On September 20, on the Sunday before the Exaltation, our parish had a beautiful celebration. In addition we observed feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God transferred to Sunday. The Divine Liturgy in our temple was served by the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. A ROCOR cleric, Priest Nenad Flora was present praying in the temple and receiving Holy Communion in the sanctuary. After the Gospel lesson Fr. Igor preached the following homily in English:
“Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate Sunday before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and we also observe feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God. A week ago we also started the New Church Year since the liturgical year begins on September 1st, the day on which, according to the pious tradition, God began the creation of the world”.
“The first today’s Gospel reading reminds us again that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3, 16). Thus God did not just create the world but loved the world and loved the human race He created. In the spiritual sense, the whole history of the world is the history of God’s love and care for us. One of the pages of that history is today’s observed Birth of the Most Holy Theotokos. It is celebrated on the 8th day of the first month of the Church calendar. It looks like eight days after we celebrated the New Year of the Church, we are now celebrating a new beginning for the whole universe, the Birth of the Mother of our Savior”.
“We may ask whether those 8 days have a meaning. They probably do because eight is the number of eternity, eight takes us out of time, out of the repetitive cycle of the seven days of the week, into eternity. God created the world in 6 days, then He rested on the 7th day. And the 8th day is the world to come. It is “life everlasting” which God prepared for us through His only begotten Son. With the birth of the Mother of God, there is a hope that eternity will enter into time. Eternal God will enter into human history. The Uncreated will penetrate into the created. This will be a mystery beyond understanding”.
“However, certain things about that mystery and about the event of the Nativity of the Mother of God we are able to understand. We should understand that Holy Virgin was born in a natural way, but not out of simple lust, but out of the pure wish to give birth to and bring up a child devoted to God. Her father, Joachim, was of the line of David, king and prophet; her mother, Anna, was of the line of Aaron the priest. Their daughter will come to give birth to the Almighty and unique King of kings, Prophet of prophets and Priest of priests, to Christ himself. This is why those holy parents, Joachim and Anna are examples for all who wish to have children. They are examples to all parents, teaching us how to bring up children in piety”.
“We may recall how the Church praises today’s feast singing, “Today the barrenness of our nature has been loosed”. We were barren because until Christ was born through the Virgin, we were condemned to sin, passion and death. And even today those who reject the message of Christ still remain barren and condemned to those evil things. But if we have heard the voice of Christ in our souls, then we are no longer barren. We are fruitful, spiritually fruitful. There is no requirement for all of us to be married and have children. But in any moment of our lives we have to be spiritually sane and active and bear spiritual fruit. We have to listen to the voice of Christ and follow Him. If we do so, then the fruits of our behavior, of our lifestyle will be appropriate”.
“Holy parents Joachim and Anna worked together with God’s Providence. This was the cause of their joy. If we can do the same, it will be the beginning of our joy too. We too can free ourselves of the barrenness of our sinful nature, if we stop thinking about our material well-being and start thinking about our spiritual well-being. Then we too will give birth to spiritual fruit like holy grandparents of God Joachim and Anna”.
“Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters! During Christmas time when we celebrate the Nativity of Christ, we say “God with us”. Preparing to honor His Precious Cross we may also remember that God is with us, God the Son who died for us on the cross. And today, on the birthday of the Theotokos, we may say, “Holy Mother of God is with us”. She may help us to follow Her Son and intercede for us before Him. Holy Mother is now with us. Let us rejoice!”
During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, Fr. Igor proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.
The choir beautifully performed the hymns of the Nativity of the Theotokos during preparation for Holy Communion.
Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification in front of the festal icon singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast. Then the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian addressing the ideas of his English homily and made some announcements.