On November 24, on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost we had the Divine Liturgy celebrated in our church. It was served by St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.
Following the Scripture readings Fr. Igor preached a homily:
“On the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost we hear a continuation of the same theme in the Epistle reading as we heard last Sunday. It is about Old Testament rules being abandoned by the followers of the New Testament. Last week we reflected on the words of St. Paul saying that no one can be justified by the works of the Law of Moses, but through faith in Christ. In today’s Epistle lesson St. Paul says, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Gal. 6, 15). It does not matter whether we follow the Old Testament rules. What matters is whether we are the new creation, new people in Jesus Christ.”
“Thinking of our own life experiences we see that many of us wish to correct our past mistakes. We often wish to change our wrong choices we made in our lives. We would be happy to get a “fresh start”, to have a new beginning, “to start from scratch.” “If only I could begin all over again!” This has been our plea since Adam. Jesus, the Son of God came to us to answer to this plea. He came to give each one of us a fresh start. And He does not require any more to bear a sign of our allegiance to Him on our flesh, as He required the people of the Old Testament. They circumcised their baby boys to show their covenant with God. In Christ this is no longer required. But there are other more important conditions to meet, in order to become that new creation St. Paul speaks of in today’s Epistle.”
“First of all, we have to be born in Christ. Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3, 3-5). This new birth is given to us in Baptism. The line of heredity was transferred from the old Adam line to the new Christ line. Life found a new origin, a new beginning. We received the Holy Spirit. Our bodies became temples of God. The blood of Jesus now flows in us through Holy Communion. We became the new creation.”
“But this new birth in Christ must be followed by a personal acceptance of Christ as our Lord and Savior. Many of us were baptized at the early age. But even those who received that Sacrament later in their lives, may lose some freshness of its grace. Thus, after the new birth should come this personal acceptance, personal commitment to Him as God. This is followed by repentance for our sins and a complete forsaking of the old life. It is called conversion. But even repentance itself is called the ‘second Baptism’. We are born again and again in a true repentance, in a sincere and honest confession.”
“A man when he is born is only a man. But a man when he is reborn in Christ is more. He is a new man with a new life and a new name. He is even named after Christ: ‘Christian’. This new person’s task is to put Christ on, to receive the Holy Spirit through prayer and the Sacraments, so we may conduct that new life in union with Christ and in communion with the Holy Spirit. And that can be done only if we are the members of the Christian community. We cannot be in that alone. “We may be damned alone but we are saved together”, said Alexei Khomiakov, a famous Russian religious philosopher. We are saved in a community which is called the Church of Christ. We Orthodox believe that to be saved it is necessary for every human creature to find fellowship in the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ, the Ark of salvation. The Church creates a new man and keeps him alive.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us truly “commit ourselves and each other and our all lives to Christ, our God,” as we pray every Divine Liturgy. Let us receive a new spiritual birth a renewal in the holy Mystery of Penance, to refresh our baptismal grace and ability to be the new people in Christ. Let us participate in the spiritual life of the Christian community, of the Church. Let us be together in this Ark of salvation, a saving Sheepfold. Then we will be able to become this new people of God, a new creation which will be worthy of seeing the Kingdom of God and entering into eternal blessedness!”
Upon the Liturgy dismissal Fr. Igor reminded parishioners that next week, on November 28 the Church enters into the Nativity fast, a period of spiritual preparation to the great feast of the Birth of Christ. This year the first day of the fast falls on the Thanksgiving Day. Therefore, the Rector urged the people of faith to be wise and prudent during that time and try not to break the fast. As one of the ways to avoid this Fr. Igor mentioned a possibility eating turkey earlier in the week.
After the service the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.