Sunday of the holy Forefathers

On December 28, on the Sunday of the holy Forefathers, St. George parish had a nice liturgical celebration. The Divine Liturgy was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. After the Gospel reading he preached a homily in Russian. The English version of it is as follows:

“Today’s Sunday is dedicated to the Forefathers of the holy faith and all the Saints of the Old Testament. This time of the year when we are living in spiritual expectation of the Birth of Christ, we commemorate a number of the Old Testament prophets. For instance, on December 30th we are celebrating memory of the Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Youths. They were the confessors of faith of the Old Testament. But we also have this special Sunday glorifying these people altogether.”
“In the 6th century before Christ the holy city of Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonian king Nabechnazar who captured four noble Jewish young men: Daniel, Ananias, Azarias and Mishael. They were brought to Babylon where the king wanted them to become his servants. They were supposed to adopt the local customs and language. So, it became a time of a great test for their faith in one and true God. When the king ordered them to be fed from his own table, Daniel did not wish to eat the unclean food and convinced the king’s official to give them all, him and the 3 youths, just fruits and vegetables. After ten days the Jewish captives looked better than the ones who ate the king’s food.”
“This example from the Sacred Scripture of the Old Testament is telling us how good  could be fasting and abstinence from unhealthy food. In our days, people like different kinds of diets and ways of losing weight. There are made up special systems of nutrition, different kinds of diets which are supposed to make a person healthier. But more often these are the strives of vanity, aiming to make the body more beautiful, or a tribute to a fashion, or in a better case, a desire to strengthen one’s health and make one’s earthly life longer. But Sacred Scripture gives us a simple recipe of a healthy life. It tells us that a self-rejecting and voluntary fasting of the holy Youths, a refusal to eat the unclean food was beneficial for their body and made their health stronger. More than that, that abstinence stimulated their mental and spiritual abilities. Therefore, moderation in food in combination with faith and with a desire to please God may always be beneficial for a person. This is our Orthodox understanding of fast as a saving abstinence from excessiveness and not just simple refusal to eat certain food, as it happens with most of the modern diets.”
“This Old Testament example also tells us that you can preserve your faith even in difficult circumstances. The holy Youths did.  They were made servers at the Babylonian king’s court. Once the king ordered to erect a huge idol made of gold and commanded all his subjects to worship that man-made image. The three Youths refused to do it because they kept the true faith in one God. The king got very angry and ordered them to be thrown into a fiery furnace. But a great miracle happened: the three young men were protected by God and the fire and heat did not harm them. This is an example of the true confession of faith shown by those three youths. In a mystical way those three Youths were the prototype of he Holy Trinity, as well as of the virginal conception and birth of the Son of God by the Holy Virgin. This is one of the examples of the faith of the holy people who lived before the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and who were confessing the true faith in one God and were expecting the Messiah, the Son of God to come into the world.”
“We are now living in a time of the expectation of the Christ coming too. Now we are preparing for the great feast of the Nativity. We buy presents, adorn our homes and churches before this holy day. We also live in a time of the expectation of the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do not know the time of that coming, but we believe that it is going to happen. This state of expectation demands us to be faithful to Christ. He became the Author and Finisher of faith, as St. Paul says (Heb. 12, 2). All the faith of the Holy Forefathers, the patriarchs, kings and prophets of the Old Testament was completed in Him. He is the Son of God who initiated the faith and He is the Savior who perfected and completed it. All the time of the holy people of the Old Testament was spent in expectation for the first coming of Christ and in preparation for that coming, for the wonderful appearance of God in the world which started by His Birth in the manger in Bethlehem. Now, being Christians and living after that coming, being the Church of the New Testament, we have to keep, cherish and preserve our faith.”
“It is not easy to preserve Christian faith in today’s world. Only sin ensnares us so easily, As St. Paul says (Heb. 12, 1). But it was not easy for Daniel and the three holy Youths also. But they did and endured. It was not easy to preserve our faith in our old country  the times of persecutions, in the times of Communism. But our parents and grandparents did. And they endured.”
“Therefore, let us listen to the Holy Apostle Paul and “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12, 1-2).”

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector expressed his gratitude to those parishioners who cleaned the church grounds from the leaves and decorated the temple for Christmas holidays.
He also congratulated our parishioner Moses Dunetz on the occasion of his birthday which fell on Sunday dedicated to the holy Forefathers, one of whom was Prophet Moses, a patron Saint of Mr. Dunetz. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was sung.
The Rector also briefly explained in English the main ideas of his homily which was previously preached in Russian.
Finally, since we live by the new calendar in our daily and secular affairs, Fr. Igor wished everybody a happy and healthy New Year.

