On February 17, on the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, we had a beautiful celebration. On that day we also observed feast of Meeting of the Lord transferred to Sunday.
The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the readings from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily about celebrated feast and about spiritual significance of today’s Sunday.
The idea of the holy day of the Meeting is that a human person should seek an encounter with God the Lord. Such an encounter could take place anywhere but the most proper place for that is the God’s temple. In the events of the celebrated feast we learn that Child Jesus was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem by His Mother to fulfill the demands of the law of Moses. A sacrifice was offered for Him there. Thus a meeting with God took place there. We also learn from the Gospel lesson that another meeting took place there – elder Simeon met His Savior and Lord recognizing Him in the little Child Jesus. In another Gospel lesson about the Publican and Pharisee we also read that two men went to the Temple to pray. They both desired a spiritual encounter with God. But their prayers were different, thus their meeting with God was different. A humble publican had a beneficial meeting while a proud Pharisee was not justified by the Lord. But both went to the same holy place. Therefore, we need to come to the temple of God to seek an encounter with God.
To have a beneficial encounter we also need to do certain pious actions: to pray, to participate in the rites or to offer sacrifices. Holy Family coming into the Temple offered a sacrifice of two young pigeons for their first-born Son, as it was prescribed by the Old Testament law. Nowadays, in our New Testament Church, we no longer offer animals to be slaughtered; our main sacrifice, Holy Eucharist, is without blood. However, we still sacrifice certain things: we light candles, we bring so-called “koliva” for the deceased, we give monetary donations, and, finally, we may sacrifice our time, work, talents for the Church. All such actions make our encounter with the Lord possible.
But the most important thing for our meeting with God to be successful is to have a proper spiritual attitude, an appropriate spiritual state. A publican in today’s parable had it while a Pharisee did not. In the same way, God blessed the sacrifice of Abel of old who brought the best lambs to be offered to God. But God did not look upon the sacrifice of his brother Cain who offered just some kind of the fruits of his work. God knew the attitude of Cain who was not sincere and did not offer a sacrifice with love and proper piety. Therefore, we have to be cautious about our spiritual state if we wish that our meeting with God was beneficial and successful.
During preparation for Holy Communion the choir beautifully performed festal hymns of the Meeting of the Lord, as well as hymns from the Lenten Triodion which begin to be sung on this Sunday, starting with the words “The door of repentance open to me, o Giver of life…”.
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification before the icon of the feast singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Meeting. The Rector then preached a brief sermon in English conveying the ideas of his Russian homily.
Following the Liturgy at the request of Olga Vnukova the Rector officiated a short memorial service (Litia) for her newly-deceased nephew Nikolai. Upon completion of the service Fr. Igor expressed Olga his sincere condolences.