23rd Sunday after Pentecost

 

On November 20, on the 23 rd Sunday after Pentecost our St. George parish held a nice celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Gospel reading is telling us about two great miracles performed by our Lord Jesus Christ: healing of a woman who suffered from a flow of blood and the resurrection of a girl who has just died. Thus we may say that today our lesson from the Scripture concerns women”.
The woman from today’s Gospel lesson had a flow of blood for twelve years and she spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any (Lk. 8, 43-44). According to the Law of Moses she could not approach people because any woman having a flow of blood was considered unclean. Thus she was not supposed to be in the crowd pressing on Jesus and she was not supposed to touch Him. This law had been given to the people of God as a result of the original sin of Eve which brought certain impurity to all women. Due to the fall of Eve God imposed a number of sorrows upon all the women which were summarized in His words, “In pain you will give birth” (Gen. 3, 16). This pain also includes other difficulties of physiological nature that all the females suffer in this life. And as all humans suffer from different diseases, women may suffer from many illnesses resulting exclusively from their gender. One of such illnesses was the continuous flow of blood suffered by the woman from today’s Gospel. In addition to pain and sorrow that accompany all the diseases, such illnesses made those suffering women unclean and thus made their lives much more difficult. This was the strict law of the Old Testament the remnants of which we still retain in our Church life”.
But with the appearing of Christ, with the coming of the Son of God into this world, many old ways became overruled. Our Lord came to redeem the human kind from its transgression, came to save the people from their sins. This is why He was the One who would stop the flow of tears of our foremother Eve. And this is why He healed the woman suffering from the flow of blood. Jesus did not condemn her for violating the law of Moses. He did not rebuke her for touching Him. On the contrary, He praised her faith that she so firmly believed that touching the border of His garment will bring her healing (Lk. 8, 48). He manifested that now, in Christ, all the old shame is taken away and a new life with loving and caring God begins”.
In a similar way, in today’s Gospel, the Lord brings a recently dead girl back to life (Lk. 8, 50-56). Among the results of the original sin the most sorrowful and dreadful outcome was that all the heirs of Adam and Eve have to die. In today’s Gospel lesson we can read about a mature woman who is suffering from an illness and about a young woman, a girl who died. Both were the heirs of Eve and both had to undergo the penalty for the Eve’s fall. But when Jesus Christ appeared He overruled these condemnations. He did not just heal the woman, He even resurrected the girl. In His life-giving words “Little girl, arise” (Lk. 8, 54) the Lord called all the women of the New Testament to arise from sin, to overcome their weak nature and to strive for salvation. He also gave all of us, especially women, the great hope of resurrection and new life in His Kingdom”.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Human kind had been created as two sexes, men and women. Both have a great and equal value in the eyes of the Creator. But they have different nature and different tasks. Today’s reading from the Gospel mentions to us how the Lord helped the two women showing them His abundant mercy and His life-creating power. But the Lord unites all of us, men and women, in His new life with God. In this new reality many old rules had been set aside. In the Epistle lesson of last Sunday St. Paul reminded us that in Christ there is no need for men to be circumcised “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Gal. 6, 15). In the same way St. Paul teaches that in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3, 28)”. “Therefore, let us come to understanding that in Christ Jesus we all should be united and all should follow the steps of our Lord. As men and women we will still be different in our nature, we will still possess different qualities and have different tasks in life, but we all pursue the same goal to be blessed in the Kingdom of God!”

The choir nicely performed hymns dedicated to the commemorated Saint, Venerable Lazarus of Galisia during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made the announcements regarding the celebrations during the next week. Particularly, he pointed out that we are going to celebrate Thanksgiving Day which is a secular holiday but it has a great religious meaning. We need to be grateful to God for all his blessings shed upon us in this life.

