On February 6, on the 33rd Sunday after Pentecost, feast of the New Holy Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, we had a beautiful celebration at St. George. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate Sunday of Zacchaeus and feast of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church. Our first Gospel reading is the one that finishes our ordinary Pentecostal cycle and begins the period of our preparation for Lent. It tells about a sinful man, a chief tax collector who had a desire to meet Jesus. As a result of that meeting, he converted and showed his true repentance”.
“The Gospel story tells that our Lord Jesus Christ noticed Zacchaeus who climbed the tree and told him to come down because the Lord wishes to visit his home (Lk. 19, 5). Although Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, a great and a public sinner, Christ desired to come to his house. That happened because our Lord “had come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5, 32). And Christ was expecting that Zacchaeus will truly repent. And, as we heard in the Gospel, he did. Zacchaeus exclaimed, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Lk. 19, 8)”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Usually, we hear that if people say they repent, they go to confession and then we may not notice any other action on their part. But true repentance means changing your life and it also means correcting the wrong you have done. Zacchaeus decided to give half of his possessions to the poor. His wealth was the result of his wrongdoings and sins. Thus he wishes to distribute at least half of it. Further he decided to restore fourfold the goods that he have taken by false accusations. Tax collectors were corrupt and evil: they accused the people of owing the taxes and robbed them taking the money for themselves. Now the chief publican decides to compensate those whom he defrauded, and to compensate them fourfold. This is true repentance and this is salvation. That is why the Lord proclaimed, “Today salvation has come to this house because he also is a son of Abraham” (Lk. 19, 9)”.
“Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham who acquired salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. And we are the sons and daughters of the Holy Rus’ – many of us by birth, some of us spiritually – but all of us are children of the Russian Church who strive for salvation through the same Christ. Honoring today our New Martyrs and Confessors, we should keep in mind that our salvation depends on our own choices and decisions. The Holy Gospel tells us that Christ called us, the sinners, for repentance. Thus we have to repent. It tells that we have to be faithful to God, and we should. Our New Martyrs and Confessors also made their choices and decisions. They remained faithful to the Lord and to His Holy Church. They suffered and many of them died for Christ. Through their endeavors our Russian Church had been blessed and given the new life in our days”.
“Speaking of the New Martyrs and of the history of our Church in the previous century, you cannot avoid talking about politics and making judgments. Therefore, forgive me today for being political and judgmental. Every Christian soul understands that the godless powers that took over the Holy Rus’ in the 20th century, were the evil forces, the enemies of Christ that persecuted the Holy Church and its faithful members. What is less understood is that more than 3 decades after those evil forces ceased to exist, we do not see that all the wrong is corrected. The governments of the countries which are now existing on the lands of historical Rus’ superficially condemned the actions of the persecutors. However, we do not see their true repentance, a repentance of Zacchaeus. It is no secret that many of the political leaders of those countries themselves used to be Communists or affiliated with repressive structures. In some way, they resemble Zacchaeus. Some of them did show the allegiance to the Church, began attending certain services, some received Sacraments. But none of them made their governments show true repentance”.
“We have to admit with sorrow that if Zacchaeus compensated those whom he offended, the Holy Church was not compensated. Many temples, monasteries and property were given back. But not all of it. And in many places they are given for rent, not for ownership. We have to note with regret that instead of unceasing repentance about the Soviet past, that past is now praised by the modern leaders while the true history is falsified. For instance, some time ago the authorities in Russia banned the historians from researching the KGB archives, the cases of the New Martyrs. And at this time it is difficult to find the materials for new glorifications of more persons who were martyred in those days”.
“But if the governments and the leaders are not concerned about salvation, we should be. Each Russian Orthodox Christian, on individual level, should be concerned about being the son or daughter of the Holy Rus’. We need to repent, we need to change, we need to restore if we did some wrong. Once I heard a confession of an old woman. She told me that when she was young, she used to dance at the village club. The club was in the former church building, and the youth was coming there to dance. In her old age her feet were sick, and she was convinced that it was a punishment for her dancing. But she did repent, so I was very happy for her soul. I believed that on that day when she repented, salvation has come to her life”.
“Some other people did not repent. I knew a young woman who used to work at the planetarium that was also in the church building. It was a beautiful temple with a dome, so the attendees were looking at the stars and planets inside that cupola. Now, thank God, that cathedral is returned to the Church, and I even served there a couple of times. So, that young woman was giving the guided tours in that place. She never truly worried about that and later she was brutally killed in her young age. Another person who worked there was having her desk in the altar area. She also died a terrible death”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! I am telling you these stories not to scare you but to convince you that God is never defiled or defeated. His enemies are. And if we sin, it is us who are defiled, defeated and humiliated. But we have a cure – true and sincere repentance. May the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of our Church pray and intercede for us, so we may become true children of the Holy Rus’. May their heroic lives inspire us to be faithful to our Church, so salvation may come to us, to our house, to our country, to our lives!”
During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, the Rector had a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.
The choir beautifully performed the magnification and the stichera of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church during preparation for Holy Communion.
Following the Liturgy the Rector performed a memorial Litia for all the deceased who perished during the times of godless persecutions of Christian faith in Soviet Union.
After the service the Rector greeted Anton and Maria Malyshev on their past name distributing the Theotokian prosphora among them. He also congratulated Andrew Malyshev on the occasion of his birthday. Traditional Polychronion was proclaimed on behalf of each one of them.
Following our services the Rector and some parishioners stayed for the coffee hour and enjoyed delicious refreshments and a nice conversation.