Sunday before the Theophany

 

On January 16, on the Sunday before the Theophany, our parish gathered for a nice celebration in our temple. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On Sunday before the Theophany we read the beginning of the Gospel of St. Mark. We hear about the preparation for the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ to the world. That preparation was made by God sending St. John the Baptist who is called the Forerunner. He was “running before”, he was a predecessor who had to prepare the way for the Lord”.
“By the way, today we commemorate Holy Prophet Malachi who revealed the God’s prophecy about St. John 4 centuries prior to his life: Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You” (Mal. 3, 1). These same words are written by Holy Apostle Mark in today’s Gospel. Prophet Malachi was one of the 12 Lesser Prophets of the Old Testament. In fact, he was the last Old Testament Prophet. Sometimes we say that St. John the Baptist was the last Prophet of the Old Testament and the first Prophet of the New Testament. But to be precise, Malachi was the last one among the prophetic men who was writing about the coming of Christ. And he was writing about the messenger who was supposed to be sent before Christ to prepare His way, prophesying about John the Baptist. But the very name Malachi meant “my messenger” or “my Angel””.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Today’s Gospel story spiritually teaches us that in our own lives we also have to prepare the ways for the Lord. Holy Forerunner John was calling the people to get ready for the coming of the Savior. He said, Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight” (Mk. 1, 3). Thus we have to take our own part in that preparation. How can we do that? Let us see what we do to prepare for the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Partaking of the Holy Communion is, in fact, coming of Christ into our life – physical and spiritual coming. So, what we do to get ready for that coming? Usually, we read the rule of prayer, we fast from midnight. But we also examine our conscience and decide whether we need to go to confession. For many of us reception of the Eucharist is connected to another Sacrament – the Mystery of Penance. Very often we need to repent before we partake of the Holy Communion. Even if we choose not to go to confession, we absolutely need to show repentance for our sins before we dare to approach the holy chalice. And our prayers before Communion contain a lot of words of repentance. Therefore, prayer, fasting and repentance are the preparation to unite with the Lord”.
“Sometimes we complain that we do not feel the real help from God, or we say that we are not really exalted by our spiritual works. Today’s Gospel should open our spiritual eyes to see our spiritual state. In order to acquire God’s help and divine blessings, we need to be prepared. We need to do some spiritual labor. St. John the Baptist was calling us to such a labor saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Mt. 3, 2). Spiritual labor is to see our sins, to become aware of them and to confess them, as those people did – the people who were coming to St. John the Baptist. He baptized them, he immersed them into the waters of the Jordan River, so their sins were symbolically washed away. But he was telling them that his baptism is just a preparation for the Baptism of Christ. St. John was saying, “I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk. 1, 8)”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! We now have the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ who is giving us various gifts of the Holy Spirit through His Holy Church. And in order to be spiritually comforted, strengthened and to have God’s blessings and help, we have to work spiritually, we have to prepare our souls for being along with the Lord”.
“The two great holy days, Nativity and Theophany, being united together, make up a joyful season which is called “Sviatki” in Russian. In the ancient Church these two feasts were celebrated on one day, so the Incarnation of the Son of God and His appearance to the world were honored together. That ancient feast was called the Lord’s Theophany. The Armenian Church is still doing that. Although it is formally considered fallen from the fullness of Orthodoxy, it is spiritually close to us and is keeping many ancient traditions of Christianity. And we, who have the two separate holy days, the Nativity and Theophany – we should remember about their spiritual connection to each other”.
“In fact, we have the three important feasts of this season – Christmas, Circumcision of the Lord and His Holy Baptism. They all are linked together. On Christmas day we commemorate the Birth of Christ. On Circumcision we remember that Christ was given His special human name – Jesus, meaning “God the Savior”. And on the feast of Theophany, or Baptism, we commemorate His appearance to the world”.
“When we celebrated Christmas, we recalled that when Christ was born into this world, He found no place in human dwellings. The homes of men, as well as the hearts of men were closed for the Lord coming into the world. But now the Church begins to call us not to repeat what the most people did at the time of the Birth of Christ. Through the lips of St. John the Baptist the Church calls us to open our hearts, to prepare the ways for the Lord, so the Lord would be with us not only at the time of preparation for the feast of His Baptism, but in all our life. By the words of the Holy Forerunner the Church teaches us to follow Christ, to live by His blessed Commandments and to enter the holy Kingdom of God that He brought to us that no one who believes in Him would not perish but had eternal life!”

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, the Rector had a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.

The choir performed Psalm 33 during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made announcements regarding coming holy day of the Theophany.

