7th Sunday after Pentecost. Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the first Six Ecumenical Councils

On July 27, on the 7th Sunday after Pentecost, and Sunday of the commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the first six Ecumenical Councils, St. George Church’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.
Following the readings from the Scripture he preached a homily:

“Today we have a double celebration: we celebrate Sunday, the day of the Resurrection of Christ. And today we also commemorate Holy Fathers of the first six Ecumenical Councils. The Gospel reading of this Sunday tells us about giving sight to the two blind men and healing of the man possessed by a mute demon. Another Gospel is the Pontifical Prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Last Supper where He is praying to God the Father that His Disciples may have eternal life. And eternal life is to know the true God. We may add that tomorrow the Church will celebrate feast of St. Vladimir, the Baptizer of Rus’. I is also reminding us that due to the efforts of this holy man our people embraced Christianity, thus came to know the one and true God, thus could inherit that life for which our Lord prayed to God the Father.”
“Holy Fathers of the Six Ecumenical Councils in the course of several centuries (from the 4th until the 7th century) were working on defining the true Christian faith, were spelling out what orthodoxy means and in what we must believe in order to be saved. Following all these times in history, only in the 10th century, the people of Kievan Rus’ became the followers of Jesus Christ and confessors of the true faith.”
“True faith, knowing the true God gives eternal life. It also makes people seeing spiritual truth. While in today’s Gospel our Lord gave sight to the blind men who begged Him to have pity on them, acceptance and professing Christ gives all the people spiritual sight. Thanks to the Holy Fathers we may know how to use that sight and set it in a right direction. Thanks to St. Vladimir our ancestors stopped to be spiritually blind. True faith also makes people free from slavery to the evil one. While today’s Gospel tells about freeing a man from a mute spirit, acquiring and learning true faith sets us free from evil and from any wrong spirit or error. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” – says the Lord (Jn. 8, 32). Thanks to St. Vladimir our people renounced the idols and came to know the truth, came out from the darkness and blindness of paganism and received the light of Christ.”
“In our days many people tend to lose the truth and the light of Christ. Many wrong and false teachings overspread the earth. Statistics says that more than a half of the American people believe in reincarnation, believe that a human soul may live many times in different bodies. The teaching of Christ totally deny that. But many people who formally belong to Christian denominations privately believe in that heresy. Many today’s people believe in astrology, tend to admit that the stars and planets can rule our lives. All these people look like blind or possessed by demons. They may search for the truth, but look for it in the wrong places. They are not seek the truth in the right place because they are blind or possessed. They find something which seems to be the truth for them, but they are unable to make a right judgment. Even formal membership in the Church may not help them because they lack awareness and firm faith.”
“Only by the grace of God we may come to the truth, embrace the right belief and acquire the spiritual knowledge of God. Only by the light of our Lord Jesus Christ we may stop being spiritually blind. Only by the power of Christ we may be freed from the slavery to our primal enemy. Let us then appreciate and hold firmly our true faith, faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, faith defined by the Holy Fathers of the Councils, faith brought to us by St. Vladimir, faith which teaches us the truth, faith which is our eternal life.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector expressed his gratitude to Reader Vladimir Piankov who substituted for our Choir Director Olga, for the labor he undertook in our temple and greeted him on the occasion of his coming name day. Traditional “Mnogaya leta” was sung.

Fr. Igor also notified the parishioners that His Eminence, Archbishop Justinian by the decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Church, had been transferred to Russia. The new Administrator of our Patriarchal Parishes will be Hieromonk John (Roschin) who is elected to be a bishop. The Rector announced that Archbishop Justinian will serve his last Liturgy in America on Saturday, August 2, at St. Nicholas Cathedral and invite faithful to attend that service and to say farewell to His Eminence.

Archbishop Justinian leaves the United States. The new Bishop will be ordained soon.

On Friday, July 25, 2014 the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church under the chairmanship of His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill made a decision to transfer His Eminence, Archbishop Justinian to Russia, appointing him to be the ruling Bishop of the Eparchy of Elista and Kalmykia.

