8th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On July 22, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy at our parish temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily the Rector explained certain aspects of interpretation of the Gospel story about the miracle of feeding five thousand men with five loaves and two fish (Mt. 14, 14-22). He pointed out that the miracle took place at the evening, after the whole day of teaching and healings performed by Jesus. It tells us that spiritual matters and the works of mercy should take precedence over the needs of the body. The miracle itself, although it was aimed to feed the hungry, had a spiritual meaning. It was an image of the Eucharist, as well as the image of future multiplication of the followers of Christ. It also showed that Jesus is God and can multiply the matter and creation. God created the world out of nothing, so it is easier to multiply something which already exist; but still God alone is able to do such thing. The fragments of food which remained after the feeding were collected in 12 baskets. Those 12 baskets signify the 12 Apostles who had to share the Word of God and the Eucharist with the nations to whom they were going to preach.
In the conclusion of his homily the Rector called the faithful to seek spiritual things first and to appreciate the Holy Eucharist and the unity with God which is attained through our fellowship in the Church.

The choir prayerfully performed the singing at the Liturgy. It also beautifully sung the Psalm 33 during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing the main points of his Russian homily. Then a short memorial service was performed at the request of Claudia Popescu.

Following the services the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.

7th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On July 15, on the 7th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as feast of the Placing of the Precious Robe of the Most Holy Mother of God, St. George Parish held a beautiful celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.

After the readings from Sacred Scripture the Rector preached a homily in English. He reflected upon the Gospel lesson about two miracles performed by our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 9, 27-35). The first miracle described in the reading was giving sight to the blind men who begged Jesus to heal them. The Lord asked whether they believed that He is able to perform such a sign, and the blind men said, “Yes, Lord”. Here we see how important is our faith. If we wish that God would act in our lives, we need a firm faith in Him. That faith cannot be limited to a statement, a declaration. If we are asked whether we believe in God, we answer, “Yes, I do” but we also need to live by that faith. Our faith must be active and be fulfilled in our deeds. The blind men did not only believed but they proved their faith by following Jesus, by begging Him, by crying, by being persistent. Thus we need not to limit ourselves by declarations but to live a life of prayer, fasting, repentance, to receive the Sacraments, to attend the church.
The second miracle in today’s Gospel lesson was healing of a mute and demon-possessed. Here Jesus did not ask him about his faith. But the mute and possessed man could not speak and answer for himself. But the Lord saw the faith of the people who brought that poor man to Him. In the same way, if we are unable to speak for ourselves, the Church does it for us. It happens, for instance, when the little babies are baptized and later brought to the church for Communion. Yesterday the Holy Synod of our Church made a historical decision to bless an office of praying for the deceased unbaptized children. This is the case when those poor souls cannot ask for themselves but we as the Church can pray for them although they were not baptized, but never committed any sin. This decision was long-time waited by the Church because we had to refuse to hold public prayers for those children.
The Rector concluded his homily by asking the parishioners to keep and practice faith and to adhere to the Holy Church.

The choir nicely performed hymns in honor of the Most Holy Mother of God before Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian addressing the ideas of his English homily.

Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

 

On July 14 we held celebration of the feast of the Major Holy Apostles Peter and Paul which had been transferred to Saturday. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy at our parish temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian.

The Rector pointed out that Holy Peter and Paul had different views on their Apostolic ministry and argued about their differences. We may say that Peter was conservative and Paul was more progressive, or, as many of us say, “liberal”. People usually are divided in that manner. But Holy Major Apostles, although they had their differences, never divided the Church and never separated from the community of Christ. And their feast shows that both Peter and Paul died on the same day, being killed because of the persecution of Christians in Rome. This is an important lesson for us: we may hold different, even opposite views but should be united in our Orthodox faith and our belonging to the Church. We should adhere to the firm and solid faith declared by St. Peter in today’s Gospel lesson: that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God. And we should not create schisms and hostilities because of our differences. Therefore, we have to ask that the Lord through the prayers of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul grant us unity in spirit, so we may be led to eternal Kingdom of God.

