25th Sunday after Pentecost

On November 30, on the 25th Sunday after Pentecost St. George Church’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in the Russian language. The English translation of that homily is the following:

“Today we listened to a pretty brief Gospel reading about a rich man who was a fool because he put all his trust in his possessions rather than in God. He laid treasures for himself, instead of becoming rich toward God. So this is a parable our Lord wished to use to teach us how important is to grow our treasures in heaven, not on earth.”
“Among all kinds of opportunities and privileges a man has in his earthly life is a right to own. We have a right to have property. Some people have a lot in their possession, some people have very few. But we all have an ability and natural right to own things. Those things belong to us although, and we have to realize it, they may not belong to us forever. Either we survive them or they survive us. And if they survive us, we no longer possess them. We are not able to take them along when we die. Thus this right is temporary and it is a gift from God. God gives us such right very generously. And we should see that right as an opportunity to give it away. Archbishop John (Shakhovskoy) said, “The ownership is beautiful only because you can give it away, make a gift, take it off. A man needs to have something in order to have a right and joy to share it, to give it.” Thus the sense of ownership seems to be created to help us to fulfill the God’s will, to help the others.”
“We have to admit that such attitude toward the sense of ownership is not always practiced. People may often be in a slavery of greed and avarice. Those are the mortal sins. The right sense of ownership which urges us to share has to be taught. We have to learn this right attitude. Therefore, our Lord wished to give us a colorful example of how a person with a wrong sense of ownership ends up. He ends up to be called a fool. And, on the contrary, people who had possessions but shared them with others were blessed and are considered wise. They gather their treasures in heaven and get rich toward God.”
“The world is full of the examples of rich fools and wise people who share. Many contemporary politicians lead their nations into bloody wars for their personal gains or in order to strengthen the positions of their parties, groups and clans. If they succeed through sacrificing many human lives, that kind of success will not help them in the eternal life. What they accomplished to benefit themselves will not follow them into eternal life.”
“Also in many Church communities, in many parishes some people do not wish to share their wealth with the parish. They could expect more than they were given. Now many parishes are facing the end of their life, but some of them now blame others but not themselves. What they earned during lifetime will not follow them into eternity, but what they could have done for this church would.”
“It is better to give than to receive,” – says St. Paul. And this is a motto of those who having wealth, or just having something, give it to the others, share with the others. Thanks to them we have a lot of things accomplished around us. These are the riches which make their owners wise and blessed by God. St. Paul says: “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”(2 Cor. 9,7).”
“Dear brother and sisters! Thus let us learn to have a right attitude and sense of ownership and let us put our trust in God, so any unexpected thing will not find us unprepared, but we will acquire a treasure earned in eternity.”

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector briefly explained in English his previously preached homily. He also reminded parishioners of the Nativity Fast which began on November 28. The Rector stressed that this fast is especially calling us to be generous in almsgiving and helping the needy. Christmas season is about giving and sharing.
Fr. Igor also called the parishioners to practice spiritual life. “Of course, nowadays we do not encounter such great champions of faith as it was long ago. Today, for instance, the Church commemorates St. Gregory the Wonderworker. When he came to be a bishop in his city of Neocaesarea, there were only 17 Christians living there. But when he died only 17 non-Christians remained in that city. We cannot hope that we could do the same. Now we gather here in this church and sometimes there are 17 of us. Sometimes, like today, it is even less. We cannot hope that after us there will be only 17 non-Orthodox in Bayside! But at least, we can do something to make our parish live and to make it grow at least a little. Our spiritual and active Christian life may help us to achieve such a goal,” – said Fr. Igor.

