Sunday of All Saints

 

On June 19, on the 1st Sunday after Pentecost, the Church celebrates memory of All the Saints who pleased the Lord by their pious lives. On that day we had a nice service at St. George Church. Our parish Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On the First Sunday after Pentecost we celebrate feast of All Saints. We pay our respects to all men and women who lived their lives as holy and God-pleasing people, the just and righteous ones. It should be understood because as a result of the Descent of the Holy Spirit the Church was born, and members of the Church became able to acquire holiness. The Saints we honor are the people who conquered evil in their own lives, in their own souls, just as our Lord Jesus Christ did it for the whole world”.
“It is the nature of the human existence that if every person overcomes evil in himself, he achieves a victory that affects other people and the whole world. Universal evil, being conquered even in one single person, suffers a great loss. Even one single holy person means a lot to the whole world. By their very existence the holy men and women whom we call the Saints, bring down to the earth a great blessing from God. St. Barsanophius teaches that a prayer of three holy men once preserved the world from total destruction. Because of the Saints, even of those who are unknown, the course of the universal events changes. Every Saint has a significance because by his life he crosses the boundaries of earthly history and reaches into eternity. The Saints are the salt of the earth. They are the sense of human existence. The very earth is preserved because of them. When the earth would stop producing the Saints, the force which preserves the world from a disaster will disappear. In the Old Testament we read that Abraham asked God whether the Lord would spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of ten righteous men. The Lord answered: “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten” (Gen. 18, 32). St. Siluanos says: “The world stands by the prayer, and when the prayer will weaken, the world will perish.””
“Many people do not understand the connection between the religious life of an individual and the well-being of the world, between internal warfare against evil within one person and everlasting life. People often think that spiritual life of an individual is significant only for him and that it will cease to exist if it stops to exist in the soul of an individual. But in reality the spiritual life of the Saints affects the life of the whole world. And if there will be no Saints in the world, the world will end”.
“Therefore, today we honor those people who became the best out of human race. Today’s kontakion calls them “the first-fruits of nature” offered by the universe to the “Planter of creation” who is God. Such sacrifice, the lives of the God-bearing martyrs, along with the holy Apostles, Venerable Fathers and Mothers, all other Saints, became possible after our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled His work of redemption of humanity. Now the redeemed humanity could bring forth the fruits of holiness and faithfulness. Some holy men and women could be found even before that, in the Old Testament. These were righteous people living according to the will of God despite the great abyss of sinfulness in which the whole humanity was kept. Their number was not so great. But in Jesus Christ thousands and millions of people could reach holiness. In fact, all Christians are called to be holy, to be Saints. This is why when St. Paul composed his letter to the Colossians he wrote the following address, “To the Saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse” (Col. 1, 2)”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us honor those holy men and women, because of whom the world existed. Let us, by ourselves, conduct spiritual life and our own warfare against evil. In that warfare we need to be supported by the assistance of divine grace. Such grace is acquired in the Holy Church. But we also have to be mature and independent in our own actions. Lately I had to notice that you are not paying attention to our parish life. I forgot to announce that on Pentecost Sunday our services started at 9 am, not at 10, as usually. But that information was in our monthly schedule which is available on the paper and on our website. In addition, I made an announcement on the website regarding our Pentecost services. Just in case, I decided to text most of our parishioners about that. What happened? Almost no one knew about that! Almost everyone replied that they were not aware of the change in schedule. Then on Pentecost Sunday I forgot to announce that the week after Pentecost is a compact, privileged week, and there is no fasting. So, I texted almost all of you about that. And again, most of you did not remember that. Well, that information was also in our monthly schedule, the paper version. It seems that you do not pay attention, do not study the schedule, are not aware of what is going on in the Church and parish life. You seem to act like children who need someone to remind you, to lead you. But most of you are Orthodox Christians, members of the Church for years. You are churched and attend the temple. Thus you have to be mature and independent in things like paying attention to the calendar and to the schedule. On the other hand, some our parishioners think that they are independent enough to decide for themselves to leave the parish or to change the spiritual father. First, they should be mature to pay attention to the feasts, fasts and schedules, and then think of making important decisions of their spiritual life.”}
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, again, let us properly conduct our spiritual life: along with the Holy Church and by being mature in our actions. In that spiritual life let us imitate the Saints and strive for holiness, because we are Christian people. Then we will be able to receive the awards promised by our Lord Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel, then we will inherit eternal life”.