Our cantor Olga Roussanow nicely performed hymns in honor of the Holy Apostles.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar server performed a rite of glorification before the icon stand in the middle of the church singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast. The Rector also preached a short sermon in English stressing the ideas of his Russian homily.

 

6th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On July 8, on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, St. George Parish family held a nice celebration at our church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

”Dear brothers and sisters! Today’s Gospel tells us about a miraculous healing of a paralyzed man. Before healing that man our Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed that the sins of that man are forgiven (Mt. 9, 2). Some Jewish elders whom the Scripture calls the Scribes were present there and began to think that Jesus is blaspheming. Only God can forgive sins. Knowing of their thoughts the Lord rebuked them saying that not only sins of that man are forgiven, but his body will also be freed from the infirmity. He tells the paralytic to stand up and walk, and the paralytic does stand, takes his bed and walks to his own house (Mt. 9, 6).”
”This reading teaches us that our illnesses are caused by sin. Mainly, of course, our infirmities are not the consequence of our personal sins, but rather the effects of the sinful state, a sin that is all around us in the world and to which we are subject.”
“The doctors tell us that many illnesses are the result of bacteria coming from the world and attacking a weakness in our bodies. Such a weakness may be inherited through what we now call genes. Or perhaps that weakness comes in old age when our bodies began to fail as they wear out. In both cases illness is caused by a corrupted state of humanity where a spiritual failure caused physical imperfection.”
”On the other hand, a sickness may be the result of overeating or an unhealthy diet. Then again it is a result of sin called gluttony. It may be the result of using of alcohol or drugs. Then it is a sin of drunkenness or debauchery. Some of us get sick because of a lack of physical activity. Then it may be a sin of laziness. Finally, our illness such may also be the result of a state of mind. Then various sins of our mind, sins of thought and heart make us unhealthy. This is why today’s Gospel does not tell us about any particular cause of the man’s illness. But it shows that he was paralyzed not because of bacteria, old age, unhealthy diet or poor mental state, but because his sins were not forgiven.”
“Our body and our soul are very much connected. They both compose a human person. This is why we should always remember to take care of ourselves, to love ourselves. That means to love our souls and our bodies. If our souls are healthy, not burdened by unforgiven sins, our bodies would be much healthier. And on the opposite, if we live in sins and vices, we should not expect our bodies to be well.”
“Today the Orthodox Church honors the holy memory of Venerable Martyr Febronia who was a nun in some Eastern land. She was persecuted and tortured by the Roman officials. One of those torturers who was especially fierce and cruel died soon after he put Febronia to death. Other his companions even converted to Christianity but that one was very angry and evil. So he died of that anger. Of course, it was God’s punishment but the cause of death was that man’s mental state which influenced his physical health and resulted in his death.”
“Having an example from the life of today’s Saint and coming to an understanding that our bodily weaknesses are the result of our sin, let us ask the Lord’s help. Let us ask Him to forgive our sins in the holy Mystery of Confession. Let us use that great medicine, that healing Sacrament. Unfortunately, this Sacrament is in a great neglect in our times. Protestants don’t have it. Catholics have it but don’t use it much. Even many among many Orthodox it is in neglect, like it is seen in the Greek or Antiochian parishes. In our Russian parishes Confession is used but many people don’t know how to confess correctly; they like to have a conversation with a priest, to tell him about his life but don’t confess their actual sins. Clergy should teach faithful to do that.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us use the Holy Confession in a right way to truly repent and receive absolution of our sins. Let us also fight our sins and bad habits to be freed from possible sicknesses of the body which may be caused by our wrong behavior. And let us then follow our Lord Jesus Christ to His eternal glory.”

The choir beautifully performed hymns in honor of St. John the Baptist whose Nativity the Church celebrated on the previous day.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian to convey the main ideas of his English homily. He also congratulated our long-time active parishioner, Natalia (Dolores) Soho on the occasion of her past birthday. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals. A toast in honor of Natalia (Dolores) was raised during the luncheon and a birthday cake presented for the dessert.


