Cheesefare Sunday

 

On March 10, on Cheesefare Sunday, our parish was prepared to have a nice liturgical celebration. But unfortunately, due to an inclement weather in Northern New Jersey where our Rector resides, we had a two-hour delay in our services. As a result, we did not have the Divine Liturgy but Archpriest Igor Tarasov served only Vespers with the Rite of Forgiveness.

At the Vespers after the singing of the Great Prokimenon the priest and the altar servers he changed their vestments to the Lenten color of black.

After the dismissal the Rector preached a sermon about the importance of forgiveness. He stressed that in order to forgive we need to understand persons who offended us or caused us pain. Such a situation recently emerged in our parish community when our parishioners opposed the decision of the hierarchy to sell our church property. That decision caused pain to the parishioners, but they also caused some pain to the Church authorities and to the Rector. However, the actions of each side may be understood, and thus a mutual forgiveness may be reached.

After finishing the sermon Fr. Igor asked for forgiveness bending his knees. The parishioners also knelt down and asked their pastor for forgiveness. Then each one of the faithful could come to the Rector to kiss the cross and to express the forgiveness.

Following the services of this special day the Rector and parishioners joined at the Blini Lunch. We enjoyed delicious meals, especially the blini, nicely prepared by our ladies.

A Visit to the Elevation of the Holy Cross Parish in Hackettstown, NJ

 

On Sunday, March 3, Rector of St. George Church and some our parishioners visited the Elevation of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ. That parish community held a celebration of the honorary retirement of their long-time Rector, Mitered Archpriest John Kassatkin, and of the installation of the newly-appointed Rector, Priest Andrew Massey. Archpriest Igor Tarasov, as the Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, came to that parish to head the said celebration.

The Divine Liturgy at the Elevation of the Cross Church was celebrated by Archpriest Igor Tarasov who was co-served by Archpriest John Kassatkin and Priest Andrew Massey. The service was attended by local parishioners, as well as some guests from other parishes. Our St. George Church was represented by our Warden and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow and two other persons. Following the Gospel lesson Fr. Igor preached a homily in Russian. Then before the Holy Communion of the faithful a homily in English was preached by Fr. Andrew.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Chancellor proclaimed the Bishop’s Decree placing Fr. John on retirement and naming him Rector Emeritus of the Holy Cross Church, and then the Decree of appointment Fr. Andrew the Rector of that Church. Fr. Igor also commended Fr. John on behalf of Patriarchal Parishes for his long-time service to the Holy Church, expressed him gratitude from the hierarchy and wished him a blessed retirement. Then he expressed a heartfelt wishes of God’s assistance and great success of leading the parish and faithful to the new Rector, Fr. Andrew.

Celebration continued at the local restaurant where a reception was held in honor of the old and new parish Rectors. Fr. Igor and our parishioners attended that event and enjoyed delicious food and nice interaction with the clergy, parishioners and guests of the Holy Cross Church.

Meatfare Sunday

 

On March 3, on Meatfare Sunday, we had a liturgical celebration at St. George Church. In our Rector’s absence it was headed by Priest Mark Rashkov, cleric of St. Nicholas Cathedral.

The Gospel lesson on this Sunday is telling us about the Last Judgment at the second coming of Christ. Fr. Mark preached a homily regarding that spiritually important theme.

Since no services for the departed were performed on Meatfare Memorial Saturday, Fr. Mark added the Litany for the deceased to the Liturgy with commemoration of those who had fallen asleep.

2019 Annual Parish Meeting

 

The Annual Parish Meeting of St. George Church was held on Sunday, February 24, 2019, following the Divine Liturgy and coffee hour. Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov presided.

Church Warden, Olga Roussanow read the minutes of the last Annual Meeting held in 2018. The Rector had a speech regarding the present situation when our church property presently owned by St. Nicholas Cathedral may be sold. As it had been recently known, a group of our parishioners being unhappy with such perspective, wrote a letter to the local authorities asking to hinder the sale. It is known that the Rector never approved such actions of the parishioners. The sale was blessed by the former Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes, Bishop John, and Fr. Igor had been obedient to the will of the hierarchy. However, a group of people decided to act on their own. Thus, the situation was discussed at the Meeting. At this time, it is uncertain whether the actions of the said group had any result. But for that reason no renovation projects and other plans for beautification of the temple can be made.

Further the Rector reported on financial situation. He informed that parish income in the year 2018 was much lower because in 2017 we received a generous contribution for our renovation project. In 2018 no such generosity was shown but we had a special donation of $ 1,500. Our expenses were about the same as in previous year. We had a deficit of around $ 600. The Parish is in a great financial need. Parishioners still do not cover all our spending.

The financial report caused some discussion. Some parishioners pointed out that the expenses for Bishop’s visitation can be reduced in the future. Yet others disagreed stressing that it is important for the spiritual and general parish life to host hierarchical services on some occasions. The latter opinion was supported by the Rector.