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

 

On November 13, on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! The Gospel lesson we have just heard is about casting out the demons from a possessed man in the country of the Gadarenes (Lk. 8, 26-39). This story is very impressive and is presenting us a number of pictures. We hear about the dialogue between our Lord Jesus Christ and the demons, we see that the demons entered a herd of swine which runs violently down the steep place into the lake and perishes there. Then we learn that the man freed from the evil spirits became sound and in his right mind. Let us now reflect upon this story from the Holy Gospel”.
Being Orthodox Christians we certainly believe in the existence of the evil spirits. Unlike some modern Christian communities who do not take into account the existence of the devil or even reject his personal being, we do believe that he and his evil angels exist. This is why when we say the Lord’s Prayer, we finish it with the words “and deliver us from the evil one”. Many other denominations just say “from evil”, thus leaving a room for discussion, whether the devil is a real person or just some abstract evil power. For us he and his dark followers are personalities fighting against God and having a powerful influence upon us. Such an influence of the evil one was especially strong in the times before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. People lived under the direct power of their sinful passions and were the toys for the devil. In some instances the evil spirits even entered the bodies of the people, as it was described in today’s Gospel”.
But with the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into this world the power of the evil one became seriously weakened. Even before His death on the Cross and His Resurrection which became the victory over the sin and death, the triumph over the forces of evil, the Lord chased out the devil from human life. In today’s Gospel story we hear that the Lord delivered the possessed man from the demons. We should also notice that the demons were afraid of Jesus. The possessed man fell down and begged Christ not to torment him (Lk. 8, 28). The demons also beg Jesus not to send them out into the abyss (Lk. 8, 31). Thus, they recognized Jesus to be the Lord of the universe and they had to obey Him. This should remind us that the power of the devil is limited, and he is not as powerful as the Lord. God is the Creator and the demons are just His creatures that raised against Him”.
However, Jesus permitted the demons not to be cast out into the abyss, but to enter the herd of swine. This tells us that the Lord allows the devil and his angels to stay in this world before His second coming, before the Last Judgment. Then the devil and his demons will be finally condemned and sent out into the everlasting fire. But before that the Lord permits them to perform their evil deeds and to attack us. But the Lord gives us a powerful assistance in this spiritual warfare. The power of the risen Christ which is given to us Christians is able to chase the devil away from us. Holy disciples of the Lord rejoiced that they had the power to cast out the demons, the same way as Jesus could cast them out. Today we commemorate several disciples of Christ who were among the 70 Apostles. So, the Gospel says that “the seventyreturned with joy, saying,” Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”” (Lk. 10, 17). Same power is granted to the whole Christian Church. But many of us are not able to use it because we are often prisoners of our passions and we are too weak to be the agents of the divine power”.
Dear brothers and sisters! The devil has a great influence in this earthly life, so he is even called the prince of this world. His evil demons are constantly attacking us and tempting us to give in to our passions, to commit sins. But the power of the risen Christ, the power of His Life-creating Cross and the divine grace are much stronger than all the intrigues of the evil one. Last Sunday’s Epistle lesson instructs us that if a man has been crucified with Christ, it is no longer he lives, but Christ lives in him (Gal. 2, 19-20). That means that if we live Christian life and fight our sinful passions, Christ dwells within us. Not evil spirits but Christ possesses our souls and sanctifies our bodies. Let us then acquire unity with Him through spiritual life, repentance and sanctification of His abundant grace”.

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector had a petition for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian land” at the Great Entrance.

During preparation for Holy Communion the choir nicely performed some hymns dedicated to the Holy Apostles whose memory was celebrated and sang the Psalm 33.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made some announcements. He pointed out that the parish incurred high expenses due to the repairs done to the building after the fire occurred in the spring. We also had to pay for the plumbing repairs demanded by the city. Therefore, Fr. Igor strongly encouraged the parishioners to support the church by their contributions.

The Rector also greeted Maria Malyshev on her past birthday and proclaimed the Polychronion on her behalf.