The Holy Synod elected Rev. Hieromonk John (Roschin) to be the new Administrator of the Patriatchal Parishes in the United States after being ordained a bishop with the title of “Naro-Fominsk”.
          Rev. Hieromonk John (Roschin) who was elected to become our new Bishop



6th Sunday after Pentecost

On July 20, on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Rector of St. George Church celebrated Divine Liturgy in our temple. Since our Cantor and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow went on vacation, a substitute cantor had been summoned to sing the responses at the Liturgy.

Following the Gospel lesson the Rector began to preach. First he pointed out that we are finishing to reason about Sunday lessons from the Epistle, and today is the last sermon from that cycle of homilies. Then the Rector said to the faithful present:

“In today’s Epistle lesson St. Paul is giving many short advises to the Christians in Rome. These are the exhortations to practice certain virtues. They are reminders to the Romans and also to us that true Christian faith is useless without works. St. Paul says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the Saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom. 12, 9-16).”
“Each one of those advises could be discussed or interpreted extensively enough to preach a pretty long homily. Therefore, let us choose one of those timeless and precious exhortations and reflect upon it today. For instance, St. Paul today is giving us an interesting command when he says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12, 10). In other words the Apostle teaches us to outdo one another in showing honor. We have to attempt to show respect, honor and love to our fellow Christians and other people more than it is normally done. And this is the main Christian idea – to outdo something, to do something more than it is expected. Many of the similar advises are contained in the Holy Gospel of our Lord. For instance, Jesus says, “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Mt. 5, 41). And in the same manner, they can be observed in the Apostolic Scriptures. In today’s Epistle St. Paul tells us about honoring our brethren, and outdoing one another in that. In his another Epistle he writes, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2, 3). It means that St. Paul wishes us to practice treating one another as superiors. It means to be so mature in Christ that one does not have to feel superior to anyone – that is the test of a growing Christian.”
“To many people, the most important thing in life is to have a front seat, to be served, to be sought after. The aim of a Christian, on the other hand, is never to place himself on display or to be concerned with his own interests. This is why when two Disciples of the Lord, Apostles James and John approached Jesus with a request to be given two most important, closest seats to Him in His glory, the Lord rebuked them and said, “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.” (Mk. 10, 43-44). A Christian way is not to be served, but to serve and to outdo one another in that.”
“In the city of Weimar, Germany there is a statue of Goethe and Schiller, two great poets. The German people honor both of them very much and sometimes argue which one among them is greater. Schiller and Goethe were friends. They met together frequently and enjoyed talking to each other. If Goethe heard people say that he is the master poet of the Germans, he was quick to reply, “But do not forget Schiller”. And Schiller would always say the same about Goethe. The sculptor of the statue in Weimar expressed their mutual friendship beautifully. He has put a wreath of laurel leaves in Goethe’s hands. The poet is raising his hand to place the wreath on his friend Schiller’s head. But Schiller does not wish for the crown, which he thinks Goethe deserves more. He is thrusting it back, as if saying, “No, it is more fit for you to wear than me”. Thus, the two friends nobly disagreed, each refusing to be crowned. But in their hearts they loved one another, appreciating each other’s qualities. They fulfilled St. Paul command of today’s Epistle lesson, “in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12, 10).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Preoccupation with self causes much trouble and distress in  human life. We need the love of Christ which thinks more of the happiness of others than it thinks of its own. This love is proud to serve. This love outdoes others in showing honor. The Christ-like love knows that in forgetting self it will find self, and that in losing self it will fulfill itself. “For  even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10, 45). Our Lord “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2, 8). He outdid others in showing us honor and love. Let us then do likewise!”

The number of parishioners attending the Liturgy was relatively small but almost everyone present received Holy Communion.

