Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God

On August 28, holy day of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, we had a nice celebration in our temple. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the reading from the Gospel he preached a sermon:

“Celebrating today’s feast of the Dormition, the Falling-Asleep of the Most Holy Mother of God, we celebrate Pascha of the Theotokos. In the same way as for our Lord Jesus Christ, His greatest holy day is His Resurrection, Holy Pascha, so for His Blessed Mother, Her glorious Falling Asleep is Her Pascha. It is not exactly Her resurrection, but definitely Her passing from earthly to heavenly life. Also, celebrating that feast we come to the ending of the Church year. We are reminded that the liturgical year begins in September with the Birth of the Mother of God and ends with the feast of Her Falling Asleep.”
“Today’s feast also explains to us the origin of the hymn that we sing to the Mother of God: “More honorable than the cherubim, beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim”. These are not simply beautiful words that a pious Church writer composed, they have an origin in a spiritual revelation.”
“This feast reminds us of how our Lord from the Cross entrusted the care of His Mother to the Apostle John the Theologian. Tradition tells us that us the Holy Virgin, when She was about 60 years old, was visited by the Archangel Gabriel, who long before had announced to her the conception of Christ in her womb. He now announced to Her that in 3 days She will fall asleep. When it did happen the Apostles were miraculously brought to Jerusalem to make their farewells. The Virgin gave away all her earthly possessions to poor widows as she made ready for her burial in Gethsemane, next to Her parents St. Joachim and Anna and also Her spouse St. Joseph.”
“Tradition further tells us that the Most Holy Mother of God comforted the grieving.  Her house was filled with light, Her face shone and Her body was fragrant, as Christ came with the Angels to take Her soul, as we can see from the icon of this feast. We are reminded how Her soul was taken up by Her Son, together with the cherubim and the seraphim, and now we understand the origin of our hymn: “More honorable than the cherubim, more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim”. We remember how the Apostles, singing in procession, took Her body to the tomb which then they sealed.”
“We recall that Holy Apostle Thomas arrived later and wanted too to make his farewell; and so the tomb was unsealed and found empty except for the burial clothes and the wonderful fragrance. And from the very beginning we Orthodox have piously taken this to mean that the body of the Holy Virgin was so pure that it too had been taken up to heaven, and that is why we have nowhere any bodily relic of the Mother of God.”
“And we understand by this that the first in the Kingdom of heaven after Christ is the Holy Virgin. We understand by this that even given the weakness of human nature it is possible for our bodies to attain to utmost holiness. The Mother of God is, after Christ, the first-fruit of the Resurrection and shows us the way to the life of the Resurrection.”
“Of course there are people who will tell you that none of this is written in the Bible. But for us Orthodox the Holy Scripture is only part of the ongoing Revelation of the Holy Spirit, which we call the Tradition. We are not dead to the Spirit, the Spirit speaks to us still, with ever more revelations about the life of the coming Kingdom.”

“We began by saying that with this feast we come to the end of the Church year. It reminds us of the ending of human life on earth. It is indeed our destiny to die; it is the only certain thing in this life; every day that passes we draw one day nearer to our deaths. However, whatever our destiny, our ambition is not to die, but rather to fall asleep, in the manner of the Virgin, and have our souls taken to heaven by the holy Angels, that death might become a mere passage from mortal life to immortality, from this life to eternity in the everlasting Kingdom of Christ and all His Saints.”
“This is why, dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to the Blessed Virgin to pray for us and to save us!”

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers came out of the sanctuary and performed the rite of glorification in front of the icon of the Dormition. They have sung the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast.

11th Sunday after Pentecost

On August 24, on the 11th Sunday after Pentecost our Parish community had a nice liturgical celebration. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our church. After the Gospel reading he preached the following homily:

“Today’s Gospel lesson tells us a parable about a cruel and unmerciful lender who himself owed ten thousand talents to the king, but did not wish to forgive his fellow servant a debt of one hundred denarii.”
“This parable teaches us how kind and merciful is our Lord. In this parable He is shown as a kind king who forgives a large debt and releases his servant. The servants in the parable are us, people. We are the servants of God. And our Lord constantly forgives us our debts, our transgressions. We have a lot of them in our life. Just think how many sins a person commits during the lifetime? But if he or she sincerely repents and asks forgiveness, God in His compassion forgives all of them. However, the compassionate Lord is expecting from us a similar compassion towards our neighbors, all other people. It is no accident that the Lord’s Prayer has the words: “and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”. God’s forgiveness of our sins depends on our forgiveness of the sins of others against us. If we will act like an unmerciful servant, the Lord will justly condemn us for our transgressions. And our Lord finishes the parable with the words: “So My Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Mt. 18, 35).”
“Unfortunately, we do not always remember that God’s command to forgive from our heart the trespasses of our brothers. During the course of our lifetime we may see many times how people fight, argue and hate each other because of the fact that someone offended someone and there is no forgiveness. Some people do not wish to forgive. It is sad, but they may finally receive a due condemnation from our Lord at the Last Judgment.”
“We should also note the huge difference between our trespasses against God and the trespasses of our neighbors against us. We commit sins every day. And every sin is an offense of God’s majesty, His infinite goodness. Thus we owe God the whole lifetime. And our lifetime is full of sins, full of lesser or greater transgressions. At the same time, another servant owed his fellow servant one hundred denarii. And that was an average wage for one hundred days of labor. Perhaps, it was much, but it may not be compared to ten thousand talents owed to the king. Ten thousand talents was a very large amount of money, the amount someone could never earn even in the course of a lifetime! But we often make a big deal out of trespasses of our brothers against and do not wish to forgive. God forgives us terrible iniquities while we do not wish to forgive insignificant shortcomings.”
“An example could be how we carelessly omit the church services during the week. It is not a very direct example, but it does illustrate how different are our trespasses against the Lord and the trespasses of other people against us. Many religious people come to the church on Sundays, and thank God that they do. But many of them do not come on other days, when we celebrate some feasts. Many parishioners may have an excuse if they are busy during the week, if they are working. But in many instances our parishes are full of elderly people who are retired and could visit the temple on weekdays. If they don’t come on great holy days, they commit a grave sin of neglect. But many may not realize that. However, if someone did not come to them on the occasion of their personal celebration, they would be offended. They would be not easy to forgive. Some may not forgive at all – depending on a personality. But God forgives us our trespasses if we do repent.”
“Thus, having in mind the parable on a merciful king and unmerciful servant, let us be understanding towards the shortcomings of our neighbors and forgive them their trespasses. For God forgives us ours. Let us be compassionate towards other people and excuse their defects. For God excuses our shortcomings and forgives us. Let us be kind and forgive if our neighbors offend us. For the Lord is kind and forgives the offenses and iniquities we commit against Him if we repent. Let us do that, so the Lord may be merciful to us and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector reminded parishioners about the approaching great holy day of the Most Holy Mother of God – Her Dormition. He called faithful to prepare for this feast and to attend the church on that important occasion.

Transfiguration of the Lord

On August 18, Vigil of the Transfiguration of the Lord, St. George Church’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served Great Vespers of the feast in our temple. This service was scheduled instead of the festal Liturgy because our Rector was summoned to serve in St. Nicholas Cathedral.
Following the service Fr. Igor preached a sermon:

“Feast of the Transfiguration is one of the very important among the holy days. Today we celebrate a miraculous change which was manifested by our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples on the Mount Tabor. Taking Peter, James and John to that high mountain, He transfigured before them. As the Gospel states, “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Mt. 17, 2). Before that they knew Jesus to be a great Teacher, a wonderworker, the Messiah promised by the Old Testament. But they did not fully realize that He was the Son of God and God Himself. At the Mount Tabor Jesus revealed who He really was. Thus the Apostles could see the glory of the true God, the light shining from the divine nature.”
“No one ever saw God. God’s essence and nature is incomprehensible to our limited mind. However, God revealed Himself and showed some part of His nature to certain holy people. In the times before Christ, God appeared to Moses and Elijah. Holy Prophet Moses could see God. God appeared to Moses as the burning bush or a cloud. But God also showed Moses Himself in a special, mystical way, as the Scripture tells “from behind”, because a man cannot see God and live. Holy Prophet Elijah was also blessed by seeing God who revealed Himself in a breath of the calm wind. These were the men of the Old Testament whom God blessed with His appearance. And it was not accidental that those two holy men appeared on the Mount Tabor to converse with Jesus when He transfigured before His disciples. Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament which were fulfilled in Jesus.”
“With the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ into the world, God revealed Himself in a very comprehensible and accessible way. He became man, so we could see God in our form. And Transfiguration of our Lord had to teach His disciples of the mystery of the union of human and divine natures in Christ.”
“There are many different ideas about God. Some philosophers or other intelligent people may imagine God to be some universal force or some worldly order. But such God is not personal. We believe that God is a Person, the one to whom we can refer, with whom we can speak. And in Jesus Christ who became one of us, a partaker of the human nature, we find such personal God much easier. Also, through His taking up the human nature and interweaving it with His divine nature, we may become the partakers of the divinity. As we all created in the image of God, through Christ we may acquire the likeness of God.”
“This is what is called by the Fathers the process of deification or theosis. Human nature becoming divine. This teaching was elaborated by the Holy Fathers of the III and IV centuries, especially by St. Athanasius of Alexandria. Interestingly that this teaching is not very much remembered or used by Protestants and Roman Catholics, by Western Christians. It is known that today’s Western world likes to talk about the dignity of man and to extol humanity. But this is a secular way of praising the human nature, the so-called humanism. It desires to serve man and to forget about God. It strives to praise human nature with all its weaknesses and passions, a nature corrupted by sin. Our Eastern Church adheres to the teaching of the Fathers which extols human nature in a Christian way. We say that man is called to become like God not by being proud and sinful, but through the pious life, through the partaking of divine nature, through the acquiring of divine grace in our Lord Jesus Christ. What could be more honorable for a man than an idea of becoming like God? But that way of deification is the way of piety, spiritual and sacramental life in our Lord Jesus Christ, life in which we hear the beloved Son of the Father. It is the way of Transfiguration, a movement from below to above.”
“We know that many people are concerned about progress. At least, for the last century, the notion of progress became very popular and important for our society. Many things and even values are being sacrificed in order to follow progress. But progress is a movement ahead, a movement forward. But what we, Christians, really need is a movement from below to above. And this is not progress, but Transfiguration! This was noticed a century ago by our New Martyr Hilarion (Troitsky). We need Transfiguration, not progress. This process will lead us above and will help us to recognize our true destiny – to be with God in heaven and to become partakers of the Divine.”

After the Vespers the Rector performed traditional blessing of fruits.

Next day, on the feast of Transfiguration of the Lord, Fr. Igor celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral. Following the Scripture readings he preached the same homily as at Vespers on the night before, but in the Russian language. 5 of our parishioners came to the Cathedral to participate in festal Liturgy. After the service Fr. Igor blessed fruits for the multitudes of the Cathedral parishioners.

Our Rector and five our parishioners continued celebration of the feast having a luncheon at the nearby restaurant.

Attention! Some Changes in our Service Schedule

Due to the absence of some clergy in St. Nicholas Cathedral this week, our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov is summoned to serve there.
Therefore, there will be no service in our St. George Church on Sunday, August 17 and on Tuesday, August 19 (feast of the Transfiguration).
Instead, there will be Vespers of the feast served on the eve of the Transfiguration, August 18, at 7 pm. Vespers will be followed by the traditional blessing of fruits.

Bishop John arrived in New York


                                    His Grace, JOHN, Bishop of Naro-Fominsk
                    Our new Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA

On Wednesday August 6, the new Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, His Grace John, Bishop of Naro-Fominsk, arrived in the United States.

With the peal of bells and the traditional greeting of bread and salt, Bishop John entered St Nicholas Cathedral for the first time as a Bishop and presided at the Thanksgiving prayer service. His Grace was co-served by the cathedral clergy and some priests from the Patriarchal Parishes.

Representatives of the ROCOR were also present.At the conclusion of the prayer service, on behalf of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, Archpriest George Konyev greeted Bishop John and wished him God’s unending mercy and love in his archpastoral service in the United States. His Grace thanked all those gathered for their prayers.

