On August 28th the Church celebrates the greatest holy day of the Most Holy Mother of God – Her Dormition, or Falling Asleep. On that day this year we had a solemn Divine Liturgy in our temple. It was celebrated by our Rector, priest Igor Tarasov.
After the reading from the Holy Gospel Fr. Igor preached a sermon. Reminding of the importance of the celebrated feast he said:
“Speaking of the Most Holy Mother of God, we have to remember that She is the holy Virgin and the first Christian Saint. In Her we can see a perfect Christian. And we can see our own vocation as a reality, being accomplished in Her life and death…But speaking about the Blessed Virgin, we have to remember that She was also the first Saint before the Dormition. And the life of the Mother of God can be for us an example of a Christian life.”
“Today’s Gospel lesson which is read for all feasts of the Theotokos, tells us that some woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Jesus: “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You.” (Lk. 11, 27). But the Lord said to her: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Lk. 11, 28). If Jesus agreed only with the words of that woman, He would confirm the blessedness of His Holy Mother. It would be right. But our Lord always wishes us to do more than just right. He does not tell that the woman is wrong, but He adds: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” It is good to be the Mother of the Savior, but it is better to hear the word of God and obey it.”
“The Most Holy Mother of God is an example of a human being who obeys the word of God. Secondly, the Mother of God was a human being who prayed, who was always with Christ, not only physically but spiritually… And that is also something for us – to stay in the Church. The life of the Church is necessary for us to be saved – not only the Gospel, the word of Christ, but the work of Christ in the community of the Church. And the third thing – this is very important – the Mother of God is an example of obedience to Her own Son. And that is also important for us, because we have the Gospel – the word of the Lord; we have the life of the Church; and then we have our Church hierarchy, the bishops. It is important and necessary for us to be obedient also to the bishop because he is in the Church the icon of Christ.”
“So we cannot separate the Gospel, Church life and our obedience to Christ, to His icon in the Church which is the bishop. If we accept that, and if we have a life in that spirit, then the end of our life here in this world will be also not a death but a dormition, a falling asleep – a holy dormition – and we will receive from Christ the Kingdom of heaven. Amen.”
On August 19th, on the feast of Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, we had a solemn service at St. George Church. Our Rector, priest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy.
During the priestly homily which followed after the reading of the Gospel, Fr. Igor spoke about the celebrated holy day. He said: “The reasons we consider that event so important are two. We believe and confess that our Lord has two natures: divine and human. And everything we celebrate about Him concerns those two natures. Today our Lord showed the Apostles that He is God. And this is one reason to honor this event. But we celebrate Transfiguration also because our Lord’s human nature was transfigured. The humanity taken by our Lord became so linked with the divine nature, so it also shone like the sun. And we may add to that reflection that it happened by the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father, Whose voice witnessed to the Son’s divine nature.”
“Transfiguration shows us that the human and divine natures of Christ are united in One Person of Jesus. As the Orthodox Church professes, those two natures are bound together in a mysterious way, being not mixed and undivided, not commingled and yet inseparable. It is also important to remember that no such a unity is possible without the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit is taking part in every event of the life of the Lord manifested to us. His action is seen in the Nativity of Christ, in His Baptism and in His Transfiguration.”
“Another important aspect of today’s feast is that our Savior is the Lord over life and death. The Scripture tells us that two holy persons appeared at the Transfiguration: Moses and Elijah. They represent two kinds of people: those who died and those who live. Moses was dead long before Jesus came into the world. And Elijah also lived several centuries before Christ, but he did not taste death, but was taken up to heaven. Now, at the Mt. Tabor they both appeared to worship the Son of God, the Lord of the living and the dead.”
“And lastly, we may notice that today’s feast has been lost outside of the Orthodox Church. In the similar way, the feast of Theophany is almost unnoticed outside of the Orthodoxy. They are not really celebrated in the communities where people do not believe in the words of the Holy Scripture, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father alone. This error makes those Christians deprived of the right belief in the Holy Trinity. But it also makes them deprived of the true understanding of the importance of the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ becoming a Man, so men could become divine, could unite with God. Such a unity was shown in Christ Transfiguration. Such a unity is possible through Christ and through the Orthodox faith. Because Christ united those two natures for us. And the Orthodox faith gives us an opportunity to unite them in our lives, being partakers of the divine nature. Let us then keep our faith in true God and pray that His everlasting light may shine to us.”