5th Sunday after Pentecost

On July 13, on the 5th Sunday after Pentecost St. George Parish had a nice Sunday celebration in its temple. On that day the Church also commemorated 12 Holy Apostles. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Scripture readings he preached a homily:

“Today’s reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans discusses the differences between the Old Testament, Jewish understanding of righteousness and the New Testament, Christian way of salvation. Among different words of St. Paul, we should pay attention to the final statement of today’s reading: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10, 9-10). We have to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts, and that faith has not to be hidden, but expressed by our words.”
“What is in the heart has to be on the lips. It is not otherwise with Jesus. This is the message of the final statement of today’s Epistle lesson. Our Lord Jesus Christ put it this way: “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 10, 32-33). In our days many people like to say that they prefer to keep their faith in their souls. “You should believe inside of your soul, not on the outside,” they say. This is an excuse for many people in Russia not to attend the church, not to participate in the liturgical life, not to be the churched people. Today’s Epistle lesson, as well as the words of our Lord Himself put these people to shame. You cannot keep faith in your heart. You must also confess it with your lips. You cannot deny Christ before men.”
“To confess Christ before men was originally the mission of the Apostles. Today the Church commemorates Twelve Holy Apostles who were called by our Lord Jesus Christ to follow Him. After His Ascension into heaven they had to spread the Holy Gospel, to preach the Good News of Christ and to testify before all men about Him. The twelve Apostles were considered “witnesses of the Resurrection” of Christ. They were present in Jerusalem when the Lord was risen from the dead. He appeared to them many times before He ascended into heaven. Today in the second Gospel reading we heard the names of the 12 Apostles. We heard that the last of them was Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ. Thus Judas was expelled from the gathering of the Apostles. But later the Apostles elected a person to take Judas’ place. And doing that the Disciples said that they needed another witness of Christ Resurrection (Acts 1, 22). They elected Apostle Matthias to become one of the Twelve who took the place of Judas (Acts 1, 23-24).”

“Apostles professed the Resurrection of Christ to the world. Even in today’s reading St. Paul mentions confession that God has raised Jesus from the dead (2 Cor. 10, 9). This mouth confession could end with martyrdom. And almost all holy Apostles were martyred for their faith and its confession before men. Later the same faith of the heart was confessed by the lips by the holy Martyrs. Again, it cost their lives to confess with the mouth the Christ who was in their heart. Today we confess Jesus before men publicly every time when we recite the Nicene Creed during the Liturgy: “I believe in… one Lord Jesus Christ…” But are we confessing Him in our lives, at our home, at our place of work? If it were a crime to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?”
“A group of thieves accosted a Catholic nun who was wearing ordinary street clothes, as many of them do at modern times. They forced her into a car. She kept protesting and saying, “I’m a nun.” They did not believe her. She insisted to call her convent, to talk to her mother superior. They did, and found out that she was indeed telling the truth. Before they let her go, however, they stripped her back and carved a cross on it with a knife. “Next time, wear something so that people will know who you are,” they said to her.”
“Do people know who we are? Does my appearance, my life confess Christ before men? Do other people know what I stand for? Do I ever confess to them with my mouth the faith I have in my heart? Am I ashamed of my Savior? Do I hide my faith in Him, like a chameleon, blend in with the colors of the sinful world around me? If so, then I need to recall the words of my Savior: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8, 38).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! There cannot be a true Christian faith which is kept inside of our heart and is not confessed with our mouth. There is no true faith “inside the soul”. Let us confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead, as St. Paul teaches us. Let us follow the example of the champions of our faith, holy Apostles who being witnesses of Christ’s  Resurrection confessed that before the whole world, so “their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world” (Rom. 10, 18) as the Church sings in their honor. Let us imitate the holy Martyrs who did not wish to spare their lives but confessed Christ before men. May our way of life show that we are really Christian people.”

During the Liturgy the Rector prayed for the repose of the soul of the newly-departed Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, the 9th day of whose repose was marked on that very Sunday.

