Sunday after the Exaltation


On September 29th, on the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Cross, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated Divine Liturgy at St. George Church. Following the reading from the Gospel he preached a homily:
“On the Sunday after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross we again are given a special set of readings from the Scripture. Today’s Epistle is telling us again about the meaning of being crucified with Christ. St. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ…” (Gal. 2, 20).  It does not mean that St. Paul became physically crucified on the cross as Jesus. It means that his sinful passions and desires have been crucified. It is a crucifixion of his flesh, of the fallen and corrupt nature. It is a life in faith, not in flesh. And as St. Paul teaches, the result of such a crucifixion is that Christ lives in us.”
St. Paul utters, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2, 20). If we live by faith in Jesus Christ, it is no longer we live under the dominion of sinful passions, but under the power of Christ. The grace of God is penetrating our nature, thus Jesus Christ lives in us.

There is a story about a monk who knocked on the door of heaven seeking entrance. A voice asked, “Who are you?” The monk replied, “It is I”. The door did not open. After many years he tried again. As he knocked, the same voice asked again, “Who are you?” “It is I”, answered the monk. The door remained closed. Finally, he came back after many years. The monk became older and wiser as a Christian. When the same voice asked him, “Who are you?” the monk replied, “You in me”. And the voice said, “Come in”.
“If we ask who is a good Christian, we may have many answers. We may say that it is a person who is baptized, who believes in Jesus Christ, who goes to the church, who receives the Sacraments, and so on. This is true. However, these answers are not complete because they do not say the most important thing about a Christian: he is one in whom Christ lives. “You in me!” “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me”. Our Lord expresses this when He said to His disciples, “I am the true Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15, 5).

“These words of Christ telling that without Him we cannot do anything, remind us that our Christian religion is not just doing the works of a certain religious law. St. Paul warns the Galatians in today’s Epistle that “a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ “(Gal. 2, 16). Our works according to the law of God cannot save us if we do it without a living faith in Christ, without Jesus living within us. On the other hand, our faith alone also cannot save us if we do not live according to that faith. The Jews thought they can be justified only by living by the law of Moses, and the Protestants tend to think that they can be saved only by confessing faith in Jesus Christ. They both are mistaken. We can be saved by faith and by the works according to our faith. If Christ lives in us, we have faith and we deal according to it.”
“People living in Christ are shining by His light. They look like a home, a palace which becomes illuminated when its master is hosting a royal family. If only a few people are home, just a small light filters through the windows. When friends come, many lamps are lit and the palace becomes beautiful. But when the royal family is visiting, the entire palace becomes illuminated. Some people may be described in that way. They have a shining personality, so seeing them you can say that they entertain a Royal Guest”

“We should say that we are no palaces, but temples of the living God. When the Royal Guest is present within, He gives us joy, peace, love and light to our lives. Especially it happens when we worthily receive this Guest in the holy Communion. For He said, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (Jn. 6, 56). But that reception has to be proper and worthy, otherwise Christ will come but will not stay. Let us try to live a Christian life, to crucify our flesh with its sinful passions and desires and to abide in Christ, so we may also be able to say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”!”
Following the Liturgy Rector and parishioners venerated the Precious Cross.

After the service we had our coffee hour with delicious refreshments.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross


On September 27th, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, we had a solemn celebration at our temple. Before the Hours St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov placed the cross in the middle of the church and venerated it.

At the Divine Liturgy, after the Gospel lesson Fr. Igor preached a homily about the feast of the Cross:
“Today we heard the Gospel lesson about the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. Even though the Evangelists do not tell us all the cruel and violent details of that execution, we can imagine how terrible it was. God died in horrible pain for us, the sinners. He was left alone, rejected by His own chosen people, betrayed by His disciple, abandoned by His followers. Only a few people like His Blessed Mother, some myrrh-bearing women and His close disciple, Apostle John, remained faithful and were present under the Cross. Jesus accomplished our salvation through these holy Passions.

“If we think of those holy Passions and death on the Cross, we may see that it was terrible, but also glorious. As St. Nikolai of Serbia says, “It was the end, but at the same time it was the beginning : the suffering of the God-man and the beginning of His glory, the end of the self-deception of the Jews and the beginning of the unique thing in human history – the miracle that called the Church of Christ, which became the mother of Christian civilization on several continents inhabited by barbarians . When a person reads a description of the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, he may have two feelings : the sense of horror from the madness and cruelty of some people and the feeling of delight from an elevated thoughts and love of Christ”.”
“That horror of the Cross, of the idea that God Himself died on the Cross, would be impossible to endure, if it did not give a delight. It is an interesting contradiction. Let us say that your brother did something bad to you. You may be offended and hate your brother. But if you look at that remembering that it is your brother, then you can endure the insult, you can stand it.”
“A certain man planted a garden of fruit trees, but the wildings, bad fruits grew . He came to prune and to take care of the trees, but the prickly branches wounded his hands and scratched his face. The gardener became angry , but in his anger he did not take an ax to uproot the trees , but suffered all , because he knew that it was his garden. So was the Son of God Who endured all the torments caused to Him by the people , always bearing in mind that mankind – this is His garden, His creation , and He is called not to cut down wild planting, but to make them noble, even at the cost of His own blood.”