21st Sunday after Pentecost

 

On November 6, on the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, St. George parish resumed its services after a two-week break due to our Rector’s leave. We had the Divine Liturgy served by Archpriest Igor Tarasov after his return from Italy. After the reading from the Holy Gospel Fr. Igor preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Gospel lesson is telling us about life beyond the grave. It is describing the destiny of the two human souls after death. It tells us about a rich man who lived very nice life and a beggar who suffered. They lived totally different kinds of life, but their lives came to the same end: both of them died. However, this was not the end of their existence. They continued to live, and their destiny became different again (Lk. 16, 19-31)”.
So, today we may talk a little bit about life after death. This subject is very mysterious and pretty much unknown to us. People had always been puzzled by the question, “what happens when we die””.
The Church of Christ teaches us that death is a separation of the soul from the body. It also teaches that after death the soul continues to live and awaits its future resurrection and the Last Judgment. When we recite or sing the Creed we finish up by saying, “I wait for the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting”. But even before the resurrection of the dead the souls of the dead people are alive. Furthermore, after death they already receive a partial judgment according to their deeds. Today’s Gospel story about a rich man and Lazarus describes what happens to the human souls after they are judged. After his death, poor Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom while the rich man ended up in hell”.
Today we can reflect what is expecting us beyond the grave. Unfortunately, many contemporary people do not hear much truth about that. Teaching of the Church, the opinion of the Holy Fathers and even direct words of the Sacred Scripture regarding life after death are often replaced by the ideas of different preachers, by the authors of popular books or simply by some charlatans who dare to speak different false things about that subject. This why many of us tend to think that after death “everything is going to be just fine”, we will suffer no longer, we will probably go to heaven, and so on. Well, let me tell you that according to teaching of Christ it is not totally so. For many of us, first experiences after death may not be pleasant. After all, not all of are going to end up in heaven. And for the most of us the first experiences after death are not going to be easy. Why? Because we will enter in a totally different world of which we know very little. When you go to a different country, even if you know about it, you still need some time to get used to the local life, to adapt to the climate, language and customs. Many of us came to America, so we had to get used to the life here. For many of us it was not easy. Some immigrants even after many years of living in the United States cannot feel totally home here. This happens in this world. But what is going to be when we will have to enter into a completely different reality of life beyond the grave? It will certainly be difficult. It is not quite easy for a soul to start living without a body. Our funeral hymn composed by Venerable John of Damascus reflects that in the following impressive words, “Woe is me! What manner of ordeal does the soul endure when it is parted from the body! Alas! How many are then its tears, and there is none to show compassion! It raises its eyes to the angels; unavailing is its prayer. It stretches out its hands to the people, and finds none to succor…” Thus, dear brothers and sisters, the beginning of life after death is not quite easy”.
But we are not going to be there alone. Today’s Gospel tells us that the angels accompanied Lazarus and carried him to the bosom of Abraham. Just as at the hour of death the dead body is surrounded by relatives and friends, so also is the soul which abandons the body is accompanied by the spiritual beings related to it. The virtuous soul is surrounded by bright angels of light, while a sinful soul is surrounded by dark and evil beings, that is, the demons. Thus, while the soul of Lazarus was escorted by good angels, the soul of the rich man, as St. John Chrysostom says, “was claimed by certain fearful powers”. St. John also says, “If we need a guide to go from one city to another, the soul certainly needs guides, when separated from the body”. The All-merciful God sends His holy angels to help the righteous souls to start their life after death, while the souls claimed by the devil become surrounded by evil spirits. Therefore, we have to realize that life after death is not going to start just as a fairy tale. It is going to be a serious beginning of our eternal existence. We are going to be judged according to our deeds. And we have to prepare ourselves for this”.
The rich man in today’s Gospel was condemned not because he was wealthy, but because he had not done enough to help others, particularly, the poor Lazarus who was lying at the gates of his house. This was a person near him, his neighbor in a very literal sense, but he did nothing to help Lazarus, to make his life easier, to show him love and compassion. We are going to be judged by the same principles. Our life, our actions and our choices are going to be evaluated in the same manner. This why it is important for us to realize what is going to happen and to prepare. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself stated when He anticipated His sufferings and death, “For the ruler of this world is coming, but he has nothing in Me” (Jn. 14, 30). The ruler of this world is the devil. He was coming even when our Lord Himself was going to die. He was coming to attempt to claim what belongs to him. But he had nothing which could belong to him in Jesus, since Jesus was without sin and was the Son of God. It is different with us who are the sinners. The evil one will try to claim what is his because of our transgressions. And in the case of the sinful and unrepentant souls he, unfortunately, will be successful”.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us not fool ourselves but prepare by good deeds, prayer, acts of charity, repentance and receiving of the Sacraments. Let us be aware that the time will come when we will be confronted with life after death, with the judgment of Christ and with anticipation of the Last Judgment. Thus let us prepare in order to be blessed and carried to the Abraham’s bosom.”