Parish Warden and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow greeted Archpriest Igor Tarasov on the occasion of his past 56th birthday and expressed good wishes to our pastor on behalf of all the parishioners. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed to Fr. Igor. Then the Rector thanked her and parishioners for their greetings.

After the service a delicious luncheon was served in honor of Fr. Igor’s birthday. The Rector and parishioners had a chance to enjoy tasty meals and a nice company. The luncheon was attended by Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk) who also greeted Fr. Igor. To adorn the feast, the choir singers performed the Polychronion in a special way and a Ukrainian Christmas carol.

Sunday after the Nativity

 

On January 9, on the Sunday after the Nativity, our St. George Parish family gathered again for a nice celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Gospel reading he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On this Sunday after Christmas we have to learn what happened very soon after the Birth of Christ. Today’s Gospel lesson is telling us that after the departure of the Wise Men the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt because king Herod was looking for the Child Jesus to destroy Him (Mt. 2, 13). So, right after the joy of having Her first-born Child, Blessed Virgin had to run and hide. This gives us a very common picture of the life in this sinful world. The fallen human nature, human envy and hatred do not allow to live peacefully, but, on the contrary, spoil the lives of others and tend to destroy it. It is common that some people have a lust for power and wealth, and tend to oppress others while other kind of people are oppressed and deprived. Some persecute while others are persecuted”.
“The Christmas story is about those different kinds of people. In fact, it is about all kinds of them, it represents the whole human world”.
“King Herod represents all human corrupt rulers who desire to preserve their power at any cost. Herod knew that the Messiah was to come into the world. However, his own power was more important for him than salvation of his own people. And when Jesus was born and the Wise Men came to search for him, Herod became very disturbed (Mt. 2, 3). Instead of being excited about the Birth of the Messiah, he was worried that this little Child could take over his throne. Today we hear from the Gospel that Herod became angry after being deceived by the Wise Men who did not tell him about the place where the Child Jesus was. So he sent to kill all the infants in Bethlehem from two years old and under (Mt. 2, 16). The history of mankind is full of the examples of many Herods who sacrifice their own people, who shed innocent blood in order to strengthen their power. They do not care for spiritual matters but only use them to support their dominion. They falsify the elections to stay in their office, they use military and police force to keep their power”.
“But the Christmas story is not only about Herod. As we said, we also see other kinds of people. We see the shepherds. They become worthy of the appearance of the Angels who proclaim the joyful news to them – that the Savior is born. And the shepherds rush to the cave to worship Him. This is an example of simple, sincere and pious people who are blessed by God. We should now recall that from the beginning of humanity God loved the shepherds. Righteous Abel was a shepherd and God blessed his sacrifice. Thus shepherds are the devout people who sincerely love God”.
“In the story of the Nativity we see the Wise Men. These were the astrologers, the scientists of their age. Our tradition often refers to them as to the Three Kings. So, they could be the rulers in their own countries, just as Herod. They were serving false gods, practicing magic and sorcery, but they were looking for the truth. And being led by the star of Bethlehem they found the true Savior of the human race, the Child Jesus. Thus those wise men represent the scholars who look for the truth, who search for God. As the kings, they also represent the rulers who are seeking justice and do care about spiritual matters, the rulers who maintain the religious and moral values in their countries”.
“Today’s Gospel tells us about the Holy Infants killed by Herod in Bethlehem. They became the first Martyrs for the newborn Christ. They represent innocent children murdered by other people. First of all, they represent the unborn children killed in the mother’s womb, the victims of abortions. Yes, this is also part of the Christmas story. And in our festal joy we should not forget about that bitter truth, about such a terrible crime taking place in our world”.
“Finally, we see the Holy Family. Especially, the head of the household, righteous Joseph the Spouse. He humbly fulfills his duty to care and protect the Holy Family. Being advised by the Angel of the Lord he accepted Mary when She was pregnant. Now, again, advised by the Angel he takes the Child Jesus and His Mother and flees to Egypt. We may only imagine how hard it was for him and for the Holy Family to leave their native country and to go to the different land. But they did so in order to preserve the future Savior of the world. Therefore, St. Joseph represents a worthy and decent man who is fulfilling his obligation of taking care of the family, who protects his spouse and his children. And the Holy Family fleeing from Herod represents the persecuted in the world. Especially, it represents the persecuted Christians who are even now, in our times, are in fact persecuted and discriminated. They are persecuted in the Middle East or China; but they are in a different way persecuted in our own country”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, the Nativity story shows us the human race in different types of people. And we need to imitate some of them and avoid the attitude of others. We need to imitate the shepherds in their sincere trust to God, in their simple but fervent faith. We need to imitate righteous Joseph in his readiness to obey the will of God and in his care for the Holy Family, for the Child Jesus. Like him, we need to preserve Jesus, preserve Him in our hearts and let no one to destroy Him. We need to imitate the wise men in their love for knowledge but combined with the search for spiritual truth, the longing for God. And when they found God, found the Child Jesus they presented Him with the gifts. We also should give the Lord our own gifts – gifts of material nature like gold, gifts of spiritual nature like incense and gifts of moral nature like myrrh. But we have to avoid the attitude of Herod, the attitude of sin, evil desire and lack of love. Like those Wise Men who did not return to Herod, we should avoid being in contact with such people or such powers in the world, but to worship the true God, our Lord Jesus Christ born for us in a manger but who will rule the universe and redeem it!”

