Sunday after Theophany


On January 26, on the Sunday after Theophany we had a liturgical celebration in our temple. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.

Following the readings from the Scripture the Rector preached a homily:
“The Epistle lesson we heard today is again reminding us about the grace of God. We reflected upon that on the feast of the Theophany referring to the Communion hymn of the feast: “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” which is taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to Titus read on that holy day (Tit. 2, 11). So, today we have an opportunity to reflect more about the divine grace.”
“St. Paul says that “to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4, 7). Grace is a gift bestowed upon us from the abundant riches of our Lord. But St. Paul says that Jesus Christ acquired those riches through His endeavors. He became man, He condescended to our nature, He suffered for our sake, He died for us on the cross. For these heroic labors Jesus was awarded the riches of God’s graces and Himself, being God, can bestow those gifts upon men. To describe that St. Paul in today’s Epistle recalls the words of the David’s Psalm: “When He ascended on high, He led captive, and gave gifts to men” (Ps. 67, 18; Eph. 4, 8). And then St. Paul explains that “He ascended” means that Jesus first descended into our world. In addition, after His death, He descended into the tomb and to Hades. Because of that that Jesus conquered death by death. By His death He could raise from the dead and by His descending He could ascend into heaven. Thus, through the endeavors of Jesus we may be given His abundant grace.”

“Our Lord ascended into heaven and then sent the Holy Spirit upon His followers. The Holy Spirit could also descend into our world, but only after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. The Holy Spirit is the Source of the divine grace, He is the Treasury of good things and Giver of life, as we call Him in our prayers. He gives different gifts to the members of the Church. St. Paul in today’s Epistle reading says that the Lord “gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4, 11). The Church needs different talents, different ministries. And unity of the Church does not mean uniformity. This is why the Lord bestows different gifts on different faithful. All these gifts serve to strengthen the Church, to build the Body of Christ on earth. The grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit make the Church alive and powerful. As St. Paul says it serves “for the equipping of the Saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ” (Eph. 4, 12).”
“Here we should add that those gifts of the Holy Spirit are especially expected to be given through the grace received in the holy Sacrament of Chrismation. These days when we celebrate Baptism of the Lord, we recall our own Baptism, the Sacrament which is necessary for salvation. But we have already said before that Baptism is only the beginning of personal salvation. The next step in that path is to receive the Mystery of Chrismation, the seal of the Holy Spirit. In our pious tradition this Sacrament is given along with Baptism, as a following part of the same ceremony. Thus a baptized person very soon acquires special and additional grace of the Holy Spirit enabling him or her to become blessed by the rich divine gifts.”

“Holy Baptism and holy Chrismation are the first steps of salvation, the first important events in our Christian life. But we are called not to stop at those steps, not remain satisfied with accomplishing only them. We need to grow in grace, to acquire the further knowledge of God. St. Paul finishes today’s Epistle lesson saying that we need to “come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4, 13). Thus we need to grow and mature in Christ. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”, says St. Peter (2 Pet. 3, 18). Unfortunately, some people do not do that. Some stop at Baptism and Chrismation, some after finishing Sunday school. Some people get baptized and chrismated when they are little children or even older people, and later do not go to the church, do not receive other Mysteries. It is sad, because such people do not grow up spiritually. They stop at the stage of early childhood. They may consider themselves Orthodox and sometimes they are proud about that, but they do not live a true Christian life. Others could go to the church while being children. Their parents brought them to the temple, so they received Communion, participated in the holy services. If a parish had a Sunday school, they attended it and learned about their faith. But when they grew up and became independent, they left the Church. It is very sad. It is a pain of many today’s Orthodox parents. Their children stopped in growing in grace when they finished their young years or Sunday school.”
“This reminds of a situation when a scientist, an astronomer was in a company with a high school student. The student found out that the person is an astronomer and said, “Oh, an astronomer? I finished Astronomy last year”. In the same way many people finished their religion, their Orthodoxy when they finished Sunday school. They stopped at the level of children while St. Paul calls us to grow in faith, to come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4, 13).”

“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us be grateful the Lord for His abundant grace given to us in the Church. Let us appreciate our gifts of Baptism and Chrismation, along with other holy Mysteries in which we acquire the grace. But let us grow and mature in that grace all our life. May the Holy Spirit guide us that we may grow more and more unto a Perfect Man, our Lord Jesus Christ!”