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector had a petition for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian land” at the Great Entrance.

The choir beautifully performed hymns to the Holy Martyr Aretha and others commemorated with him on that day.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made some announcements and greeted our Warden and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow on the occasion of her birthday. The traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

The Rector also distributed candles blessed on the holy relics of St. Nicholas and anointed the parishioners with the myrrh from the Saint’s relics mixed with water that Fr. Igor acquired at the holy site in Bari, Italy.

Rector of St. George Church visited the relics of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy

 

Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov recently had a vacation trip to Italy. During that trip he visited a number of cities. Particularly, Fr. Igor made pilgrimages to the holy sites: the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Rome, the relics of St. Jannuarius (also known as St. Gennaro) in Naples, and the relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Bari.
Our Rector’s visitation of St. Nicholas sanctuary in Bari was especially remarkable and is worth to mention. Fr. Igor arrived in the city on Wednesday, October 26 by train from Rome. On the evening of the same day he visited the Basilica of St. Nicholas where the relics of our beloved Saint are rested in the crypt.
We should recall that the holy relics of the Saint were translated to Bari from Myra in Lycia in 1087. In Myra (in Asia Minor, today’s Turkey) St. Nicholas used to live in the 4th century, being the archbishop of that city. There he served the people, worked miracles, then died and was buried. According to our Church tradition, that translation is deemed to be God’s will and was blessed by St. Nicholas.
In the 11th century the lands of the Byzantine Empire where Myra was located became endangered by the invaders and the holy sites were numerously desecrated and robbed by the Muslim hordes. That shocked all the Christians, both Eastern and Western. Christians in Italy were particularly concerned about the relics of St. Nicholas, especially because among them were many Greeks. The inhabitants of the city of Bari, located on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, decided to save the relics of their beloved Saint. In the year 1087 merchants from Bari and Venice went to Antioch to trade. Both these and others also proposed to take up the relics of St. Nicholas and transport them to Italy on the return trip. In this plan the men of Bari commissioned the Venetians to land them at Myra. The relics were not guarded and the monks who served at the temple where the relics rested were given guidance from the Saint himself. St. Nicholas appeared to one of them. In this vision he ordered the careful preservation of his relics. This account encouraged the citizens of Bari to take the relics.
On May 8 1087 the ships arrived in Bari, and soon the joyous news made the rounds of all the city. On the following day, May 9, they solemnly transported the relics of St. Nicholas into the church of St. Stephen, not far from the sea. The solemn bearing of the relics was accompanied by numerous healings of the sick, which inspired still greater reverence for God’s Saint. A year afterwards, a church was built in the name of St. Nicholas and consecrated by Pope Urban II.
Nowadays the church of St. Nicholas is a Roman Catholic papal basilica which is in the care of the Dominican Order. Both Catholics and Orthodox revere the Saint and make pilgrimages to that holy place. Many inhabitants of Bari bear the name Nicola in honor of the great Saint. Every Thursday morning an Orthodox Divine Liturgy is celebrated on the altar above the holy relics in the basilica’s crypt. There is also a small Orthodox side altar in the crypt. In addition, in 1913 a Russian Orthodox church was built in Bari and, of course, dedicated to St. Nicholas. Now it is a representation Church of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
On Thursday, October 27, Fr. Igor arrived in the basilica and prayed during the Orthodox Liturgy near the altar. The Liturgy was served by the Rector of the Russian Orthodox representation Church, Archpriest Viacheslav Bachin. He was co-served by the clergy from Poland, Serbia, Ukraine and USA. The service was attended by about a hundred pilgrims from different countries. Following the service Fr. Igor had an opportunity to venerate the relics beneath the altar.
Our Rector acquired candles blessed at the holy place, as well as the small container of water mixed with the myrrh flowing from the St. Nicholas relics. He will share those blessed things with our parishioners.