The Rector stressed that the parish, first of all, has to be supported by parishioners. Their contributions are supposed to be the main source of income. We cannot rely on expectations of special donations of non-parishioners or on some uncertain business projects. However, some persons present argued that they have a limited income and are not able to fully support the church.

The Rector finalized the discussion and concluded the Meeting stating that any future financial concerns will be addressed if the parish will continue to function.

 

 

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

 

On February 24, on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy at our parish temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Today we celebrate another Sunday preparing us for Lent, Sunday of the Prodigal Son. The parable we heard in today’s Gospel lesson teaches us to repent and gives us a clear guidance for doing that. Let us think how we should follow that instruction.”
“First of all, dear brothers and sisters, we have to be honest with ourselves. A soccer referee was asked if he ever made mistakes in judging the players. He replied, “Of course, I make mistakes. My only problem is I cannot admit it”. We, as Christians, are called for humility to admit to ourselves and to God that we make mistakes. The Prodigal Son in today’s Gospel lesson was honest with himself with a frank and merciless honesty. It was when he admitted the wrong in himself and said, “I have sinned” (Lk. 15, 18). He came to his true self. He admitted his sinfulness and decided to go back to his father’s house.”
“For many of us it is very hard to say these 3 words: “I was wrong”. It takes an effort of humility and self-effacement such as few people are capable of. Yet, sometimes, no other words are more needed in our life than the words, “I was wrong”. They are magic words: words that reconcile, words that unite, words that heal wounds and bring peace. Imagine how different an outcome of many arguments between people could be if one of the parties would acknowledge its fault. Imagine how healing these words can be in family life. The first law of mental health is to be honest with yourself. If you have done wrong, don’t hide it. Don’t bury your guilt feelings in your mind where they will fester and later come out as a nervous or mental problem. Face the facts about yourself. Admit them. Confess them.”
“That is why the Church has the Holy Mystery of confession. That is why the Church urges us to use that amazing and wonderful opportunity to become clean and forgiven. Many people don’t like the idea of confessing to a priest and say that they can tell their sins to God directly. Well, first of all, this Sacrament had been established by our Lord. If we argue against it, we argue with Jesus Christ Himself. Secondly, it is very helpful to admit our faults to others and it is more than to admit them just to ourselves or to God in private prayer. It is not enough to say it to ourselves.”
“This is the second point we can make today: acknowledging our sins honestly but keeping them in ourselves is harmful. It can lead to despair. When Judas, for example, saw that Jesus was condemned, he brought the money to the chief priests and elders and said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Mt. 24, 7). Then, throwing the pieces of silver in the temple, he went and hanged himself. Judas was remorseful enough to admit his sin to himself, even to the chief priests, but he could not bring himself to face Jesus and say, “I am sorry. Forgive me”. Thus, Judas began in a right way: he admitted his sin like the Prodigal Son; he said, “I have sinned”, but he did not go further. He made the first step but failed to make the second. He failed to act, to go to Jesus Himself and to confess before Him. Jesus, who forgave the penitent thief on the cross, would have forgiven Judas, too, if he had gone to the cross and confessed.”
“When the Prodigal Son said, “I have sinned,” he did not stop there. He took the next step. He said, “I will arise and go to my father” (Lk. 15, 18). And this is what God expects from us. When we see ourselves for what we really are, when we are ashamed of ourselves, when we have difficulty to accept ourselves, we can be sure of one thing – God will accept us in the same manner as the Prodigal Son was accepted in today’s Gospel.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! This is the way God welcomes us when, with deep repentance in our hearts, we come to Him with those magic words: “I was wrong”. Or, in a religious version the words are: “I have sinned”. Three of the most difficult words to say to yourself, to others and to God. But to the person who has enough courage to say them, there comes forgiveness, peace, new strength and new life!”

During the time of the preparation for the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed the hymns from the Lenten Triodion which begin to be sung on this Sunday, starting with the words “The door of repentance open to me, o Giver of life…”.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian stressing the main ideas of his English homily. He also made some announcements.

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. Celebration of the Meeting of the Lord

 

On February 17, on the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, we had a beautiful celebration. On that day we also observed feast of Meeting of the Lord transferred to Sunday.

The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the readings from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily about celebrated feast and about spiritual significance of today’s Sunday.