The choir prayerfully performed different beautiful hymns of the Nativity during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made some announcements.

 

Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas

 

On January 7 the Russian Orthodox Church observes feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, also known as Christmas. Our St. George Church had a nice celebration of that holy day. 

On January 6, on Christmas Eve, our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the All-Night Vigil. That service consists of the Great Compline, Matins and the First Hour. 

On Christmas day, January 7, our Rector served the Divine Liturgy. Despite the snowfall that occurred that morning, most of our parishioners came to the temple to participate in the divine service of the great feast.

Following the Gospel lesson the Rector proclaimed the Christmas Sermon of Venerable Isaac the Syrian.

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, the Rector had a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.

During the preparation for Holy Communion at the Liturgy the choir beautifully performed different liturgical hymns of the Nativity.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Nativity before the festal icon in the middle of the church. Then the Rector greeted the faithful on the occasion of the great holy day of the birth of the Son of God. He preached a sermon concerning the two aspects of the feast.

First, as the Rector pointed out, we should reflect upon the Incarnation of God – that God became Man. Jesus Christ became one of us, completely the same as we are, except sin. And when we think of that, we may say that our human nature is corrupt, so it is natural for us to be sinful. However, as the Holy Fathers, especially Venerable Maximus the Confessor, stressed, sin was not a part of human nature at the beginning. Thus it was completely right and understandable that Christ assumed our nature without sin. This idea should encourage us to strife for perfection in Christ.
Secondly, we should note that the Nativity of Christ happened almost in secret. It was not known to the most of the world. The Holy Family came to Bethlehem due to the census conducted by the Ceasar and the Virgin Mary did not intend to give birth there. The Holy Family was not known in that area and it found no place to stay, just a cave serving as a stable. When Christ was born there, only the shepherds enlightened by the Angels came there. Later the wise men arrived being led by the mysterious star. And Herod learned later and was disturbed. No one else knew about that event. In the similar way, we, Orthodox Christians, sometimes feel when we celebrate Christmas according to our calendar, in this country. Most of the people here have already celebrated. And they did it in the opposite way: many had their Christmas party before December 25. We should celebrate today and be merry after, not before Christmas. And we do it in our way being a minority in the society. But we should be encouraged by that also, keeping in mind that we, in some way, resemble those to whom the Birth of the Savior was revealed. And we should remember that at the second coming Christ will come openly and His coming will be known to the whole universe.

After the Rector’s sermon the parish Warden, Olga Roussanow had a speech in which she congratulated Archpriest Igor Tarasov on the occasion of his 32nd Anniversary of priestly ordination. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) to Fr. Igor was proclaimed.

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where a tasty luncheon was prepared by our parishioners. Everybody enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company. Several toasts in honor of Fr. Igor were raised by parishioners and the Polychronion to our pastor was sung again.

Sunday before the Nativity

On January 2, on the Sunday before the Nativity, we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Due to the Prefeast of the Nativity the temple was already decorated for Christmas and the covers of the icon stands, as well as the altar and serving vestments were changed to white. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. The service was attended by Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk) who was praying in the sanctuary. After the Gospel lesson Fr. Igor preached the following homily:

“Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Last Sunday the Church commemorated all the righteous of the Old Testament who awaited the coming of Christ. Today, on Sunday before the Birth of Christ on earth, the Church remembers all those in the Old Testament who were related to Christ by blood and those who spoke of His Birth as a Man. That is why today we have read Christ’s family tree from the Gospel of St. Matthew”.
“In this way the Church shows us that Christ was a historical figure, not a mythical or a legendary person. He really lived on Earth and was part of the human history. And in a more profound and spiritual way, today’s celebration and today’s reading from the Gospel teaches us that Jesus Christ really became a man. Тhe Son of God really took on human nature. He was not a ghost, an apparition, or a myth. He was not some “god of philosophers”. Such a god does not have a family tree. Jesus Christ is the son of Abraham. And He is God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He has flesh and blood, human ancestors. By taking on human nature, the Son of God became like us in all ways, in flesh and blood, in tears and sweat, in mind and soul, in heart and will. As a human, He was different from us in only one way – He did not sin. All His human ancestors did sin. For instance, king David. David is remembered for committing two grave sins – murder and adultery. But David is also remembered by his sincere repentance. Since we know that human nature of Christ remained sinless, He shows us the way that we can strive to avoid sin and thus to improve our failing human nature”.
“Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters! The fact that Christ took on human nature and has a family tree, has another meaning too. Christ is descended from Adam through Abraham and David, through His ancestors Joachim and Anna. Therefore, in His human nature He is related to us and we are related to Him. He is a relative of our ancestors, of our forebearers, Adam and Eve. He is one of our own. He is our relative and we are His relatives, we belong to the same, as we would say, “extanded” family. We should understand that with Christ we belong to one household, a family of Saints and a family of sinners, but a household of which He is the Head and we are His children, the children whose Mother is the Church and the Father is God. And in Him we believe in the Fatherhood of God and in the Brotherhood of Man”.
“And our Lord Jesus Christ who became Man, came to save this human brotherhood, so through Him we may become true children of God, not only by the fact of our creation by God, but by divine grace and our faith which make us saved in God”.
“And therefore, dear brothers and sisters, dear Father, preparing for the solemnity of the Birth of our Lord in flesh, let us become aware of our human brotherhood, as well as of our sonship to God, and let us implore our holy Ancestors: “Holy Fathers of Christ, pray to God for us!”

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication Fr. Igor proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spear the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.

During preparation for Holy Communion the choir performed the hymns from the Nativity Canon.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector greeted everyone on the occasion of the civil New Year and made the announcements regarding the coming Nativity celebration. He  proposed  the parishioners to get the new wall calendars for the year 2022 in exchange for a donation. Fr. Igor also thanked our sisterhood for decorating the church before the holy days. Then Fr. Igor greeted Moses Dunetz and Phoebe Ching Huei-Li on the occasion of their birthdays celebrated these days proclaiming the traditional Polychronion on their behalf.   

Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. Feast of the 5 Martyrs

 

On December 26, on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, as well as feast of the 5 Martyrs, we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. 

Following the reading from the Holy Gospel Fr. Igor preached a homily. He addressed the celebration of the Holy Forefathers, the ancestors of our faith in the Old Testament times; and he mentioned today’s Gospel lesson telling a parable of a man who invited many guests for his great supper. The Rector pointed out that the main idea of that Gospel reading is that “many are called but few are chosen” (Lk. 14, 24).
God the Creator called all humanity to be in HIs Kingdom. However, the very first humans, Adam and Eve, who were invited to eternal blessedness, dosobeyed God and were not able to stay in paradise. Therefore, the mankind was expecting the promised Messiah to come and to redeem the human race. He did come, our Lord Jesus Christ, becoming the New Adam, being born of the Virgin who became the New Eve. Before that coming God also called the people to serve Him but not many were chosen to accept that invitation. Only certain righteous persons were whom we honor as the Holy Forefathers, the Saints of the Old Testament.
Fr. Igor further reminded parishioners that we are holding the Bible Study meetings every Saturday to learn the truths of the Sacred Scripture (now we posed the meetings for Christmas break). At this point we are reviewing the Old Testament and already spoke about some of those Holy Forefathers. The Rector encouraged the people yo attend those study meetings to study the Bible and understand it.
Reading the Old Testament we may notice that first God chose certain just persons to serve Him in a special way but then those persons did accept God’s invitation. In that way they became chosen. Noah, Abraham, Moses and other holy men – all of them did say “yes” to God’s call. Thus they were becoming those few chosen among many who were called. Although these hole people “did not receive the promise” (Hebr. 11, 38) – they did not see Christ being born – they became worthy of His Kingdom.
In the similar way, the Holy 5 Martyrs whom we celebrate on December 26, the Christian era Saints, the holy people of the New Testament, became chosen because they answered God’s invitation. There were many people in the region of Cappadocia in the 3th century; they were even a number of Christians there. But only those 5 men became the Martyrs for Christ. They did not conspire to suffer together. But one by one, seeing the boldness of each other, they were coming forward and confessing Christ. Only them became chosen in that particular time and in that particular locality. 
The Rector concluded his homily by calling the faithful to look at the examples of the holy people of both Old and New Testament and to accept the God’s invitation to join Him in His Kingdom.

Since our Choir Director, Olga Roussanow was sick, and some other choir singers did not appear, the singing was mostly done by the singer Olga Vnukova. She prayerfully performed the hymns from the Nativity Canon during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made some announcements and encouraged the parishioners to participate in service of the Liturgy by singing at least of some parts, like the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

Christmas Break for the Bible Study

Dear Parishioners and Friends!