28th Sunday after Pentecost

On December 21, on the 28th Sunday after Pentecost, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Scripture lessons he preached a homily:

“Today’s Gospel lesson tells us about ten lepers who were healed by our Lord Jesus Christ. We heard that only one of them came back to Jesus to give thanks. Other nine did not show any sign of gratitude. Thus today we should speak about gratitude or thanksgiving.”
“When we obtain something which is good for us, it is expected that we are grateful for such a favor. This is a natural way of responding to a good done for us. People are expected to be thankful for small favors. And, of course, we should really appreciate greater things done for our benefit. But, unfortunately, gratitude is not practiced all the time and by everybody. For that reason our Lord Jesus Christ pointed out to His disciples that only one out of ten lepers who were cleaned came back to thank. He wished to teach us to be grateful.”
“Thinking of those ten miserable people suffering from the leprosy, a terrible disease, considering their pain and their loneliness, because they were outcasts of the society, we should understand how great was the blessing that our Lord granted them. He healed them from that terrible illness, He cleansed them from that shameful condition, He restored their health and their status in the society. Therefore, we should be surprised and very disappointed after hearing that most of them, nine out of ten, did not come to give the Lord thanks. Jesus also showed the same feelings. He asked: “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” (Lk. 17, 17). The Gospel tells us that the one who did give thanks to the Lord was a Samaritan, a foreigner, if not an enemy of the Jews. Why the other nine did not show a natural sense of gratitude, and only one foreigner and outcast did?”
“Wondering about that we may remember that even animals can be grateful for the good things people do to them. St. Gerasimus who lived in the desert near Jordan, once met a lion who had a splinter in its paw. The animal was wounded and suffered. It looked at the Saint and seemed to be begging for help. St. Gerasimus took the splinter away from the paw, washed and bandaged the wound. He left the lion, but the animal followed him to the monastery. The grateful animal spent the rest of its life near the Saint being a guardian of the monastery and even carrying the water instead of a donkey. After the holy elder died, the lion became very sad and died soon beside his grave. Thus this animal acted better than those nine men who were healed by the Lord Jesus, but did not offer thanksgiving. It seems that they should have remained sick; their misery was better for them than happiness. Their healing made them forget their direct duty to give thanks.”
”But we should leave those nine cleansed lepers alone and ask ourselves whether we are not like them? And if we will be honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that sometimes we aren’t better. If we look around, we should see that we enjoy many blessings given by God. The first gift is our own life. God called us to existence. If not His will we would not exist at all. And nothing in our life is independent from God. “In Him we live and move and have our being”, says the Scripture (Acts 17, 28). Since we believe and confess that God is the Source and Giver of life and of all goodness, we should be always grateful to Him for the different generous and abundant gifts He is bestowing upon us. And since now we are approaching celebration of the Nativity, we may recall that one of God’s most precious gifts to us is the gift of Himself being born for us. God became Man, was born in a cave of Bethlehem as a gift of our salvation! And we must appreciate such a gift, we have to be grateful for it. But we often take those God’s gifts for granted or even forget them. If we are accustomed to say ‘thank you’ for very small, very trivial things, why are we not giving thanks to God for all His blessings, for our life itself?”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us follow the steps of the grateful Samaritan and let us, in our thoughts, fall down before Christ, giving Him praise and thanks for all His mercies bestowed upon us sinners. Let us be thankful to God for everything!”

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector said a few words in the Russian language explaining his sermon preached previously in English. He also called the parishioners to prepare for the Nativity by spiritual efforts and receiving the Sacraments.

Celebration of the Patronal Feast at St. Nicholas Cathedral

On December 19, on the holy day of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker our cathedral church in Manhattan celebrated its Patronal feast. His Grace, Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk led the Divine Liturgy on that occasion. Bishop John was co-served at the Liturgy by a number of clergy including the Rector of St. George Church in Bayside, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. 

Despite the feast falling on a civil workday, a large number of faithful flocked to the temple. Our Parish Warden Olga Roussanow was among those who came to the cathedral to participate in that celebration.

At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy Bishop John preached a homily and greeted the parishioners on the occasion of the patronal feast. His Grace also congratulated Archpriest Nikolai Babijtchouk, Rector of the Church of All the Saints of Russian lands in Pine Bush, NY on his name day and presented him with a set of priestly vestments. 

After the Liturgy His Grace, clergy and the faithful continued their celebration of St. Nicholas feast at the luncheon held in the cathedral hall.