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 prayerfully performs hymns dedicated to All Saints.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made some announcements, especially reminding the faithful of the beginning of St. Peter’s Fast on the next day. He also repeated, in the Russian language, his concern regarding lack of parishioners’ attention to our schedules and the Church calendar.

After the announcements Fr. Igor congratulated our men on the occasion of Father’s Day. The traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was proclaimed. Then he also greeted our relatively new parishioner, Iuliana Avram on her past birthday and proclaimed the Polychronion on her behalf.

Following the liturgical services the Rector and parishioners enjoyed coffee and delicious meals prepared by Iuliana Avram to celebrate her birthday.

Pentecost. Feast of the Holy Trinity

 

On June 12 of this year all Orthodox Christians celebrated Pentecost, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. Our St. George parish family had a beautiful celebration in our temple. The church was nicely adorned with greenery. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate one of the greatest feasts of our calendar. One of the names of this holy day is Pentecost which is translated as “the 50th” because it is celebrated on the 50th day after Pascha. The real reason of our celebration of that 50th day after Easter is that on this day the Holy Spirit descended upon the Holy Apostles”.
“Today’s Epistle lesson vividly describes that holy event. It tells us that the Apostles were all together in one place when the day of Pentecost had fully come (Acts 2, 1). It should be said that the Jews have their own celebration of Pentecost. This feast is called the Feast of Weeks , and it comes 50 days after Passover. It was a celebration of the firstfruits of harvest. People used to adorn their homes with greenery, in the same way as we Orthodox Christians do it now for our celebration. It was a feast of the greenery, as it is called now in some Slavic countries, the “Green holidays”. The Jews also believe that this was the day when Moses received Ten Commandments from God, the day when the Jews acquired the Law of God. Thus, Holy Apostles were in Jerusalem on the Jewish celebration of Pentecost. They stood together as the Lord commanded them to do when He ascended into heaven”.
“The Epistle lesson says that they were together in one place. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2, 1-2). Then the Epistle says that divided tongues, as a fire, appeared to the Apostles, and one sat upon each of them (Acts 2, 3). This was the appearance of the Holy Spirit, as a mighty sound of the wind from heaven and the tongues of fire. It also had great results. After each of the fiery tongues sat upon the Apostles, they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2, 4). This was the first miraculous sign of the Holy Spirit filling the Apostles. They became able to speak different languages. The Epistle tells that people from different countries who were gathered in Jerusalem for the feast could hear their native tongues from the Apostles. All these people were Jews. They could be born Jewish or were proselytes, Gentiles who converted to Judaism. At those times the Jews already lived in many different countries and spoke different languages. Today’s reading mentions a number of those ancient countries from where the pilgrims came to Jerusalem and became witnesses to that miraculous speaking of the Apostles”.
“We know that the Apostles were not very educated men. Some of them were fishermen from Galilee. However, the Holy Spirit made them wise and enabled them to catch a lot of men to the nets of salvation in Jesus Christ. Today’s festal troparion describes that saying, Blessed art Thou, Christ our God, Who didst make the fishermen wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them didst draw the universe into Thy net…”The Holy Spirit made these people who were not wise in the world wise in Christ”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! If the Old Testament Pentecost celebrated the birthday of the Mosaic Law, our Pentecost is the birthday for the Church. If the Jews celebrated acquiring of the Torah, we celebrate acquiring of God Himself, His Holy and Good and Life-creating Spirit. The same Spirit Who “was hovering over the face of the waters” in the first creation and made order out of chaos came upon the Disciples of Christ. But in the similar way as the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles when they expected Him to come praying together, this Spirit continues to come upon us when we are together as members of the same Apostolic Church. Recently, I had a conversation with a person who was once baptized but is not really practicing Christian faith. He was asking why should we assemble in the temples and attend the church services. The answer is in the Apostolic behavior. The Lord Himself commanded them to stay together in Jerusalem, to pray in humility and to wait for the promised gift, the Holy Spirit. Only upon all of them being together the Holy Spirit could descend. Thus, only if we are gathered in the temple the Holy Spirit could come upon us and bestow His abundant gifts, His rich graces. We may pray alone, we may conduct a righteous life alone, but in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit we need to be together, in the community of believers, in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is why I am so concerned with your attendance of the church services. This is why the Church commands us not to miss Sunday Liturgy. Together we may be blessed in a special and unique way”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us be grateful for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Church existing for us. Let us pray that today especially, but also on any other day, the Holy Spirit may come and dwell within us, and may cleanse us of all impurity and save our souls!”