Please, be advised that we won’t have our Bible Study meetings from December 25 to January 21 due to the Christmas holiday break.
Our next meeting will be held on Saturday, January 22.

26th Sunday after Pentecost. Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker

 

On December 19, on the 26th Sunday after Pentecost, feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, St. George Parish family gathered for a beautiful celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate 26th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as feast of the Holy Father Nicholas the Wonderworker”.
“Our first Gospel reading is about gratefulness. Among the ten lepers cured by our Lord Jesus Christ, only one came back to the Savior to give Him thanks (Lk. 17, 12-19). The other nine people healed from a terrible disease did not return to show their appreciation”.
“That story makes us wonder how corrupt and bad our human nature is. And we are not really surprised by what happened in the Gospel reading. We know from our life experience that such things happen. Our lack of being grateful takes place when we do not really appreciate good things that we have. We do not appreciate God’s blessings. Or we take them for granted. Celebrating St. Nicholas day, we may recall that in many Orthodox countries children are expecting presents from St. Nicholas. And the parents before that day keep telling their kids that they should be nice, obedient and kind, otherwise St. Nicholas won’t bring them presents. But what usually happens is that children get their presents anyway. And such children learn that no matter how good or bad you may be, St. Nicholas will bring you something anyway. So, such a little thing may teach us from our childhood that good things come easily”.
“How can we change that wrong attitude when we either do not appreciate God’s blessings in our life or take them for granted? We can change it by keeping in mind that all good things we have are from the merciful Lord. And He distributes those things through different circumstances of our life and through different people in our life. We need to use our mind to understand that. Usually in religious life we prefer to use our faith and our heart. In this case we need our mind to help us to understand and appreciate the divine care and God’s grace. Therefore, let us attempt to use it”.
“Let us think of those ten lepers. We should imagine how miserable and horrible their life was. Leprosy is a terrible disease, causing your flesh to decay while you still alive. But in addition to physical sufferings, the lepers, especially in those times of Christ, had to suffer the alienation from the society. They were the outcasts, they were considered unclean and could not approach the people. This is why, as the Gospel mentions, they stayed afar off (Lk. 17, 12). Now Jesus healed them from that illness and cleansed them from their impurity. Their life changed completely, from being miserable to being at least normal. And yet most of them did not give thanks. Was it a right attitude? Of course, not”.
“Using our mind we may also imagine the opposite situation. Someone is feeling good but suddenly gets sick or something bad happens. How do most of us react? We begin to be disappointed or even angry. Often become angry even with God”.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when we feel disappointed by some things, let us again recall those ten lepers. Let us recall other people who suffer from terrible diseases, who are in great pain, who are dying or suffering all their lives! There are many such people all around us. Let us remember about that. And maybe then our mind will tell us that we are in a much better situation. And maybe then we will begin to appreciate the great blessings of the Lord bestowed upon us, who are unworthy”.
“Consider the case of the 3 military generals in the life of St. Nicholas whom we honor today. They were wrongfully accused and sentenced to death. How miserable and desperate they had to feel! But they prayed the Lord to save them through the intercession of St. Nicholas. And he appeared in a dream to the Emperor and defended those generals. As a result, the Emperor reviewed their case and found them not guilty”.
“Consider the father of the 3 daughters who was very poor and could not arrange for their marriages. That man was so desperate that he planned to force his daughters to become harlots. But St. Nicholas learned about that family and left a sac with money in their hut. He was doing it 3 times, so all the 3 daughters could be married”.
“In both instances people were miserable but through the grace of God and by the good works of the Lord’s Saint were made happy. Did they give thanks? At least, the father of the 3 daughters did. The life of St. Nicholas tells us that the man saw the Saint secretly leaving the money for the third time and he followed the benefactor. He caught him up and fell on his knees thanking him”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us use our mind, let us think and learn that we have to be grateful to the Lord for everything. First of all, our Lord deserves our thanks just for the fact that we live. And everything good we have in that life is His generous gift. Since now, before Christmas or on St. Nicholas day, is time of presents, let us remember that the most important present from God is our own life. Let us avoid the wrong attitude of the ungrateful people like the 9 out of those 10 lepers. Let us also not fall in anger or bitterness when we encounter misery or different disappointing things in our life. Let us remember that very often our problems are much lesser than sorrows of some other people. Let us ask the Lord through the prayers of His great Saint, Holy Wonderworker Nicholas to make us mindful, strong and faithful and make us learn to appreciate divine blessings and to be truly grateful for them!”