After the Liturgy dismissal Fr. Igor reminded parishioners to make arrangements if they wish him to visit their homes with holy water.

Following the service our Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals at the coffee hour. At that point Hieromonk Zosimas (Krampis), the former parish Rector paid a short visit to our church, and we were happy to welcome him at the table.


Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord


On January 19 the Church celebrates great feast of the Holy Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy followed by the Great Blessing of water in our temple.

After the reading from the Gospel Fr. Igor preached a homily:
“Today we celebrate the great holy day of the Baptism of the Lord, also called the Theophany. At today’s Liturgy we sing the communion hymn which repeats the words of today’s Epistle, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Tit. 2, 11). Theophany means the appearance of God. It occurred when our Lord Jesus Christ came to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. This was the moment when Christ revealed Himself to the universe. But St. Paul says that God has appeared to all men through His grace that brings salvation. The whole mission of our Lord Jesus Christ was to bring salvation to the human kind. This is why He appeared by bringing the way of salvation, by bestowing His saving grace.”
“Celebrating Baptism of the Lord we renew our own baptismal vows which oblige us to be faithful to Christ and to renounce the evil one. Our Baptism was the door which opened to us the saving grace of the Lord. But this was supposed to be just the beginning of our salvation. Now we have to preserve that grace and to obtain it more and more. In today’s Epistle St. Paul clearly says that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Tit. 2, 12).  ‘The present age’ about which St. Paul is saying is the time we live, the time between the two comings of Christ. It happened to be relatively long. More than two thousand years mankind is living in that time, in that ‘present age’. Every year living in that time we commemorate the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God celebrating these winter feasts of the Nativity, of the Circumcision and of the Theophany. Thus we honor and remember the first coming of Christ. It began with His glorious Birth in the Cave of Bethlehem, it continued when the Child was given the name Jesus, the name of the Savior. And it did completely reveal itself when Jesus Christ appeared to the people at the Jordan.”

“The grace of that first coming is still with us. We should live by it. Our life ‘in the present age’ has to be sober, righteous and godly, as St. Paul says (Tit. 2, 12). It means it should be spiritual and just. Striving for what is spiritual and avoiding what is sinful is not very easy. Our corrupted nature makes it very difficult. However, we are not left alone in that. We are no longer on our own. “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared” (Tit. 2, 11). It is available to us. It may help us. What seems to be impossible with men may become possible with God (Lk. 18, 27). With His grace many things are possible, including our salvation.”
“This ‘present age’ is also important as time of the expectation of the second coming of Christ. St. Paul says that we are “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2, 13). If we honor and commemorate the first coming of Christ, His Incarnation, we should remember and expect His second coming. We do it not by celebrating or holding feasts, but by our everyday Christian life, living for Christ and “being His own special people, zealous for good works,” as St. Paul says in today’s reading (Tit. 2, 14).”

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Let us then live in our present time, celebrating and honoring the first appearing of the Lord, His Theophany and expecting His glorious second Coming. Let us live soberly, righteously and godly. The Divine grace that appeared with Christ to all men will definitely help us in that. It will make us His own special people, zealous for good works. It will then save us all!”

After the Prayer behind the Ambo the Rector performed the Great Blessing of water.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers came before the icon stand and performed the rite of glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Theophany. Then Fr. Igor congratulated parishioners on the occasion of the great holy day.

Circumcision of the Lord. Feast of St. Basil the Great


On January 14 the Church celebrates two important holy days: Circumcision of the Lord and memory of St. Basil the Great. In addition, this day used to be civil New Year’s Day in the countries adhering to the old calendar. On this solemn occasion we had a liturgical celebration in St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lessons Fr. Igor preached a sermon. He pointed out that we celebrate two feasts and also have Scripture readings assigned for the Sunday before Theophany because this year such a Sunday is missing. He then continued and said:

“In today’s first Epistle lesson St. Paul tells his disciple Timothy that his life comes to an end. Using a beautiful and poetic language he says, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Tim. 4, 6).”
“Celebrating the beginning of the New Year we may come to think about our life. We may wonder how fast the time flies and reflect upon our life, upon its meaning and purpose. Thinking of that we may recall that many philosophers viewed human life as being empty and meaningless. They could call it “a pilgrimage from nowhere to nowhere”, an “illusion”, a “hollow bubble” and so on. But these were the thinkers who did not really believe in God. In contrast to them, the words of St. Paul in today’s lesson sound very refreshing and inspiring, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4, 7-8). St. Paul viewed his life as a “good fight”, a “race” for which he will be given a reward. To him the meaning of life was found. He realized it when he encountered Christ. After we meet Jesus, we know that the life has a plot. It leads somewhere. It has a purpose. It can result in a peace that passes all understanding. To exist is the part of every person, but life in all its fullness belongs only to those who have been united to Christ. Without Christ life is hopeless end; with Christ it is endless hope.”
“Today’s another Epistle lesson confirms that when we hear St. Paul warning against anyone who could cheat us “through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2, 8). He reminds us that in Jesus Christ “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”, and that we become complete only in Him (Col. 2, 9). Speaking of the rite of circumcision St. Paul assures his listeners that in Christ we receive spiritual circumcision which is holy Baptism. Thus we have no need of bodily circumcision prescribed by the Old Testament law. Our Lord Jesus Christ whose Circumcision we commemorate today, allowed it to happen to His flesh in order to fulfill the Law of Moses and in order to show that He submits Himself to the rules existing among men. But His future followers became freed from such an obligation because they became “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in Baptism” (Col. 2, 11-12). If in the Old Testament circumcision rite only a small piece of flesh was removed, in the circumcision of Christ, in our Baptism, the whole flesh is supposed to be removed in a spiritual way. In Baptism we die to the flesh and live to God.”

“Becoming complete in Christ, we see the purpose of our life. Without Christ nothing in our life seems to have a purpose. Nothing fits. But if Jesus in our life is for real, everything fits, everything has meaning. If we need Christ and wish to live our lives with Him, we see that. And we seek some order to be introduced in our lives. This was very much understood by the Saint whose memory we celebrate today. St. Basil the Great all his life dedicated to the service of the Church, to the writings about God and to the summarizing rules of the Church life. Thanks to his labors we now have a great number of rules and canons which regulate our spiritual behavior and govern our Church discipline. Life had a meaning to St. Basil. And he lived it accordingly. He used the precious gift of time given to him to fulfill his works on earth. This time was short. But it was used abundantly. This is why when the holy hierarch passed from this life, another holy bishop said at his funeral, “Everything was good about you, o Basil; the only thing was bad, too short was time of you being a bishop in Caesarea”.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us seek and find the meaning and purpose of our life in Christ Jesus. In Him we may fight a good fight, we may win a good race and being spiritually circumcised in Him, we may receive the crown of righteousness prepared for those “who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 2, 8).”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers came before the icon stand and performed the rite of glorification singing the troparia and kontakia of both feasts, as well as the magnification of St. Basil. After celebration Fr. Igor congratulated the parishioners on the occasion of the feast.    

Sunday after the Nativity


On January 12, on Sunday after the Nativity, St. George Church’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily. Fr. Igor began his preaching by mentioning that Sunday after Christmas is dedicated to honor some holy people who were close to our Lord Jesus Christ as members of His human family, related to Him by human blood. One of them is St. Joseph the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was the head of the household to which both Child Jesus and His Holy Mother belonged. Joseph was Jesus’ legal father, the head of the Holy Family. Another person whom we commemorate on this Sunday is holy king David, an ancestor of the Most Holy Mother of God. Finally, we honor holy Apostle James, the brother of the Lord who was the Joseph’s son and thus he was a stepbrother of Jesus.

Fr. Igor continued saying:
“The Epistle lesson assigned for today is from the beginning of the Galatians. In this reading St. Paul is defending his apostleship and telling about his way to become an Apostle of Christ. We all remember that St. Paul was not among the twelve Apostles, he was not following Christ during the time of the Lord’s ministry. However, just as the twelve Apostles were directly called by Christ, so was Paul although this happened much later in time. And just as the twelve Disciples received the Gospel directly from Christ, so did Paul. Therefore, in today’s reading he is confirming that the Gospel which was preached by him is not according to man, for, as he says, “I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1, 12).”
“Again we have to remind ourselves that Christianity is a revealed religion. Everything we believe in and adhere to was revealed by God to the certain people. Then these certain people told the others about it. In the Old Testament times God spoke thorough Moses and the Prophets. The Scripture is full of the examples of how God reveals His will to the righteous ones. For instance, today’s Gospel story is telling us how the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and guided him to save the life of the Child Jesus. Although the Gospel is a New Testament Scripture, this story repeats the Old Testament experience of the holy people being guided by God.”

