Sunday, March 17 Cheesefare Sunday , Divine Liturgy Vespers with the Rite of Forgiveness Blini Luncheon

On the Cheesefare Sunday the Church commemorates the exile of Adam from paradise. This day is also known as the Forgiveness Sunday because Orthodox Christians ask mutual forgiveness before they begin the spiritual journey of the Great Lent. On this day, on March 17, St. George parish had services in our temple.

Metropolitan  Anthony  of  Sourozh

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

After these weeks of preparation during which we have examined our soul, our lives, all our relationship before the eyes and the judgement of God, we enter today into the joy of Lent; the joy of Lent. The word ‘lent’ means the spring; it is a beginning, and a beginning of life, a beginning of newness, a new time. It is a time when we will no longer be reminded of our own sins, no longer be confronted with images in parables of fall and repentance, but faced with the names of Saints who have started their lives as we start them: the frail, weak, vacillating, but who by the grace of God, by the power of God have become what they are: men, women, children whom we can venerate, in whom we can rejoice, who can be set as examples to us, to whom we can turn for their prayers unto salvation.

Tonight we will start on this journey; on the journey that leads us from our sinful condition, recognised, repentant unto a new time, unto the Resurrection of Christ which is the beginning for us of our own eternal life. We will start on this journey to-night as the people of Israel started from the land of Egypt for the Promised Land: still frail, still burdened, still incompletely free. But it is not by looking back at ourselves, but by looking towards the Living God Who is Life and salvation, and to the example of those who have been victorious by the power of God that we will find courage,
inspiration to come to the final victory, to the newness of life which is our calling and God’s promise. We will have to journey together, and we must not be in any delusion: we will be difficult for one another as companions on the journey; but we will depend on one another if we want to achieve to come to an end, — in the same way in which the Israelites were in the desert: not always obedient to God, not always loyal to one another, and yet, needing each other in order to reach the promised goal.

So, let us start now; let us think of the feast which we keep next Sunday: Triumph of Orthodoxy. It is not the triumph of the Orthodox over anyone else; it is the triumph of God over people. The triumph of His truth, the triumph of God in the lives of people.

And than, let us look at one saint after the other, and listen to what he has got to say to us: Gregory Palamas, John of the Ladder, Mary of Egypt and all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ. And we will then reach the point at which we must forget everyone and everything, and remember nothing, no one but the Lord Jesus Christ: what He is, what He has done for us, what He is doing for us. Let us learn to forget ourselves in the course of those weeks, joyfully, gratefully, that we can now turn away from ourselves and look onlyGodwards. And when the time of Passion week comes, again, in a new way, with a new determination, with a new renunciation to ourselves, turn and look at God Who has become man that we may be saved, and be grateful, forget ourselves, remember only Him and He will remember us unto salvation. Amen.