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, Fr. Igor proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease, as well as a petition of thanksgiving requested by Malyshev family.

During preparation for Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed the magnification of St. Nicholas and pre-Nativity hymns from the Christmas canon.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector greeted our Sacristan and altar server, Andrew Malyshev on the occasion of his past name day and our guest Nicholas on his celebrated name day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed and the Theotokian prosphora divided among those two persons. Then Fr. Igor handed the presents from St. Nicholas to the parish children.

25th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On December 12, on the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, our Parish family gathered for a nice celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov performed the Divine Liturgy in our St. George Church. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Gospel tells us about a miracle of healing performed by our Lord Jesus Christ over a sick woman. She had a spirit of infirmity 18 years, and was bent over and could not raise herself up (Lk. 13, 11). As in many other instances when our Lord healed the people, He had compassion, He felt for this woman, thus He called her and said, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity” (Lk. 13, 12). He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God (Lk. 13, 13). We should recall that St. Luke whose Gospel we read today, was a physician, therefore he attempted to describe people’s illnesses with precision”.
“If we were present there at that glorious miracle of the Lord, we would probably rejoice for the woman who was healed and for the glory of God revealed. But the reaction of some people present there was different. We read that the ruler of the synagogue was not happy because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. So, the ruler said to the people that they may come to be healed on the other six days, but not on the Sabbath. In such a reaction we see a very formal and superficial observance of the law of Moses. The ruler of the synagogue, as well as all the Pharisees and scribes, kept the letter of the law, instead of the spirit of the law. Such an observance can still be seen in the orthodox Jewish communities. In this city of New York, if you go to certain neighborhoods populated by the religious Jews, like Borough Park or Williamsburg, you can see that they observe Sabbath and other different rules very meticulously. These people do not drive their cars and do not use the elevator on the Sabbath. If you analyze that, you may find that they are very specific about keeping lots of rules and continue what the Pharisees did in the times of Jesus being on the earth”.
“Thus, these people, as well as their ancestors mentioned in today’s Gospel, keep the letter of the law, not the spirit. This is why the Lord called them hypocrites. He said, “Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?” (Lk. 13, 15). Certain things should be done no matter whether today is Sabbath or any other day. Especially, good deeds of mercy should be performed on each day. Furthermore, Jesus wishes us to understand that such works of love and charity should especially be done on the holy days. Good Christians understand that. We are also called to keep Ten Commandments, to honor and sanctify the Sabbath. For us Sunday is our Sabbath, the holy day of the week, the day of rest and the day of worship. However, we cannot think that a miracle could not be performed on such a day. We further cannot imagine that works of mercy could be prohibited on Sunday. In addition, we agree that certain jobs like emergency help or works necessary for your life or health may be done on Sunday”.
“Of course, on Sunday you should not do any physical work, you should and you have to go to the church. If you are working on Sunday because you want to and you want to make more money – you do commit a sin. But if you have to perform an emergency work, you can do it on Sunday. And people who are on duty on Sunday, like police officers or firefighters – they do not sin when they work on their Sunday shifts”.
“This is why today’s Gospel teaches us to observe the spirit of the God’s law, not just the letter of it. We have to live by our faith, and not just show that we are so religious. Our piety has to show what is in our hearts. Otherwise we risk to become similar to the Jewish scribes or Pharisees who demonstrated their piety and zeal in external observance of the rituals, but inside of their hearts were evil. Our Lord called them “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Mt. 23, 27). Jesus warned His disciples from the “leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy” (Lk. 12, 1)”.
“We may ridicule the orthodox Jews but we have to admit that we may see similar attitude among us, Orthodox Christians. Sometimes we also keep the letter of our faith, not its spirit. Being recently in Ukraine, I met a man who was in pain. He has a problem with his spine. When I spoke with him, he complained that he was suffering the whole night. But, as he told, he could not take the pain killers because he was supposed to receive Communion. I was a little surprised and told him that taking medicine with some water in such a case would not break the Eucharistic fast. But he said, “No, you in America can do that. We here are strict in our piety”. So, what do we see? A person suffers because he thinks he cannot break the fast before Communion. But it is permissible to take medicine if you are sick. It is permissible to take the pain killers if you are in pain. It is permissible to drink some water if you need it for medical reasons. We are not talking about eating a breakfast. But even some breakfast is allowed to the people having high blood sugar. In the large parishes, where an early Liturgy is celebrated, such people can come for Communion very early, and then they would keep the fast. They can eat breakfast after the early service. But in a parish like ours, we have only one Liturgy, so if someone has diabetes and needs to eat something in the morning, such person may be blessed to do so before Communion. Again, the spirit of our faith should be observed, not the letter.”
“The spirit of the law is found in the whole works of divine grace. The healing, life-giving, renewing power of God, His grace has no limits. It cannot be limited to the certain days, to the certain places or certain nations. It acts everywhere. And we have to be joyful to receive it and to see it at work. This was the purpose of the Lord to come into this world, that His grace may be shed upon every person. As a sign of that Jesus Himself cured all the infirmities and diseases among the people whom He encountered in pain. And the whole human race had to be healed, made well and straight the way the Lord healed and made straight the woman in today’s Gospel. Thus, dear brothers and sisters, let us be grateful and adhere to His commands, fulfilling first of all the spirit of His law, to be worthy of His eternal ruling”.