 

4th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On June 24, on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. In the absence of our Rector, the Divine Liturgy was served by Priest Mark Rashkov, cleric of St. Nicholas Cathedral.

Fr. Mark preached a homily in Russian and English languages interpreting the Gospel lesson assigned for this Sunday.

3rd Sunday after Pentecost

 

On June 17, on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily the Rector interpreted the New Testament distinguished teaching of Christ regarding not worrying about material things from the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. The Lord said, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Mt. 6, 25-29).
Literally and superficially those words of Christ sound strange. However, if we think of it deeply, we may find a great sense in these words. If we believe in God, if we admit that He is the Creator and the Ruler of the universe, we understand that nothing happens without His blessing or His permission. All our actions won’t be successful if God would not allow them to be. Of course, we need to work and earn a living: Jesus did not say not to; He only said not to worry, not to be anxious about those things.
This teaching of Christ calls us to set our priorities correctly. What is spiritual and eternal is much more important than material and temporary things. Our religion affirms that spirit is primary and the matter is secondary. In today’s Gospel lesson the Lord teaches that saying, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light” (Mt. 6, 22). “The eye” here means our spirit, our mind which leads and governs the body. Therefore, we need to seek the purity of the soul which would lead both the body and the spirit to live a pious life leading to eternity. And the material things will be added to us if we do our work trusting in God.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in English conveying the main thoughts of his Russian homily. He also congratulated our men on the occasion of Father’s Day. The traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

After the liturgical celebration the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals at the coffee hour.

2nd Sunday after Pentecost. Sunday of All the Saints of the Land of Rus’

 

On June 10, on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, as well as Sunday of All the Saints of the Land of Rus’, our Parish family gathered for the liturgical celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in English:

“Today’s 2nd Sunday after Pentecost is dedicated to All the Saints which were glorified in the Lands of Rus’. To be precise, this is the holy day to honor the Saints of our local Church, the Russian Orthodox Church.”
“Holding such celebration today, we should consider what do we have in common and what makes our spiritual past unique and special? Every nation or every culture contributes something to the treasury of human existence. It is agreed that the Jews gave the humanity the true faith in one God; the Greeks gave the wisdom of philosophy; and the Romans gave the order of the law. If we think of Italy, we call it beautiful. If we think of America, we appreciate its good business. If we think of Germany, we know it is famous for order and neatness. And when we think of Rus’, we recall that it used to be called “Holy”. Our spiritual heritage is the Holy Rus’. This is our uniqueness, to be part of the culture of holiness. Of course, Rus’ and Russia had never been truly holy. There were a lot of terrible crimes and transgressions committed by its rulers and by regular people in the course of history. However, to be holy was the ideal to which our ancestors were striving despite their weaknesses and errors. If we think well, we may see that not all Italy is beautiful. We may also see that not every American is a good businessman: in fact, lots of Americans are lazy and living on a welfare programs. Even in Germany, not everything is so neat and in order. But there is a tendency, an ideal to which those nations are striving. Same is with our spiritual culture.”
“Unfortunately, many of the heirs of the Holy Rus’ are now not living up to their spiritual ideals. Today’s stereotypes suggest that if we think of a Russian, it is a drunkard, a lazy man or even some villain. Take modern jokes about different nationalities: they all say that. But there was a time in the past when the jokes were different. And not just jokes. Some European thinker in the 19th century wrote: “The Englishman wants to see the world as a factory, the Frenchman as a salon, the German as a barracks, but the Russian as a Church”. Thus, it was so different some two hundred years ago. The ideals of the Holy Rus’ were so alive but spiritual wellness of the Russian people so deteriorated that today we may only feel sorry about our glorious past.”
“But it would be incorrect to seek the solutions in the past only. As I said, Russia had never been really holy. And what happened to it a century ago – all those terrible events such as revolution, civil war and the years of a godless regime – all this was a result of that insufficient holiness. We need to look at the future but to learn from the past. And if we wish to restore our ideals of the Holy Rus’, we need to embrace the attitude of true Christianity, not an attitude of this world. We need to seek God and His Kingdom. Our call not to be so beautiful, not to be so successful in business, not so neat and orderly, but to show the world holiness. This is a very difficult path but we should go through it.”
“If we feel weak and unsure, we need to recall our Saints whom we honor today. They were our relatives either by blood or by common culture. They were able to please God by their lives, so can we. Every century and every period of history our Church bore many holy men and women who dedicated their lives to God and to Christian ideals. Even in modern times when so many heirs of the Holy Rus’ became unholy and turned against God and His Church, we know about a great number of our Saints. Fearsome times of the godless power revealed so many New Martyrs and Confessors that their number impresses everyone. Their testimony shows that despite the dominant tendency of atheism and despite the temporary victory of godless powers, many faithful souls chose to belong to God and to suffer for Christ.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to the Saints of Rus’, so they may intercede for us before the merciful Lord, that they may ask Him to restore our sanctity, that the light of holiness in the lands of Rus’ would not fade away and that our future would see the Russian Church continuing to shine with its holy men and women!”