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

24th Sunday after Pentecost

On November 23, on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, we had a beautiful celebration in our church. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily:

“The parable of the Good Samaritan tells us about the new teaching our Lord Jesus Christ brought to the world. That teaching did not reject the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus is referring to the Law of Moses in today’s Gospel lesson while speaking with the Jewish scholar of law. But our Savior wished to introduce the new principle into that law. He preached that all kinds of laws and regulations must be subjected to the highest law, the law of love. This is why He is teaching us that love surpasses everything and has no boundaries.”
“In today’s parable we see that love towards a fellow human being has to be beyond the national, religious or social differences. A man fell among the thieves and laid wounded and half dead on the road (presumably this was a Jewish man). He did not receive help from the highest and respected members of the Jewish society: from a priest and from a Levite who happened to be there and passed him. But a Samaritan, a stranger, almost an enemy to the Jews, had compassion and took a good care of the wounded man. This shows us what the Lord desired to tell the scholar of law: that a neighbor to a man is anyone in immediate need, even a supposed enemy. Since we are all humans and since we are all created as the image and likeness of the infinite God, we all are neighbors to each other. We all owe love to each other.”
“Unfortunately, due to the sin and corruption of humanity, we are divided in numerous ways: by race, nationality, ethnicity, faith, politics and many other reasons. Those divisions are inevitable in that state of corruption. God Himself would not bless the unity of such humanity, being sinful and proud. As the Scripture tells us, God divided people confusing their languages when they attempted to build the Tower of Babel, to create a world domination without God’s blessing. In a similar way in our days people building a global community without religious and traditional moral principles will not have God’s blessing and will not succeed. Instead of creating a godless human unity based on the low instincts and pride, our Lord Jesus Christ proposes us a unity based on love and understanding of our imperfection. This is a unity of helping each other regardless who we are, Black or White, from this or from another country, of this or of a different ethnic background, are born somewhere or not. We are called to love the neighbor, and that neighbor may be anyone who would need our help, our care, our compassion.”
”A good example of such mercy and Christian love is the activity of the sisters of Mercy founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Although those nuns are no Orthodox, they show a good example of Christian life and attitude. They assisted all people in need, no matter what faith or race they belonged to. Sometimes they helped those Hindus who hated Christ and wished to use violence against Christian missionaries.”
“We may say that every Christian community is called to practice the love of a Good Samaritan. At the same time we should understand that our human nature is weak and wounded by sin, so nothing we can really accomplish without God’s help. Symbolically, the Good Samaritan is Jesus Christ who came to help the humanity wounded by sin and robbed by the devil. We are in fact wounded and sick spiritually. Only divine grace shown in the parable as the treatment given by the Samaritan (bandaging the wounds, pouring on oil and wine) may help us to heal. This is why, by the way, the Church uses oil mixed with some wine in the Mystery of the Anointing of the sick. In the times of Jesus people did not have advance medications to treat the wounds. They used oil and wine to make the wounds better. This was done by Good Samaritan in today’s Gospel lesson. But in a symbolic way, our Lord did it to the human race. And the oil and wine are His divine grace, the grace of healing spiritual wounds of humanity.”
“Dear brothers and sisters!  Let us strive practicing love of our neighbor, helping them and doing it in the name of the Lord and under the holy cover of the Church.”

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector briefly explained his English sermon in the Russian language. He also reminded parishioners that next week we begin the Nativity, or St. Philip’s Fast. This year it starts right after the Thanksgiving Day. Fr. Igor wished everyone a nice and happy Thanksgiving celebration but warned the parishioners before excessive eating which may violate the first days of fasting.

23rd Sunday after Pentecost

On November 16, on the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, along with Sunday resurrectional celebration St. George Church marked one of the days that commemorate our parish Patron. On that day the Church remembers consecration of St. George Church in the city of Lydda. Thus it could be considered a little Patronal feast of our Parish. As usually, our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Scripture lessons he preached a homily in Russian. The English translation of that sermon is the following:

“Today’s reading from the Gospel of St. Luke again shows us the divine power of our Lord Jesus Christ. He heals a sick woman and raises a little girl from the dead. Again we see how the Lord was bringing healing and life to the world full of illness and death. So, today we will try to look at the death of the young people, to reflect upon it in some spiritual sense.”
“We all know that an elderly person will die for sure, but a young person may die also. Death is capable of taking a young and healthy girl who could have all life ahead of her in the same way as it may take an aged gray-headed man who has a long life behind him. The children’s mortality is not so high any more in the rich countries as it used to be, but it is still a problem for the poor nations. Children our days still die because of diseases, poverty and starvation. Young people die also because of drugs, crimes and fatal accidents. Any of such deaths looks very cruel, merciless and unreasonable. But what is more troubling is spiritual death of the young generation.”
“In today’s Gospel lesson Jesus came to the house of Jairus whose daughter just died, took the little girl by the hand and called saying, “Little girl, arise” (Lk. 8, 54). When we read this story in another Gospel, of St. Mark, we can learn those words in Aramaic language, for St. Mark gives us the exact words of Jesus in the original: “Talita, kum”(Mk. 5, 41). It is interesting that nowadays there is a singer in Ukraine who took those words as a stage name. We can only hope that she really knows and understands what those words mean. And they mean that the young person should arise, wake up.”
“In the same way our Lord is willing to give a hand to the modern young girls and boys and to tell them to arise from spiritual sleep or death. Many of them are in that state because of the world surrounding them. Today’s children and young people are often born to the parents who himself do not practice spiritual life, live in sin and away from the life-giving source of divine grace which is the holy Church. Those young people are raised in a spirit of this world. But even if they are growing up in a good religious environment, the world is attacking them all the time. Those attacks come from television, radio, magazines, friends, even from school. In our days we also have computers, the internet. How can you escape all these attacks of the evil influence? You can’t take your children away and live in a wilderness. But even there you would not be immune. A holy elder who lived in the desert once had to visit a city and to take a young monk along with him. Being in the city they encountered a harlot who approached them and said to the elder, “You have been working on this young man for many years to teach him a holy life, but now I can destroy all your work in a couple of minutes!” The elder responded that he believes her because it is much easier to roll down from the hill than to climb it.”
“A strange thing is happening: instead of avoiding evil things we are being drown to them due to their attractiveness. St. Paul described that saying, “What I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” (Rom. 7, 15). If this is a problem for an adult, how much more difficult it is for children who are tender, inexperienced and spiritually weak? The problem exists because of the sinful state of the humanity. Unfortunately, in our days the very word ‘sin’ is not taken seriously. Meanwhile the concept of sin is very important in any religion. And basic rules of religious morality may be found in any secular ethics. Here we should have a common ground even with those who do not believe in God, but still wish good to our society and to the young generation. But instead of fulfilling the task of proper upbringing of children this society does the opposite. The radio, television, books and internet instead of teaching the youngsters to adhere to the moral norms, teaches how to violate them.”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to take the young people by their hands and to say, “Arise”. But He wishes to act through us, dear brothers and sisters!. We should try to become those hands of Jesus and take those youngsters and bring them to spiritual life. We may argue and say that we often have no control over them and over the whole situation in the world. That’s true. But remember that there is nothing impossible with God. Let us try what we can and able to do, especially as the Church. Sometimes we will succeed and it will appear that the young person is not dead, but asleep. If so, she can be risen back to life.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector congratulated faithful on the little St. George’s Day. He further explained the content of his homily preached in Russian to the English-speaking parishioners.

Fr. Igor also expressed his condolences to Joseph and Sophia Kay who lost their four-year-old nephew Zaza.

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

Our Warden Olga Roussanow attended the Meeting of the Bishop’s Council

On Friday, November 14, St. George Church Warden and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow attended a meeting of the Bishop’s Council of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA. Olga is an alternate member of the Council elected in April of this year.

This meeting will mark Bishop John’s first Bishop’s Council meeting since his appointment as Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA in August of this year. A number of different issues had been discussed. The detailed information can be found on the Patriarchal Parishes website at http://mospatusa.com/news_141114_1.html.