The idea of the holy day of the Meeting is that a human person should seek an encounter with God the Lord. Such an encounter could take place anywhere but the most proper place for that is the God’s temple. In the events of the celebrated feast we learn that Child Jesus was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem by His Mother to fulfill the demands of the law of Moses. A sacrifice was offered for Him there. Thus a meeting with God took place there. We also learn from the Gospel lesson that another meeting took place there – elder Simeon met His Savior and Lord recognizing Him in the little Child Jesus. In another Gospel lesson about the Publican and Pharisee we also read that two men went to the Temple to pray. They both desired a spiritual encounter with God. But their prayers were different, thus their meeting with God was different. A humble publican had a beneficial meeting while a proud Pharisee was not justified by the Lord. But both went to the same holy place. Therefore, we need to come to the temple of God to seek an encounter with God.
To have a beneficial encounter we also need to do certain pious actions: to pray, to participate in the rites or to offer sacrifices. Holy Family coming into the Temple offered a sacrifice of two young pigeons for their first-born Son, as it was prescribed by the Old Testament law. Nowadays, in our New Testament Church, we no longer offer animals to be slaughtered; our main sacrifice, Holy Eucharist, is without blood. However, we still sacrifice certain things: we light candles, we bring so-called “koliva” for the deceased, we give monetary donations, and, finally, we may sacrifice our time, work, talents for the Church. All such actions make our encounter with the Lord possible.
But the most important thing for our meeting with God to be successful is to have a proper spiritual attitude, an appropriate spiritual state. A publican in today’s parable had it while a Pharisee did not. In the same way, God blessed the sacrifice of Abel of old who brought the best lambs to be offered to God. But God did not look upon the sacrifice of his brother Cain who offered just some kind of the fruits of his work. God knew the attitude of Cain who was not sincere and did not offer a sacrifice with love and proper piety. Therefore, we have to be cautious about our spiritual state if we wish that our meeting with God was beneficial and successful.

During preparation for Holy Communion the choir beautifully performed festal hymns of the Meeting of the Lord, as well as hymns from the Lenten Triodion which begin to be sung on this Sunday, starting with the words “The door of repentance open to me, o Giver of life…”.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification before the icon of the feast singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Meeting. The Rector then preached a brief sermon in English conveying the ideas of his Russian homily.

Following the Liturgy at the request of Olga Vnukova the Rector officiated a short memorial service (Litia) for her newly-deceased nephew Nikolai. Upon completion of the service Fr. Igor expressed Olga his sincere condolences.


37th Sunday after Pentecost. Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church

 

On February 10, on the 37th Sunday after Pentecost, feast of the Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, St. George parish community had a nice celebration. In the absence of our Rector the Divine Liturgy was served by Priest Mark Rashkov.

Following the Gospel lesson Fr. Mark preached a homily.

After the Liturgy a memorial service (Litia) was performed to commemorate all the deceased who suffered during the time of godless persecutions.

36th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On February 3, on the 36th Sunday after Pentecost we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“The 31st Sunday is practically the last Sunday of our Pentecostal cycle because on the next, 32nd Sunday we will talk about Zacchaeas the publican and start preparing for the Great Fast. Today’s Gospel lesson tells us about the last miracle our Lord Jesus Christ performed before His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem where He underwent His holy Passions. This last miracle was returning the sight to a blind man in Jericho. This event is described by three holy Gospels. Holy evangelist Matthew mentions two blind men, other evangelists – only one. St. Mark tells that the blind man’s name was Bartimaeus. Thus, what is important about him?”
“The Holy Fathers interpret this last miracle before our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem as revealing of the coming of the time of salvation. For this reason the blind man greets Jesus as the “Lord”, the common name for God. He also calls Him “the son of David”, a title deeply rooted in the people’s expectation of the Messiah. The Jews believed that the Messiah was to be born from the heirs of King David.”
“Another important thing is that Jesus knows beforehand what the blind man wants. But He calls him to ask freely that He might answer to that. In the same way our Lord knows beforehand what we want and what we need. But He wants us to express ourselves in prayer, so He might answer us in His mercy. It is not accidental that the Church very often uses and repeats the prayerful words of the blind man: “Have mercy!” “Lord, have mercy!” is the favorite exclamation in the prayers of the Church. The holy tradition says that this prayer was the first prayer of Adam and Eve expelled from the paradise. It is the most ancient prayer. When the Temple of Jerusalem was built the first prayer under its roof was “Lord God, hear us and have mercy!” Sometimes in our services “Lord, have mercy” is repeated 40 times, sometimes even 50 times. Our prayer has to be persistent. Somebody compared such a persistent and repetitive prayer “Lord, have mercy!” to a situation when you fell into a well and try to get out. You cry for help and you don’t stop doing so. You desperately cry for it. In this way we should pray “Lord, have mercy!” many times – asking the Lord for help and mercy.”
“No one should stop or prevent us from asking the Lord for His mercy. The Gospel mentions that the crowd tried to silence the blind man when he asked Jesus for mercy. The multitude warned him that he should be quiet. But he cried out all the more. In our lives many times people or circumstances attempt to silence or to prevent our prayer. Even in the Church we notice how many prayers and services are being abbreviated and simplified. Despite that influence of the world we have to continue praying, keep asking the Lord in our needs. And He will answer our prayers according to the zeal of our faith.”
“We should also keep in mind that our prayers, as well as our hope must be specific. Again, the Lord knew what the blind man wanted from Him the most, yet He asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The man could have asked, “Lord, give me the grace to live with blindness”. Some very spiritually advanced people being blind had a great grace and felt very happy without bodily vision. But the blind man in today’s Gospel asked for the sight. Faith needs to be specific, and Jesus requested to exercise a specific faith and to ask for a certain thing.”
“To conclude we have to understand that our merciful Lord and Savior wishes us to have a firm and persistent faith. Such a faith was found in Bartimaeus, a blind man in Jericho. His faith made him well. If we will have this kind of faith, will be enduring and persistent in our prayers, will be specific in our humble requests, the Lord may grant us what we ask for and make us joyfully follow Him.”

