On February 18, on the Cheesefare Sunday, we had a nice and prayerful celebration in our parish. We also celebrated feast of the Meeting of the Lord transferred to Sunday. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:
“Today is Cheesefare Sunday, the last day before the beginning of Lent. Today the Church wishes us to commemorate the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise. Today we also celebrate feast of the Meeting of the Lord, a great holy day which is always celebrated 40 days after Christmas. On this day we recall that the Most Holy Mother of God brought the Child Jesus into the Temple of Jerusalem to present Him before the Lord and God. By doing so, the parents of Jesus fulfilled the command of the Law of Moses. Since He was the first-born Son of His Mother, according to the Old Testament law He had to be offered to God. His parents had to come to Jerusalem, to the holy Temple and to perform a ritual, a sacrifice for Him. And they did so. They accomplished this after 40 days of His birth because, again according to the law of Moses, the Blessed Mother had to wait 40 days to be considered purified after childbirth to be able to enter the Temple.”
“The Gospel of the feast tells us that there was a righteous man named Simeon who met the Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus in the Temple. Simeon received Christ in his arms. He knew immediately that this Child was the Redeemer promised by all of Israel’s prophecies. Being inspired by the Holy Spirit, Simeon uttered prophetic words which form the hymn sung or chanted at the end of every Vespers service: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word…” (Lk. 2, 25-29). Thus, this holy elder finally met His Lord and Savior, achieved a goal of his life – to unite with God. But holy tradition tells that Simeon waited many years for this moment. The Most Holy Mother of God waited 40 days of purification while Simeon waited much longer – years, even centuries.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord always gives some time to wait, to go through a labor, a test. The number 40 is very much frequent in such spiritual matters. We just said that Meeting of the Lord occurred 40 days after His Nativity. But we may recall that 40 years God made the Jews to wander in the wilderness before they became ready and worthy to inherit the Promised Land. 40 days our Lord Jesus Christ fasted in the wilderness before He began His earthly ministry, His mission of salvation of the world. And 40 days, according to our pious beliefs, human soul after death is waiting to be admitted into the place where it will wait for the Last Judgment- either to heaven or to hell. 40 years, 40 days…”
“Tomorrow we start Lent, the 40 days of spiritual endeavor, spiritual labor and warfare. This is given us to prepare for Pascha, for the feast of the Resurrection of Christ. These 40 days of fast are given us as a symbolic time to return to the paradise lost by Adam but regained by Christ. Just like the Jews in the wilderness aiming to the promised land, just as the Blessed Mother waiting to bring Her first-born Son to the Temple and just as Jesus Christ Himself who fasted in the wilderness, we are supposed to reach our goal: to become ready and worthy to celebrate Holy Pascha, to enter into the joy of our Lord, to feast rejoicing of His Resurrection from the dead. But this symbolic goal must remind us of our main and real goal: to join the Lord Himself in His eternal Kingdom, to enter into His everlasting joy, into the banquet hall of His never-ending feast. It did happen to righteous elder Simeon who waited and was not disappointed. It could happen to us. And it will if we endure the test, if we fulfill the endeavor, if we win the warfare.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us ask our Lord Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother to assist us in our journey towards Holy Pascha. Let us ask them to lead us through these 40 days of Lent and through our life to reach eternal Kingdom of the Lord, so we may, along with holy Simeon say,” Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace!””
The choir beautifully performed the hymns of the Meeting of the Lord during the time of preparation for Holy Communion.
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing main ideas of his Russian homily. He also made some announcements regarding the beginning of Lent and the service schedule.
Following the Divine Liturgy the Rector performed Vespers with the Rite of Forgiveness. After the singing of the Great Prokimenon he changed his priestly vestments to the Lenten color of black.
After the Vespers dismissal the Rector preached a sermon about the importance of forgiveness in our spiritual, as well as our earthly life. After finishing the sermon he asked for forgiveness bending his knees. The parishioners also knelt down and asked their pastor for forgiveness. Then each one of the faithful could come to the Rector to kiss the cross and to express the forgiveness.
Following the services of this special day the Rector and parishioners joined at the Blini Lunch. We enjoyed delicious meals, especially the blini, nicely prepared by our ladies.