20th Sunday after Pentecost

On October 26, on the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, our Parish had a nice liturgical celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Scripture readings he preached the following homily:

“Today, in addition to the Sunday celebration, we honor the Holy Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Council. This was the last Council known as Ecumenical which means that this was the gathering representing the whole Universal, Ecumenical Orthodox Church. It defined our faith in veneration of the holy icons. This last Council proclaimed that the images of Christ, of the Most Holy Mother of God, and of the Saints have to be venerated among Orthodox Christians. We do not worship the icons because only God can be worshipped, but we do venerate the images of God incarnate and His Saints.”
“Another feast that we celebrate today is directly related to the veneration of the holy images. Today the Church has a minor feast in honor of the icon of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Icon of Our Lady of Iveron. As many other imagеs of the Theotokos, this icon became miraculous. And thus it confirmed the faith proclaimed by the Holy Fathers of the 7th Council. It manifested that the icons are very important and helpful in the life of the Orthodox people. Today’s celebrated icon was known to be saved from the unfaithful persecutors by some woman, a widow in Nicaea, the same city were later the 7th Council took place. That woman placed the icon upon the waves of the sea. We know that most of the icons are written upon the wood. So, that woman decided to rely on the mercy of God and on the power of the Theotokos to preserve the icon. So, the icon was thrown into the sea. Later it found its way to Mount Athos, a holy place where many Orthodox monks are living in endeavors of ascetic life. The icon was discovered in the water because the monks saw the pillar of light shining upon that place in the waters. This ocon became miraculous on Mt. Athos and it was kept in the Monastery called Iveron.”
“In the 17th century a copy of that icon was requested by the Orthodox Christians of Moscow. It had been made and brought to Moscow at the time of Patriarch Nicon and the Czar Alexey Mikhailovich.  The icon showed a number of miracles for the city of Moscow. Thus it very revered in that city and in the whole Russian Church.”
“Today’s first Gospel reading tells us a very famous parable of the sower who went out to sow his seed. We all understand that the sower is a preacher of the Word of God, a missionary who is spreading the good news of the Christian faith. The sower should also be understood as our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He came to sow the seed of His teaching and His salutary faith. The parable is telling us about different kinds of soil where the seed falls. Those kinds of soil are different kinds of people’s souls receiving the preaching of the Word of God.”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ explained the parable Himself, and we heard that interpretation. We have to admit that there is nothing we can add to His interpretation of His own parable. All the attempts to add or complete our Lord’s interpretation would be just paraphrasing what He Himself said. This is why today we should reflect about possible examples of the souls receiving the Word of God, examples of the soil taking in the seed from the divine Sower.”
”The seed on the wayside can be compared to the people who occasionally hear the preaching of the Gospel, are generally familiar with Christian faith. But somehow that word does not get to their souls. Jesus says that the devil takes away the word out of their hearts. There are many people in such a position in today’s world. We may see them even coming to the church to baptize the kids or to get married. They listen to you, but they do not really get the message.”
”The seed on the rock are the people who had no chance to know about true religion before, but one day they found it. They convert, become very interested in their faith. Jesus says that they receive the word with joy. Yes, they are happy and excited and they often become more zealous and pious than those who were born and raised in that faith. But the danger is that they have no root, as Jesus points it out. Not all of them will stay in the faith. Any temptation, any problem, any misunderstanding may turn them away from their acquired religion.”
“The seed fallen among the thorns are many regular people who may know their faith, who often consider themselves practicing believers and members of the Church. However, they are too much preoccupied with their earthly lives. They care too much about earthly achievements, material possessions, carriers, jobs, pleasures of life. This always leads to the neglect of what is spiritual and everlasting. Riches and pleasures, but sometimes just everyday cares and problems are choking the seeds of faith in their hearts just as the thorns choke the seeds of some plant. These people never have time for God, for a prayer or for the attendance of the church. Or if they do “squeeze” God into their busy schedule, they are not able to receive His grace or appreciate the richness of His teaching. Their faith becomes formal and official, but not deep and real. So they “bring no fruit to maturity”, as Jesus says.”
“Finally, our Lord says that the “good ground” are those who “keep the word and bear fruit with patience”. The key words here are to keep the word and to be patient. Keeping means preserving true faith, holy rites and customs, salutary traditions of the Church. It means not changing or altering them. And being patient means to endure in that religious life, to persevere in the works of faith and piety. Only people who do that may truly receive the Word of God, keep it and grow the seeds of divine teaching and then bear abundant fruits of faith, virtue and holiness.”