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian stressing the main ideas of his English homily. He also congratulated our parishioners Maria and Anton Malyshev on the occasion of their past name days. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

35th Sunday after Pentecost

 

On January 27, on the 35th Sunday after Pentecost, the Rector of St. George Church served the Divine Liturgy at our Parish temple. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily Fr. Igor stressed the three points regarding the Gospel lesson about a conversation between our Lord Jesus Christ and a person who asked how to inherit eternal life (Lk. 18, 18-27).
First, the person in the Gospel reading wished to praise himself that he is so just that kept all the Commandments from his youth (Lk. 18, 21). Such an attitude is very dangerous spiritually because if we regard ourselves “good” or “just”, we delude ourselves. The enemy of mankind is the deceiver, and he is willing to support such an attitude. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is very much spread in America. People tend to praise themselves, to say, “I am a good person!” But the Lord teaches differently. In today’s Gospel He says, “No one is good, but God alone” (Lk. 18, 19). And all our Orthodox prayers are filled with the spirit of penance and awareness of our imperfection. When we approach Holy Communion, we pray: “I believe, o Lord… Thou came to save sinners from whom I am the chief”. Although we are repenting and cleansing ourselves before Communion, we still recognize that we are very sinful, not good. But, we are not desperate and we claim to be the partakers of Christ.
Secondly, am outer keeping of the Commandments is not sufficient. It is one thing not to break any of the Commandments formally, and another thing to keep them in our hearts. A person may never commit a murder but may have hatred in his heart and may wish evil to another. And the Lord said that everyone having anger against his brother kills him in his heart (Mt. 5, 22). A person may never commit adultery but may have such filthy thoughts that it is shameful to imagine. And thus the Lord taught that if that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt. 5, 28). The state of our soul is sometimes more important than our outer actions. And in today’s Gospel the Lord indicated the main passion of the person who spoke with Him – his attachment to the wealth. Perhaps that man had never stolen anything from anyone, yet he desired riches or was jealous about others’ wealth, so committed a spiritual theft. Thus we should avoid sinful thoughts and vicious feelings and dreams.
And finally, the third thought from today’s Gospel lesson is that if we wish to enter into the Kingdom of God, we need to attempt to build that Kingdom (or a similarity of it) around ourselves in this life. We have to care about our neighbors, to show love and justice. Everywhere – at our home, workplace or parish – we need to built a similarity of paradise. Otherwise our life may become similar to hell.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns of the feast of the Theophany since this was the last day of its celebration.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification in front of the icon of the Theophany in the middle of the church. Then the Rector preached a short sermon in English and made some announcements.

Following the Liturgy the Rector served a short memorial service (Litia) requested by the Malyshev family and Olga Vnukova commemorating their deceased relatives, as well as those who died during the siege of Leningrad 75 years ago.

After all the church sevices the Rector and parishioners enjoyed the delicious meals and a nice company at the trapeza table. A toast to Fr. Igor who recently celebrated his birthday was raised and traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) sung in his honor.

Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord

 

On January 19th Orthodox Church celebrates great feast of the Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord. Our parish had a nice celebration of that holy day headed by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. He served the Divine Liturgy at St. George Church. Following the Gospel lesson the Rector preached a homily in Russian.

In his homily the Rector preached about the great and ineffable mystery of the Theophany which consists of God appearing to mankind as the Son of Man and becoming close to us. Thirty years after His birth the Son of God finally revealed Himself at the Jordan River when He came there to ask a Baptism from St. John. Our Lord Jesus Christ had no sin but He did not disdain to come to Jordan where the sinners were baptized as they repented. He did not consider a humiliation to stay along with those sinful people because God loved the world and sent His Son to redeem it. Thus the mystery of the Theophany is in God’s love towards mankind and towards each one of us.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns of the feast during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the Prayer behind the Ambo the Rector performed the Great Blessing of water.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers came before the icon stand and performed the rite of glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Theophany. Then Fr. Igor congratulated parishioners on the occasion of the great holy day.