“But things changed. After God took our flesh, He began to speak not only through the Angels but also by Himself. And as St. Paul says, then God “has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb. 1, 2). After His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, the Good News of Jesus Christ was then entrusted to the holy Apostles who preached it to the nations. This Gospel is not man’s invention, but the Word of God. This is why St. Paul warns the Galatians not to accept any false and perverted ‘gospel’. In the beginning of the same chapter the passage of which we heard today, St. Paul says, “Even if we, or an Angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1, 8).”
“In our modern times we still see many false teachers and false preachers who attempt to pervert the true Gospel and to preach us their own invention. For instance, some of the modern thinkers support the idea of surrogate motherhood. They base their opinion on the examples from the Old Testament where some children in the families of the righteous people were born not of their mothers, but of the other women, for instance, of the servants. However, those biblical cases are no examples of surrogate motherhood. In those cases children born of the servant women were never considered being children of the wives. They were recognized by the fathers, but not taken from their biological mothers. What we see in surrogate motherhood is that the children are separated from the women who give them birth. Therefore, people defending surrogacy, in fact, preach their own ‘bible’, a false and perverted ‘gospel’ willing to please men but not God.”

“Dear brothers and sisters! We possess a great and the most valuable treasure, the true Gospel revealed by Jesus Christ. It is manifested in our true Christian, Orthodox faith. Our faith is that valuable treasure. It is preached to us through God’s revelation. Revelation has two sources – Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. Everything written in the Scripture or held by our pious Tradition is not from men, but is given to us by God. The Lord entrusted to us this precious gift of faith. In a similar way God entrusted His only-begotten Son when this Son of God became a little Child, to the care of righteous Joseph. Every Christian should imitate Joseph, imitate his obedience to the will of God, his loving care of the holy Family and his courage in following the God’s commands. As St. Joseph protected the Child Jesus from Herod, we have to protect our faith from different modern Herods. As St. Joseph saved the Child Jesus from being slaughtered, so we have to save our faith from being annihilated by different false religions. As St. Joseph took care of the holy Family, we have to take a good care of our churches, our parishes. And, finally, as St. Joseph preserved Jesus for the future appearance to the mankind, so we have to preserve our pious traditions for future generations. If we do so, then as St. Joseph, we will be blessed and receive eternal award in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Upon the Liturgy dismissal Fr. Igor congratulated our parishioner and altar server Joseph Kay on the occasion of his name day, wishing him God’s blessings and intercession of St. Joseph. The Rector then proclaimed traditional polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) to be sung.

After the liturgical service the Rector and parishioners gathered at the table to enjoy delicious refreshments at the coffee hour.






On January 7, on the feast of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) we had a beautiful liturgical celebration in St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.

Following the Scripture readings Fr. Igor proclaimed the Catechetical sermon of St. John Chrysostom on the Nativity.
After the Divine Liturgy the Rector congratulated all parishioners on the occasion of the glorious holy day and wished them that God’s blessings may be bestowed on them in their spiritual and earthly lives.

Celebration was continued at the nearby Pier 25A restaurant. Parishioners had an opportunity to congratulate Fr. Igor on the occasion of the 24th Anniversary of his priestly ordination. One of our altar servers, Elisej Flora had a speech greeting Fr. Igor. Traditional “Mnogaia leta” was sung.

Sunday before the Nativity


On January 5, on Sunday before the Nativity, St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily.

In his sermon Fr. Igor was pointing out the importance of faith which was indicated to be the main cause of the endeavors of the holy men and women of the times before Christ, as St. Paul says in his Epistle reading assigned for today.
“How amazing this thing called faith. For example, how amazing that the shepherds, when the heavens were opened and the Angels sang, could have believed that the Savior was born in Bethlehem and would be found in a cave among animals. How amazing! How it is unbelievable! They should have said, “How can this be? Why should God open the heavens so that Angels should sing to lowly shepherds? Surely, if God had an announcement to make, He would make it to the king or to the high priest, not to us”. How astonishing that the shepherds believed that they would find God’s Son being born not in a palace, but in a stable! Yet they believed.”
“How amazing that the Wise Men believed when they came to Jerusalem and found no festivities for the birth of a prince. All was still. The Wise Men might well have gone home. Instead, they inquired and searched the Scriptures, and did not hesitate to go to tiny Bethlehem. How amazing that they should believe that the Prince of Peace, the Savior of the world, the promised Messiah, would be born in a backwoods village instead of at Rome or Athens! Yet they believed!”