It is customary in the Orthodox Church to bring the new fruits to the temple to be blessed on this feast day. In Russia mostly apples are being blessed while in Greece the people bring grapes to be blessed. Thus, at the end of the Divine Liturgy, after the Prayer behind the Ambo, Fr. Igor performed the rite of blessing of fruits.
Following the solemn service the Rector and parishioners had a delicious trapeza.
On August 12th, on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost priest Igor Tarasov, Rector of St. George’s Church celebrated the Divine Liturgy in our temple.
After the reading from the Gospel Fr. Igor preached a homily. He pointed out that the child described in the Gospel was really tormented by a demon, and was not just mentally ill. And the Scripture tells us that the evil spirit forced him to fall into the fire or into the water. “The falling into fire and water show us how the demons abuse God’s creation. Fire is not a tool with which to burn and kill, but a gift of God for heating and cooking. Water is not a tool with which to drown, but a gift of God for drinking and washing. We bless the water in the church and we baptize the babies in the water immersing them, and, of course, not drowning them”.
Fr. Igor continued: “We may wonder how did the demon get inside the man’s son and possess him? And our Lord Himself answers that question saying that it happened because the people are often a “faithless and perverse generation”. Our unbelief lets the evil one to overcome us.”
“A cure to such a spiritual state is a two-edged sword of prayer and fasting. Our Lord tells us that in today’s Gospel. And as St. Theophan the Recluse wrote: ‘Where there is no prayer and fasting, there are the demons’. Referring to the word of St Theophan, we could say therefore that much of the modern world has become the dwelling-place of demons. It seems that each day that passes brings us news of some new instability, some new disaster and misfortune”.
“The fact is that, whenever we are faithless and cease to pray and fast, then we lose the protection of the grace of God and we are besieged by demons and the world falls into fire or water. For instance, sometimes we can hear that terrible crimes happen in small towns. These are the places where nothing could ever happen. In Russia before the Revolution people said the same thing, but holy men like St Theophan the Recluse, St Ignatius, St John of Kronstadt and many others, all correctly prophesied that if people did not return to faithfulness, to prayer and fasting, then a great disaster would befall them. And so it happened and Russia became the favorite resort of the demons: ‘Where there is no prayer and fasting, there are the demons’. Even today, although Christian faith is being reborn in Russia, a lot of people still do not believe. And in this country, in the United States, we are losing faith more and more. If we do so, terrible things like shooting in the movie theaters or other crimes happen where they never been seen. Let us thus be faithful and practice prayer and fasting” – said Fr. Igor.
After the Liturgy our parishioners enjoyed a common meal with the church Rector.
On July 29, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost we gathered for the Divine Liturgy at St. George Church. Service was celebrated by our Rector, priest Igor Tarasov. On that Sunday we also honored the Holy Fathers of the Six Ecumenical Councils.
Following the readings of the Gospel Fr. Igor preached a homily. He pointed out that the lesson from the Gospel of Matthew for that day has a number of aspects:
“First of all, we should note that this was an enormous crowd of five thousand men plus women and children. We notice how they followed Christ on foot in the heat of the day into the wilderness and without food. What faith and devotion we see here, when there are Orthodox who claim to be unable to come to church on Sundays in their cars, because the church is too far from their beds!”
“Secondly, we can see that this miracle took place not for the personal vanity or glory of the Savior, but out of pity for the people. Each miracle of Christ is an act of love performed out of compassion.”
“Thirdly, we see also how before He performed the miracle, Our Lord took up the five loaves and fishes, and then looked up to heaven and thanked the Father and blessed the food. Here He sets us Orthodox the example of praying before eating. How many Orthodox often forget even to make the sign of the cross before eating! And yet the Savior Himself, ‘by Whom all things were made’, asks for the blessing of the Father before eating.”
Fr. Igor also said that in this miracle we see how Christ not only feeds us with material food, but also with spiritual food, for, as it is written in the Holy Scriptures, man shall not live by bread alone. Holy Fathers of the Six Councils whom we commemorate today were given us and confirming spiritual nourishment of the true faith leading to eternal life. The second Gospel lesson of today says: “And this is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent” (Jn. 17, 3). To live eternally we need spiritual nourishment which the Church is giving us.
At the end of the Liturgy Fr. Igor congratulated our Warden and Choir director Olga Roussanow on the occasion of her past name day and led us in singing “Mnogaya leta!”
After the service parishioners and priest enjoyed our delicious refreshments.