18th Sunday after Pentecost. Celebration of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God

 

On October 16, on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, our Parish also celebrated Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Scripture readings he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we observe feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God. We commemorate our Lady’s miraculous appearance in the church in Constantinople and saving of the imperial city from the attack of the enemies happened in the 10th century. The two holy men, Andrew and Epiphanius saw the Holy Mother of God appearing in the temple and covering the city with Her veil. After that the city was spared and the enemies retreated. This was a remarkable example of the special intercession of the Blessed Virgin for the Christian people”.
We should always remember to honor the Most Holy Mother of God and pray to Her in our needs. And we have to remember that we will receive according to our faith and devotion. We must show the zeal and piety in order to attain help”.
Our times are no less troublesome for the Church and Christian people than the times when the celebrated event of the Protection took place. The holy city of the Church and Christian civilization is now under attack from many sides. Preaching about that before I used to say that there are two sides from whee the Church is attacked: Islamic terrorists and Western liberals. Now I can identify more attackers, even those who are inside the Church but deviate from the teaching of Christ, for instance those who bless the unjust war in Ukraine”.
Considering these challenges we Christians face in today’s world, we should ask ourselves a question, “What is so different about us that other people would see that we are right?” Or, “What can we offer to this world, so others could follow us, instead of following the false calls of our challengers?” Today’s first Gospel lesson is giving us an answer. Our Lord says, If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return” (Lk. 6, 32-35). If we follow what the Lord said we make a difference in the world”.
In today’s world everybody is looking for an average. We hear that constantly: the average American, the average husband, the average wife, the average child. If you think of that you may learn that averages are dangerous. A man who trusted the average data tried to make across the river whose average depth was two feet. He drowned in water twelve feet deep! But we are told that average means normal. On that basis the people are told that pre-marital sex is normal while self-control, chastity and virginity are abnormal because an average young person engages in pre-marital sex. We are told that an average husband is unfaithful, so infidelity in marriage is normal while being faithful is abnormal. We are also told that an average war presumes collateral damage, anticipates death of the civilian people. But this present war in Ukraine shows that civilians being attacked intentionally and suffer the most. But generally we are told that if it’s an average, no matter what it is, it becomes normal. The average thus becomes our idol whom we worship, worship at the altar of public opinion”.
Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to be not average but above average. If an average person loves those who love him, we ought to do more. If an average person lends to those from whom he expects to receive back, we need to do more. If an average person loves his friends and hates his enemies, we ought to love both our friends and our enemies. Are other people, for instance the Muslim people, righteous? We Christians are called to be more righteous. Are the Muslims generous? We are called to be more generous? Are the liberals in our society understanding and tolerant? We are called to be more understanding and more tolerant. For this reason the Lord called His disciples the light of the world, the salt of the earth. The Saints were not average. They were above average”.
Especially all these things are true about the Most Holy Mother of God. She was certainly way above the average. And this is why She is now our Protectress in heaven. And our second answer to the questions we ask should be the following. We may prove that we are different and can offer something others cannot offer to this world. We may prove it by offering our prayers to the Most Holy Mother of God, by venerating Her and by asking Her to cover the whole sinful world by the veil of Her Protection”.

