11th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On August 12, on the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov  headed the Divine Liturgy at our parish temple. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Our Gospel lesson assigned for today tells us a parable about a merciful king and an unmerciful lender (Mt. 18, 23-35). This story is very instructive: it shows how the people can be unkind, wicked, unforgiving and forgetful. On the other hand, it shows that God (who is pictured in the story as a king) is very kind and forgiving.”
“When we come to the church, which prayer do we hear the most? It is an exclamation “Lord, have mercy!” During our services the singers in the choir constantly ask God to have mercy upon us. We ourselves should join the choir in that petition and ask the Lord to be merciful. We should realize that we do need divine mercy because we do not do what we are supposed to do. We do not keep the Commandments, we do not have a strong faith, we do not feel proper love in our hearts, so we feel that we are not worthy of God’s blessings. This is why we need the Lord’s mercy.”
“What is mercy? It is something we do not deserve. It is not rewarding you according to your deeds, but it is a forgiveness of your errors or misdeeds. It is when you are supposed to pay for your mistakes, but you are given a chance not to. It is when you should be punished for your crime, you are pardoned. That happened in today’s Gospel story: a servant owed the king a lot of money and was not able to pay the debt. The king had a right and the power to punish that man: to sell him and his family members to slavery. But since that man was begging the king to have patience with him, the king forgave his debt – the king showed mercy, he showed compassion.”
“In the same way, when we ask God to have mercy upon us, we do not ask for something we deserve, but for something we don’t. If we are honest with ourselves, we should realize that our sins do not make us worthy of God’s kindness and His grace. Of course, we may also think that we are generally “good people” and deserve God’s blessing, but that kind of thinking is wrong. Even if we are good people (and I believe that most of us are), we are also sinful people. Thus we really deserve to be punished for our sins. Again, if we are honest, we see that we are not worthy of God’s grace. Thus, being aware of our unworthiness, we really understand the need to ask God’s forgiveness and His mercy. And even if we forget doing this all the time, the Church does it for us. This short but very fervent prayer – “Lord, have mercy!” is repeated in the holy temples many and many times. And according to that prayer we, as God’s servants, do receive a lot of mercy and clemency from the Lord, our Heavenly King.”
“But today’s Gospel lesson is also telling us that there is a condition under which the Lord will show His mercy. This one condition is that we will also forgive other people their debts and faults. The parable is telling that the king found out that the servant, whom he forgave that huge debt, was himself unmerciful to his fellow servant and put that poor man to prison to pay his debt in full. Upon learning that the king got angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him (Mt. 18, 28-34). Our Lord Jesus Christ concludes the parable by saying, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Mt. 18, 35). Thus, dear brothers and sisters, the rule of receiving the Lord’s mercy is that we are also going to be merciful towards others. And, if we recall, this rule is stated in another very important Christian prayer, in the Lord’s Prayer. We say, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”, or in another English version of that prayer we say “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Thus we ourselves ask the Lord our Father to adhere to that rule with us; we ask Him to forgive us only if we forgive those who trespass against us.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us remember that rule of our spiritual life: we will be forgiven the same way as we forgive others. Let us remember about that and let us recall today’s Gospel parable when we are blinded by anger and when our heart is full of evil against somebody. Let us not say or think, “I will never forgive you for what you have done!” Because if we say it and mean it, what the Lord will say to us at the Last Judgment? He will not forgive our faults and He will throw us to the tortures of hell, so we pay for our sins! Of course, we don’t wish this to happen! Then let us ask the Lord to enlighten us by His parable and His saving teaching, so we may become forgiving and not keeping grudges, so we may be merciful to each other, so our Heavenly Father will be merciful towards us.”

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian to stress main thoughts of his English homily. He also announced that next week the Orthodox Christians begin the Dormition Fast.

Following the sermon and announcements the Rector performed a customary blessing of the new honey. At the end of the services he also congratulated the Malyshew family on the occasion of their little daughter Elena’s 4th birthday celebrated last week. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was sung.

Our celebration continued at the coffee hour where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed coffee, tea and sweets, as well as a nice conversation. A birthday cake was presented to little Elena.

 

10th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On August 5, on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as feast of the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaev, we gathered at our temple for a nice celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading of the Holy Gospel he delivered a homily in Russian.

In his homily the Rector interpreted the Gospel lesson assigned for this Sunday (Mt. 17, 14-23). He said that the young man possessed by a demon and suffering from epilepsy is a symbolic image of all humanity possessed by the power of sin and evil. Especially it was so before the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. No one could help that young man, even the Apostles. Only Christ was able to heal him.
Now the throwing of that young man to the fire and to the water symbolizes the extremes we are thrown into by our sins. The fire and the water are two opposite things. So we may be thrown into the opposite extremes. The fire may mean any passion, for instance anger, hatred or envy. The water, on the other hand, signifies the cold of despair, dejection or indifference. In order to be freed from those extremes, we need faith. But our faith is too small. The Lord tells us how to grow our faith and to cast out the evil – to practice prayer and fasting.
Only the power of Christ can help us but prayer and fasting invokes that power and makes us strong in faith. Thus we need to ask for God’s help and for the help of the Most Holy Mother of God (whose feast of the Icon of Pochaev we celebrate), as well as to ask for help of all the Saints. Thus we may avoid the extremes of the fire of passion and of the cold of despair. Prayer and fasting may lead us to the victory over the evil in this life, so we may inherit life everlasting.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God during preparation for Holy Communion.

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

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company.