The choir beautifully performed the hymns dedicated to the Russian Saints during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian conveying the ideas of his English homily.

 

Sunday of All Saints

 

On June 3, on the Sunday of All Saints, as well as feast of the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy at our parish temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian.

The Rector stressed the idea that to be a Saint is a vocation for every Christian person. We are called to be Saints, to be Holy by receiving Holy Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation. To become a Saint is a possible task, however, it is a supernatural task because our holiness depends on God’s help and His grace. It requires our efforts, our talents and spiritual strength, but it also depends on God’s help. If we will desire to please the Lord, He will assist us with His grace.
Holiness is one of the qualities of God. Only God is truly and always Holy. But He created man according to His image and likeness and He desired us to be holy. The first people, Adam and Eve, were holy in paradise; only the fall deprived them of that quality. But our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to restore fallen humanity, to return us to holiness and to give us a capability to acquire it.
The way to attain holiness is simple: to live spiritual life in Christ, to keep the Commandments, to receive the Sacraments. This is understood. But there is one more thing mentioned in today’s Gospel lesson: it is necessary to seek God and to inquire what is eternal, not temporary. The Lord says: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10, 37). Many, especially not religious people, would say that these are cruel and harsh words. But if you think of it well, we realize that God is the most important. These words of Christ do not teach us not to love our parents, children or spouses. No! But they teach us that God is above everything and everyone. And our human love has its source in God who is the Absolute Love. If there was no God, there would be no love and even life at all.
Therefore, an important idea of today’s Gospel lesson is to set our priorities correctly. We ought to love eternal God more than everything else which is His creation, including ourselves and our neighbors. We need to sacrifice many things in our lives for Him like Holy Apostles did. They left everything and followed Christ. But note that the Lord does not demand everyone to sacrifice everything but to give up certain things according to our calling. This is why there are different kinds of Saints, with different endeavors and various ways of life. But all their lives were leading them to God and to His Heavenly Kingdom.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns in honor of All Saints and of the holy Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir before Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in English conveying the ideas of his Russian homily.

After the sermon the Rector congratulated the Malyshew family on the occasion of the name day of their daughter Elena. Fr. Igor wished our youngest parishioner God’s blessings and intercession of her heavenly patron, Holy Equal to the Apostles Empress Helen. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was sung.

Following the service the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals at the coffee hour. A toast in honor of the youngest parishioner celebrating her name day was raised.

