On April 28 we celebrated Palm Sunday which is the feast of the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. Our Rector, priest Igor Tarasov celebrated solemn Divine Liturgy at St. George’s Church.
Before the celebration of the Hours Fr. Igor conducted the Office of joining the Orthodox faith of Myrna Flora who expressed a desire to convert to Orthodoxy. She publicly renounced the errors of the Roman Church and received the Mystery of Chrismation taking the name Anastasia. Fr. Igor congratulated Anastasia Flora on her embracing the holy Orthodox faith.
After the Hours and before the Liturgy Fr. Igor blessed the pussy-willows and distributed them to the parishioners. Faithful present at the Liturgy were holding the blessed branches resembling the people of Jerusalem who greeted our Lord Jesus Christ entering the holy City.
Following the reading from the holy Gospel priest Igor preached a homily. He said,
“Today is a great and glorious feast, the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. It is a joyful Church celebration. But today Christ also enters the path of His sufferings. And among those terrible sufferings of the Lord we often do not consider one – His feeling of loneliness. Dreadful loneliness overcame Jesus during all the days of Passion week. We may say that God cannot feel lonely; God is a self-sufficient Being. But Jesus was also a Man, thus He could feel loneliness. The loneliness begins with a misunderstanding; the people expect that the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem will be the triumphant procession of a political ruler, of a leader who will free His people from oppression. The loneliness will develop further into the dreadful feeling of not being understood even by His disciples. At the Last Supper when the Savior talks to them for the last time, they will be in constant doubt as to the meaning of His words. And later when He goes into the Olive Garden before the fearful death, His closest disciples fall asleep. And the greatest loneliness of Christ will be on the cross when He will cry out, “My God, My God, why You have forsaken me?”
“During the coming days we will be not just remembering, but spiritually present at Christ’s Passion. We shall be part of the crowd surrounding Christ and the disciples and the Mother of God. As we hear the Gospel readings, as we listen to the prayers of the Church, as one image after another of these days of the Passion passes before our eyes, let each one of us ask himself the question, “Where do I stand, who am I in this crowd? A Pharisee? A Scribe? A traitor, a coward? Who? Or do I stand among the Apostles?” But they too were overcome by fear. Peter denied Him three times, Judas betrayed Him, John, James and Peter went to sleep just when Christ most needed human love and support; the other disciples fled; no one remained except John and the Mother of God. Where do we stand?”
“These questions concern the state of our soul. But these questions can be addressed to our everyday behavior, our everyday choices and preferences during this coming week. Are we going to come to church and participate in all services [ in our parish they are minimized……], or we will not? Let us be as babes and sucklings, let us put away our worldly cares and free ourselves from our laziness, let us be with the family of God, with the Mother of God and St John, and follow Christ to the Cross, so that then we can follow Him to His Resurrection, to Victory and Triumph, and so be resurrected in spirit together with Him. Amen.”
Many people present at the Liturgy received the Mysteries of Penance and holy Eucharist.
After the Liturgy the Rector and parishioners enjoyed the meals at our coffee hour.
On April 21, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we had a Sunday service in our church. The Liturgy was celebrated by our Rector, priest Igor Tarasov.
Following the reading from the Gospel Fr. Igor preached a sermon. He said:
“On the Fifth Sunday of Lent we hear again, for the second time, that our Lord Jesus Christ is foretelling His death and sufferings. In this way we, little by little, are being prepared for the days when we are going to commemorate the holy Passions of the Lord. These days are coming soon. Next Sunday will be the beginning of them when we will celebrate Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem. In a similar way the Lord was approaching Jerusalem when He spoke to His disciples in today’s Gospel lesson. The Lord says, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of God will be betrayed…” (Mk. 10, 33). We are also going up to Jerusalem, we do it in a spiritual way. Our final destination is High Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God. But in time our destination is holy Pascha, feast of the Resurrection of Christ.”
“Today’s Gospel is also telling us about the difference between the ideals of the Christian teaching and the ideals of worldly life. The Lord rebuked His disciples, James and John who wished to be given the seats closest to the Lord in His Kingdom. He said to them, “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be yours servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all” (Mk. 10, 43-44).
