3rd Sunday after Pentecost

On June 29, on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Rector of St. George Church served the Divine Liturgy in our temple.
Following the Gospel reading the Rector preached a homily:

“Today’s Epistle lesson is telling us about faith, hope and love. St. Paul teaches that we are justified not by the works of the Old Testament law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation comes from faith. And faith makes us acquire the grace of the Lord and makes us rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5, 2). St. Paul assures us that hope in Jesus does not disappoint, “because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5, 5). St. Paul also says that the love of God is shown in the fact that God Himself died for us although we were sinners. “In due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5, 6).”
“St. Paul further reflects upon that fact that Christ died for us who seemed to be unworthy of such sacrifice, saying that “scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die” (Rom. 5, 7). He then comes to an important conclusion: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5, 8).”
“God loved us always. He loved us although we were sinners. That is what makes God’s love so wonderful. He did not wait until we reformed and found our way back to Him. He did not wait until we loved Him. He loved us before that. He loved us while we still spurned and rejected His love. And He still does love all of us despite our sins. For us, Christians, it is important to remember that God loves us no matter what we are or what we do. However, we should not forget all the things which are wrong with us. We have to be realistic about our sins and our weaknesses and our unworthiness. At the same time we have to be optimistic and remember that God nevertheless loves us.”
“It can be compared to good parenting. A good parent will try to correct a child for wrong behavior, but not humiliate him as a person. There is a difference between a parent saying to a child, “The thing you did was wrong and I will not stand for that, because I love you too much to allow you to grow up with that kind of behavior,” or saying to the child, “You are a terrible person because you did such a thing”. God is like a good and wise parent. He does not like when we do wrong things but He does not belittle us for that. When we think of these things we come to a basic biblical truth: hate the sin but love the sinner. This is the way God loves us. He showed His love by dying for us while we were still sinners. God hates the sin but never withdraws His love from the sinner.”
“The Scripture tells us how God did actually love the sinners. Why did God love Moses or David or Paul or Zacchaeus? Did He love them because of their goodness? Certainly not! They were all sinners. Moses was a murderer. David was a murderer and adulterer. Paul was a persecutor of Christians. Zacchaeus was a thief, a dishonest tax collector. It was because God loved them in spite of their sins that they became Saints. Christ loved harlots and murderers and thieves and adulterers. He shed His precious blood to save them. It was the transforming power of His love that made these people new persons – the same love that can make us new persons.”
“Therefore, when the devil comes to us and tempts us with the thought, “How could God love me? I have been bad – no, God could never love me”, remind the tempter of other sinners before you, like Moses, David, Paul and Zacchaeus. Or, when the devil tempts us with the thought, “How could God love that person? He is so bad! How God could love a criminal, a pervert, a maniac, a godless scoffer?” – again, remind the tempter of other sinners who were loved by God, take him to the Cross, and confront him with the words of today’s Epistle lesson, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5, 8). Christ did not die for Saints. He died for sinners to make them Saints.”
“Today we commemorate St. Tychon, bishop of Amathus. While he was even a young man he performed a miracle. A certain gardener threw away the dried prunings of vines from the vineyard. St Tychon gathered them, planted them in his garden and prayed the Lord that these branches might take root and yield fruit for the health of people. The Lord did so through the faith of the holy youth. The branches took root, and their fruit had a particular and very pleasant taste. It was used during the lifetime of the saint and after his death for making wine for the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist. Something similar God does to us, the sinners. When we sin, we are like the dried branches. But God wishes to plant us and to restore us to life, so we can produce good fruits.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us cherish our faith by which we are saved. Let us rejoice in the hope of Christ by which we understand that God loves us. Let us appreciate His love for He loved us even while we were sinners. And let us love Him in return to become Saints!”

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector congratulated our parishioner and altar server Elisej Flora on his past name day and wished him God’s blessings and intercession of the Holy Prophet Elisha whose memory was celebrated on June 27. Traditional ”Mnogaia leta” was proclaimed and sung.

Following the service our parishioners and the Rector gathered at the table to enjoy coffee and refreshments.

