On August 28, on the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God our Parish family had a solemn celebration. The Divine Liturgy was served by St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.
After the reading from the Gospel Fr. Igor preached a homily about celebrated holy day. He said, “Today we celebrate the most important feast in honor of the Most Holy Mother of God, Her Dormition. This is the day when our Lady fell asleep and ended Her earthly life. She was taken up to heavenly glory along with Her soul and body. Holy Scripture does not tell us about the last days of the Most Holy Mother of God. In fact, it does not tell about Her much at all. This is why the Protestant churches which do not recognize any other sources of Revelation except the Bible, do not honor Theotokos at all. But we, Orthodox Christians, acknowledge two sources of God’s Revelation, Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. While the Scripture does not tell us about today’s feast, it is very much described in the writings of the holy Fathers of the Church, it is very much mentioned in the Holy Tradition. Thus, let us recall what the Tradition tells us about it.”
“According to the ancient Christian tradition, the Most Holy Mother of God lived in the household of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian to whom our Lord Jesus Christ entrusted His Blessed Mother when He was dying on the cross. St. John and the Blessed Mother lived in several places, but later She came back to Jerusalem, to finish Her earthly life at the holy place of Passion and death of Her divine Son. The Most Holy Mother of God attended the place of the Lord’s Tomb where She prayed. One day holy Archangel Gabriel appeared to Her at the Lord’s Tomb and announced that shortly She is going pass away. The Blessed Mother prepared for that day. Now a great miracle happened: all holy Apostles were taken by invisible angelic force and arrived in Jerusalem around the bed of the Blessed Mother to farewell Her. She fell asleep at the third hour which is in the morning. After that holy Apostles buried Her conducting the funeral rites. The burial procession went through the city of Jerusalem. Some Jewish people hostile to the Christians attempted to attack the Apostles but the procession was miraculously enveloped with the cloud, so they could not see and find it. All they did is to hear the chants of the funeral prayers and hymns sung by the Apostles. One of the Jewish priests named Apphonias reached the procession and tried to overthrow the coffin with the holy body of the Theotokos. But the angel invisibly cut his hands off. Apphonias repented, was healed and followed the procession becoming a zealous follower of Christ.”
“After the body of the Most Holy Mother of God was buried, She appeared to the Apostles when they came back to the house to eat together. The Holy Mother said to them: “I will always stay with you!” On the eighth day after the Falling Asleep of the Most Pure Virgin holy Apostle Thomas arrived in Jerusalem. He desired to venerate the holy body of the Most Holy Mother of God. When the Apostles opened Her tomb to let St. Thomas to venerate the relics, they discovered that it was empty. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not allow His Mother’s body to stay in the tomb but took it to the heavenly glory.”
Concluding his sermon Fr. Igor said, “Thus in the Most Holy Mother of God the statutes of nature are being overcome, She did not die, She fell asleep to be in the Kingdom of Her Son. Death is conquered again. As the Son of God and Son of Mary conquered death by His own death in His holy Resurrection, so He conquered death in His Mother’s Dormition. Death is a result of sin. Thus, let us fight the sin to acquire life. It is hard, but if we do fight the sin God is coming to help. He will make miracles for us. In today’s feast we hear about a number of unbelievable miracles. We may even say that the whole story is so unbelievable. But even in our own life God can perform wonderful and incredible things to make us alive in His heavenly Kingdom. Let us strive for it with the help of the Most Holy Mother of God who is saving our souls from death.”
After the Liturgy the Rector congratulated parishioners on the occasion of the great holy day of the Blessed Mother. He reminded that we finished Dormition fast and now are able to enjoy the celebration. However, we should not get too relaxed but continue our spiritual efforts directed towards our salvation.
On August 19, on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, we had a solemn celebration in our church. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Gospel he preached a homily about the holy day event. Fr. Igor said,
“Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord is one of the very important among the holy days. Today we celebrate a miraculous change which was manifested by our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples on the Mount Tabor. Taking Peter, James and John to that high mountain, He transfigured before them. As the Gospel states, “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Mt. 17, 2). Before that they knew Jesus to be a great Teacher, a wonderworker, the Messiah promised by the Old Testament. But they did not fully realize that He was the Son of God and God Himself. At the Mount Tabor Jesus revealed who He really was. Thus the Apostles could see the glory of the true God, the light shining from the divine nature.”
“No one ever saw God. God’s essence and nature is incomprehensible to our limited mind. However, God revealed Himself and showed some part of His nature to certain holy people. In the times before Christ, God appeared to Moses and Elijah. Holy Prophet Moses could see God. God appeared to Moses as the burning bush or a cloud. But God also showed Moses Himself in a special, mystical way, as the Scripture tells “from behind”, because a man cannot see God and live. Holy Prophet Elijah was also blessed by seeing God who revealed Himself in a breath of the calm wind. These were the men of the Old Testament whom God blessed with His appearance. And it was not accidental that those two holy men appeared on the Mount Tabor to converse with Jesus when He transfigured before His disciples. Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament which were fulfilled in Jesus.”