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 piously performed the magnification of the feast along with the verses during the preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar server performed the rite of Glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast before the festal icon in the middle of the church. Then the Rector greeted the faithful on the great holy day.

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

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the I Ecumenical Council

 

On June 5, on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Last Thursday we celebrated feast of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. Today’s Sunday following that feast is dedicated to the Holy Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council. This was the first gathering of the bishops from the whole Christian world after a long period of persecutions of the Church. It took place in the city of Nicaea near Constantinople in the year 324 A.D. After three centuries of being persecuted the Church of Christ could live and flourish in the Roman Empire when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the state. Last Friday we commemorated him along with his holy mother, Empress Helen. So, these holy royals allowed the Church to flourish in their Empire and stopped the persecutions of Christians”.
“It is natural for this time of the year, after we have celebrated the bright Resurrection of Christ and His glorious Ascension after the 40 days – to think Who Jesus Christ really was. Jesus was the Son of God and He also was the Son of Man. Jesus came from heaven but He was born on the earth. Jesus was All-Powerful God who worked miracles but He also was a vulnerable Man who was scourged, bitten and crucified. Jesus was a Man who died but He was also risen on the third day. Being risen Jesus kept appearing to the Apostles and then He ascended into heaven. All these things motivate us to seek the answers Who He was or what kind of nature He had”.
“As it is natural for us to seek an understanding of the Person of Christ, it was also natural for the Christians in the 4th century, after the long years of persecutions, to reflect upon the question Who their Savior was. If some Christians were seeking the sound and correct understanding, others engaged in different speculations regarding Christ and taught about Him erroneously. Such errors we call heresies. It took several centuries for the Holy Church to finally decide on that. It took six out of seven Ecumenical Councils (or we may even say that all seven of them) to reject the heresies and to define all the aspects of the true Orthodox Christian teaching regarding Christ. What we commemorate on this Sunday was just the beginning of those definitions. What we commemorate is the First Council and whom we honor are the Holy Fathers who participated in that gathering”.
“The First Ecumenical Council was in the 4th century. At those times, although the years of tribulations were over, the Church began to suffer from different erroneous teachings, the heresies. They altered the teaching of Christ and tended to spread their false opinions among the Christian people. The most dangerous heresy of that time was the teaching of Arius who refused to recognize the Son of God to be equal to God the Father and who understood Jesus to be inferior to God, to be a creation. This is why the Council was very much needed to condemn that heresy. The Council also adopted the Creed, a short collection of beliefs held by the true Christian Church. That Creed is now a part of our prayers and we sing or recite it at every Liturgy”.
“Today’s Sunday is dedicated to the Holy Fathers of this Council because they continued the works of the Apostles. Today we read the Gospel lesson of St. John containing the Pontifical Prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 17, 1-13). The Lord said this prayer at the Last Supper. He was asking God the Father to preserve His disciples in unity and in truth. He prayed that they may have eternal life which is to know the true God and whom He sent, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Jn. 17, 3). After the Lord ascended into heaven the Apostles awaited for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. And He did descend upon the disciples of the Lord. After that the Holy Apostles began their ministry of making all the nations the followers of Christ. Their work was continued by the bishops of the Church. And the 1st Ecumenical Council showed how important is the role of the bishops, the Fathers of the Church. They were the protectors of faith, the shepherds of the God’s flock, the guards of the Church and the keepers of the truth”.
“Nowadays we also see a lot of heresies. Various false teachings shake the souls of believers and seek to dismiss them from the Holy Church. So now we especially need to pray to the Holy Fathers, that they may guard the Holy Church and each of us from error”.
“The words of Christ the Savior are unerring: “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16, 18). Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us adhere to the true teaching of Jesus Christ preserved by the Apostles and by the Holy Fathers in the Church. For we know that those who will follow the teachings of the Holy fathers, will remain firm and steadfast in the Orthodox faith and inherit eternal life promised by our Lord Jesus Christ”.