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector said a brief sermon explaining today’s feast in the Russian language. It was especially interesting because among our parishioners we have a big family from Moscow and a family from Georgia as well. At both those places Orthodox Christians love and honor the holy Icon of Our Lady of Iveron.

19th Sunday after Pentecost

On October 19, on the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Rector of St. George Church served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel reading he preached a homily in Russian. The English version of that homily is as follows:

“Today we celebrate 19th Sunday after Pentecost, but the Gospel lesson assigned for today is from the 20th Sunday. Today we also celebrate feast of the Holy Apostle Thomas. This is why we had two Epistle and Gospel readings.”
“St. Thomas was one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ. Today’s second Gospel lesson tells us about him when he doubted the Lord’s Resurrection but came to believe. After seeing a proof that the Lord was truly risen from the dead, after seeing the Lord’s risen body, after examining the wounds from the nails and from the spear, Thomas believed. This faith made him a fervent preacher of the Gospel. His life account says that St. Thomas went very far to the East and ended up in India where he founded Christian Church. Even today a number of Christian communities in India trace their origin from St. Thomas. Although most of them are not within the Orthodox Church, they bear witness of Christ before the pagan or Muslim society of India.”

“Today’s first Gospel lesson tells us about rising of the son of the widow of Nain. This story can be found only in the Gospel of St. Luke. It shows that our Lord Jesus Christ had a great compassion towards people. Here we have a woman who first lost her husband and now was burying her only son. In the society of those days such a woman was predestined to live a poor and miserable life. Her husband was taking care of her. When he died, her son remained her only provider. Now she lost him. This is why Jesus seeing the funeral procession and being probably told about the situation, felt for that woman so much, as every kind man would feel. But Jesus goes further than that. He comes forth and says to the widow: “Do not weep”. And He touches the coffin and says to the dead young man: “Young man, I say to you, arise.” He performs the miracle and the young man comes back to life. In that we see the difference between Jesus and any kind man. Jesus is not just a kind man, He is the Son of God, He is the Lord.”
“As the Lord Jesus Christ performed great and astonishing miracles. One of them is described in today’s Gospel. Raising the dead young man was done by Jesus to show His power over life and death. Such a power could be possessed only by the Lord of the universe, only by God who created life and who is giving it to His creatures. We also remember that Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter and Lazarus. All these events had to demonstrate the power of God given to Jesus. Finally, Jesus was Himself risen from the dead. But we should note that all three raisings of the people described in the Gospels were acts of resuscitation which is different from resurrection. They were brought back to life, but would eventually die again. But their new life manifests Christ’s divinity, and gives assurance of His Resurrection and ours, a transformation to glory. Those miraculous acts also glorify God as the Giver of life and His Son, Jesus who would be specially glorified in His Resurrection.”
“This miracle teaches us that our Lord is the Master of our life and our death. He is the source of our existence. He created us and bestowed His gift of life on every one of us. However, this gift does not seem to be enduring forever. More than that, it seems to be vulnerable and perishable. Many unpleasant things threaten that gift: illnesses, accidents, crimes, wars, stresses and so on. They all may endanger our life and cause its termination. We try to preserve that precious gift, but we often fail. Realizing such a condition we should not despair. God gave us another precious gift – a gift of faith. It is supposed to make us strong and wise during the course of our earthly life. It has to teach us to make right choices and to believe that earthly life is not the only life we possess. We believe that eternal life of the soul awaits us after death. We also believe that eternal life of the risen body awaits us after the resurrection of the dead.”
“Our faith tells us also that earthly death came to existence due to the sin of our ancestors. Adam and Eve did not have to die. God explicitly said to them when they will die: if they would eat the forbidden fruit. After eating that fruit Adam died spiritually and became subjected to physical death of the fallen and corrupted body. Only our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man could trample death by His Resurrection. He destroyed that enemy of humanity. No one else could do it, but God. No one else could give the son of the widow back to his mother. And no one else after death can give our soul to our body again. Although death still exists and takes its toll from the sinful mankind, we all live and die with the great hope for the eternal life with God and for our own resurrection with Jesus. One day He will come and say to every one of us: “I say to you, arise.” And we will. We will begin everlasting life.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! As Jesus spoke to the dead young man in Nain, he also speaks to us in many different ways. To St. Thomas Jesus spoke saying, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (Jn. 20, 27). And to us He says, either “Arise” when we fall into a sin, or “Be believing” when we doubt or fall into despair. Therefore, let us cherish our faith in order to be prepared to the eternal life announced to us in today’s first Gospel lesson. Let us prepare for it by good works of faith, hope and love.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector said a very brief sermon in English to convey the main ideas of his previous Russian homily.

