On December 8, on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost we had a celebration in our temple. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel reading he preached a sermon:
“In today’s Epistle lesson St. Paul is talking about us, Christian people, as about some kind of building. He says that we are “built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone in whom the whole building being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord…” (Eph. 2, 20-21). These words and these beautiful examples St. Paul used to convince the early Christians that all of them, both Jews and Gentiles, all those who converted to Christ, became united in Him as parts of one building. Both circumcised and uncircumcised, became fitted together in one community established by God.”
“We should admit that St. Paul is also talking about us. In Christ each one of us becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. Recently we celebrated feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into Temple. The Blessed Virgin Mary entered the holy Temple in Jerusalem. But in our prayers we say that Mary Herself was a Temple because She had to bear the Son of God. God found Himself a dwelling within Her. But also from the moment Virgin Mary entered the Temple of Jerusalem, the Holy of Holies, Her human life itself became a Temple. Later every follower of Christ became a temple, because God dwells within us by His grace and because we are united with Him as members of His Body.”
“That understanding leads us to another idea that St. Paul conveys in today’s Epistle lesson. He is talking about the spiritual building of the Body of Christ, of the Church. We, as its members, are built on the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles, and the cornerstone of the building is Jesus Christ Himself. In Him, says St. Paul, the whole building is fitted together (Eph. 2, 21). Thus, we are parts of the building which is the Church. We are the members of the greater Body which belongs to Jesus Himself. We are also members of God’s household, as St. Paul nicely put it in today’s lesson. He says, “You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the Saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2, 19). If you really think about this, you may realize what a great thing it is! Some people dream of being members of a wealthy and influential family, some people wish they were born to rich and noble parents. Here we are, all of us, born to the family of Christ, members of God’s household! What family can be more powerful, what household can be wealthier?! We are the parts of Christ.”
“This kind of honor requires a lot of responsibility. That means, we have to be aware of the great role which is given to us. If God wishes to permeate all our life, we must be aware of that and cooperate with His grace in all moments of our existence.”
“One Christian preacher said once, “The real test of religion is life. To know whom you worship, let me see you in your shop, let me overhear you in your trade; let me know how you rent your houses, how you get your money, how you keep it, or how you spend… The test of your religion is your weekday life, your works, and not your words.” He was right although he wasn’t Orthodox. He was right because we need to practice religion not only by what we do in church, but also by what we do out of church: how we speak, how we earn money, how we treat our family. Of course, the Church is necessary. Here we meet Christ, here we are able to receive Him in the Eucharist. But in another way we meet Him also outside of church in everyone, even in least of our brethren. In the temple we receive Christ, but we need to bring Him out of the temple, into the world to reshape the world according to Christ.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! If we are members of God’s household, parts of the Body of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit, let us bring the Triune God to others. Our stay in the holy temple is like staying on Mt. Tabor. But Jesus did not heed the request of Peter to remain on the mountain. He descended into the valley to continue His ministry. Therefore, the purpose of our ascension through prayer and the Liturgy in the temple is that we may be transfigured with Christ and then descend from our ‘Temple mountain’ into the valley of life to transfigure it with His grace and love.”
Since on this day the Church observed final day of the celebration (apodosis) of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God, upon the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and altar servers performed the rite of glorification in front of the festal icon. They sang the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast.
After the service Fr. Igor had a brief speech reminding the parishioners that on December 8 we commemorate Holy Hieromartyr Clement, pope of Rome. This Saint who was one of the Apostolic men, one of the first bishops of Rome, is dear to us, members of the Russian Church because he was exiled to Crimea and martyred there. Later his relics were miraculously uncovered there. At the same place in Crimea our enlightener, great prince Vladimir received holy Baptism. Our local Church of Rus’ has its beginnings there. Therefore, St. Clement being a Roman and the bishop of Western Church, was in fact a Saint of the Universal Church who is so dear to us, the Russian Orthodox.
Following our services parishioners enjoyed the coffee hour having delicious refreshments and a nice conversation.