“Today we also honor Venerable Mary of Egypt. She was a great sinner who became a great Saint. There is no such thing as sinless life, but there is no such sin that cannot be forgiven if the sinner repents. Mary being a harlot for 17 years repented and became a greatest woman-Saint… The life of St Mary of Egypt teaches us that the true and everlasting values are quite different from those of the world. The world is looking for pleasure, for possessions, for money and power, but St Mary had no money, no property and no power in the world. Today’s Gospel confirms the way of life of St Mary, for it says that those who wish to be great must be servants. This is the opposite from all the ways of this world. But our Lord preached this and St Mary lived by this.”
“St Mary of Egypt is one of the greatest women Saints. The use of this word ‘great’ could sound strange. In our worldly life we often speak of ‘great politicians’, ‘great warriors’, great movie stars’, ‘great sportsmen’. But the Church calls St Mary of Egypt ‘great’ and all the centuries after she lived we ask for her prayers, but not for prayers of any politician or general or movie star or sportsman. That is because she made a right choice and lived according to the everlasting values.”
Fr. Igor concluded his sermon saying, “As we approach the days of the holy Passions of Christ, the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, let us also think of the words of the Mother of God, which led Venerable Mary of Egypt to her salvation through repentance and her greatness: “If you cross the Jordan, you will find true peace”. These mysterious words are also addressed to us, for we are looking for our true peace. We may find it only if we ask the Mother of God and St Mary to guide us. And then we shall find our own ‘entry into Jerusalem’”.
“Holy Mother Mary, pray to God for us! Amen.”
After the Liturgy we enjoyed our common coffee hour.
On April 7th the Church celebrates feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God. This year it fell on the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross. On that day priest Igor Tarasov, Rector of St. George Church served the Divine Liturgy in our temple.
Following the Gospel reading Fr. Igor preached a homily. He pointed out that the two lessons from the Gospel appointed for this double celebration sound different. One reading is telling about the Annunciation, bringing a good news to the Blessed Virgin Mary that She is going to be the Mother of the Savior, and that the world will be saved. Another reading is telling us about the need to bear the cross. It seems like we have good and bad news. How can we reconcile them?
Fr. Igor said, “Let us take a look at the Cross. It has to lines, vertical and horizontal. The vertical line means that God wishes us to ascend into heaven and He Himself for that reason descended to the earth. He became Man, He suffered for our salvation, He died on the Cross, He was buried and He even descended into hell. All for our salvation, for our ascension into heaven. There is also a horizontal line of the cross. It means that we have to follow Christ in our lives. We have to take up our cross. We have to adhere to His words, to His teaching, to be faithful to Him. That will make us able to ascend into heaven. The cross is a sign of our cooperation with God.”
“So, the bad news about our cross is not so bad. It is actually good. Because after the sufferings of the cross always comes a victory of the Resurrection.”
“On the other hand, what is going to happen if we will not wish to accept this news of today’s second Gospel and will not take up the cross? If we refuse to suffer for Christ…. Then we would suffer anyway. Look at the people who do not wish to be good Christians, true believers, who live in sin and are not ashamed of that. Are they happy? Are they blessed? They suffer from different kinds of problems and illnesses. And at the end they risk to be condemned to the eternal suffering in hell.
The Rector continued, “But let us not look at those miserable souls. Let us look at our today’s celebrated Person, so dear to every Christian! Let us look at the Most Holy Theotokos. She also accepted Her own cross. She said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to Me according to your word.” (Lk. 1, 38). It was a sacrifice to serve the Lord, to be His Mother. It was an enormous cross… And She was not ashamed of the word of the Lord.”
“But in accepting this cross of sacrifice, the Mother of God also accepted the approaching Cross of Victory of Her Son.”
At the end of the service the priest came out to the middle of the church to sing a glorification to the feast and to venerate the cross.
Following the Liturgy parishioners enjoyed coffee and refreshments.
On March 31, on the Second Sunday of Lent we had a celebration at St. George Church. Priest Igor Tarasov, our Rector served the Divine Liturgy.