The cantor nicely performed the hymns in honor of the Theotokos during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following 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. Then he greeted Maria Malyshev on her past name day handing her the Theotokian prosphora and proclaiming the Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) in her behalf.

The Rector also made the announcements, especially regarding his absence for 2 weeks. He encouraged the parishioners to attend other churches when we have no services in our temple, so they could continue participating in Sunday liturgical worship.

After the Liturgy at the request of the Malyshev family the Rector performed the memorial Litia to commemorate Vitaliy Malyshev who reposed one year ago. Following the service the family offered a commemoration trapeza.

Rector of St. George Church attended the Funeral of Archpriest John Kassatkin

 

On Monday, October 10, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov attended the funeral of the newly-departed senior cleric of the Patriarchal Parishes, Mitered Archpriest John Kassatkin who passed away on October 6.

Burial services were held at Elevation of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ. The Divine Liturgy was headed by Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, Archpriest George Konyev. At the conclusion of the Liturgy the memorial Litia was performed and our Rector arrived for that service and participated in it.

The funeral was also attended by Archpriest Basil Micek (Rector of St. Peter & Paul Church in Scranton, PA), Archpriest Michael Lepa (Administrator of St. Nicholas Church in Wilkes Barre, PA), Archpriest John Vass (Dean of the Atlantic States), Abbot Nicodemus (Balyasnikov) (Dean of St. Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in New York City), Priest Yulian Ryabtsev (Dean of the Eastern States), Priest Andrew Massey (local parish Rector), and Priest Nicholas DeGraaff (cleric of Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ).

Following the Litia the body of the newly-reposed Archpriest John was brought in procession around the church which he had served for almost 40 years, with the singing of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.

Fr. Igor Tarasov expressed his condolences to the spouse of the newly-departed, Matushka Maxine and assured her in his prayers, as well as of the warm memory of Fr. John in Bayside, NY where he had been serving for several years before his appointment for the Hackettstown parish in New Jersey.

Archpriest John was interred in St. Peter & Paul Cemetery in Saddle Brook, NJ among other departed priests of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA.

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

 

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

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

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector had a petition for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian land” at the Great Entrance.

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

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

Mitered Archpriest John Kassatkin reposed in the Lord

On October 6, 2022, after a short illness, one of the senior-most clerics of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, Mitered Archpriest John Kassatkin, Rector emeritus of the Elevation of the Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ, reposed in the Lord at the age of 82.
For our St. George Church in Bayside Fr. John is remembered as one of the former pastors of our parish, serving shortly in our temple before 1982 when he was appointed Rector in the Hackettstown parish.
We express sincere condolences to the family and friends of the newly-departed Archpriest John and pray for the repose of the soul of the faithful servant of the Church in the mansions of the righteous.

MEMORY ETERNAL FOR THE NEWLY-DEPARTED ARCHPRIEST JOHN!

6 октября 2022 г., после непродолжительной болезни, на 83-м году жизни спочил в Бозе старейший клирик Патриарших приходов в США, почетный настоятель Свято-Воздвиженской церкви в г. Хаккетстаун, штата Нью-Джерси, митрофорный протоиерей Иоанн Касаткин.
Для нашей церкви св. Георгия в Бейсайде отец Иоанн памятен как один из бывших пастырей нашего прихода, краткое время служивший в нашем храме до своего назначения настоятелем на приход в Хаккетстауне в 1982 году.
Мы выражаем искренние соболезнования семье и близким новопреставленного протоиерея Иоанна н молимся о упокоении души верного служителя Церкви в селениях праведных.

ВЕЧНАЯ ПАМЯТЬ НОВОПРЕСТАВЛЕННОМУ ПРОТОИЕРЕЮ ИОАННУ!