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, Fr. Igor proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.

During preparation for Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed the pre-Nativity hymns from the Christmas canon.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector addressed again the importance of fulfilling the spirit of our faith in religious life, not the superficial observance of the rules. Especially now, during the Nativity Fast, such issues arise. People ask how should they fast, what should they eat. Of course, trying to keep the canons and regulations of our Church, we have to understand that the most important thing in fasting is to spiritually attune to the works of salvation. The Rector also made some announcements regarding coming feasts.

Following the Liturgy the Rector performed the Mystery of Baptism over Johnmark Deleon who desired to convert and to join the Holy Orthodox Church. In the Holy Baptism he was given the name Mark. Following the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation Mark received his first Holy Communion. The Rector then congratulated him on that very solemn and important occasion.

24th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On December 5, on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the Gospel reading he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s pretty short Gospel reading tells us about man’s foolishness in the eyes of God. A man had a good harvest, he had a lot of riches and he was planning to store them. At the first look, there is nothing wrong with his reasoning. People who have certain possessions or business, do plan for the future. It is natural and necessary to look at the future perspective of your affairs. There is even some area of scholarship called “business planning”. Thus that man appeared to be reasonable”.
“But God calls him fool. And God says, “This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Lk. 12, 20). We may say that God is right because very often we do not know when we will pass from this world. Very often death is unexpected. And this is the first lesson from today’s Gospel for us. We have to be prepared. Holy ascetic fathers always kept thinking of death. “Memory of death” is considered a very important ascetic tool. “Remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin”, says the Scripture (Sir. 7, 36). Many ascetics were praying, “Lord, grant me the memory of death!””
“St. Ignatius Brianchianinov wrote, “Remember and mourn yourself alive, says the memory of death, I came to disappoint you charitably, and I brought with me a host of thoughts, most beneficial to the soul…. She is a performer of the will of the Most Holy God. Once she hears the command, she rushes for execution just like a lightning. She will not be ashamed neither of a rich man, nor a hero, nor a genius, she won’t have mercy for youth, for beauty, for earthly happiness: she relocates man into eternity. And by death a servant of God enters into the blessedness of eternity, and the enemy of God into eternal torment””.
“Thus, let us remember about the end of our earthly life. Holy Apostle Paul says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5, 15). Here again, we hear the word “fool”. St. Paul calls us not to be as fools but as wise. He teaches to “redeem time”. That means that the time of our life has to be spent in good works, in spiritual endeavors and in acquiring the grace. He is warning us that the “days are evil”, meaning that we never know when our soul will be required of us. Thus, time must be used for salvation, for the purpose of becoming “rich toward God” (Lk. 12, 21)”.
“Now we may come to the second lesson from today’s Gospel. It teaches us that all our earthly achievements, treasures, ranks, educations, talents, powers and riches – all this is in vain if we do not become rich toward God. All this will pass away. Only our riches acquired with God, our treasures laid up in heaven will remain forever. But how can we be rich toward God? The answer to that is simple. We have to use our talents, or anything else we received from God in this life, to serve God and to serve the neighbor. Not everybody enjoys material wealth like the person in today’s parable, but everybody is gifted by some talent, some achievement. Thus, that gift we have to use, we have to share it with others”.
“Yesterday we celebrated feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple, and today we continue its church observance. We commemorate that the holy parents of the Most Holy Theotokos, righteous Joachim and Anna, brought their 3-year-old daughter to the holy Temple in Jerusalem. She was their most precious treasure; She was the dearest person they had. Yet they entrusted Her to the Lord and left in the Temple to be educated and instructed there. And we all know how rewarded they were because the special daughter became the Mother of the Savior, the Bearer of God, the living Temple of the Most High”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Hearing the words from the Scripture and from the wise Saints, let us strive for becoming rich toward God, for being not fools but wise, for redeeming the time of our earthly life, for having the memory of death and for acquiring everlasting treasures in heavenly Kingdom!”

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, Fr. Igor proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.