2nd Sunday after Pentecost, of All the Saints of the Church of Rus’

On June 22, on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost when we celebrate feast of All the Saints of the Church of Rus’, our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Scripture readings he preached a sermon:

“On the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost we honor All the Saints of our Russian Orthodox Church. If last Sunday we celebrated feast of All Saints who pleased the Lord being members of the universal Orthodox Church, today we glorify those who belonged to our local Church, the Church of Rus’. It is good that this feast had been recently renamed. It used to be called “Sunday of All the Saints who shone in the Russian land”. Last year our Holy Synod renamed it as “Sunday of All the Saints of the Russian Church”. It is appropriate because not all of the holy men and women lived in Russia or were Russian. But all of them belonged to the local Church of Rus’.”
“In today’s Epistle lesson St. Paul teaches us that all the people will be judged by God according to their deeds. God will give “glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good” (Rom. 2, 10). Good works will be rewarded and evil deeds will be punished regardless our social, national or even religious background. St. Paul confirms that saying that “there is no partiality with God” (Rom. 2, 11).”
“As we mentioned once before, for St. Paul the world was divided into two classes of people: the Jews who had the law given to them directly by God in written form, and the Gentiles who, although they did not have the written law, nevertheless had God-implanted instinctive knowledge of right and wrong within their hearts. Both would be judged by God. But Jew on the basis of the written law; the Gentile on the basis of the law that was written not on tablets or books but in the heart. St. Paul writes, “When Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness” (Rom. 2, 14-15). Therefore, the law written in the hearts of men is a God-given sense of right and wrong which we call conscience.”
“Our conscience directs us in a right way and often tells us what should be done. John Milton, famous English classical poet, pictured God saying as He is creating man, “I will put Mine umpire, conscience in his breast”. What better definition of conscience can be given? The God-implanted umpire who calls the plays – fair and foul. St. John Climacus says, “After God, let us have conscience as our aim and rule for everything”.”
“Today, celebrating feast of the Saints of our Russian Church, we should recall that all our holy men and women who came from our Church of Rus’ lived according to the voice of their conscience. One of our first glorified Saints, Metropolitan Hilarion even wrote a book called “The Word on the Law and on Grace” where he suggested that not the works of the law but the grace of Jesus Christ is leading to salvation. Conscience leads to grace. Another Russian Saint, Prince Alexander Nevsky said, “God is not in power but in truth”. Such truth is told us by our conscience.”
“But what should be done if someone’s conscience tells that person to do wrong things? It happens. And we often become witnesses to such things when people do evil and terrible things because they believe that they are correct and do the right thing. We could see that in the last century. On today’s date, on June 22 of the year 1941 Hitler invaded our old country, the lands of the historical Rus’. It happened on the same day as today, on the day the Church celebrated All the Saints of the Russian land. Hitler and the Germans felt that they were correct in their desire to conquer new lands, to get the life space for their nation which they believed was supreme to others. God allowed this evil to happen. He permitted this to occur even on the feast of our Russian Saints. We know and we understand that the Nazis were wrong. And the Lord did not permit them to achieve victory. Similarly, these days we are witnessing a strife on the lands of historical Rus’. Internal strife is taking place in Ukraine. And the Russian state is very much involved in that. There is a great political tension between Russian and Ukrainian people. The two Orthodox nations who both originate from the same ancient Rus’, from the same baptismal font of St. Vladimir are now turned against each other! The blood is shed. Rus’ is destroying Rus’. And both sides feel that they are right. Their conscience tells them that they are on the right side and their rivals on the wrong. How to deal with that?”
“We have to admit that conscience itself is not a safe guide. It cannot stand by itself. It needs to be developed by Godly training. Conscience is a safe guide only when it is properly educated and safely guided by the Holy Spirit. Conscience does not tell us what is really good and what is really bad. It praises us for doing good without telling us what good is. Conscience needs to be educated. As a radio has to be tuned to a certain station, our conscience has to be turned to Christ. The Church can help us with that. We can educate our conscience through spiritual life. Then we will see that hostility, hatred and violence are bad helpers. Political views and national objectives are bad advisors. Only in love, understanding and dialogue you can achieve peace and well-being. This is why, if conscience told Hitler that he is correct, it was not an educated conscience, not a conscience tuned to Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. And this is why, if someone believes that his conscience is directing him to kill, destroy and fight his compatriots or brothers in faith, does not have conscience tuned to Jesus Christ and is not guided by the Holy Spirit. He will fail and will be judged for his misdeeds.”
“The Saints of Rus’ always attempted to be above strives and hostilities of their times. The lands of Rus’ were divided and underwent a lot of domestic wars between different rulers and regions. But those who wished to tune their conscience to Christ always stayed above those divisions and prayed for unity and called for reconciliation. Such was our famous Saint, Venerable Sergius who labored to unite the Russian lands. Such were many other Saints of our Church.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us tune our conscience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us listen to the voice of our conscience if it is really guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us implore our Saints of the Russian lands to intercede for us and for the suffering land of Ukraine to bring peace and well-being. All the Saints of Rus’, pray God for us!”

