On September 23, on the Sunday before the Exaltation of the Cross, we had a nice celebration at St. George. We also observed the feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God which fell on the last Friday and had been transferred to that Sunday. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy at our church. Following the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached the following homily in English:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we came to celebrate the great feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God. This holy day is the first great celebration after the beginning of the New Church Year. And this has its significance: as we start the new year of the Church life, we commemorate the day on which the history of our salvation began, we celebrate the day of birth of the Most Holy Mother of our Savior.”
“This day was “the joy of the whole universe”, as we sing in today’s troparion. It may be compared to the beginning of the dawn. Early in the morning we see the darkness around us and we wait for the sun to rise. Especially now, in the fall, the sun does not rise too early and the nights are becoming longer. So, we may wait for the day to begin and for the sun to rise, but it does not happen so fast. But before the sun rises the sky in the East becomes lighter. This is called the dawn of the new day. So the Nativity of the Theotokos can be compared to the dawn of the new day, of the day of our salvation. The Akathistos to the Most Holy Mother of God says: “Rejoice, o dawn of the mystical day!” The mystical day is the salvation of the human race. That mystical day is the spiritual day where Jesus Christ, the Sun of truth had shone for the whole world. But before the appearance of that Sun, the dawn of the Nativity of the Theotokos appeared, appeared to proclaim the beginning of our salvation.”
“Now we are gathered in the temple and we pray to the Most Holy Mother of God because it is the impression that we live in the world full of darkness. That darkness is overshadowing us. The murk of sin and the shadow of godless attitude had filled the souls of men. The weight of that apostasy in the world we feel in our everyday life. The fruits of such a godless life we experience in our sorrows, misfortunes and evil things which happen to us. The darkness of hostility is seen in today’s world. People are so much divided and hating each other. We are now witnessing a sad division among the Orthodox people and even between the particular Orthodox Churches. It is not surprising that the evil one was attempting to make a quarrel among us, but it is very sad that some of us succumbed to that temptation and began to fight. Another sad example is this country. Here, in America, the society is so divided over political issues, over the support or disappointment of today’s President. Instead of remembering that all the Americans are supposed to be united as one nation and political preferences should not be their priority, they fight and show intolerance to each other.”
“Looking at all that darkness of sin, godlessness, hostility and evil around us we may ask: was all the whole cause of our salvation in vain? Was the coming of Christ for nothing? The world is still in the darkness of sin and the men are still hating, killing and disrespecting each other, as it was before Christ. Was the Nativity of the Theotokos, the dawn of the mystical day in vain? No, dear brothers and sisters! The difference between the world before Christ and our today’s world is tremendous. Before Christ, even the best minds of humanity could not change much, could not free themselves from sin, because they were living under the curse of apostasy which man placed on himself when he violated God’s only commandment in paradise. Even the most righteous men and women who lived before Christ could not lift that curse. And thus, the dawn of the salvation had appeared, the Most Holy Theotokos was born, the one who after some twenty years had to give birth to the Savior! And Her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ was only one who was able to lift the lift the condemnation. As we sing in today’s troparion, “by annulling the curse, He bestowed the blessing, by destroying death, He has granted us eternal life”. Thus the ancient curse was annulled, abolished and the blessing was bestowed due to the coming of Christ. And the harbinger of that salvation was the birth of the Most Holy Mother of God.”
“And today, in the same way as the dawn of our salvation had shone over the world that had no salvation, the Holy Church again and again proclaims our salvation, reminds us that the light of God may shine in our souls. And even our darkest sins can be annihilated; and even our most terrible sorrows can be chased away; and we can be freed from any trouble. It is now depending on us: whether we would turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, would pray for Her intercession and help, whether we would ask Her to lead us to Her Son, to teach us to live a pious life, to keep the Commandments, to pray, to receive the Holy Sacraments. It is now up to us whether we would live in the darkness of the world, in the murk of sin, or we would walk in the light of Christ. Therefore, let us praise the Most Holy Mother of God on today’s day of Her wonderful birth and let us acclaim to Her the words of our pious prayer: “Most Holy Mother of God, save us!””
During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector proclaimed additional petitions for the peace in Ukraine and for preservation of the unity of the Orthodox Church.
The choir nicely performed the hymns in honor of the Nativity of the Theotokos during preparation for Holy Communion.
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification in the middle of the church singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God. The Rector also preached a short sermon in Russian to convey the main thoughts of his English homily.