Celebration of Bishop John’s Anniversary of Ordination to the Episcopacy

 

On Wednesday, August 1, the feast of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov and the fourth anniversary of his consecration to the episcopacy, the Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA,  Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York City. 

His Grace was co-served by Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov (Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA), Archpriest George Konyev (Rector of the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ), Priest Andrew Massey (cleric of the Elevation of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ) and the cathedral clergy. Praying in the altar was Dean of the Eastern States, Priest Aleksey Paranyuk. During the Divine Liturgy, Bishop John awarded Fr. Andrew Massey the right to wear the nabedrennik and kamilavka. 

After Holy Communion, Bishop John served a short moleben before the icon of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov. He then delivered a sermon on the life of St. Seraphim.

Following the Bishop’s sermon Fr. Igor Tarasov congratulated His Grace on the occasion of his ordination anniversary on behalf of the clergy and parishioners of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA. 

We sincerely congratulate our dear Archpastor on the anniversary of his consecration to the episcopacy, and wish him many years in the vineyard of Christ!

9th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On July 29, on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Six Ecumenical Councils, we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Our Gospel lesson of today is telling us about the events occurred after the miracle of multiplication of the breads and feeding the multitudes in the wilderness. Following that the Lord remained on the mountain alone and prayed while His Disciples were sailing on the boat. The Gospel says that the boat was in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Jesus came to the Disciples walking on the water. Peter desired to walk on the water also, he tried but later began to sink. Jesus stretched out His hand and caught Peter. Then they both got into the boat and the wind ceased (Mt. 14, 22-32).”
“Usually when we reflect upon this story we talk about Jesus walking on the sea or Peter trying to walk to Jesus. But today we will discuss the storm which took place there. Dear brothers and sisters! The sea means our life and the world we live. The boat means our human society or our community, especially the Church. The Apostles here symbolize all men and women either living in the society or belonging to the Church. Now the wind and the storm symbolize different troubles, sorrows, sufferings and misfortunes that occur in our life. Because of them the boat of the Church or the ship of human society becomes tossed by the waves of this worldly life.”
“We may ask why the storms occur and why the wind becomes contrary. Interpreting today’s Gospel lesson Holy Fathers, for instance, St. Ambrose of Milan taught that the storm on the sea, when the Disciples were on the boat, took place because of Judas, the future betrayer of Christ, was among them. If we compare that situation to some other biblical stories, we may be convinced that it is true. God punished the people, or the whole cities, nations or countries because of the sinners living among them. Even because of a righteous man, Prophet Jonah, God allowed the storm to occur on the sea – because Jonah did not obey the Lord and did not go to the place God commanded him. Thus God permits evil to visit us if we are sinful or because there are sinners among our nations, societies and even inside our Church.”
“Judas was not just a sinner, he was a thief, he was a deceiver, a betrayer of Jesus Christ and he ended up committing suicide. He died without repentance. Thank God, not every sinner is like him. In fact, we are all sinners but we use the time of our life to repent and, hopefully, we won’t die without repentance. But Judas was not just stealing the money from the treasury of the Apostles – he was stealing his own time given for repentance by multiplying his sins and finally killing himself. Of course, many of us are not like him but beware! Every sinner is risking to die without repentance, and to become like Judas. And there are so many unrepented sinners among Christians, among the members of the Church, among the sailors of the boat! Thus because of them the Church is often tossed by the contrary winds and troubled by the waves of this world.”
“What happens to the Church happens to human societies, happens to the nations and countries. But on the smaller scale, it happens to each person. The boat may also be compared to our own being, our own life. The storms in our life may occur because there is a Judas on our boat – our grave sin or our vice rooted in the heart. And if we won’t repent or confess such sin, we won’t be safe.”
“Today we commemorate Fathers of the six Ecumenical Councils. Those Fathers defined the dogmas of the Orthodox faith and fought against many heresies. Heresy is a sin which causes the Church to be in error and in spiritual trouble. The Fathers condemned heresies, so the boat of the Church would be preserved and heretics be out of it.”
“Speaking of the storms and the boats we may recall a story from the lives of the Saints.  St. Porphyrius of Gaza and Blessed Jerome were traveling on the boat in the sea. All of a sudden a terrible storm took place, and they were wondering why it occurred so unexpectedly. They began to question the sailors and passengers about their possible sins or crimes, and finally the captain of the ship confessed that he was a secret heretic. After he repented and accepted Orthodoxy the storm stopped. Thus, storms in our life happen if we are having some spiritual problem, some error which may be hidden.”
“But today’s Gospel tells us that once the Lord Jesus Christ stepped into the boat, the wind ceased. That means that if Christ will be present in our life, the winds and storms will stop. It means that if Christ will really govern our Church, our parishes, our societies and nations – the troubles will cease and won’t bother us. Only with Christ we may not fear them.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us keep Jesus Christ in our boat: let us keep Him in our nations, in our societies, in our Church, in our parishes. Let us keep Him in our lives. Let us reject all erroneous ideas about God and faith, so we may not be in spiritual trouble. Let us repent for our sins, especially for the grave ones, so we may be spiritually safe. And in our spiritual trouble, let us call to the Lord like Peter, saying, “Lord, save me!” (Mt. 14, 30). And if our prayer will be sincere, the Lord will come to us in any manner, like He came to His Disciples even walking on the sea. He will come and step into our boat saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; Do not be afraid” (Mt. 14, 27).”

The choir beautifully performed hymns in honor of the Holy Fathers during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian addressing the ideas of his English homily. He also congratulated four parishioners on the occasion of their past name days: three Olgas, including our Warden and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow and one Vladimir, our Reader Vladimir Piankov. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

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.