During the Liturgy the Rector proclaimed a kneeling prayer for peace in the suffering country of Ukraine, calling the Saints of Rus’ to intercede for the people living in the time of strife.

After the Liturgy dismissal Fr. Igor preached a brief sermon in Russian, touching his main points of the homily proclaimed earlier in English. He also called faithful to attempt to become new Saints of the Russian Church, and said that nothing can stop us to become Saints except our own evil will and our giving up to the temptations of the enemy.

Sunday of All Saints


On June 15, on the 1st Sunday after Pentecost dedicated to All Saints, St. George Church’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily:

“The Epistle lesson gives us today a good instruction on how to become a Saint. St. Paul mentions the glorious and heroic deeds of the Old Testament Saints and then he says to his listeners, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12, 1-2). St. Paul’s instruction has three parts. Let us talk about them today.”
“Life for St. Paul was a race to be run and a crown to be won. Those who win such a race become crowned with holiness, become invited to the Kingdom of God. In order to win that race you need to free yourself from any unnecessary burden and obstacles. This is why the first part of St. Paul’s advice on how to become a Saint is to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Heb. 2, 1). One of the known Orthodox preachers compared such weight to the small animals called barnacles. Barnacles are little crusty creatures that accumulate on the bottom of ships. They cause a great headache for shipowners. No bigger than walnuts, they can slow down a ship weighing thousands of tons. Within six months after it goes into the water, a vessel may acquire 2 or 3 inches of these barnacles. The layer can weigh 100 tons and reduce a ship’s speed by more than 10 percent. It increases consumption of fuel and it requires cleaning of the vessels every couple of years.”
“Like ships, we human beings can also accumulate barnacles that slow us down and burden us with unnecessary drag. They make our race for a crown of holiness much harder to win. What kind of barnacles we collect? St. Paul gives us a whole list of barnacles in his Epistle to the Galatians and calls them “the works of flesh”: “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like”. And he warns that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Gal. 5, 19-21).”

“How do we remove the weight of sin, the annoying barnacles that accumulate in our lives? As it is not an easy task with ships, so it is not an easy task for us. St. Paul teaches us to crucify our flesh with its passions and desires. Kill your sinfulness. Our Lord Jesus Christ compares it to the severance of the members that cause us to sin. He says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Mt. 5, 29). The same advice the Lord is giving about a hand (Mt. 5, 30). Jesus, of course, is not speaking literally here. He does not want us to start dismembering our bodies. But He is using strong language to stress the necessity of removing anything that hinders us, weighs us down, and impedes us in running the race and winning the prize.”
“By far the best way to keep our lives free of the weight of sin is by coming to Jesus daily and letting Him scrape us clean of every weight and sin through heartfelt repentance and honest confession. He alone can make us clean. He alone can present justified before God.”

“The second part of the instruction is “to run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12, 1). We understand that that race is our life which needs to be spent in serving God and other people. To complete this task we need endurance. Again, the example of Jesus Christ can help us. St. Paul reminds that our Lord “for joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12, 2). We are also called to endure our own crosses for the joy set before us, the joy of heavenly blessedness.”
“And finally, the third part of the instruction is to look unto Jesus (Heb. 12, 2). As we run the race of life we must keep Jesus in full view at all times, looking to Him, for He is the author and finisher of faith. He is the Creator and the Finisher of everything, Alpha and Omega. He is our God and our Savior. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us run the race of our Christian life laying aside every weight and sin; let us run with endurance the race for holiness which is set before us; let us always keep our spiritual eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith. If we will do so, our names will be written in heaven and we will join the Saints.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector congratulated all men in the parish on the occasion of Father’s Day and wished them God’s blessings and assistance in their endeavor of  being good fathers and raising children. Traditional “Mnogaya leta!” was sung. Fr. Igor also reminded that next week we begin St. Peter’s Fast dedicated to the works of the holy Apostles. The Rector called God’s blessings upon parishioners to assist them in undergoing the spiritual journey of the fast.