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 performed the magnification of the Ascension and hymns dedicated to the Holy Fathers of the I Council.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector greeted our young parishioner Elena Malyshev on the occasion of her past name day, memory of the Holy Equal to the Apostles Queen Helen. Traditional Polychronion was proclaimed and the Theotokian prosphora delivered.

Following the Liturgy Fr. Igor performed the memorial Litia on request of Malyshev family to commemorate Valentina Malyshev of the 1st year of her repose.

Ascension of the Lord

 

On Thursday, June 2 of this year the Orthodox Church celebrated great feast of the Ascension of the Lord. St. George parish had a nice celebration on this day. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Our friend and neighbor, Deacon Matthew Keil attended the service along with his big family joining a small number of our parishioners who came to the church on a working day.

After the Gospel lesson Fr. Igor preached the following homily:

“Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters! Today we celebrate glorious feast of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. It has been 40 days after the Resurrection of Christ that He was taken up from the earth to the heavenly abode. All these days our Lord Jesus Christ being risen from the dead kept appearing to His Disciples. He was spending time with them speaking of the Kingdom of God (Acts 1, 3). He was teaching and instructing, granting His blessings and showing them the way they were to proceed. On the 40th day He gathered them and led from Jerusalem to Bethany. Jesus commanded the Apostles not to leave the holy city but to wait for the promised gift, for the Holy Spirit to descend upon them (Acts 1, 4-5). They all were outside of the city, on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended. Today’s Gospel says that the Jesus lifted up His hands and blessed the Apostles. It also says, “Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” (Lk. 24, 50-51).
“Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters! Ascension of Christ teaches us humility. Although the very word “ascension” means some uplifting upon the earth and upon anything inferior, our Lord ascended into heaven only after He lived on earth, endured human life, voluntarily endured His passions and death on the cross. Even after His Resurrection He did not leave the earth and His disciples but stayed for forty days, appearing to the Apostles, spending time with them. When He accomplished His ministry as the Savior of the world, He could allow Himself to leave”.
“Some people act differently. For instance, many people wish to leave their native town to pursue a new life in a big city. If they do so, very often they like to forget about their native place, and may even be ashamed of it. In this way they feel “ascended” and lifted above their past. Such attitude is a pride which may lead them to a failure. Pride always leads to a failure, at least to a spiritual one”.
“Our Lord, on the contrary, reached His Ascension through humility. He humbly led His earthly life and endured temptations, sufferings and His death. Holy Apostle Paul says that Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2, 8). But that humility and obedience made Jesus highly exalted. It made Him lifted up upon the earth and ascended to God the Father”.
“We have to note that by ascending into heaven our Lord Jesus Christ took both His divine and His human nature. And since He did share our human nature with Himself, it is also our nature that ascended to the heavenly abode of His Father. As St. John Chrysostom wrote, “Now, with awe and astonishment we see that Man sits in the deepest mysteries of the Holy Trinity”. That Man is Jesus. Jesus made our humanity worthy of heaven, accepted in the highest realm of the divine dwelling. That is an important point to remember when we celebrate this glorious feast of the Ascension”.
“Therefore, dear Father, dear brothers and sisters, being aware that in Christ our human nature was ascended into the heavens, ascended collectively – we should also strive for our own, personal ascension. Such personal ascension can be accomplished through humility, through our own endurance of the temptations and different tests, through our own service to God and to our neighbors. We can attain it by being humble and obedient to the will of God. We have to imitate Christ in His love, work and service to others, so our human nature may join Him in heaven. Let us thus strive for that in our earthly life to be worthy of life in heaven, life everlasting and blessed!”