Antipascha. Sunday of St. Thomas


On April 23, on the Sunday of Antipascha, also known as Sunday of St. Thomas, we had a nice service at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate Sunday of St. Thomas which calls us to think about belief in the Resurrection of Christ. It is the second Paschal Sunday. Holy Resurrection will be with us throughout 40 days, until the feast of the Ascension”.
“Pascha is with us, and in these joyful days we greet each other with the words “Christ is risen!” We say these words instead of usual worldly greetings like “Hello” or “Good morning”. That is why I often correct some of you if you forget and continue to say something like “Hello” but remind you, “Not “Hello” but “Christ is risen!”” When we say that greeting, we proclaim our faith that our Lord Jesus Christ was risen from the dead. And when we respond and say, “He is truly risen!” (or “Indeed He is risen!”, depending on our translation), we confirm that faith even more. We say that it is true that Christ was risen from the dead. Proclaiming that His Resurrection is true and did happen, we manifest our belief in the greatest miracle that happened in the human history”.
“Today’s Gospel lesson tells about Holy Apostle Thomas who was not present at the first appearance of the Risen Lord to the Disciples. Thus he did not wish to believe in Christ Resurrection. He required a proof or that. Later, as we read in the Gospel, Jesus appeared again when Thomas was with the other Apostles, and offered him to touch His wounds. Then Thomas became certain and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20, 26-28). Unlike Thomas we tend to believe without any proof. If we really mean what we say when we exclaim, “Christ is risen – He is truly risen!”, we believe without seeing the risen Christ, without having a chance to examine His body, to touch His wounds. If we are really sincere and honest in our words, if we don’t just say it automatically, out of the custom or tradition, we are the blessed ones; we are those of whom Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20, 29).
“It was not easy to believe in the Resurrection of Christ in the times of the Apostles. There were not too many witnesses. The risen Lord appeared only to His Disciples, to those men and women who were close to Him. Therefore, many other people could say that the Apostles were interested persons, so they spread the word of His Resurrection, spread what we know call the “fake news”. They could say that the Myrrh-bearing women were crazy, so they had some vision of the risen Jesus. And the real opponents of Christ, the Jews, did a good job to hide the Resurrection of Christ. They bribed the warriors who kept a watch near the Lord’s Tomb. They paid them asking to say that the Disciples stole His body away while they slept. The Gospel says that this saying became commonly reported by the Jews until this day (Mt. 28, 12-15).“Until this day”, of course, meant the days of the Apostles, however, it is a firm conviction of all the Jews today. They are very adamant in saying that the body of Jesus was stolen and that Christians declared that He rose from the dead. The Jews reject Christ Resurrection and reject His divinity. They keep spreading the “fake news” that Jesus never rose from the dead”.
“This is why, dear brothers and sisters, when we proclaim to others that Christ is risen, we confess a very important belief, a belief that has no solid proof. There is no scientific evidence that Christ was risen. There is a testimony that He lived and died – it can be found in the writings of some ancient authors. But Resurrection of Christ was described only in the Sacred Scripture, the writings that are not trusted by everyone, only by Christian believers. Thus, we are not unbelieving but believing. Thus, we are blessed”.
“Thomas had doubts but Jesus gave him a chance to reject them. When we doubt, let us look at the world around us. The world around us is filled with the signs of God’s presence, with the footprints of God! Every sunset, every sunrise, every tree, every flower that is blooming at this time of spring, every lake, every blade of grass, every twinkling star – is a footprint of our Creator. The Scripture tells us:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handwork” (Ps. 19, 1)”.
“Most of the religions believe in the Creator. But only Christianity believes that God so loved the world and so loved the human kind that He became Man and died for us. Therefore, God has not left us only His footprints. He has revealed Himself to us through His Only-begotten Son who lived among us, who died on the cross and who was risen from the dead. The footprints of the setting and the rising sun may tell us that God exists. But only the nail-prints in the hands of the Savior can tell us that God is Love. Jesus appeared to the Disciples, and to Thomas, showing them the wounds in His hands and side – wounds that were proof of His Resurrection, of His victory over death and evil. But they were also the proof of His love; the proof of His divinity, and the proof of our future blessedness in His Heavenly Kingdom”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, if we sincerely say “Christ is truly risen!”, we continue the faith of the Disciples of Christ. And we need to keep and to cherish that faith of ours and to resemble the Apostles, to imitate St. Thomas – not in his unbelief, but in his desire to believe. We need to discern the “fake news” about faith and to reject them spreading the true and honest news, the Good News of the Holy Gospel, the true news of the Lord’s Resurrection. And let us ask the Lord to help us in our doubts and our unbelief in order to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven”.

The choir director nicely performed Paschal hymn “In Flesh Thou Didst Fall Asleep” and the Aposticha of Pascha during preparation for Holy Communion.

Since we did not hold a service on Bright Saturday when the Paschal blessed bread, called the Artos is usually distributed, the Rector proclaimed the prayer for the breaking of the Artos following the Ambo prayer.

The Rector made some announcements, especially regarding our Patronal feast of St. George which comes soon.

Finally, the Rector distributed the Artos among the parishioners.

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church


On February 5, on the Sunday of Publican and Pharisee, feast of the Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, our St. George parish family had a nice celebration. In the absence of our Rector, the Divine Liturgy was served by Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk).