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the I Ecumenical Council

 

On May 20, on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the I Ecumenical Council, we had a nice liturgical celebration in our temple. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Following the Church’s spiritual experience of the Ascension, on today’s Sunday the Church draws our attention to the teaching of the I Ecumenical Council, calling us to glorify the Holy Fathers who gathered there.”
“That first Ecumenical Council which took place in the year 325 in the city of Nicaea, discussed a very important question: who is the Lord Jesus Christ? Is He the best creation of God or the Son of God? Is He the true God or a supreme being lower than God? Is He created by God or is God Himself? We may wonder whether these discussions are important. Some may say that it is not so crucial because the main thing is that we know Jesus Christ, we know about His life, His teaching and His works. Why do we need those complicated theological quarrels?”
“Dear brothers and sisters! It is so important for us because it concerns everyone. If Christ is not the Son of God, if He is not the true God, then nothing supernatural or miraculous may happen in our life because we may just believe in God but rely on our personal strength and approach God only by our human efforts. But if we know that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He is the true God, and being the true God, He is with us “always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28, 20), then we understand that our faith cannot be in vain. Despite our weakness, our inability to live a righteous life, despite our unworthiness, we don’t lose hope. Why? Because we know that Christ, the Son of God came into the world, so”whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3, 16).”
“If Jesus Christ is the true God, He has a power to save us. If He is the true God, it is in His power to forgive our sins, to cleanse and sanctify us. If He is the true God, it is in His power to grant us eternal life. And if He is the true God, it is in His power to help us in our temporary life.”
“Thus we begin to understand the words of today’s Gospel lesson: And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17, 3). No one comes to God except through His Son, Jesus Christ (Mt. 11, 27; Jn. 14, 6). In the same way, if we see the light of the day, we know about the sun. Thus if we believe, we come to know the true God. If we hear someone speaking, we come to know that person, we begin to know about his knowledge and his intellect. Thus through Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, through the Son of God and the Son of Man we come to know the true God.”
“But how could we know Him if we have a limited mind and weak human senses? We can know Him through the life of the Church of Christ. The power of God manifests itself in the Church where Christ is really and truly present. This is the essence of our faith and, therefore, that erroneous teaching which was discussed at the I Ecumenical Council was so threatening and deceiving. At those times some priest named Arius did not believe that Christ is the Son of God, did not believe that Christ was not created, but considered that Jesus is the best creature of God. If it was so, God would not be with us. God would be separated from us. He would be very remote, He would be inaccessible as it was before our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world. But after His coming into the world the true God stood in our midst. He is close to us. He is in our lives, in our souls. He is in the Church of Christ to which we belong. And in that Church He abides to the end of age.”
“Such is the meaning of those theological controversies that were discussed at the I Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. And the Holy Spirit make the Fathers of the Council understand and define the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in the way we confess it. In that way the Holy Spirit revealed the true and firm teaching about the divinity of Christ to the Church. Let us then firmly keep that faith of ours, cherish it in our hearts and follow it in our life”.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian conveying the ideas of his English homily.

Following the service the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.

Ascension of the Lord

 

On May 17 of this year the Orthodox Church celebrated great feast of the Ascension of the Lord. St. George parish had a nice celebration on this day. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Our parish was visited by a ROCOR cleric, Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk) who prayed during the Liturgy in the sanctuary.

After the Gospel lesson the Rector preached a homily in Russian. He pointed out that at His glorious Ascension into heaven our Lord ascended both with His divine and human nature. Thus it is a spiritual comfort for us to be aware that our human nature had been also ascended with Jesus and thus the Lord prepared there a place for us.
Fr. Igor also addressed the question why Jesus gave His Disciples some time after His Ascension, before He sent the Holy Spirit upon them. He did not sent the Spirit right away because the Lord wished the Apostles to prepare, to become aware of that and to be certain about their life decision to follow Christ. God never wants to force us to follow Him. Therefore, the Apostles had to be free to decide. They also had to be patient awaiting the Holy Spirit and to stay together in prayer.
At the conclusion of his homily the Rector called the faithful to pray the Lord and His Blessed Mother (who was present at the event of the Ascension along with Holy Apostles) to strengthen our spiritual efforts to acquire the divine grace leading to heaven and to make us patient in our earthly journey towards heavenly goal.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar server performed the rite of Glorification in front of the festal icon singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast.

Following the service the Rector preached a short sermon in English to stress the main thoughts of his Russian homily and congratulated the parishioners on the occasion of the great feast.