On September 25, 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. After the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached the following homily:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate Sunday before the Exaltation of the Precious Cross. We also observe feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God. That holy day was during the last week and we transferred it to this Sunday. By the way, today is the final day, the leave-taking of that feast, so it would be the same service today, even if we would not transfer the feast”. “Today’s first reading from the Holy Gospel mentions the events from the Old Testament history. It says that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn. 3, 14). Our Lord Jesus Christ compared His mission of salvation to the mission of Moses who led the chosen people of God from the Egyptian captivity to the promised land. The Jews were wandering in the wilderness for the long 40 years. But God was taking care of them. He gave them food and water, He provided for His people. But the people complained and regretted that they left Egypt where they had a lot of food. They forgot that they were slaves in that country, and remembered only some good things they used to have there. A punishment for that ungratefulness to God and to Moses came soon. The Israelites came to an area full of poisonous snakes. Those serpents bit and killed a lot of people. Everybody could perish there if God did not stop that. God told Moses to make a copper snake and to raise it on a pillar. God told that any person who would look at the copper snake will not die of the poison”.
“This event is the symbol of what happened on the Cross of Christ, and a prophecy of what is going on with the whole human race. Desert is this earthly life. It is full of poisonous snakes. Evil bites any human from birth and up to the last hour of his or her life. Countless snakes surround human life from all the sides. These are the sins and passions that surround us. There is no cure for that, if not a merciful God, who sends us not Moses, but His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Only if our gaze is turned to Christ, to His Cross, to the copper serpent of our faith, then we get healed”.
“Celebrating the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God, we may notice that the Gospel lesson dedicated to that feast does not mention the birth of the Theotokos, moreover, it does not mention the Mother of God at all. That today’s second Gospel reading is always read on the feasts of the Theotokos, but it does not mention Her. It tells that one woman named Martha was busy with much serving while her sister named Mary (and she was not Mary the Mother of God) sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His words (Lk. 10, 39). If we recall today’s second Epistle reading, a lesson dedicated to the Mother of God, we may also notice that it doesn’t mention the Theotokos. It is about our Lord Jesus Christ. In the beginning Holy Apostle Paul says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2, 5). St. Paul teaches us to think like Jesus, to imitate Him, to fix our mind on Jesus. In other words, he wants us to focus on Christ, to gaze at Him in the same way as the Jews in the wilderness had to gaze at the copper serpent”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! The whole life of the Most Holy Mother of God was in God and in Her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the Church honoring Her assigns such readings from the Sacred Scripture that are not directly about Her, but about Him, the Savior Jesus Christ. The Most Holy Theotokos was humble and modest. She did not speak much, did not stress Her importance. She was giving all the glory to Her Son, considering Herself the maidservant of the Lord (Lk. 1, 38). Listening the words of Jesus sitting at His feet mentioned in today’s Gospel, or having our mind the same as in Jesus Christ mentioned in today’s Epistle – these things are about the life of the Most Holy Mother of God. And it is the same life conduct as we recall in the Old Testament looking and gazing at the copper serpent, an object of salvation”.
“Let us then, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, turn our spiritual eyes to our Lord Jesus Christ. The Most Holy Theotokos shows us a perfect example of that. She dedicated all Her life to Her Son, focusing on Him. Every moment of Her life, the life started at Her holy Nativity, was dedicated to the Savior. Every little drop of Her blood was for Him. The New Church Year begins with the celebration of that Nativity of the Theotokos, giving the beginning for the feasts marking our salvation. Thus, let us also, honoring Her, focus on Him, on His Holy Cross, let us ask for the forgiveness and delivery”.
During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector had a petition for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian land” at the Great Entrance.
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 Fr. Igor preached a brief sermon in Russian conveying the main points of his English homily. He also made some announcements.