Following the service parishioners and the Rector enjoyed delicious meals and a good company at the coffee hour.



On June 8th, on Pentecost Sunday when the Church celebrates the great holy day of the Most Holy Trinity, we had a solemn service at St. George’s Church. Before the celebration, according to our pious custom, our temple was decorated with the greenery. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy.
Following the Scripture readings of the Liturgy Fr. Igor preached a homily:

“Today we celebrate one of the greatest feasts of our calendar. One of the names of this holy day is Pentecost which is translated as ‘the 50th’ because it is celebrated on the 50th day after Pascha. The real reason of our celebration of that 50th day after Easter is that on this day the Holy Spirit descended upon the holy Apostles.”
“Today’s Epistle lesson vividly describes that holy event. It tells us that the Apostles were all together in one place when the day of Pentecost had fully come (Acts 2, 1). It should be said that the Jews have their own celebration of Pentecost. This feast is called the Feast of Weeks , and it comes 50 days after Passover. It was a celebration of the first fruits of harvest. People use to adorn their homes with greenery, in the same way as we Orthodox Christians do it now for our celebration. It was a feast of the greenery, as it is called now in some Slavic countries, the ‘Green holidays’. The Jews also believe that this was the day when Moses received Ten Commandments from God, the day when the Jews acquired the Law of God. Thus, holy Apostles were in Jerusalem on the Jewish celebration of Pentecost. They stood together as the Lord commanded them to do when He ascended into heaven.”
“The Epistle lesson says that they were together in one place. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2, 1-2). Then the Epistle says that divided tongues, as a fire, appeared to the Apostles, and one sat upon each of them (Acts 2, 3). This was the appearance of the Holy Spirit, as a mighty sound of the wind from heaven and the tongues of fire. It also had great results. After each of the fiery tongues sat upon the Apostles, they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2, 4). This was the first miraculous sign of the Holy Spirit filling the Apostles. They became able to speak different languages. The Epistle tells that people from different countries who were gathered in Jerusalem for the feast could hear their native tongues from the Apostles. All these people were Jews. They could be born Jewish or were proselytes, Gentiles who converted to Judaism. At those times the Jews already lived in many different countries and spoke different languages. Today’s reading mentions a number of those ancient countries from where the pilgrims came to Jerusalem and became witnesses to that miraculous speaking of the Apostles.”

“We know that the Apostles were not very educated men. Some of them were fishermen from Galilee. However, the Holy Spirit made them wise and enabled them to catch a lot of men to the nets of salvation in Jesus Christ. Today’s festal troparion describes that saying, Blessed art Thou, Christ our God, Who didst make the fishermen wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them didst draw the universe into Thy net…” The Holy Spirit made these people who were not wise in the world wise in Christ.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! If the Old Testament Pentecost celebrated the birthday of the Mosaic Law, our Pentecost is the birthday for the Church. If the Jews celebrated acquiring of the Torah, we celebrate acquiring of God Himself, His Holy and Good and Life-creating Spirit. The same Spirit Who “was hovering over the face of the waters” in the first creation and made order out of chaos came upon the Disciples of Christ. But in the similar way as the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles when they expected Him to come praying together, this Spirit continues to come upon us when we are together as members of the same Apostolic Church. Recently, I had a conversation with a person who was once baptized but is not really practicing Christian faith. He was asking why should we assemble in the temples and attend the church services. The answer is in the Apostolic behavior. The Lord Himself commanded them to stay together in Jerusalem, to pray in humility and to wait for the promised gift, the Holy Spirit. Only upon all of them being together the Holy Spirit could descend. Thus, only if we are gathered in the temple the Holy Spirit could come upon us and bestow His abundant gifts, His rich graces. We may pray alone, we may conduct a righteous life alone, but in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit we need to be together, in the community of believers, in one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is why I am so concerned with your attendance of the church services. This is why the Church commands us not to miss Sunday Liturgy. Together we may be blessed in a special and unique way.”