9th Sunday after Pentecost. Feast of the Icon of Our Lady of Smolensk

On August 10, on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost and on the feast of the Icon of Our Lady of Smolensk, Rector of St. George Church served the Divine Liturgy in our temple.Following the Gospel reading he preached a homily:

“Today’s Gospel lesson tells us about our Lord Jesus Christ walking on the water. There is nothing amazing about that. He is the Son of God and He has a full dominion over nature. In fact, at the end of today’s reading the Apostles confess their faith in Him worshipping Him and saying: “You are the Son of God” (Mt. 14, 33). What is amazing is that His Disciple, Peter could walk on the water also. It is not surprising that God can do amazing things. The real miracle starts when He invites man to do amazing things.”
“The Gospel tells us that Holy Apostle Peter wished to come to Jesus on the water. The only provision he has is that the Lord will command him to do so. Jesus quickly answers with one word: “Come” (Mt. 14, 29). Then Peter comes down out of the boat and starts walking on the sea, just as Jesus did. However, he could not make all his way to Jesus. Peter saw that the wind was boisterous, became afraid and began to sink. He cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” Jesus saved him and rebuked him for having too little faith.”
“Today’s Gospel teaches us that with God we are able to do anything . Having firm faith and sincere hope generates greatest powers in man. Our faith and our hope become our comfort in difficulties and our foundation in calamities. What do we need to stand on something or to walk on something? We need foundation and comfort. Naturally, we are unable to walk on the water because it does not have sufficient foundation for our body. But St. Peter could do it, at least for a brief moment, because his faith and trust in Jesus became his foundation.”
“In today’s Epistle lesson we also find thoughts of the Holy Apostle Paul regarding that. He calls Jesus Christ the foundation of our life in Him. “No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3, 11) Having such a foundation we may build our life on Him. God will empower us to do many amazing things. St. Paul teaches that we may build using gold, silver or precious stones. He refers to a fruitful and rich life in Christ, life full of virtue and good deeds, life of holiness. This kind of life is very hard to conduct, it may even seem to be impossible, just as walking on the waters. But as an example we have a great number of people whom we call Saints. They could live such a life. They were always trying to do impossible things because they had faith as a foundation and they never lost the Christ from their sight.”
“But even if we fail, if we became overcome by doubt, by fear or by something else, Jesus still stretches His saving hand to us. Even if we start to sink, like Peter, it would be enough just to cry out: “Lord, save me!” And help will come. St. Paul tells that some may build their structure with wood, hay or straw. Although such building will not be strong, it still has a very strong foundation. It may be damaged, destroyed, but it could be rebuilt again. Thus when we experience difficulties, go through troublesome life, when we fall, let us not forget that our Lord Jesus Christ may help us and save us.”
“Let us attempt to have firm faith and full trust to do amazing and great things for the glory of God. Let us try to walk on the waters of our uncertain and unreliable earthly existence. God will help us. But even if we doubt, even if we become afraid, even if we fail, even if we fall and begin to sink, let us remember that Jesus is with us. Let us call Him. Let us say even a little prayer. He will come and help us. He will come and save us. For He is our Foundation, our Comfort and our Hope.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector reminded parishioners that on the coming week the Church will begin the Dormition fast. This two-week period is dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God and has strict rules of fasting. Fr. Igor called the faithful to observe that fast in honor of the Blessed Mother. He also made a short speech about the Icon of Our Lady of Smolensk which was celebrated on that day.

Following the Liturgy the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.

8th Sunday after Pentecost

On August 3, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, our Parish community had a beautiful Sunday celebration. St. George’s Rector, archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached a sermon:

“Today’s Sunday Gospel tells us about a miraculous multiplication of the five loaves of bread our Lord Jesus Christ performed. He fed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fishes. In doing so, Christ showed that He is the Son of God. He repeated what God did to His chosen people when He fed them in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. In both instances God interfered with the powers of nature to help the people whom He loved. Such interference is called a miracle.”
“We are not very much accustomed to the miracles in our daily life. Many of us tend to think that miracles are almost impossible. Some of us consider them totally impossible. However, life in faith gives us numerous examples when something unusual and extraordinary happened. A person who deeply believes in God, would certainly admit that miracles do happen. Holy Scripture tells us about many instances when the God’s power and omnipotence, His love and compassion worked in a way that the usual order of things was overridden. Today’s Gospel is one of those instances. It is physically impossible to feed five thousand men and many more people with only five loaves of bread. But through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ it was accomplished. It was also impossible to feed the Israelites in the desert for 40 years, but God took care of them sending them food literally from heaven or giving them other chances to feed themselves. When God wishes the order of nature becomes overridden. He is the Creator of this world. He is the Lord of nature. Thus the nature may be altered only by Him.”
“Yesterday we celebrated feast of the Holy Prophet Elias, or Elijah. This holy man lived long before Jesus Christ, was faithful to God and was blessed by special gifts. Miracles did happen in his life. Holy Apostle James wrote about him the following: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (Jam. 5, 17-18). Holy Scripture of the Old Testament also tells us that Elijah was sent by God to a place called Zarepthah where a widow had to provide for him. Encountering that widow Elijah asked her to give him something to eat. But the widow complained that she has no food, but some flour in the bin and some oil in the jar. Elijah insisted on feeding him first and then he promised to the poor widow that “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’”(1 Kings 17, 14) It happened exactly as Elijah predicted according to the will of God. They could eat from that little portion of flour and oil for a long time. Isn’t that similar to multiplying the five loaves of bread? God is infinite. When He wants things He created and granted to us may also become infinite.”
“Even the end of the earthly life for Holy Elijah was miraculous. He did not die, but was taken to heaven by the chariot of fire, as the Scripture says. Thus the order of human nature sometimes becomes changed due to the will of God.”
“If the miracles happened many times in the life of the righteous people like Elijah, they may happen in our lives. Let us remember that God can do anything. If we have a true and firm faith, miracles will be worked in our lives. God will stretch His hand to us overcoming the obstacles of nature, our spiritual nourishment will never stop, His love shall not be used up, nor His grace will run dry, until the day the Lord comes again.”

Right after the Liturgy dismissal the Rector greeted one of our little parishioners, Ilia Kay on the occasion of his past name day and wished him God’s help and intercession of the Holy Prophet Elias in his small but important affairs of learning, helping his parents and being a good Orthodox Christian. Traditional “Mnogaya leta” was proclaimed.

Archbishop Justinian Celebrated His Farewell Liturgy in the United States

On Saturday, August 2, the feast of the Holy Prophet Elias, His Eminence Justinian, Archbishop of Elista and Kalmykia celebrated his farewell Divine Liturgy with clergy of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA at St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York  His Eminence was co-served by His Grace, Bishop Jerome (Shaw, Retired-ROCOR) and a multitude of clergy from our Patriarchal Parishes, including St. George Church’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Some clergy from the Russian Church Outside of Russia served as well.

At the end of the Liturgy, Archbishop Justinian greeted the gathered clergy and expressed his gratitude to all those who traveled near and far to wish him many years in his new Eparchy. His Eminence explained the decision of the Holy Synod to transfer him and assured everyone of his Archpastoral Prayers and lovely memory. On behalf of all the clergy of the Patriarchal Parishes, Archpriest Emil Minkovich expressed gratitude to Archbishop Justinian for his love, support and prayers to each clergyman and layperson in his four-year tenure as Administrator.

Interaction between the Archbishop and the clergy continued in the Hall of St. Nicholas Cathedral. At the farewell luncheon, our Rector, Fr. Igor toasted in honor of His Eminence and expressed gratitude on behalf of the clergy and parishioners for the loving and dedicated Archpastoral care of Archbishop Justinian during his four-year service as our spiritual leader.


Our New Bishop is Ordained

On Wednesday, July 30, at the Patriarchal Residence in Danilov Monastery in Moscow, His Holiness Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow and of All Rus’ led the Rite of Nomination of Archimandrite John (Roschin) as Bishop of Naro-Fominsk, Vicar of the Moscow Eparchy and Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA.

On Friday, August 1, on the feat of the Uncovering of relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov, His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill served the Divine Liturgy at St. George Church on the “Poklonnaya” Hill in Moscow. During the Divine Liturgy Patriarch Kirill led the Episcopal consecration of Archimandrite John (Roshchin) as Bishop of Naro-Fominsk. Several other bishops participated in the consecration.

At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Patriarch Kirill delivered the Archpastoral staff to His Grace, Bishop John, who then subsequently blessed the faithful for the first time.