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 of the feast during preparation for Holy Communion.

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

Sunday of the Blind Man

 

On May 29, on the Sunday of the Blind Man, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov performed the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters! Christ is risen! Today we celebrate the last Sunday of the Paschal period which is called “Sunday of the Blind Man”. To be precise, it should be called “Sunday of the Man Born Blind”, as it is called among many other Orthodox nations. For today’s Gospel lesson tells us about granting sight to a person who was born without being able to see, born even without eyes. This was the greatness of that miracle that the Savior not just granted the sight to a blind man, but created the organs for this man’s vision. However, the bodily sight granted by Christ to this man, should point us to the importance of the spiritual sight”.
It is a great happiness to possess bodily sight. Most of the people have this gift but do not fully appreciate it. But if you imagine for a moment that we lost our vision and we won’t see anything we saw before, that we won’t see the blue sky and the green grass, won’t see the light of the sun and the faces of the people who are dear to us, then we may become grateful to have the sight. However, many of us are not able to imagine how bad is to live without spiritual sight, and it is hard for us to define what is spiritual sight. The spiritual sight is to see the things the way they are and to understand that they are created by God. The spiritual sight is an ability to believe in true God and to follow Him. And in today’s reading from the Holy Gospel we heard how the Lord granting the bodily vision to a man, gave him an ability to acquire spiritual sight”.
The man born blind after obeying Christ and washing in the Pool of Siloam became not only having a vision, but he also understood that Jesus, who did it to him, is the Son of God and the Savior. He said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him” (Jn. 9, 38). That tells us that he acquired spiritual vision”.
Before the coming of the Savior almost all the people in a spiritual sense were similar to a man born blind. Everybody was born with a spiritual defect, with an original sin of Adam, and being unable to see the truth. Only some righteous men and women could achieve spiritual vision but it was not truly clear. The Jewish people, chosen by God, who formally knew and worshiped the one and true God, were very often spiritually blind. And today’s Gospel lesson gives us an opportunity to see that. The Pharisees and the scribes, instead of recognizing their Messiah in Jesus, do everything to fight Him. After seeing the miracle of granting a vision to a man born blind, instead of believing in Christ and worshiping Him, as that blind man did, they conduct the whole investigation. They interrogate the healed man, they interrogate his parents, and remain disappointed in the results of their investigation. They hypocritically ask the man to praise God because, as they say, Jesus is “a sinner” (Jn. 9, 24). But now this uneducated man teaches those learned scribes a good lesson: he says he does not know about the sins of Jesus but he does know that He opened his eyes and that God does not listen to the sinners (Jn. 9, 31)”.
Our Lord Jesus Christ enabled the whole mankind to acquire spiritual sight through the holy faith and through the following in His steps. But today also many people in this world continue to stay in spiritual darkness. First of all, this darkness shows itself when people refuse to believe in Christ. The Jews continue to stay in such darkness. They praise themselves as being the God’s chosen people, but in fact they had lost the light of the divine truth long ago. It is not surprising that they began to believe in different superstitions and occult teachings known under the name of Cabbalism. What the Jews consider a great wisdom of the Cabbala is, in fact, a mixture of pagan views about the world and a search of some secret knowledge, all covered by the terms taken from the Old Testament religion. This is why the Lord criticizing the Pharisees and the scribes, whose followers are the modern Jews, called them the “blind leaders of the blind” (Mt. 15, 14). Not better in their spiritual blindness, and sometimes even worse, are the Muslims, the Buddhists and the followers of the pagan cults”.
But the spiritual darkness is not only a refusal to believe in Christ. Such darkness also engulfs us, faithful Christians, when we commit sins. By the mercy of God sometimes we receive spiritual sight, but very often, being blinded by sin, we lose the light of the faith in Christ and we wander in our life in the darkness, thinking that we are able to see. Our intellect influenced by our flesh and concentrated on the cares of everyday life, loving only material goods, always leads us to oppose the teaching of the Lord. The heart of a spiritually blind person becomes hard and cruel. Such a person hears by his ears and sees by his eyes but does not listen to them. That person begins to oppose God, and then God leaves such a person”.
Ven. Seraphim of Sarov said, “If man knew what it is to see God, he would agree to come to Him through any darkness”. For everyone of us the darkness is the multitude of our sins. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us beware to sin and let us repent if we do sin. And may everyone, according to his or her prayers, the Lord grant spiritual sight, that is an ability to distinguish the sins and the good things, and to acquire a vision of the holy and such a beautiful Countenance of the Savior which is shining from the most true Orthodox faith!”