The Rector and parishioners continued their celebration at the table enjoying delicious refreshments at the coffee hour.

18th Sunday after Pentecost

On October 12, on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy after coming back from his leave. Following the Scripture readings he preached a homily:

“Today’s reading from the Gospel of St. Luke presents us a very difficult advice our Lord Jesus Christ gives. He says: “Love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return” (Lk. 6, 35). It seems to us that it is something unnatural, not normal to love bad people, especially those who are against you, your enemies. It is also strange to hear that we have to lend without hope of receiving back. These words may seem to be weird, strange and even stupid. However, these are the words of the Lord, the words of Jesus. And if we recall the whole life of our Lord here on earth, we may realize that He acted that strange way. Jesus did not hide from His enemies, did not run away from the danger being apprehended and killed. When He was taken by His enemies He said nothing to avoid being crucified. And when He was tortured and crucified He prayed for His enemies and executioners: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Lk. 23, 34). Therefore, if we think that a commandment to love the enemies is a strange and unnatural, let us remember that Jesus Christ gave us an example of that.”
“Having such an example of our Lord Himself we still may wonder how it is possible for us to love our enemy or to lend without hope to receive back. And it is really a difficult question. In today’s Gospel lesson our Lord tells us: Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Lk. 6, 31). This advice does not raise any questions in our mind. We know and it seems to be natural to do what you expect the other people to do to you. This is called a “golden rule” which was always in the hearts of men and which was stated by many great thinkers. Our Lord here repeats that golden rule. But stating again that natural order of things Jesus goes further and says: “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Lk. 6, 32). The sinners love those who love them and do good to those who do good to them. But when someone does something bad to them? They hate that person. The sinners behave like capricious children: if parents let them do whatever they want, they love them; but if they say ‘no’ to such a child they hear right away: “I hate you!” Our Lord tells us not to be like those children, but to be mature. Thus, if someone does something wrong to us, we should not jump into conclusions. But even if it is obvious that someone is our enemy, let us at least try to act as the Lord did. Let us try to love them. It is very hard. But was it easy for Jesus to humble Himself to the death on the Cross?”
“Another thing that we should keep in mind is that our enemies are also human beings. And every human being can make mistakes. We make them also, and we may also cause trouble to the other people. But God loves all of us. Today we heard the words that God is “kind to the unthankful and evil” (Lk. 6, 35). Sometimes we wonder why God allows bad things to happen and let bad people to live, sometimes live long lives and even prosper. It is because God is kind. We are all His children, good and bad. “And He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt. 6, 45). We also commit sins, and when we do so, we are not quite good. No, we are evil. But God forgives us when we repent. Being the children of God, we should love each other. God does it to us. He awaits our conversion and repentance if we do something wrong. If we do not repent at all, then God will judge us at the end of times. But not now.”
“Therefore, let us not judge our enemies at this point but let us wait for the Last Judgment of the Lord. Let us ask God to give us a soft heart to love our enemies in order to be similar to our Lord Jesus Christ who loved His enemies and prayed for them. Let us also pray for them, so the Lord will grant us according to our prayers.”

Upon the Liturgy dismissal the Rector congratulated our parishioner, Maria Malyshew, on the occasion of her past name day and wished her a special God’s help in her life as a young mother. Traditional “Mnogaia leta” were sung.

Following the dismissal Fr. Igor also announced that our parish property sustained some loss after the two recent windstorms. The falling tree branches damaged our gate and the gutter of the church building. Since we are facing some spendings for repair, the Rector asked the parishioners to show generosity in supporting the church. He also expressed his gratitude to Alexandru Surdu who performed voluntary work at our church property helping to remove the branches from the fence and the church roof.