After the Gospel lesson Fr. Eutychius preached a short sermon in Russian. Then by the blessing of the Rector, our Cantor, Olga Russanow read the following homily prepared by him:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! In today’s reading from the Gospel our Lord tells us that two men went up to the Temple to pray. One of them, who was a public sinner, went home justified. Yet another who was viewed as a just man was condemned. Why? Simply because of their attitudes: the publican has the right attitude. He is asking God for mercy in repentance for his sins of which he is conscious. On the other hand, the Pharisee has the wrong attitude. He is not asking for mercy. On the contrary, he is satisfied with himself. He is under the illusion of being righteous. And he has this illusion merely because he fulfills all the outward observances of the Jewish Law. His piety is all for show, it is all outward and does not come from the heart. We may say that the Pharisee does the right things, but he does them for all the wrong reasons, and thus they lose all their force”.
The error of the Pharisee is to confuse the means with the ends. Our end, or goal, is to find salvation. There are many means to salvation, to preparing our souls to be with God. However, we should not think that the means to salvation automatically bring salvation, merely because they are outwardly observed. In order to understand this, we first need to know what the means to salvation are”.
First of all, we have to worship God and pray to Him. True, we can worship and pray to God everywhere, but there is one place where we can be particularly close to Him, and where it is easier to speak to Him in prayer, and that is at church. Only at church are services held in His honor and we can thank Him, worship Him and pray to Him more easily during those services and only at church can we partake of the Sacraments”.
Secondly, we can deepen our worship of God through reading and obeying His Word, through fasting and through almsgiving”.
Just as worship, prayer, reading of the Word of God and almsgiving are only means to salvation, and not salvation itself, so fasting too is only a means to drawing closer to God. It is an experience of the spiritual people that fasting helps us to reach certain spiritual state to be closer to our goal of salvation. ‘We are what we eat’, said the philosopher. It makes sense not only for our body, but for our soul. But fasting is not a goal by itself. The Church therefore does not ask us to fast twelve months of the year. It asks us through Great Lent, the three other Fasts, and Wednesdays and Fridays, to fast for six months of the year. The Church’s approach is balanced. That is why this coming week, there is no fast – to remind us that although salvation is not in fasting, on the other hand, it is also true that fasting for Christ’s sake will help us draw closer to salvation”.
We are what we eat”, said the philosopher. We can see this especially clearly in holy Communion. If we come to Communion frequently, we are with Christ and He is with us. But if on the other hand, we never come to Communion, then we shall never be with Christ and He will never be with us: “We are what we eat””.
We may come to a conclusion that if we sincerely, from our hearts, worship and pray to God, read His words, fast and give alms, then we are not behaving as the Pharisee, but as the publican, we are asking for mercy, and thus we find justification. Not justification because of our outward actions, but justification through the Mercy of God, which alone makes our salvation possible. In doing all these things, we are actually saying the Prayer of the Publican, which is at the root of the Jesus Prayer: “God, be merciful to me a sinner”. For it is only the Mercy of God, given as a gift to us for our sincerity, which brings us into His presence, bringing us salvation, for our God is merciful and He loves mankind”.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy Fr. Eutychius served the memorial Litia in commemoration of all the deceased who suffered during the time of godless persecutions.

Pentecost. Feast of the Most Holy Trinity


On June 7 of this year all Orthodox Christians celebrated Pentecost, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. Our St. George Church had a beautiful celebration which had to be held observing the restrictions imposed during the outbreak of the disease. The church was nicely adorned with greenery. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.

After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in English:

“Today we celebrate the great feast of the Pentecost, the Descending of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. What a great and interesting event! It is so colorfully described in today’s Epistle reading: the Disciples are being together in an upper room of a house on Pentecost, then they hear a great noise and the Holy Spirit appears as the tongues of fire descending upon the Apostles and resting on them. As a result they begin speaking different tongues, languages. But the Gospel lesson of today gives us a different story”.
“In today’s Gospel reading of St. John we hear how Jesus was preaching on the Holy Spirit He was promising to His followers. Jesus said: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow the rivers of living water.” (Jn.7,38). Holy Apostle John the Theologian further explains that in such a way Jesus “spoke concerning the Holy Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.”(Jn.7,39). And he also explains that “the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”(Jn.7,39). This should be understood in the way that the Holy Spirit will become a source of spiritual life and nourishment for those who is willing to acquire life in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is “thirsty” for spiritual life”.
“But when we further listen to the today’s Gospel story, we learn about a number of misunderstandings and divisions among the people who heard the preaching of Jesus. People express different opinions about Him, some even wish to take and imprison Him. We have to listen to a number of arguments between the Jews concerning Jesus”.
“What does it teach us? It certainly tells us how hostile were some Jews to Jesus and His teaching. But it also tells us about human divisions and differences. We are divided for many reasons. Today’s festal kontakion says, “When the Most High came down He confused the tongues dividing all nations…” People had been divided because God confused their tongues, made them speak different languages. We still do so, we are still very much divided. See how many opinions, political movements, finally, religions exist. Lately we were witnessing the unrest and riots in this country and in this city because some evil people wish this society to be divided. They use the issue of race to make people hostile to each other, to raise the hatred among them. This is very sad and disturbing, and it convinces us again how much the human kind is divided, divided for many reasons”.
“In addition, we should also recall the most astounding division of the human kind, the division between the living and the dead. Yesterday we celebrated Memorial Saturday and had to pray for our loved ones who had fallen asleep. And today, on this festal day, we will also mention the deceased in our kneeling prayers. This is a very serious division between those who live in this world and those who are no longer living among us”.
“But God finally wishes us to be united. This is why on the day of Pentecost He sent the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Those Holy Apostles were representatives of the human kind. Through Jesus Christ and with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit we all must be united despite our differences, even despite whether we are living or departed, for in God there is no dead, but everybody is alive. Today’s kontakion continues: “But when He distributed the tongues of fire, all men He called to unity…” Thus the Almighty God who Himself is the unity of Three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, calls us to the unity in faith, hope and love”.