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 prayerfully performed the Exapostilarion of Pascha during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made the announcements regarding the coming feast of the Ascension and about the next month service schedule.

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

 

On May 22, on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, feast of the Translation of the Relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov being on vacation in Florida, made a pilgrimage to the Monastery of Our Lady of Pochaev in North Port, FL (ROCOR).

Fr. Igor attended Sunday service at the monastery temple, performing reading of the 6th Hour. He also prayed in the sanctuary during the Divine Liturgy and read the Epistle.

After the Liturgy our Rector had an opportunity to venerate the relics and the revered  icon of Our Lady of Pochaev held in the temple. He also had an interaction with the local clergy and parishioners.

Sunday of the Paralytic

 

On May 15, on the Sunday of the Paralytic, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is risen! Today we celebrate Sunday of the Paralytic. We commemorate the event described in today’s Gospel lesson: healing of the paralytic at the pool located at the Sheep Gate (Jn. 5, 1-15). The pool was called in Hebrew Bethesda which means the “House of mercy”, “Mercy house””.
The state of paralysis reminds us of the state in which the whole mankind was living due to sin. The human kind was spiritually paralyzed. It needed a Savior, a great Healer. But who could become such a Healer, such a Savior? In many legends and myths people thought that it should be a great man, a hero. Even the Jews who believed in one God thought that the Messiah should be a human person. However, this was not possible for any man because human kind was sinful. It could be done only by God, but God willed to do it becoming also a Man”.
The whole attitude of waiting for a man, for a hero to save is reflected in today’s Gospel. The paralytic says, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up…” (Jn. 5, 7). He put his trust on men and he was unsuccessful for many years. He should have learned from the Scripture saying, “Do not put your trust in princes, in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation” (Ps. 145, 3). These words of the Psalm we sing every Sunday at the Divine Liturgy. People who attend the church should know them by heart. We should not put our trust in men but in God”.
Jesus was the Son of God, thus He could help the paralytic. So, He can help all the people in need, in sufferings, in pain. He is able to do this because He conquered death, was risen from the dead”.
On the other hand, the people who follow Christ, who are united with Him, can also become the partakers of His power. They continue His miracle-working and the mission of salvation. In today’s Epistle we heard that Holy Apostle Peter was able to heal the paralytic also. And he was able to raise a recently dead young woman. St. Peter healed by the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 9, 34). And it is not accidental that today’s Epistle mentions that the followers of Christ were already called “Saints” (Acts 9, 32). People dedicated and belonging to God are the holy people, the saints. Such people are able to conduct the divine grace and the will of God. If we put our trust on God, He can act through us”.
Dear brothers and sisters! Let us put our trust in God. Let us be faithful to our calling as Christians. Let us strive for being the partakers of our Lord’s grace and the conductors of His power. Let us also acquire this power in the Church where we can meet the people dedicated to God, the Saints of our days. The Church is our House of mercy, our healing place, a place of God’s graces. Let us belong here and become a part of our Lord’s Resurrection”.

