On April 7, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, as well as the feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God, we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. On that day our temple was blessed by receiving the holy relics of different Saints, including the relics of our Parish Patron, Holy Great Martyr George. By the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Matthew of Sourozh the relics were brought by Mr. Valeriy Balakirev, a distinguished scholar and the keeper of those relics. This special event attracted many guests to our church, so the attendance of our Sunday service was much higher on that day.
Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy. He was co-served by Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk), a cleric of the ROCOR. After the readings from the Holy Gospel Fr. Igor preached the following homily in English:
“Today we celebrate feast of the Annunciation. On this day the Angel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that She had been chosen by God to bring the Savior to the world. We call it in English “Annunciation” because it is announcing of the greatest good news mankind has ever heard: the coming of God into the world, and more specifically, into our lives. It is the announcement of the good news that God is coming to overcome sin and death for us, to make us His own sons and daughters, the heirs of His everlasting Kingdom.”
“This was really good news brought by Archangel Gabriel. Especially if we compare it with other news we hear in our life. The news is so bad these days that one doesn’t know whether to watch the six’ o’clock news and not be able to eat dinner or to watch the ten’ o’ clock news and not be able to sleep. We have a lot of bad news. Recently, we also started to get a lot of fake news. How can we deal with them?”
“The ancient Greeks killed anyone who brought them bad news. But that is not a solution. The bad news remains. Or maybe we can deal with bad news as some father of the four children tried? He refused to hear about bad news regarding his kids. He told his wife: “Please, if you don’t have good news about them, say nothing!” His wife then told him once: “I do have good news for you. Three of your four children didn’t break their arms today.””
“Our Christian faith doesn’t use such solutions. It does not begin with good news; it begins with acknowledging the bad news that exists in our world and in our lives: sin, death, suffering, despair, loneliness, hopelessness. Good news cannot be good news unless we first have a sense of the bad news of our situation.”
“It was into the world full of bad news that Christ came to Himself Good News. And the whole life and ministry of our Lord in the world is best described by the Greek word “Evangelion” – the Gospel, which means the good news. The whole teaching of Christ is Good News. Not good advice, but good news; not good views, but good news. This is the Gospel of Christ.”
“And the book of the Holy Gospel has many stories about people in whose lives our Lord Jesus Christ brought good news. Today, along with the feast of the Annunciation we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent, and we hear the Gospel lesson about a healing of a boy who had a mute spirit. It was really bad news for that boy’s family that he was so sick and demon-possessed. It was bad news for the Disciples of Christ who tried to heal the boy but were not successful. Finally, it was even bad news for Jesus. He was disappointed and exclaimed, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (Mk. 9, 19). But let us look how He dealt with those news: the Lord asked to bring that possessed boy to Him, He spoke to the boy’s father, He asked whether the father has faith. When Jesus saw the faith of the father who acknowledged that his faith is small, He healed the boy (Mk. 9, 20-24). That’s how Jesus dealt with bad news turning them into good news! And in every Gospel story we see that when our Lord Jesus Christ was coming into someone’s life, He was always bringing good news and making a great difference.”
“He made difference about many things. First of all, about God. The greatest difference and the greatest news about God is that He does not hate us. He loves us. He does not want to punish, but to forgive. God sent His Onlybegotten Son Jesus not to condemn the world but that the world may be saved through Him (Jn. 3, 17).”
“Jesus also made a difference about death. Death is man’s last and greatest enemy; it comes to put an end to our earthly lives. But in the darkness of death there shines the light of the risen Christ who came back from the grave and said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11, 25).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! We all need good news about God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s power for our weakness, God’s Resurrection for our death. Good news about the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be all glory, worship and thanksgiving now and unto the ages of ages. Amen!”
The choir beautifully performed hymns of the Annunciation during preparation for Holy Communion.
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian addressing his thoughts of the English homily. Then he asked Mr. Balakirev to have a speech about his mission of keeping and bringing the relics to different parishes. Following the speech the clergy and Rector and the altar server performed a short prayer service before the relics and the festal icons. That service included the rite of glorification of the feast, as well as troparion, kontakion, magnification and a prayer to the Parish Patron, Holy Great Martyr George.
After the prayers the faithful had an opportunity to venerate the relics and to kiss the cross from the hands of the Rector.
Following our liturgical celebration the clergy, along with our distinguished guests and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals prepared by our ladies and a nice company at the trapeza table.