During his sermon which followed after the Gospel lesson Fr. Igor preached about sin. He pointed out that in today’s Gospel story our Lord Jesus Christ, before He healed the paralytic, forgave him his sins. It is important to obtain forgiveness of sins.
Fr. Igor said that contemporary world almost lost a concept of sin. “These days, few people think of their personal actions or of their intentions in terms of righteousness or wickedness. Even among us, the Christian believers, the notion of sin is not fully understood. We all like to think of ourselves as the “sinners”, but not in the sense of our unworthiness in the eyes of God, but in the sense that we are not “holy”. And if we are not holy, then we cannot, and do not have to be righteous.”
“Our Christian morality is revealed to us in love. God is Love … A person abiding in God for the sake of love, bears the yoke of the moral law, the law that is born out of love, exists because of love and leads to the realm of love.”
“Therefore, the sin against the Christian moral law is not a formal violation of the supreme will, but a sin against love.That is why, in the words of the prayer before Communion, to sin means to grieve the Holy Spirit.”
“A loving son, not fulfilling the will of his father, is not so much afraid of the failure to fulfill the father’s will, but he fears that he had sinned against the union of love, that he introduced a dishonesty, a lie into this union of love between the father and his son. Adam, when he sinned, first of all, has disappeared from the face of God, because he defiled the bonds of love and was ashamed to appear before the eyes of the Divine Truth.”
The same attitude may be seen in some modern Christians who are so naïve to hope to combine the service of God and to their own whims. They often think that “the Lord is good … He will forgive everything, He will cover everything. I killed nobody, I robbed nobody, and all the rest are just small sins… “
“Remember, dear brothers and sisters: God is a jealous God … He often overwhelms you, often throws you between a rock and a hard place to test the power of your love. But He will never open Himself to you if you are indifferent and if you will serve Him with a cold heart and a cold soul. He won’t show His Countenance to you if you will be looking for the ways to serve Him in a way most convenient and profitable for you.”
“Beware of the sin … Know that the sin is, above all, a desecration of your heart’s sanctuary, the expulsion of God from the human soul.” – said Fr. Igor.
Following the Liturgy parishioners enjoyed our common coffee and refreshments.
On March 24, on the First Sunday of Lent the Church celebrates Triumph of Orthodoxy. We had a solemn celebration on that day at St. George Church. The Rector, priest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. A substantial number of parishioners received the Sacrament of Penance before the Liturgy started.
After the reading of the Gospel Fr. Igor preached a homily. He explained that Orthodoxy means a right or correct teaching. Every teaching can be altered,thus people need a correct interpretation. For the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ such correct interpretation is Orthodoxy. Basic truth of the Orthodox faith is that God became Man, the truth of Incarnation.And because He took upon Himself our flesh, we can image Him. This teaching was defined by the VII Ecumenical Council.
“Because Jesus being God is also Man, we can picture Him in a human form. Those pictures are the holy icons. We can see God through them.”
“Philip told Nathanael, “Come and see” (Jn. 1, 46): Nathanael was wondering how can “anything good come out of Nazareth” (Jn. 1, 46). In the same way some people can be asking, “Can we worship God who is Man”? Or, “how can we picture God who is invisible?”
These are the questions coming either from those who honestly wish to believe (like Nathanael who was an Israelite with no deceit) or from those who believe incorrectly (like heretics).”
“We Orthodox can answer to both, “Come and see”. Let them come to the Orthodox church and see the holy icons. Let them see our faith in all its beauty. Let them see our services and the people praying the true God incarnate.”
“God did come in an accessible and even human form. The Old Testament Trinity: the 3 men (3 Angels) appearing to Abraham. It is one of our most beautiful icons written by Venerable Andrey Rublev. If God did so to Abraham, why we should not image Him in Jesus Who was a true human being?
Despite the doubts of man (including the doubts of Nathanael) there is a true teaching of Christ saying that God became Man and we venerate His image. We venerate not wood and paint but the One pictured on and by them. And doing so, keeping this Orthodox faith we may see in the future the divine glory, “heaven open, and the Angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (Jn. 1, 51).” – preached Fr. Igor.