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, Fr. Igor proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease. After the Litany he also offered a special prayer for the deliverance from pestilence.

The choir piously performed the hymns of the feast during the preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar server performed the rite of Glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast before the festal icon in the middle of the church. Then the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian stressing the main thoughts of his English homily. He also congratulated the two persons present who recently celebrated their name day, including our youngest parishioner, Elena Malyshev. A traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was performed and the Theotokian prosphora was divided and distributed to them.

After the Liturgy the Rector served Pentecostal Vespers with kneeling prayers.

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the I Ecumenical Council


On May 31, on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. The service was performed observing the restrictions imposed due to the disease outbreak. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in Russian:

«Дорогие братия и сестры! В это воскресенье, 7-ю Неделю по Пасхе, мы празднуем память святых Отцов, участников I Вселенского Собора в Никее. Этот собор состоялся в 325 году, вскоре после того как Церковь Христова стала свободно жить в Римской империи, прекратились гонения на христиан и даже более того, римский император Константин сделал христианство государственной религией. Тогда обнаружилось, что христианство терзаемо уже внутренними врагами – еретиками, то есть теми, кто учил о христианской вере неправильно, проповедовал большие заблуждения, называемые ересями. Одна из таких ересей называлась арианством: ее последователи учили, что Сын Божий не равен Богу-Отцу, не единосущный с Богом-Отцом, не одной с Ним сущности. И вот первый Собор Вселенской Церкви собрался и осудил эту ересь».
«А главными двумя истинами, утвержденными Собором были те, что есть единый Бог и что Сын Божий есть Тот же Бог и Он единосущен Богу-Отцу. Сегодня в чтении святого Евангелия мы слышали эти же истины в словах Самого Спасителя. Он говорит, что жизнь вечная состоит в знании Бога и Его Сына. Дословно Христос сказал: «Сия же есть жизнь вечная, да знают Тебя, единого истинного Бога, и посланного Тобою Иисуса Христа» (Ин. 17, 3). Итак, Господь утверждает для нас две первейшие вещи: нужно знать Бога и знать Сына Божия. Без них нет жизни вечной, нет спасения. Мы можем еще дополнить, что также важно еще знать и третье Лицо Божества – Святого Духа. О Нем мы вспомним через неделю, когда будем чествовать Пресвятую Троицу. Тогда мы будем в полноте воздавать честь Господу Богу, единому в Трех Лицах. А сейчас мы еще живем под впечатлением праздника Вознесения Господня и мы сосредоточены над мыслями о Боге-Сыне, который возвращатся к Богу-Отцу, возносясь на небо. И также созвучны этим мыслям и слова сегодняшнего Евангелия о важности знать Бога-Отца и Бога-Сына. И таким же образом забота Отцов I Вселенского Собора были не о всей Троице, а о Боге-Отце и Боге-Сыне, об их соотношении. Это тогда было перевейшее: утвердить православную веру о том, что Сын Божий есть Бог, единосущный Богу-Отцу. И жизнь вечная – это во-первых, знать Бога-Отца, а во-вторых – Бога-Сына».
«Мы сегодня, спустя много веков, благодарны Отцам I Собора за их труд и их утверждение этих первых истин Православной веры. Позже были приняты и иные истины, из которых состоит наше православное вероучение, но истины о Боге и Сыне Божием были и есть начальными. И сейчас мы также можем сказать, что спасение в первую очередь зависит от того, знает ли человек истинного единого Бога и знает ли он Сына Божия, Иисуса Христа».