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

On November 9, on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, parishioners of St. George Church gathered for Sunday celebration. The Divine Liturgy was served by the Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. After the reading from the Gospel he preached a homily:

“The Gospel reading of today shows us again how great was the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, this was the power of the Almighty God. Jesus is the Son of God, He is all-powerful God Himself. He healed the sick, cleaned the lepers and raised the dead. Today’s reading from the Gospel of St. Luke tells us that He also drove away the evil spirits.”
“God is the only one who has the power over the creatures of the invisible world, over the angels and demons. He created them and He may control them. In today’s Gospel story we hear that the unclean spirits who possessed the poor man in the country of Gadarene feared the Lord Jesus and acknowledged His power. When the possessed man saw Jesus, he cried out and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!”(Lk. 8, 28). In these words the demons stated that they despise God, but fear Him and that they recognize Jesus to be the Son of the Most High. Further they beg Him not to torment them before such time comes. Jesus casts them out and permits them to enter the herd of swine. Thus the power of evil is not unlimited. God is the only one who has unlimited power, not the devil. In fact, the devil must obey God when God demands it.”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ was a great Conqueror of all evil. He fought any kind of evil things in the life of man: illness, disease, and death. He also fought directly the evil spirits, as it was described in today’s story. Some modern thinkers or scientists may say that the case shown in that story is about mental disease and not about a demonic possession. Our Christian interpretation is just the opposite. We say that every evil thing happening to a man is some kind of demonic possession. Every illness or disease, every pain or suffering, and finally, every death is a result of human condition called sinfulness. And every sin is slavery to the evil forces. If we commit sins we turn away from God and from the good, we turn to the evil and please the devil. He becomes happy because of that and feels important. A similar thing happens when we become sick or injured. The evil force receives its little victory, maybe for some time. Thus every bad thing in the world is some kind of the devil’s triumph. But such triumph may never last long.”
“Since God is almighty and all-powerful, He has the last word to say. Our Lord Jesus Christ manifested that power of God by fighting the evil things in human life, by crushing the enemies of the human race and by destroying the power of the devil. But He also wishes that we may cooperate with His power and become His co-workers. The man freed from demonic possession wished to do so by following Jesus. He begged Jesus that he may stay with Him. But the Lord gave him another task. He told him: “Return to your own house and tell what great things God has done for you” (Lk. 8, 39). Jesus elects this person to become the preacher of the Gospel. And we read that the man “went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.”  (Lk. 8, 39).Thus the man freed from the demons became the first apostle, first successor of Christ for this pagan city, for his countrymen who had no faith in true God.”
“We should also become co-workers of our Lord in doing good things and affirming his almighty power over evil. We may do so by living a Christian life, by trying to please God and by referring to God in all our needs and tribulations. If evil attempts to overcome us by sickness, pain, passion, imperfection, or fear of death, let us turn to the almighty Lord to help us and to destroy the evil forces. He is the only one who may do so. He is the only one who may destroy our enemies and grant us true happiness.”

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in the Russian language to stress the main ideas of his homily preached previously in English.

21st Sunday after Pentecost

On November 2, on the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily:

