On June 21, on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, as well as Sunday of All the Saints of the Land of Rus’, our Parish family gathered for the liturgical celebration at St. George Church.
Before the Liturgy our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov performed the Office of Joining the Orthodox Church for the newly-converted Emil Suric. After being a catechumen he was received into the Orthodox Church and chrismated receiving a name in honor of Holy Martyr Emilian of Silistria.
During the Liturgy, after the reading from the Holy Gospel the Rector preached the following homily in English:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On this 2nd Sunday after Pentecost we honor All the Saints of our Russian Church. Officially this feast is called “Sunday of All the Saints who shone in the land of Rus’”. Those words suggest that the Saints are people who shine”.
“Reflecting upon those words we may recall that our Lord Jesus Christ told His Disciples: “You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5, 14). He further said to them: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5, 16). So, the holy people have to be the light for others and to shine before others. This was a rule for many men and women in the Christian Church, as well as in any local Orthodox Church like our Russian Church, to please the Lord by shining with the virtues, with the holy life and with the grace of God. The Saints of the whole Church in general and our Russian Saints in particular were the examples of true faith, of godly life and of sincere piety. They kept the Commandments and were ready to live and die for Christ. They also taught and enlighten the people instructing them on the Word of God and preaching the Orthodox faith. This is why we say that those Saints “shone in the land of Rus’”.
“Such wording to describe the Saints is very much known to our Orthodox minds. During memorial service we sing that in paradise “the just shine like the luminaries”. Our Lord Himself said that “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt. 13, 43). Prophet Daniel says: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars” (Dan. 12, 3). However, we have to say that the Saints do not shine by themselves. Their light is the light from God who is blessing, enlightening and overshadowing them by His own light. For He calls Himself “the Light of the world” (Jn. 8, 12). And this is understood because God is the Creator of everything and He Himself is the Source of blessings and holiness, the Source of true light for men. The Gospel of John says that Jesus Christ is “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (Jn. 1, 9). Therefore, the Saints are shining by the light of Christ, they are reflecting His light”.
“In Western culture we may see many old and new churches having so called stained glass windows. Since the Church art in the West was more modest, not having so many icons in some temples, it showed some images and expressed certain beauty in those windows picturing the Saints there. Once a girl came to such church and asked her parents who are those people pictured on those glass windows. When she was told that these are the Saints she said, “The Saints are those through whom the light is coming inside!” Thus the Saints are those who are conductors of divine light in the same way as the windows let the sunlight to come in the building. That is the way how the Saints should be”.
“Many lives of the Saints tell us that those holy men and women were shining with the visible light. Especially, it could be observed when they were praying or performing the divine services. But even in very harsh settings and environments remote from the holy places they could be seen shining. A life of one Russian New Martyr says that when this man was incarcerated and was a prisoner of a labor camp, his criminal inmates abused and humiliated him. They, as it was common in those places, did not allow him to sleep on the bunk but only under the bunks, on the floor. But once during the night one of those criminals saw the light coming from under the bunks. He realized that it was coming from that man whom they abused, so the criminals changed their attitude towards him. And also sometimes when you look at the pictures of those New Martyrs of our Church you may see how their faces and especially their eyes are shining – maybe not literally with the light – but with some godly attitude, peace and love”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! We are supposed to imitate those holy men and women, the Saints of our Church, those who shone in the land of our ancestors. It is up to us whether we will allow the light of the Lord to shine through us as the sunlight shines through the windows. We may keep those windows of our souls open to divine grace or we may close them with the curtains or drapes. It depends on us. In the time of persecutions the light of Christ is prevented from shining upon the people. But it finds its way. It’s like the sun when the sky is cloudy. The sunlight still makes its way although we see no sun or no rays of sun. But the holy New Martyrs and Confessors in those times still allowed the light to shine through them. Therefore, in any time we should and could be those conductors of the divine light of the grace and love of Christ to shine before men, so Christ may enlighten and save us and them. Let us pray to the multitude of our Saints to intercede for us and to give us strength to be the light of the world!”
During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, Fr. Igor proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease. After the Litany he also offered a special prayer for the deliverance from pestilence.
The choir beautifully performed the hymns dedicated to the Russian Saints during preparation for Holy Communion.
Following the Ambo Prayer the Rector and altar server performed the rite of glorification in the middle of the church and the Rector proclaimed a prayer to the Russian Saints.
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian conveying the ideas of his English homily. He also congratulated our parishioners on the occasion of Father’s Day proclaiming traditional “Mnogaia leta!” to our men – fathers and grandfathers. Then Fr. Igor greeted Emilian Suric on his joining the Orthodox Church and our parish, handed him the Theotokian prosphora and proclaimed a Polychronion on his behalf.