“The love of Christ represented by His Cross surpasses everything. This is why when we also suffer or have any trouble time, let us recall the Cross of Christ. Let us imagine ourselves under the Cross, along with the Most Holy Mother of God, the myrrh-bearers and with St. John. Let us come to the Cross where Jesus is ready to embrace us. Let us come into His embrace.”
“Let us remember that the Cross, as we sing today, will protect the people of God, will give us an unconquerable victory over all our tribulations, pains and sufferings. Let us come to venerate the Cross today and let us extol it in our hearts, in our lives to endure with Christ and to vouchsafe to be the partakers of His glorious Resurrection.”

Following the end of the Liturgy the Rector and parishioners venerated the Cross.

Sunday before the Exaltation

On September 22, on Sunday before the Exaltation of the Cross, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. George Church. After the readings from the Sacred Scripture our Rector preached a sermon interpreting today’s Epistle lesson.
Fr. Igor said, “On a Sunday preceding the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross we are given a separate set of readings from the Sacred Scripture. The Church does so to make us aware of the special meaning of the Cross of Christ. Today’s Epistle lesson from the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians concerns with the issue the first Christians had, the issue whether they should keep the Jewish customs and retain circumcision or not. St. Paul says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Gal. 6, 15). It does not really matter whether we are circumcised or not, but we have to be the new people in Jesus Christ.
“St. Paul is teaching that it is not something external on our bodies that distinguishes us as Christians. It is something internal, spiritual. Through Christ, through Baptism, through repentance and the Holy Spirit we have become new people, a new creation. Jesus Himself said, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21, 5). In Christ we are a new creation. He established the New Testament, thus the followers of that New Covenant have to be the new people, people who put off the old Adam and put on the new. “Put off… the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts… and put on the new man which was created according to God”, says St. Paul in another Epistle (Eph. 4, 22-24). Thus, we have to be a new creation.

“Unfortunately the task of becoming the new people in Christ is still very difficult. Sometimes we do not see a difference between believers and unbelievers, between Christians and non-Christians… If we look at the human history, we see that man’s external environment has changed very much, especially recently, with the great achievements in science and technology. However, human nature did not change. Some wise man said, “Man has exalted change in everything but himself”. Man can change his appearance and the way he lives, but the most important change he does not make, a change inside of his soul. Unless man changes inside, unless he is born again, all the changes in science, technology or in our environment will be of no avail.”
“A wise man of the Old Testament said, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1, 9). At that time, centuries before Christ he could not see anything new. But today we know that the only new thing under the sun is the life in Christ. We know how unstable Simon became Peter, the Rock, greatest Apostle of Christ. We know how Saul, one of the worst enemies of Christ became Paul, the Apostle of nations, the author of the Epistles we now discuss. They became totally new creation in Christ!”

“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us really build our lives the way we may be seen as the new people, people distinguished from the unbelievers. Let us be that new creation. Not circumcision or other external sign should distinguish us, but the sign of the Cross. And not just a visible sign, a cross we make or a cross we wear on our chests. Let us imitate the Lord crucified in our way of life, so we may say as St. Paul said in today’s Epistle lesson, “I bear in my body the marks of Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6, 17). For Paul these were the real marks. He was suffering for Christ and could have visible marks of those sufferings. But he also had spiritual marks of the Holy Cross of Christ, because he crucified his flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5, 24). By Christ the world has been crucified to Paul, and Paul was crucified to the world. (Gal. 6, 14). If we also crucify our flesh, our passions and sinful desires, then we may become the new people in Christ.  If we also make the world crucified to us and become crucified to the world, we may bear the marks of Lord Jesus crucified. These marks won’t be seen, but they will be in our hearts. These marks won’t be external, but internal. They would make us the true members of the Body of Christ, where “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Gal. 6, 15).

Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God


On September 21 the Church celebrates feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God. On that day we had a festal service at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy. Following the reading from the Gospel Fr. Igor preached a homily.