The choir prayerfully performed the magnification of the feast of the Entrance, and for the pre-Nativity hymns from the Christmas canon.

 

Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple

 

On December 4, on the feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On this day we celebrate feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple. We commemorate a wonderful event from the history of salvation, a day when the Blessed Mother of the Savior, being only a 3-year old girl, was brought to the holy Temple of Jerusalem by her righteous parents. She entered the holy place and was even allowed in the Holy of the Holies where only the high priest could enter. That was a strange thing but it happened because of the God’s will to show who that little girl was – the future Mother of the Messiah, the future living Temple of God”.
“Celebrating this feast we should think about the significance of the holy temple in our life. As the Jews of old had the holy Temple in Jerusalem, we Christians have our holy churches. But if the Old Testament Temple was only one, in Jerusalem, our New Testament places of worship are many. We are blessed to have them everywhere. In our Orthodox temple we begin our Christian life being baptized and chrismated. Then we are blessed in our childhood years if our parents bring us to the church to be at the divine services and to receive Holy Communion. Thus in the temple, from our early age, we may imitate the Most Holy Mother of God who entered the holy place. And if She entered the holiest place of the sanctuary, we are partaking of the true Body and Blood of the Lord. We may do it from our earliest age until our passing, do it in the holy temple. Growing up, we come to the temple as to a hospital to seek the cure from our spiritual illnesses, to receive forgiveness of sins in confession. And if we desire to be married, we receive a blessing being crowned in the church in the Sacrament of Matrimony. And when we leave this world, the temple can do us the last favor when our body may be brought here for the burial service”.
“These are the main spiritual but also practical things to consider when we talk about the meaning of the temple. But apart from that, the holy church is meaningful because it is a holy place by itself, because it sanctifies the environment where we live. This is a place where the grace of God is being always bestowed upon us; the place where the Holy Church offers its prayers; the place where a real miracle happens all the time. When the Divine Liturgy is served in the temple, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. And as we believe, the Holy Angels are present in the temple during the divine services. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, such is the great meaning of the holy temple in our life”.
“Thinking of all these exalted and sublime things, we need to admit how often we disregard the holy temple. Needless to speak about people who have no faith or very little faith: they do not come to the church or come very rarely; they cannot appreciate the holy temple. However, even if we speak of them, many of them were baptized and will be buried in the church. But it is important to speak of those who have faith. But even they sometimes disrespect the temple. Sometimes people miss the services or come late. Let us remember that if the Jews in the Old Testament times could come to the Temple in Jerusalem only once or twice a year, we ought to come to the church every Sunday and major holy day. If we don’t, we commit a sin. Sometimes people do not pay attention in the church or disturb the solemnity of the service. Let us remember that the temple is a holy place and let us not disrespect it”.
“Another unpleasant thing seen nowadays is that the holy temple is treated like some business providing ritual services. People come to baptize their children, to get married or to commemorate their deceased, but many of them do not come to the church again. This is the great spiritual problem especially seen in the old country, but also existing here. Unfortunately, many priests, being kind and gentle, give in and act like some providers of the ritual services. And then the people are encouraged to think in a wrong way”.
“You can also hear of the “parish shopping” when the people choose the church they like. In one parish they don’t like that the choir is singing poorly, in another they do not like how the priest looks, then they want certain special treatment for themselves – you name it. Of course, in New York we have a lot of option, many Orthodox churches, even several Russian churches in one city. People do have a choice where to go. But they should be members of one parish and stay in that parish. And in the places where they have only one Orthodox church in the area – what should they do if they don’t like something? Sometimes people leave and don’t go anywhere. Then their souls are almost lost. But people should be humble and patient. They should stick with their church and don’t exercise pride”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! The holy temple of God is the place of worship. The Lord said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Mt. 21, 13). It cannot be called as a house of vanity or pride. We come here to pray, to participate in the divine services, to receive the Sacraments, to be healed and comforted. We do not come just to see the friends, to demonstrate our clothes or cars. It is no club. We do not come here to get served but to serve the Lord. It is no shop or business. I can talk a lot about these issues and these problems but we are limited in time”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us then respect, honor and love the holy temple of God! Let us imitate the Most Holy Theotokos and Her righteous parents coming into the holy church, entering the sacred place and desiring to stay here to acquire God’s blessings and true salvation”.

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, Fr. Igor proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.

The choir nicely performed festal hymns, and for the first time in the year began singing the pre-Christmas hymns from the Nativity canon.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification in front of the icon of the feast. Then Fr. Igor greeted the faithful on the occasion of the feast and praised the parents who brought their children to the temple on this day resembling righteous Joachim and Anna.