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 prayerfully performed the Exapostilarion of Pascha and the “Angel exclaimed” during the time of preparation for Holy Communion.

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

Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women

 

On May 8, on the Sunday of Myrrh-Bearing Women, as well as feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, we had a beautiful service at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy. He was co-served by our guest, Priest Nenad Flora, Rector of St. Seraphim Mission in Dominican Republic. After the reading from the Holy Gospel Fr. Igor preached the following homily:

Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Christ is risen! On this Sunday after Pascha we honor Holy Myrrh-bearing Women, righteous Joseph and Nicodemus who participated in the burial of our Lord Jesus Christ. Later some of them became the witnesses of His Resurrection, as we heard in today’s Gospel lesson. A huge stone was rolled against the door of the tomb where Jesus was laid, but when He rose from the dead the stone became rolled away. As we think today of that tomb of Jesus, other tombs come to mind – tombs where Jesus is buried today, strong tombs, heavily sealed, tombs that are designed to keep Jesus isolated from our lives”.
A Monk of Eastern Church writes: “In many souls, Jesus seems to be buried as if in a sepulcher. He seems to be paralyzed, immobilized, even dead. He is covered by a heavy stone; the stone of sin, of ignorance, of indifference, the stone of bad habits that have accumulated over years.” Buried by those errors we cry out like the Myrrh-bearing Women: “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” (Mk. 16, 3)”.
The sin is the first stone by which we can cover Jesus in His sepulcher. Our sins don’t let us give our Lord a place in our life; they keep us away from Him. First of all, it happens when we let our sins rule over us. Then we serve sin, not our Lord. And second, when our sins, or a particular sin of ours, keeps us away from God”.
The second stone is ignorance. What kind of ignorance buries Jesus? The ignorance about Him. Ignorance about our faith, ignorance about religious matters, ignorance about basic, but very important things in our life. Many people don’t know our faith, why we believe in this or in that. Many people don’t know the pious traditions: why we do certain things in our Church, what we are supposed to have in our Church. I can speak hours telling you the stories of people’s ignorance about faith, Church life and other spiritual things. For instance, today we celebrate feast of the Holy Apotsle and Evangelist Mark who wrote the second Gospel. By the way, today’s Gospel reading about the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women was from the Gospel of St. Mark. This Apostle was a disciple of the Holy Apostle Peter, and he also traveled along with Holy Apostle Paul. St. Mark was not one of the 12 but one of the 70 Apostles. So, many people, if they recall St. Mark they would be confused. If they won’t find him among the 12 Apostles, they would wonder why he is an Apostle. It is an ignorance. We should know that there were 12 and also 70 Apostles of Christ”.
I read a story about a Lutheran pastor who was in the Soviet GULAG and being there he was trying not to forget basic accounts of his religion. So, he was recalling the names of the Apostles. The author of the story says that the minister was enumerating, “Peter, Paul” and so on. Right there we find a mistake. Either the pastor forgot that St. Paul was not one of the 12 or the author confused the names. Ignorance!”
So, ignorance. This is the great stone that keeps Jesus buried in the tomb. If you don’t know something – ask, inquire. Talk to the priest, ask or simply listen when the priest is telling you about it. You can call the priest or text the priest with your questions, and he will be happy to answer and to make you knowledgeable, not ignorant”.
The third and the greatest of the stones is indifference. Indifference is what keeps Jesus buried in the terrible grave of apathy. A priest once stopped in a coffee shop and sat at a counter next to a man. The man glanced at the priest and asked where his church was. When the priest told him, he said, “That’s the church I go myself”. “Isn’t that strange?” the priest said, “I’ve been a rector there for five years and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you.” The man replied, “Come on, Father, I didn’t say I was a fanatic”. It is OK to be fanatic about football but there is something wrong with you if you are serious about Jesus. It is that kind of indifference that keeps Jesus buried. It is an extremely heavy stone and it needs to be removed if Jesus is to become a living presence in our lives”.
In addition, there are the people who bury Christ in their hearts, in their souls. They are the people who tell us: “I may not come to church, but God is always in my soul”. It is a very popular attitude, especially among the people from our old countries. Some famous Russian priest who already passed away said about that attitude, “Then do everything in your soul! Eat in your soul, drink in your soul, get married in your soul”. But, as we all know, people prefer to eat, drink, get married and do other things not in their souls but by their bodies and by actual facts. However, many do not wish to actually practice their faith but keep God “in their souls”. Such people don’t participate in the Liturgy. They don’t receive the Sacraments. They don’t support the work of Christ through His Church. They seldom pray and yet – they tell us – God is in their souls. Maybe He is! But then, that’s where they keep Him dead and buried”.
If there are those today who claim that God is dead, it is also because we Christians have buried Him in our sins, in our ignorance, in our indifference, in our souls. And if we have buried God, there is no wonder why we are so anxious and worried people today”.
“Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters! Roll the stone away from the tomb and let the Risen Christ step out of our indifference, out of our sins, out of our ignorance, even “out of our souls” into our lives and see what happens as a result! It will bring the great power, the great peace and the great joy! Christ is risen!”