Feast of St. Peter and Paul

On July 12, on the feast of the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul we had a beautiful liturgical celebration in our temple. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.
After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a sermon:

“Today we celebrate feast of the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul. We finished St. Peter’s, or Apostolic fast, and now it is time to rejoice and celebrate the Apostolic feast. We should note that we do not have a fast before every holy day. Only four feasts in our calendar are preceded by a period of fasting, Holy Pascha, the Nativity of Christ, the Dormition of the Mother of God, and today’s feast of St. Peter and Paul. It is not accidental. In this way the Church reminds us of the most important persons in the history of our salvation: our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we dedicate our fasts before the Nativity and before His Resurrection, Most Holy Mother of God, and Holy Apostles. Although today’s feast is not so great as, for instance, Holy Transfiguration of Christ, we have a fast before it. And that fast we finished yesterday. We kept the Apostolic fast in order to prepare for the Apostolic feast. We honored the works and endeavors of the Holy Apostles. And today we honor their blessed memory, celebrating the day of the two Major Disciples of Christ, St. Peter and St. Paul.”
“Almost everything about those two men was different. They had different background, different level of education, different personalities. The ways they came to believe in Christ was also different. We may recall that Holy Apostle Peter was one of the twelve Disciples called by our Lord Jesus Christ to follow Him. St. Peter was one of the first-called. He left his fishing nets on the banks of the Sea of Galilee and followed Christ. He was with his Master almost until the end of Jesus’ mission. We know that Peter showed some weakness, got scared when Jesus was taken into custody. He renounced His Teacher three times. But we also know that later Jesus forgave His close Disciple and entrusted to him the care of the Church. Very different was the way of St. Paul. He was first the persecutor of Christians, an enemy of Christ, one of the zealous Pharisees wishing to destroy the Disciples of Jesus. Paul did not follow Christ while the Messiah was on the earth. He persecuted His Disciples after Jesus ascended into heaven. Yet Paul was made worthy to become a major Apostle. Being on his way to the city of Damascus Paul received a revelation from God. It completely changed his life. He turned into a zealous follower of Jesus whom he persecuted before. Paul became a hard laborer in the field of Christ, a fervent preacher of Christianity, an Apostle of the Gentiles.”
“As I said, almost everything was different about those two men. Yet one thing they had in common – their firm and profound faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith made them holy, it made them capable of so many endeavors. That faith finally led both of them to the same purpose – to be with their beloved Teacher, Lord Jesus Christ. It made them die for Christ on the same day in the capital city of Rome, the very day we celebrate their memory today. This is why the Church does not separate those two holy men. We almost never honor them separately, for you do not hear about any Orthodox temple dedicated to St. Peter or St. Paul separately. Only in Rome where they both ministered and martyred, there are two different basilicas of St. Peter and of St. Paul (which are presently Catholic). And we know that there is St. Paul Cathedral in London (which is Protestant).”
“Holy Scripture can tell us about the labors and endeavors of the Holy Apostles. Today’s Epistle lesson enumerates many works made, many tortures undergone and many dangers experienced by St. Paul (2 Cor. 11, 21-12, 9). St. Paul without praising himself, but very specifically describes that saying that compared to other Apostles he is “in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often” (2 Cor. 11, 23). He then says that he will not boast in these heroic things. But he is trying to say that his true worthiness is that he was caught up to the third heaven, to paradise and “heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. 12, 3).”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and altar servers performed the rite of glorification before the icon of the Apostles in the middle of the church. They have sung the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Saints.

4th Sunday after Pentecost

On July 6, on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost and on the feast of the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. The Divine Liturgy was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Following the Scripture lessons the Rector preached a homily:

“In today’s Epistle lesson St. Paul is reasoning about such things as freedom and slavery. Recently we celebrated Independence Day, an American national holiday commemorating acquiring freedom and sovereignty of this nation from the slavery to the British Empire. But even after getting independence the American society knew such thing as slavery. In a number of American states people had other men and women as slaves. The society had to undergo a painful process of Civil War to end that shameful practice of slavery.”
“St. Paul lived in the ancient times when slavery was a normal thing. It became especially spread after Rome became an empire. Every fourth person living in the capital city of Rome was a slave. Slaves had no rights, they were considered a property of their masters. They could not make any important decisions for themselves. They could be punished, tortured or killed by their masters without any consequences. They were bought and sold. This is why when St. Paul was writing his Epistle to the Christians in Rome, he had to consider this reality. And in today’s Epistle he uses the terms ‘slaves’, ‘slavery’ and ‘freedom’ to be better understood by his listeners. He says today, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh” (Rom. 6, 19). Let us then try to understand the main ideas of today’s reading of the holy Apostle.”
“Our main slavery is a slavery to sin. It started when man sinned and became fallen. The mission of our Lord Jesus Christ was to set us free from that slavery. His mission was successful. All who follow Christ and become baptized are freed from sin of Adam and are given a right to become admitted to the society of Saints. Now we no longer belong to the devil, to the sin, but to Jesus Christ who is our Lord and Master. This is why St. Paul says in today’s Epistle lesson, “Having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6, 18). God means righteousness and justice; God means goodness and truth; God means holiness and purity. This is why, if we now belong to Him, speaking in human terms of the times of St. Paul, we are “slaves of righteousness”. We are slaves of God’s holiness, of His goodness, of His truth and His love.”
“St. Paul further reasons that being enslaved by God demands to fulfill His will. St. Paul says, “For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and a lawlessness…, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” (Rom. 6, 19). If we wish to belong to Jesus Christ, then our life has to be a service to righteousness and acquiring of holiness. We cannot betray our Master by serving other masters such as our passions, sins and the devil.”
“We should add here that belonging to Jesus Christ, becoming a slave of righteousness is totally voluntary thing. We embrace that kind of service voluntarily. If we truly understand that such slavery is our true home and our true dignity, we accept it and live by it being happy. We also understand that we Christians are by far better off than so called “free men” in the world. St. Paul teaches us in today’s lesson that the fruit of slavery to Christ is holiness and eternal life. But the fruit of being free from Christ is death. He says, “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Rom. 6, 21-22).”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, humanity needs to choose. As two thousand years ago when St. Paul lived, so today, men have to choose between slavery to righteousness and slavery to sin. Jesus Christ by His sacrifice on the cross, by His Redemption accomplished for us, made this choice possible. But it is up to us which slavery to choose. It is our voluntary choice which master to submit. Either we choose our Jesus Christ, the Son of God to be our Lord and Master and to become slaves of righteousness, or we may choose to become or continue to be slaves of sin. There is no other option. We may be deluded by sin to think that if we are free from religious and other traditional rules, then we are truly free people living according to our own will. Many people fell for that. They did revolutions, they destroyed the churches, they proclaimed the reason and social issues to be supreme in our lives. But in fact, they only served the sin and death. And now, in our times people who wish to be free from the Church, from the traditional values are deluded. They think that they are free, but they are miserable slaves of their own passions, sins and eventually, the slaves of the devil and death. A very painful example is the raise of the gay movement. In our times, American cities hold so-called gay parades which they even call the “parades of pride”. Homosexuals show their pride of being lawless in their lifestyle. Sinners show that they are proud to sin. And every mayor of our city participates in that shameful action putting a disgrace on this city and on its leadership. Well, they can show that but all of them should be aware of the words of St. Paul, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6, 23).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Our presence here, in this holy temple shows that we made a choice to be slaves of righteousness. Let us then serve our only Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us present our members not as slaves to uncleanness for lawlessness as many people do, but as slaves of righteousness for holiness. This slavery will bring us eternal life. If we do differently, we may inherit eternal death. Let us remember the words of St. Paul: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6, 23).”

During the Liturgy Fr. Igor proclaimed the litany for the deceased at which he commemorated the newly-departed Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, the first hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who passed away on July 5.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector reminded parishioners that during the coming week the Church celebrates two great feasts: the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (July 7) and feast of the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul (July 12). While we are not having a service on July 7, we will celebrate feast of St. Peter and Paul on Saturday, July 12.