“With the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ into the world, God revealed Himself in a very comprehensible and accessible way. He became man, so we could see God in our form. And Transfiguration of our Lord had to teach His disciples of the mystery of the union of human and divine natures in Christ.”
“There are many different ideas about God. Some philosophers or other intelligent people may imagine God to be some universal force or some worldly order. But such God is not personal. We believe that God is a Person, the one to whom we can refer, with whom we can speak. And in Jesus Christ who became one of us, a partaker of the human nature, we find such personal God much easier. Also, through His taking up the human nature and interweaving it with His divine nature, we may become the partakers of the divinity. As we all created in the image of God, through Christ we may acquire the likeness of God.”
“This is what is called by the Fathers the process of deification or theosis. Human nature becoming divine. This teaching was elaborated by the Holy Fathers of the III and IV centuries, especially by St. Athanasius of Alexandria. Interestingly that this teaching is not very much remembered or used by Protestants and Roman Catholics, by Western Christians. It is known that today’s Western world likes to talk about the dignity of man and to extol humanity. But this is a secular way of praising the human nature, the so-called humanism. It desires to serve man and to forget about God. It strives to praise human nature with all its weaknesses and passions, a nature corrupted by sin. Our Eastern Orthodox Church adheres to the teaching of the Fathers which extols human nature in a Christian way. We say that man is called to become like God not by being proud and sinful, but through the pious life, through the partaking of divine nature, through the acquiring of divine grace in our Lord Jesus Christ. What could be more honorable for a man than an idea of becoming like God? But that way of deification is the way of piety, spiritual and sacramental life in our Lord Jesus Christ, life in which we hear the beloved Son of the Father. It is the way of Transfiguration, a movement from below to above.”
At the end of the Liturgy Fr. Igor, according to the Church pious tradition, blessed the fruits brought to the temple by parishioners.
On August 4, on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost we had a service in our temple celebrated by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.
Following the readings from the Scripture Fr. Igor preached a homily. He pointed out that today’s Gospel lesson is telling about healing of a paralyzed man. But before making that man well our Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed that the sins of that man are forgiven.
Fr. Igor continued, “This reading teaches us that our illnesses are caused by sin. Mainly, of course, our infirmities are not because of our personal sins, but rather the effects of the sinful state, a sin that is all around us in the world and to which we are subject.”
“Medical science tells us that many illnesses are the result of bacteria attacking a weakness in our bodies. Such a weakness may be inherited, or perhaps that weakness comes in old age when our bodies began to fail as they wear out. In both cases we may see that illness is caused by a corrupted state of humanity where a spiritual failure causes physical imperfection.”
“On the other hand, a sickness may be the result of overeating or an unhealthy diet. Then again it is a result of sin called gluttony. It may be the result of using of alcohol or drugs. Then it is a sin of drunkenness or debauchery. Some of us get sick because of a lack of physical activity. Then it may be a sin of laziness. Finally, our illness such may also be the result of a state of mind. Then various sins of our mind, sins of thought and heart make us unhealthy. This is why today’s Gospel does not tell us about any particular cause of the man’s illness. But it shows that he was paralyzed not because of bacteria, old age, unhealthy diet or poor mental state, but because his sins were not forgiven.”
“Our body and our soul are very much connected. They both compose a human person. This is why we should always remember to take care of ourselves, to love ourselves. That means to love our souls and our bodies. If our souls are healthy, not burdened by unforgiven sins, our bodies would be much healthier. And on the opposite, if we live in sins and vices, we should not expect our bodies to be well.”
“Today the Orthodox Church honors the holy memory of St. Mary Magdalene – the woman, called by the Lord Himself from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Tradition tells us that she was immersed in sin. Scripture mentions that Jesus expelled seven devils from her (Mk. 16, 9). Those devils could be understood as seven deadly sins or vices. After that Mary Magdalene received healing. And she sincerely began a new life and never turned away from the path. She followed Jesus along with His Apostles and served Him. She was faithful to the Lord not only when He surrounded by enthusiastic crowds passed through the cities, winning for Himself the glory of a miracle-worker. She was with Him also when He, humiliated and crucified, hung in torment upon the Cross. This is why the Lord, knowing her faithfulness, appeared to her first, and considered her worthy to be first proclaiming His Resurrection. She announced the news of Christ Resurrection to the Apostles. And later she was proclaiming the Gospel in the world, preached Christian faith to the people, especially in Italy and in Rome. This is why Mary M. deserved to be honored as a Saint Equal to the Apostles.”
Fr. Igor concluded his sermon saying, “Having an example of St. Mary Magdalene and coming to an understanding that our bodily weaknesses are the result of our sin, let us ask the Lord’s help. Let us ask Him to forgive our sins in the holy Mystery of Confession. Let us use that great medicine, that healing Sacrament. Let us also fight our sins and bad habits to be freed from possible sicknesses of the body which may be caused by our wrong behavior. And let us then follow our Lord Jesus Christ to His eternal glory.”
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector reminded everybody that there was a special collection for the church maintenance fund was taken. He asked the people to be generous supporting the church, especially due to a need to repair the fence and the gate on the parish property.
Following the service Fr. Igor and parishioners enjoyed refreshments at our coffee hour.