Speaking and explaining how we can define faith Fr. Igor compared faith to one of our senses. “Faith is the eye by which we look to Jesus; the hand by which we lay hold of Jesus; the mouth or the tongue by which we taste how good the Lord is; the foot by which we go to Jesus”.

Fr. Igor concluded his homily saying, “If you believe that there is no one at the helm of this universe, that you are just flying endlessly through space, then you have a right to be angry, to go crazy and to end it all. But if you have faith and believe that there is Someone in charge of the universe; that that Someone is the God who ‘so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have life everlasting,” then you, too, like Gideon and countless others mentioned in today’s Epistle lesson, can conquer kingdoms.”

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector reminded of the approaching holy day of the Nativity of the Lord and wished that everyone can appropriately prepare for the celebration of the Birth of Christ.

Sunday of the holy Forefathers


On December 29, on the Sunday of the holy Forefathers, St. George Parish family had a nice liturgical celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Scripture readings he preached a sermon:

“For today’s Sunday the Church assigns a reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians. All the righteous men of the Old Testament whom we call the holy Forefathers awaited the appearance of the Messiah and He did appear to the world in Jesus Christ. In a similar way we, Christians, should be righteous and expect the second coming of Christ. St. Paul says that when Christ appears, we also will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3, 4). If we will strive for righteousness, we will be able to share the glory of the Lord. We have to seek true life in Christ, awaiting the heavenly and glorious revelation, expecting His second coming.”
“To be successful in living true life in Christ we need to put to death what is earthly or sinful in us. St. Paul says in today’s Epistle, “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3, 5). Holy Forefathers achieved righteousness by avoiding idolatry in a literal sense, being faithful to one true God and not serving false gods. If it was enough for them, our task is more demanding. We need to avoid a more sophisticated idolatry, serving the false gods of our passions. One step to achieve this was made when we received holy Baptism. In Baptism we are supposed to die spiritually with Christ, we have to put to death the man of old in ourselves. In his another Epistle St. Paul teaches: “Do you not know that as many of us were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through Baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6, 3-4). After we put to death a man of old, after we put off the old Adam we have to be reborn with Christ to a new life with Him. Thus, we may say that we died with Christ in Baptism. Our sins were drowned and we rose to a new life.”
“Another step to achieve righteousness in Christ is to put to death what is earthly in us. Since we are baptized and put off the old Adam nature and have put on the new Christ nature, we have to die to what is earthly. This has to be done every day. Some people may think that true Christian life is having peace. No, it is a constant struggle. True Christian life demands continuous warfare against the enemies of that life. We have to put to death what is earthly in us. One of the desert fathers said, “If you say that you have died to the world, don’t be so confident until you depart from your body. You may say, ‘I have died’; but Satan has not died”. Thus, every day we have to fight against our temptations, sinful desires and inclinations. Every day we are called to die to unbelief, to our fears and uncertainties that we may rise to confidence, courage and trust. In this way we die to the old nature that we may rise with Christ as new persons.”

“Finally, we all know that some day we will have to die physically. We Christians should view it not as a final point of our existence, but as a passing to a new life. We should notice that living is a matter of life and death. As we go through life we die and live again many times. The infant dies for a child to live. The child dies to make way for the teenager. The teenager dies so the adult can emerge. And so into old age, we go constantly from life to death. Part of me is dying every moment. Moment by moment cells in my body are dying and being replaced with new ones. If it did not happen, I would not be alive. As St. Paul says, “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15, 31). But we do not consider such death really fatal. Same should be considered about our physical death. It is rather a change, a passing to another stage of our existence.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, today we see that there are three kinds of dying for righteous people. First is to die with Christ in Baptism, so we can rise and live with Him forever. Second is to die with Christ every day to what is earthly and sinful in us. Third is to die one day a physical death. But if we have died the first two deaths, then the third death, the physical one, will not be a death, but a resurrection. Thus it was to the Christian Martyrs and Confessors. Thus it should be to us, so when Jesus Christ, our Life appears, we may also appear with Him in glory! (Col. 3, 4).”