Sunday after the Exaltation. Celebration of the Rector’s Name Day

 

On October 2, on the Sunday after the Exaltation, St. George Parish family had a beautiful service. In addition to Sunday celebration, we also honored our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov on his name day. Fr. Igor headed the Divine Liturgy. He was co-served by the guests from St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York: Abbot Nicodemus (Balyasnikov) and Protodeacon Igor Panachev.

After the Gospel lesson proclaimed by the deacon, the Rector preached the following homily:

“Dear Fathers! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate Sunday after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Our Lord teaches us in today’s Gospel that His every true follower has to deny himself and take up the cross (Mk. 8, 34). Thus a Christian life requires a sacrifice and an endeavor.”
“A lot of us grew up listening to stories of heroes who sacrificed themselves for their country. They were often about heroes of different wars. Sometimes, we heard about people in other countries and even some of the Church’s Saints. But whatever we heard, we may notice that all these stories teach us courage, patience, hard work and self-denial. In some cases, the hero gave his or her own life to save others”.
“Our Savior, Jesus Christ, explained how all of us can be heroes of self-sacrifice. He taught this in today’s Gospel saying that by saying that whoever wants to be like Christ must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Him. Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Christ and the Gospel will save his life. And whoever is ashamed of being with Jesus (in or out of church) and ashamed of His teachings will be rejected by Christ when He returns on Judgment Day”.
“In some instances, a person sacrifices all his or her life to some noble cause and lives to fulfill it. This is seen in many men and women who dedicate themselves to the monastic life. This is also seen when a young mother decides to raise a child without any help from her relatives and renounces her own personal or professional life for this child. But self-denial may also lead to the ultimate sacrifice, not to dedicating, but to losing one’s life in the name of the Gospel. Our calendar is full of different Saints, especially the Holy Martyrs who lost their lives for Christ and for the Gospel”.
“Today we commemorate Holy faithful prince Igor who lived in the XII century. Although he is not a clear example of a person who died for Christ, his tragic destiny showed how the words of today’s Gospel are true. St. Igor became the Great Prince of Kiev at the time of a cruel struggle for the Kievan throne between the two princely factions. He belonged to one of them and he was placed on the throne of Kiev by that group. But after being betrayed by his own subjects who kissed the cross to be faithful to him, after losing a battle to his enemies and after being held captive, St. Igor agreed to renounce this world and to become a monk. He probably understood the words of Christ who said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk. 8, 36). The power of a prince which he lost so fast, and the throne of Kiev which was taken away from St. Igor – all this proved that there is no profit for a man to gain anything if he loses his soul. Therefore, St. Igor being tonsured a monk, decided to retire from the political struggle and to spend the rest of his life in endeavors of piety. However, the evil people from the Kievan nobility decided to kill the prince-monk. They incited the mob who attacked St. Igor in the church, during the Divine Liturgy, seized him and tried to murder. He was first rescued by his brother, but the mob chased Igor further and finally brutally killed him. As I said, although St. Igor did not die for Christ sake, he did die because of the evil which overcame human nature of his enemies. Those people did not wish to follow Christ because they did not deny their sinful nature, their evil desires and cruel passions. A Christian should understand that political, social and other preferences are not so important as our spiritual life”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Dear Fathers! Let us understand our true calling, a calling of a Christian. It is to deny ourselves, to deny our sinful nature, an evil nature and passions. Let us take our crosses by fulfilling our duties and being patient in our lives. Let us follow Christ who Himself is the Way to the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom to which we can come by the way of the Holy Cross”.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns of the Exaltation of the Cross before Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the clergy venerated the Holy Cross in the middle of the church.

Following that Abbot Nicodemus on behalf of the clergy of the Patriarchal Parishes greeted the Rector on his name day commending Fr. Igor for his fulfilling ministry and diligent pastoral care for St. George parish, especially in today’s difficult times of discord between the people and the Orthodox nations. He also conveyed the greetings from our present and former Archpastors, Bishop Matthew of Sourozh, and Archbishop Justinian. Fr. Nicodemus presented Fr. Igor and our parish with the gift from Archbishop Justinian – the covers for the Eucharistic vessels. The Rector thanked Fr. Nicodemus for his greetings and for the gift. Then the church Warden, Olga Roussanow had a speech and on behalf of our parishioners also congratulating the Rector. Traditional Polychronion was proclaimed to Fr. Igor. Then the greetings were also extended to Protodeacon Igor Panachev and a Polychronion proclaimed on his behalf.