“Today’s Gospel reading is teaching us about death and life after death. The parable about the rich man and Lazarus is about life beyond the grave. It is very much on point today since yesterday the Church celebrated Memorial Saturday, called the Demetrius Saturday. We had to pray for our deceased relatives and other people who departed from this life. Since we did not have a service yesterday, we are going to take a litany for the deceased during today’s Liturgy. We will commemorate the Orthodox Christians who departed from this earthly life. We may recall that these days of fall also Western Christians commemorate the deceased. Today is Catholic Day of the dead, and yesterday was feast of All Saints. Both these days are used to remember the departed. We also know that a couple of days ago many people celebrated Halloween. It also has a connection to the life beyond the grave. But that connection is not Christian. It is a pagan celebration which is reintroduced in the American society. And, of course, we, Orthodox Christians should not participate in that celebration which is rather pagan and satanic. Thus it is very good that today we have to listen to the Gospel lesson talking about life beyond the grave and giving us a Christian, an Orthodox understanding of that.”
“Today we heard what happened to the rich man who lived a good and happy life, but ended up in a place of torment after death. And we heard what happened to a poor beggar named Lazarus who, when he died, was carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham.”
“As every Gospel lesson, this one contains a lot of thoughts and a lot of important spiritual ideas. First of all, the name of the beggar in the parable. Usually, our Lord Jesus Christ did not give names to the persons in His parables. But here He says that the beggar’s name was Lazarus. This is not famous Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead or any other known man. We assume that the person is made up. But the Lord wants us to remember his name. The name Lazarus was popular among the Jews. It means “God the Helper”. A poor but just man, a humble and faithful person whom Lazarus was could hope that when he dies God will help him. “The Lord is my Shepherd” – we hear in the Psalm (Ps. 22, 1) read by the Western Churches at funerals. We, on the other hand read Psalm 90 at our memorial services which starts with the words “He who lives in  the help of the Most High” (Ps. 90, 1). In any time, in any place and in any circumstances God helps and leads His people.”
“Another important aspect of today’s parable is that everyone will be judged after death and receive his proper reward. The rich man received torments in hell while Lazarus received eternal happiness on Abraham’s bosom. Here we should note that neither poverty nor riches, in themselves, may gain us salvation or condemnation after death. The rich man goes to hell not because of his wealth, but because of his hardness of heart. His wealth and luxury became only his aids to be indifferent to Lazarus and to his needs, however those riches could become the aids to help Lazarus. Wealth itself does not lwead tp eternal condemnation. Many rich people became Saints. Even today we celebrate the memory of the Great Martyr Artemius. He was a wealthy man, a high-ranked official of the Roman Empire, a general of the imperial army. St. Artemius lived when Christianity became recognized religion in the Empire. He served holy Emperor Constantine. But later, the new Emperor Julian decided to restore paganism and to reject Christianity. In a similar way our modern American society tends to restore pagan culture and to forget its Christian roots. One of those aspects of restoration of paganism is celebration of Halloween. In the 4th century Emperor Julian, called the Apostate, also desired to make Roman society forget about Christian faith. But St. Artemius disagreed. He publicly rebuked the Emperor and refused to renounce Christ. For that he became tortured and executed. St. Artemius was tormented for Christ in this life but received a crown of a Martyr in the eternity. His wealth and a high position did not close the gates of heaven in front of him, for he used that position to defend holy faith.”
“In the same way the rich man in today’s parable could use his wealth to deserve eternal blessedness. He could use it to help Lazarus. But he did not. He did not even notice the poor beggar. Since help from men never really came to poor Lazarus in his earthly life, his only Helper became all-merciful and loving God. Once again we may see why Jesus calls the poor man by this name, “God the Helper”. Helped by God after death Lazarus finds himself on Abraham’s bosom. But again this happens not because Lazarus was poor, but due to his humble faith and righteous life. His poverty could become a great temptation for Lazarus. He could become angry with people or with God for his position; he could be evil, deceptive and become a criminal. But he did not. Thus not riches or poverty save or condemn us, but our deeds, our use or misuse of them.”
“The last aspect we may touch today is that we all should prepare for the hour of our death and secure our salvation. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to the five brothers of him who are still alive. He wishes to warn them that if they will continue to live with a hardness of heart and indifference toward the needs of others, they will also end up in that place of torment. But Abraham refuses. He says that the living have Moses and the Prophets whom they should hear. He goes further saying that if they “do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” (Lk. 16, 31). This is a harsh sentencing. If we who are living do not hear the Law of God, do not keep His Commandments, do not follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, do not observe the holy traditions of the Church, then we are not going to be persuaded even by a miracle, even if someone will rise from the dead. The fact of a miracle will not convince us to change our life. Only faith is able to inspire us to repent, to turn away from hardness of heart, to do the works of mercy and charity. Only faith and life according to that faith will prepare us for the time of our death. And only faith implemented in the deeds of righteous and humble life will secure our salvation.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector had a short sermon in the Russian language conveying the content of the homily preached before in English.

After the liturgical celebration, the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a good company at the coffee hour.