The Rector expressed his regret that not too many parishioners came today to honor the Blessed Mother on the occasion of Her Birthday. We usually remember the birthdays of our loved ones and friends, we try to greet them and attend their birthday parties. However, sometimes we forget about our Blessed Mother’s day of birth.
Further Fr. Igor in his sermon shared the following thoughts: “Today the Church describes this feast by such a beautiful expression, “The barrenness of our nature has been loosed”. It says so because the whole human nature was spiritually barren, not able to give any good fruits. After the sin of Adam and Eve all men were deprived of spiritual fruitfulness. Only our Lord Jesus Christ could loose that barrenness and lift up the curse. In Christ our nature became fruitful again. But Jesus Christ had to be born of the Blessed Mother. Her Birth we celebrate today. This is why we sing these beautiful words about Her Nativity.”

“Now, in Christ all of us have to be spiritually fruitful, to bear a fruit of spiritual life. There is no requirement for all of us to be married and have children. But in any moment of our lives we have to be spiritually sane and active and bear spiritual fruit. We have to listen to the voice of Christ and follow Him. If we do so, then the fruits of our behavior, of our lifestyle will be appropriate.”
“Honoring the Most Holy Mother of God we should also honor Her holy parents, Joachim and Anna. They are examples to all parents, teaching us how to bring up children in piety. St. Joachim and Anna worked together with the Holy Spirit, with spiritual truth. This was the beginning of their joy. If we can do the same, it will be the beginning of our joy too. We too can free ourselves of the barrenness of our nature, if we stop thinking about our material well-being and start thinking about our spiritual well-being. Then we too will give birth to spiritual fruit like holy grandparents of God Joachim and Anna.”

“During Christmas time when we celebrate the Nativity of Christ, we say “God with us”. Today, on the birthday of the Theotokos, we may say, “Holy Mother of God is with us”. She may help us to follow Her Son and intercede for us before Him. Holy Mother is now with us. Let us rejoice!”

12th Sunday after Pentecost


On September 15, on the 12th Sunday after Pentecost we had a usual celebration of the Divine Liturgy. It was served by St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.
After the Scripture readings Fr. Igor preached a homily explaining the Epistle reading. He said that every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, a ‘little Pascha’. And today’s Epistle reading reminds us of the Resurrection of the Lord.
Fr. Igor continued saying, “During Paschal season we greet each other by the joyful words, “Christ is risen!” But how can we believe it is true; how can we admit that Christ is truly risen? St. Paul calls the witnesses. This is his method to convince the Corinthians. He refers to five appearances of Jesus after His Resurrection: to Peter, to the twelve Apostles, to over of 500 brethren, to James and all the Apostles and then to himself. St. Paul considers Christ’s appearance to him on the road to Damascus an appearance of the same kind as all other appearances of the risen Christ to His Disciples, even though it happened 6 years after these appearances. 6 years passed after Christ Resurrection and His Ascension into heaven. Yet St. Paul places his special experience of meeting Christ on the Damascus Road in the same row as the appearances of the risen Lord. He does so because for him it was a real Resurrection experience. That appearance changed the history of many nations. It transformed a fanatical persecutor into Christ’s greatest friend; it gave Christianity a great teacher; it gave the New Testament its chief author; it granted many people, especially Gentiles, their first preacher of the Gospel, their true Apostle.”

“St. Paul says, “Last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15, 8). Paul did not belong to the original group of Disciples. He came after them. Thus he says that he is “the least of the Apostles… not worthy to be called an Apostle” because he “persecuted the Church of God” (1 Cor. 15, 9). He called himself the chief of the sinners. Yet he admitted that Christ had chosen to reveal Himself to him. He felt it was not due to his merits, but an act of pure grace and mercy on the part of God. He writes, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15, 10).
“The early Church decreed that no one could be called an Apostle if he had not personally seen the risen Jesus. St. Paul always insisted that he had this essential qualification to testify from personal knowledge of Jesus. He utters, “Am I not an Apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” (1 Cor. 9, 1). How could he see Jesus Christ if he was not among the Apostles at the time when Jesus was on earth? Only by his very special, intimate and real experience of meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus. Finally, Jesus did appear to Paul, appeared last of all, as to “one born out of due time”.”