«Но тогда можно задать вопрос: а как понимать слова «знать Бога»?  Нужно ли иметь о Нем какие-то знания? В какой-то мере, да. «Знать» Бога может означать, что мы должны знать эту истину веры, что есть единый Бог и что нет иных богов, кроме Него. И мы должны умом знать, что есть Сын Божий, который стал Человеком, Иисусом Христом и который есть также Бог. Это надо знать каждому христианину, но этого знания недостаточно. Ведь можно вспомнить, что и люди неверующие и беззаконные могут это знать, но вряд ли спасись одним этим знанием. Да и сам диавол все это хорошо знает, но тем не менее не спасается. Можно еще сказать, что мало знать, а надо веровать. Да, надо и веровать, а безбожники не веруют. Но веровать тоже мало. Бесы тоже веруют. И беззаконники могут веровать».
«Поэтому, дорогие братия и сестры, слова Спасителя, что жизнь вечная – «знать Бога» и «знать посланного Им Иисуса Христа» – относятся больше не к знанию умом и не к одной вере, а к познанию духовному, познанию нашим сердцем. Это знание – духовная близость, сопричастие с Господом Богом. Это вера, которая находит применение в благочестивой жизни о Господе и в исполнении Его Заповедей в жизни, Его святой воли. Это духовный опыт богопознания. Именно таковой была жизнь Божиих угодников, в том числе и Отцов I Вселенского Собора. И поэтому они, знающие Бога, ведающие Его волю, смогли выбрать верные слова для утверждения истин христианской веры».
«В наше время мы можем наблюдать как много существует различных мнений и суждений о Боге и о том, что нужно человеку. Нет уже ереси арианства, но ее идеи дальше проповедуются так наз. свидетелями Иеговы, которые не считают Иисуса Христа Богом и спорят, что если Он – Сын Божий, то уже не Бог. Но эти люди по сути не христиане. Все христиане, как православные, так и инославные веруют, что Иисус Христос – Бог, единосущный Отцу, веруют согласно вере Отцов I Вселенского Собора. Но среди христиан есть иные расхождения и разномыслия. Даже в среде истинных христиан – православных – бывают различные мнения. Кто-то живет так, что показывает, что вот он изучил богословие и иные науки и уже все меряет этими знаниями. У таких получается, что знание важнее всего. Вот изучил такой человек что-то и уже говорит, что многое не так, как традиционно принято считать в Церкви. У таких ученых людей уже первое Евангелие было от Марка, хотя Церковь всегда считала, что от Матфея. У них и многих библейских персонажей «на самом деле не было». У них все сомнительно и они легко могут впасыь в заблуждения. У таких получается «горе от ума»».
«А есть иная крайность: очень верующие люди начинают считать, что только одной ревностью в благочестии достигается спасение. И они уже не верят в науки, в знания. И эта их ревность не по разуму. И они тоже могут заблуждаться и даже впадать в ереси. Кстати, церковные историки говорят, что многие еретики как раз были людьми очень ревностными и строгими. Основоположник той самой ереси арианства, Арий, был весьма строг, был таким суровым старцем по отношению к своим духовным чадам. А получилось, что его строгость была напрасной – он не нашел ни спасения ни жизни вечной, а как поется в стихире вечерни нынешнего праздника Арий «вещество огня вечнаго себе сокровеществуяй»».
«Дорогие братия и сестры! Давайте стараться быть умеренными в своих суждениях, избегать крайностей. Давайте использовать как знания, так и духовный опыт для нашего спасения. Знания – это сила, но они тщетны без опыта богопознания. И в мiрских делах теория должна сочетаться с практикой, а практика быть ведомой теорией. Да будем просить Господа, чтобы Он молитвами святых Отцов утвердил нас в истине, в Православной вере, в познании Бога-Отца и посланного Им Сына, Иисуса Христа, дабы этим знанием мы имели жизнь вечную!»

The choir beautifully performed the hymns of the feast of the Ascension and dedicated to the Holy Fathers of the First Council.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector offered a special prayer for the deliverance from pestilence. He also preached a short sermon in English explaining the ideas of his Russian homily and made some announcements.