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 prayerfully performed hymns to the Holy Apostle Mark, as well as Paschal hymns during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector congratulated our ladies on the occasion of this Sunday which is the Orthodox Women’s day. He also greeted them on the occasion of today’s celebrated Mother’s Day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed. Then Fr. Igor also greeted Mark Deleon and Tamara Gusnezow on the occasion of their past name days, proclaiming a Polychronion on their behalf and dividing the Theotokian prosphora among them. Finally, Fr. Igor expressed his best wishes of God’s blessings and success for the pastoral ministry of Fr. Nenad Flora who will soon be returning to his missionary community in Dominican Republic.

After the Liturgy the Rector performed a memorial Litia requested by Olga Kniazeva.

Patronal Feast of St. George

 

On Friday, May 6 our Parish celebrated its Patronal Feast of the Holy Victorious Great Martyr George. Our festal service was headed by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. He was co-served by the guest clergy from the ROCOR: Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk), Priest Nenad Flora and Deacon Matthew Keil. After the reading of the Hours they celebrated the Divine Liturgy. Later, during the service there arrived Abbot Zosimas (Krampis) who was praying along with the faithful in the temple.

Following the readings from Sacred Scripture Priest Nenad Flora preached a short homily in English. He stressed that in the Gospel reading appointed for this feast the Lord says, “These things I command you, that you love one another” (Jn. 15, 17). Thus the Lord did not ask or suggest that we love another but He commanded that. Love is a crucial commandment of Christianity and it should be practiced if we wish to attain salvation.

The choir beautifully performed hymns dedicated to St. George, as well as Paschal hymns during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the clergy and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification of St. George in front of his icon in the middle of the church. They sang the troparion, kontakion and magnification of our temple Saint. Then the Rector greeted everybody present on the feast and said a few words about our celebrated holy patron. The two group photographs were taken: one of the clergy and altar servers, then another of all present at the celebration.

Our Patronal Feast continued after the liturgical service. All were invited to a luncheon at the nearby Italian restaurant where the clergy and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company.