“Let us remember that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. If He came then, He comes now. Jesus comes to us now in our sense of sinfulness to forgive us, in our grief to comfort us, in our doubts to give us hope, in our fear to uphold us. He is not just a great Teacher and a beautiful example. He is the Son of God, the risen Lord, the Conqueror of death. He appears to us Christians and may appear to unbelievers to make them believers. And let us remember that when Christ does appear to the people, He does it as a pure grace. We can never deserve His attention. We are not worthy of His appearance. However, out of His love for mankind and His rich mercy He blesses us with His coming. This is a gift of God. It is priceless, but we receive it free of charge. This is important to know: the divine grace is not given for certain good deeds or merits, but freely. It is a special gift to the sinful and unworthy men. But it is able to make those sinful men holy and the unworthy crowned with dignity. It saves our souls and gives eternal life.”
“The grace of God may be bestowed any time. Some get it early, some later. This is why even a great sinner can repent and change his life. St. Paul did so. The grace may be bestowed “last of all” as happened to St. Paul.

Fr. Igor concluded his homily saying, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, like St. Paul, let us be humble, but let us also be sure that the risen Lord may bestow His grace upon us and come to us to bless and grant us eternal salvation.”
Following the Liturgy Fr. Igor held a Memorial service (Litia) requested by Kay family for the repose of their grandmother Sophia.

After our services parishioners and the Rector enjoyed delicious meals at our coffee hour.

10th Sunday after Pentecost


On September 1, on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost we had a usual celebration in our church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.
After the Scripture readings Fr. Igor preached a sermon interpreting the Epistle lesson. He pointed out that in the assigned reading St. Paul is telling the Christians of Corinth that they differ from the Apostles by their way of life. He exclaims, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ!” (1 Cor. 4, 10). If we tried to understand these words literally, we could think that St. Paul gives an option to be fools in Christ or to be wise in Christ. However, it is easy to understand that he is sarcastic.
Fr. Igor continued saying, “Corinthian Christians who were relatively new community founded by St. Paul himself, became relaxed and attempted to combine Christian faith with some luxury of secular life. They tried to be Christians and preserve some worldly attitude. This is why St. Paul uses irony and sarcasm. He hopes that it could be a good medicine to cure spiritual weaknesses of his followers in Corinth. He says, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, and you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!” (1 Cor. 4, 10). And he goes on telling that the Apostles, including himself, hunger and thirst, are poorly clothed, are beaten and homeless. They labor, working with their own hands. They are persecuted and reviled (1 Cor. 4, 11-12). At the same time Christians of Corinth are not suffering these misfortunes, but think that they are still good followers of Christ. This why the Apostle does not condemn them directly but teaches that they are wrong. You cannot be a good Christian and not suffer for Christ. You cannot serve two masters, as the Lord Himself said (Mt. 6, 24).”

“Nowadays many Christians and even Christian communities believe that they can adopt their Christianity to modern life, to the demands of the secular world. They think that they can combine Christian faith with the worldly existence. They abbreviate church services, make their temples comfortable, allow the people to indulge themselves. Some of them now agree to bless same-sex marriages or pray for the pet animals. In one of such ‘churches’ a couple of years ago a minister gave Communion to a dog. They probably think that they are ‘wise in Christ’ for they wish to be ‘popular’, ‘close to the people’, to attract today’s people. Thus they may think that they are strong and distinguished. And we, Orthodox Christians who do not wish to do such things, are viewed as ‘fools’, as ‘weak’. Well, the same way the Apostles were viewed.”
“But even among us, Orthodox, sometimes there is a spirit of the early Corinthian church. We have a temptation to combine our Christianity with the secular values. This is why we have different problems in our parishes. Something resembling the situation of St. Paul and other Apostles may be seen in our Church life in this country. Many our priests are not supported by their parishes, but have to labor, work with their own hands or other talents. On their time off they take care of the parishes, come to serve the Liturgy. But some parishioners have their requirements they set for the clergy. Similar situation as described today by St. Paul.”
“However, St. Paul uses these words of irony, as he himself says, “not to shame” but “to warn” his disciples in Corinth. The Corinthian Christians were his spiritual children. As in the family, so in the Church, children need parental guidance. Same in our Orthodox communities, in our parishes, people need guidance from the clergy. Since St. Paul founded the community in Corinth, he is the father of the Corinthian Christians. As such he finishes today’s Epistle lesson with the words, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me” (1 Cor. 4, 16). This would mean that Corinthians should imitate the Apostles, become fools in Christ, become persecuted and endure sufferings for Christ’s sake. They should abandon their way of life and follow the example of St. Paul and other Apostles.
Fr. Igor finished his homily saying, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us imitate St. Paul and other holy Apostles who imitated our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us not fool ourselves that we may be good Christians and serve the world, combine our faith with secular values. Let us remember who our fathers are and be their followers.”

After the Liturgy the Rector celebrated a short memorial service (Litia) for the repose of our long-time parishioner Vladimir (Walter) Soho and Fr. Igor’s grandmother Catherine (Kateryna) Tarasova.
Following our services we enjoyed coffee and refreshments kindly prepared by our ladies.