“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us be grateful for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Church existing for us. Let us pray that today especially, but also on any other day, the Holy Spirit may come and dwell within us, and may cleanse us of all impurity and save our souls!”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and altar servers performed a rite of glorification in front of the festal icon in the middle of the church singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast.

Following the Liturgy the 9th Hour was read and the Great Vespers followed. At the Vespers traditional kneeling prayers of the Pentecost were read by the Rector.

After services of the feast Rector and parishioners had a luncheon at our favorite Pier 25A restaurant. We enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company.

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council


On June 1, on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, St. George Church’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily:

“These days we live after the feast of the Ascension of the Lord and before the celebration of Pentecost. We are under the impression of the glorious lifting up of our Lord into heaven, and, at the same time, we are expecting the Descent of the Holy Spirit. In the same way, holy Apostles were experiencing this double feeling. They were missing their Teacher who ascended from them into heaven, and they were expecting the promised Holy Spirit to come down upon them. Thus this was a special time for the Apostles, a time of being together, joined in a constant prayer, waiting for the Holy Spirit.”
“Today’s Sunday the Church dedicates to the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. This is so because the First Council was the result of the Church life after the Apostles. It showed that Christian community needs certain hierarchical authority and definition of true faith. Otherwise, many false teachings and errors may come and spread among Christians. In today’s Gospel lesson our Lord Jesus Christ is praying for His followers that they may be preserved in truth and have eternal life (Jn. 17, 1-13). That truth became endangered when a lot of false teachers appeared among the Christians right after the time of the Apostles. They began to proclaim erroneous opinions about God and about Christ. These teachings are called heresies. This is why the Ecumenical Councils had to define Orthodox faith, the right belief in God and Christ.”
“Despite the Councils and despite the labors of the Holy Fathers the heresies appeared again and again. The communities of the people who called themselves Christians but in fact had deviated and departed from Christ, multiplied. We may be wondering about this but we should read the Scripture carefully. It tells us that all this was supposed to happen. Today’s Epistle lesson describes how St. Paul preached to the elders of the early Church. He tells them: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20, 28-30).  We may ask how the Church of Christ could divide into different denominations. But the Scripture told us all about this. St. Paul warned his followers about this in today’s Epistle lesson.”

“Our Lord Jesus Christ purchased us with His own precious blood. But it does not preserve us from going astray. People tend to make mistakes and to fall into errors. Christian communities had always been attacked by strange teachers whom St. Paul calls “savage wolves not sparing the flock” (Acts 20, 29). In the early times these were the influences of paganism or Judaism which attempted to penetrate into the Christian thought. They created numerous heresies of Gnostics or of the communities practicing Jewish customs. In our times these are the influences of different pagan religions, secular philosophies or just the spirit of this world which invades the minds of Christians. St. Paul also mentions that from among Christians “men will raise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves” (Acts 20, 30). And this was fulfilled many times when among Christian communities, even among the clergy appeared some individuals or groups of people who began to preach false teachings and to draw the Christians away from the true Church. These were a lot of heresies which started to appear in the early times and continue to arise. These people claim to be Christians, but they deviate from Christ and went away from Him. The Scripture is being fulfilled in them. When you drive through a typical American town you may see several different churches, Baptist, Evangelical, Methodist, Adventist, or even so-called “the Churches of Christ”. Who are they? They call themselves the followers of the same Jesus Christ, however they teach differently, pray differently and live differently. They are the followers of those men who once arose among true Christians and began to speak perverse things, leading true Christians away. Not only St. Paul, but our Lord Jesus Christ Himself warned against them saying, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7, 15).”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us beware of the false teachings! Let us be grateful to the Lord who purchased our souls with His own precious blood, who gave us eternal life. And, as He says, eternal life is to know the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ (Jn. 17, 3). Thus, let us desire eternal life by knowing our true faith, by adhering to the holy Orthodoxy defined by the Holy Fathers of the Councils. Let us fervently pray along with St. Paul of today’s Epistle lesson that we may be commended “to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20, 32).”