Our celebration continued at festal luncheon. The clergy and our parishioners enjoyed delicious meals, and a nice company. A toast was raised on behalf of the Rector celebrating his name day.

Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

 

On September 27 the Holy Orthodox Church celebrates the great feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. On that day we had a festal service at St. George Church headed by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.

Before the reading of the Hours the Rector and the altar server performed a procession with the Holy Cross. They proceeded from the sanctuary to the middle of the church placing the Cross on the stand and then venerated it.

During the Divine Liturgy, after the Gospel lesson, Fr. Igor preached a homily in Russian. The English version of that homily is as follows:

Today we celebrate feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It is a Lord’s holy day but it is not dedicated to some event in the life of Christ, but to the Precious and Life-giving Cross. But the Cross of Christ cannot be separated from the crucifixion. Therefore, in today’s Gospel lesson we hear the sorrowful story of the holy Passions of the Lord, the story of His crucifixion. And today’s Epistle lesson proclaims that we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1, 23)”.
To the ancient Greco-Roman world, the Christian claim of the cross was complete foolishness. If you are familiar with Greek mythology, you remember that Greek gods could also take on human appearance. For instance, Zeus did it to chase after women, causing more harm than help. We, Christians, believe that God assumed a human body and soul, not to find pleasure but to enter into our pain. This is the mystery and the glory of the Holy Cross”.
The sign of the cross is often reduced to a good-luck charm. We wear it around our necks or we may make a sign of the cross when we begin something important. But let us remember that the Cross of Jesus Christ does not promise us success, health, or pleasure. The Cross only promises us that Jesus will be with us, no matter how badly we suffer, no matter how badly we fail, and no matter how horribly we feel. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28, 20). It is through His Cross that Jesus is with us. That is the meaning of the Cross and that is the meaning of our Christian faith”.
God enters into the depth, the pit of human experience through Jesus’ crucifixion and death. We are not alone. We wish that the Holy Cross meant that we don’t have to suffer, but it means that God chose to suffer with us. God’s ways are not our ways. The lesson of the Holy Cross is still very hard for us. That is why the Holy Cross became the sign of the Christian faith. Every Orthodox church is adorned by the cross, and the cross is everywhere among the Christian people. It is an emblem of our faith, the most known symbol of Christianity”.
The Holy Cross is also a sign of hope. When we look on the Holy Cross, we can believe that there is hope beyond our suffering, our failures, and our loss. We can believe that there is hope for the single pregnant mother, hope for the terminally ill, and hope for the poor. There is hope because God will not abandon us in our sufferings”.
And finally, the Holy Cross is a sign of love. God sent His Only-begotten Son because He loved the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross because He so loved the world. And the Cross is stretching its sides as the Lord Jesus stretched His arms on the Cross to embrace us in His infinite love”.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we must always exalt and lift up the Cross of Jesus Christ. We must exalt and honor that sign of our faith, the sign of our hope and the sign of God’s love. If the Greek gods played their games with humans, the God of Jesus Christ suffered with human kind. And He suffers with us. Exalting the Precious and Life-giving Cross we should realize that God is indeed with us”.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns of the Exaltation of the Cross before Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the clergy and the altar server performed glorification of the feast in the middle of the church and venerated the Holy Cross.

Following the Liturgy the Rector served a memorial Litia requested by Juliana Avraam to commemorate her deceased family members. He also performed a blessing of the mother after 40 days since childbirth over Evangelia (Lilia) Douvris praying for her and her newly-born baby. A memorial meal prepared by Juliana Avraam followed all our services.