On December 4, on the feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On this day we celebrate feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple. We commemorate a wonderful event from the history of salvation, a day when the Blessed Mother of the Savior, being only a 3-year old girl, was brought to the holy Temple of Jerusalem by her righteous parents. She entered the holy place and was even allowed in the Holy of the Holies where only the high priest could enter. That was a strange thing but it happened because of the God’s will to show who that little girl was – the future Mother of the Messiah, the future living Temple of God”.
“Celebrating this feast we should think about the significance of the holy temple in our life. As the Jews of old had the holy Temple in Jerusalem, we Christians have our holy churches. But if the Old Testament Temple was only one, in Jerusalem, our New Testament places of worship are many. We are blessed to have them everywhere. In our Orthodox temple we begin our Christian life being baptized and chrismated. Then we are blessed in our childhood years if our parents bring us to the church to be at the divine services and to receive Holy Communion. Thus in the temple, from our early age, we may imitate the Most Holy Mother of God who entered the holy place. And if She entered the holiest place of the sanctuary, we are partaking of the true Body and Blood of the Lord. We may do it from our earliest age until our passing, do it in the holy temple. Growing up, we come to the temple as to a hospital to seek the cure from our spiritual illnesses, to receive forgiveness of sins in confession. And if we desire to be married, we receive a blessing being crowned in the church in the Sacrament of Matrimony. And when we leave this world, the temple can do us the last favor when our body may be brought here for the burial service”.
“These are the main spiritual but also practical things to consider when we talk about the meaning of the temple. But apart from that, the holy church is meaningful because it is a holy place by itself, because it sanctifies the environment where we live. This is a place where the grace of God is being always bestowed upon us; the place where the Holy Church offers its prayers; the place where a real miracle happens all the time. When the Divine Liturgy is served in the temple, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. And as we believe, the Holy Angels are present in the temple during the divine services. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, such is the great meaning of the holy temple in our life”.
“Thinking of all these exalted and sublime things, we need to admit how often we disregard the holy temple. Needless to speak about people who have no faith or very little faith: they do not come to the church or come very rarely; they cannot appreciate the holy temple. However, even if we speak of them, many of them were baptized and will be buried in the church. But it is important to speak of those who have faith. But even they sometimes disrespect the temple. Sometimes people miss the services or come late. Let us remember that if the Jews in the Old Testament times could come to the Temple in Jerusalem only once or twice a year, we ought to come to the church every Sunday and major holy day. If we don’t, we commit a sin. Sometimes people do not pay attention in the church or disturb the solemnity of the service. Let us remember that the temple is a holy place and let us not disrespect it”.
“Another unpleasant thing seen nowadays is that the holy temple is treated like some business providing ritual services. People come to baptize their children, to get married or to commemorate their deceased, but many of them do not come to the church again. This is the great spiritual problem especially seen in the old country, but also existing here. Unfortunately, many priests, being kind and gentle, give in and act like some providers of the ritual services. And then the people are encouraged to think in a wrong way”.
“You can also hear of the “parish shopping” when the people choose the church they like. In one parish they don’t like that the choir is singing poorly, in another they do not like how the priest looks, then they want certain special treatment for themselves – you name it. Of course, in New York we have a lot of option, many Orthodox churches, even several Russian churches in one city. People do have a choice where to go. But they should be members of one parish and stay in that parish. And in the places where they have only one Orthodox church in the area – what should they do if they don’t like something? Sometimes people leave and don’t go anywhere. Then their souls are almost lost. But people should be humble and patient. They should stick with their church and don’t exercise pride”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! The holy temple of God is the place of worship. The Lord said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Mt. 21, 13). It cannot be called as a house of vanity or pride. We come here to pray, to participate in the divine services, to receive the Sacraments, to be healed and comforted. We do not come just to see the friends, to demonstrate our clothes or cars. It is no club. We do not come here to get served but to serve the Lord. It is no shop or business. I can talk a lot about these issues and these problems but we are limited in time”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us then respect, honor and love the holy temple of God! Let us imitate the Most Holy Theotokos and Her righteous parents coming into the holy church, entering the sacred place and desiring to stay here to acquire God’s blessings and true salvation”.
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 nicely performed festal hymns, and for the first time in the year began singing the pre-Christmas hymns from the Nativity canon.
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification in front of the icon of the feast. Then Fr. Igor greeted the faithful on the occasion of the feast and praised the parents who brought their children to the temple on this day resembling righteous Joachim and Anna.