today the Church commemorates Venerable Father David of Thessalonica who also did not live in the society. He lived under the tree and often stayed on the tree branches. I was there in Thessalonica and I saw where this Father lived and I had an opportunity to see and to venerate his relics. So, sometimes you can see that the demon-possessed people live in a strange place, but sometimes we see that also holy people may live in a strange place. These are the extreme ways of life. And most of us don’t like to be in such extremes, but rather to keep somewhere in the middle. It is possible but we need to remember that anywhere we stand we need to be with God. If we desire to be independent from Him, we make a terrible mistake. Such a mistake was made by the people of that town described in today’s Gospel.”
“Here is the ending of the Gospel: “And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus” (Mt. 8, 34). And now you expect to find something encouraging: the whole town has united in order to meet the Lord. You want to think that it was faith that united them, that they, as once did the Samaritans, would ask the Lord to remain with them, would thank Him for His healing, for the salvation of two of their townspeople, and also for freeing them from the danger present when passing that way. And what happened? Yes, they asked the Lord, but not to stay with them, but rather to “depart out of their region!” (Mt. 8, 34).”
“Here is the most discouraging part in this Gospel reading. First the demons were in two possessed men. Later, we saw them in an entire herd of swine. And then, a whole town possessed. With what? Not directly with the evil spirits, but with the passion for profit. According to Jewish law, raising pigs was unlawful, sinful. But it made money, and huge amounts of money. And here an entire herd perished. And the people seemed to be saying to the Lord: “You have only set foot on our land and have caused us such a terrible loss. What will happen next if you stay here any longer? You will ruin us completely! We see, we understand your greatness: even the devils are obedient to you! But what does that do for us? What do the two healed men matter to us? We don’t need your miracles. We need the profit, we need the money. You are not for us. Go away, go away.””
“Today’s Gospel lesson teaches us that we cannot be spiritually on our own. If we are with God, He will take a good care of us in our life. But if we ask God to depart from our life, He will obey. But then we will become an easy prey of the evil forces. God is Almighty but He never forces us to be with Him. He won’t save us without our cooperation with Him, without our desire for Him to be in our lives, to bless us and to abide with us. Thus if we ask Him to go, He will eventually leave. But we won’t be able to be spiritually independent. If God leaves, the devil comes.”
“Recently we have heard of fierce storms in our old country. Some priests blame sinful way of life of today’s people. Although God does not act in such a simplistic manner, He does allow evil to act if we live without God. If some sinful way of life, some passion takes over our soul, changes our lifestyle, we may think that we are better off without God. However, it is a terrible delusion.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us examine our soul. Doesn’t the same thing happen to us? Some kind of passion takes possession of us, but Christ becomes an obstacle. And in our soul, we whisper the same terrible words: “Go away from us.” May the Lord keep us from this! May our words directed to Him always be: “Come to us and never leave us,” “Come and dwell within us and cleanse us from all impurity, and save our souls, o Good one!””
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian to convey the ideas of his English homily.
After our service Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.