17th Sunday after Pentecost. Passing of St. John the Theologian


On October 9, on the 17 th Sunday after Pentecost, feast of the Passing of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, we had a nice celebration at our parish. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the readings from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s first Gospel reading takes us to the shores of Lake Gennesaret where our Lord called His first Disciples, Holy Apostles Peter, James and John. Today we also commemorate passing of one of them, of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian who became the beloved Disciple of Christ. Our second Gospel lesson from his own book briefly tells about Holy Apostle John being besides the Cross of Christ, along with the Most-Pure Mother of God”.
So, dear brothers and sisters, today’s two Gospel lessons mention the beginning and the end of the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ – His calling of the first Apostles and His crucifixion. And these lessons tell us about the beginning of the discipleship of St. John the Theologian and the end of it when the beloved Disciple was at the Cross of His dear Teacher”.
Every person is unique, and the relationship with God is unique for every person. St. John the Theologian was special because His relationship with Jesus was very close and intimate. As we just mentioned, the Scripture calls him the beloved Disciple of Christ. At the Last Supper, St. John rested on the chest of Christ, so some Fathers say that he a partaker of the wisdom of Christ love. It is interesting that all of the Apostles died as martyrs for Christ, but St. John was preserved until his very old age. He was not killed but he peacefully passed from this life to life everlasting. Tradition holds that his body was not found after his passing. St. John wrote one of the four Gospels, three Epistles and the famous book of Revelation. And everyone who read those books of the Holy Bible, learn that they are very different from many other writings. They are profoundly spiritual, mystical and have a deeper teaching about God. This is why we call him the Theologian. And particularly English Christians called him John the Divine”.
But let us return to the first Gospel of today, the Gospel of Luke. It describes how our Lord Jesus Christ was preaching from the boat belonging to Simon Peter. Then Jesus commands Peter to launch out into the deep and let down the nets for a catch. The Holy Fathers say that this command meant a radical change in St. Peter’s life. But for Simon Peter of those days, that request seemed to be a strange and a futile idea. As an experienced fisherman, he knew that trying to catch fish after a night of hard labors in attempt to have a catch and being unsuccessful, launching the boat into the deep again makes no sense. As a fisherman and as a man Peter was right. But our Lord Jesus Christ had a different understanding. He, as God, had a different vision. And we see that Peter was wrong and Jesus was right. However, we also see that Peter obeyed Jesus. He let down the nets and was rewarded for that”.
Thus, in this story we see the difference between the vision of men and the vision of God. Such difference is also seen in the way Peter reacted to the miraculous catch of fish. He fell down at the knees of Jesus and exclaimed, “Depart from me, for I am sinful man, o Lord!” (Lk. 5, 8). At that moment Peter understood that Jesus is not just a great Teacher but someone much higher than that. He is the Lord, and any man is strange and inferior to Him. In Peter’s words we see the fear of man standing before God. He expresses human incomprehension of God and acknowledgment of man’s unworthiness. But God tells Him in today’s reading, “Do not be afraid” (Lk. 5, 10)”.
Dear brothers and sisters! We, like Simon Peter, should also understand our unworthiness before God. We should acknowledge our sinfulness and be humble. But, on the other hand, we should remember that through Jesus Christ, the great Teacher of men and Divine Son, we are able to approach God and even unite with Him. Yes, we must be humble and express our unworthiness in repentance, but we also can draw near to the throne of grace in confidence, as St. Paul says (Hebr. 4, 16). Such opportunity is given to us in the offering of the Eucharist and in receiving it ion Holy Communion. The priest invites faithful to the Communion proclaiming, “With the fear of God, and with faith draw near!” In the Greek tradition the priest adds “and with love”. And truly, love is very important. God’s love makes the immense distance between Him and human person short. And our love towards God should make that distance shorter, make the incomprehensible God simple and understood, should make the ineffable God close and approachable”.
Love was the main theme of preaching and writings of today’s Saint, Holy Apostle John the Theologian. Being a close and intimate friend of Christ, he was capable to express both how God is great, inaccessible and ineffable, and how He is especially close and accessible to man. St. John, like an eagle which is his symbol, was able to soar into the high heavens of the knowledge of God. He was teaching that God becomes close to us and unites with us through love. He wrote, God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4, 16)”.
Dear brothers and sisters! In Christ Jesus impossible things become possible, and man unites with God. Let us not forget the words of the Savior said to Peter, “Do not be afraid” (Lk. 5, 10). We should not be afraid if we do something good in our life. Apostle John says, There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4, 18). The Lord is the only one who may fulfill the deeds we consider impossible. Through His divine power we may also become worthy to partake in His miraculous works, to see the great works of God upon ourselves, and to enjoy their outcomes along with Him. And the main condition for participation in those wonderful works is our love towards the Lord. Therefore, let us love the Lord. As Holy Apostle John the Theologian says, Love Him because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4, 19)”.

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 nicely performed the magnification and a stichera dedicated to St. John the Theologian during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian addressing celebrated feast of the Holy Apostle John. Fr. Igor also made some announcements. At the end he congratulated our Parish Treasurer and altar server, Emilian Suric on his past birthday and proclaimed a Polychronion on his behalf.