27th Sunday after Pentecost

On December 14, on the 27th Sunday after Pentecost we had a beautiful liturgical celebration at St. George Church. The Divine Liturgy was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Following the reading from the Gospel he preached a homily in Russian language. The English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke repeats for us a story of a young ruler who had a conversation with our Lord Jesus Christ. They spoke about a way of inheriting eternal life. A couple of months ago we heard and discussed the same story written in the Gospel of Matthew. Therefore, today we should speak about some other aspects of the same conversation.”
“The young ruler started his questioning of Jesus by referring to Him as to the “Good Teacher”. The Lord corrected him right away and said: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good, but One, that is God.” (Lk. 18, 19). By these words Jesus wished to stress His humanity and to teach the young ruler that no man can be really called good. Only God is really good. God is the source of all goodness, He is the only perfect being. Thus, no one else can be considered truly good. St. Dionysius Areopagite wrote that the primary name of God is “the Good one” because it is impossible to say about God what is primary or secondary in Him – essence or goodness.”
“The truly and perfectly good God gives His goodness to the creation. When He created the world He said that the world is good (Gen. 2, 31). God is not a cause of evil. Evil came to existence as a result of the free will of the creatures – some angels and man. Interestingly, the Muslims believe that God is a source of both good and evil; as such, God is not just the good one, but the evil one too. Our Christian faith differs from the Islam and confirms that God is infinitely good and cannot be the source of evil or misfortune. All evil phenomena in the world originate not from God, but from the evil will of the people, as well as from the activity of the evil spirits.”
“When man broke the only commandment given by God, the whole earthly creation became cursed and open to the attacks of the evil forces. Evil became part of our nature. Evil began to permeate the whole creation. But God’s goodness is still accessible to us. A desire to do good is implanted in our hearts, as well as the evil inclinations. This is why it is a Christian understanding, a teaching of the Gospel and of the Holy Fathers, that the way of salvation is a hard work to make our sinful nature similar to divine nature. It is a constant fight between good and evil inside of our heart. This is why it does not sound very Christian when we hear the people saying something like “I am a good person”. No, we are not. God is the only good. We may only strive to be like Him. We are sinful, therefore not totally good. And we are to be even worse without God’s help.”
“The young ruler in today’s Gospel had a great difficulty to follow Jesus because he was too much attached to his wealth. This is why Jesus said that it is very hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. But any person, not just a rich one, has something he would not give up easily. And such a thing, to which we are attached to here on earth, keeps us away from heaven. It makes us attain less of the goodness. In such a helpless state of attachment to the earthly things we need a special, supernatural assistance to be saved. And God is giving us such assistance which we call the divine grace. This is why Jesus says that things impossible with men are possible with God.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,  let us live obtaining the divine grace, the only help we can receive for our salvation. Let us grow in goodness to become closer to God, the source of all good. Let us remember our weakness and unworthiness in order to obtain the power of divine grace and then become worthy of the good and loving Lord Jesus Christ and inherit His eternal Kingdom.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector congratulated our altar server Andrew Malyshew on the occasion of his past name day. The traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was proclaimed.

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

26th Sunday after Pentecost

On December 7 St. George parish family celebrated 26th Sunday after Pentecost and a minor feast of the Holy Great Martyr Catherine. There was a Divine Liturgy served in our temple by the Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily:

“Today’s Gospel lesson tells how our Lord Jesus Christ healed a sick woman who was bent over for 18 years. Again, our Lord shows His great and life-giving power, the power of God. But we should also note the reaction of certain people to the manifestation of that power. Instead of recognizing Jesus as the Lord and Savior, the leaders of the Jews try to find any possible fault in Him. In this case they are angry that He performed a healing on the Sabbath day. Jesus responded to such accusation and named His accuser very accurately. He called him a hypocrite.”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ always addressed the problems in a proper way and named the things accurately. He never used diplomatic ways to express His feelings. The so-called “political correctness” was foreign to Him. Nowadays people are fed up with political correctness. This is so not because it is so bad, but because it is a form of hypocrisy. It does not call things accurately. You don’t need to use “political correctness” in order to be just nice to others. It had been known for centuries – how to say things in order to avoid offending people. And it was not called “political correctness” but politeness and not being rude. And it was always based on our love of the neighbor, not on an intention to be “politically correct”. Basically, we have to be nice to others but we also have to call things accurately. Our Lord Jesus called the things how they are and avoided lie and hypocrisy. On the contrary, hypocrisy was the tool of His enemies.”
“Therefore, today’s Gospel may teach us to avoid the hypocritical attitude. That attitude was very much followed by the Pharisees and scribes, other leaders of the Jews who wished to appear very pious, worthy and virtuous but very often led a different kind of moral and private life. They said very good words but were doing evil things. This is called hypocrisy. Our Lord very often suffered from their attacks, accusations and criticism. And He responded to those attackers very often. The holy Gospels are full of Jesus’ chastising the scribes and Pharisees. Those words are commonly used along with the word “hypocrites’. Later on in many European languages, languages of the Christians the very word ‘Pharisee’ became a synonym of the word ‘hypocrite’. Jesus also called them the “fools and blinds”,” foolish ones” (Lk. 11, 40), called them “the cups clean outside, but their inward part is full of greed and wickedness” (Lk. 11, 39) called them “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Mt. 23, 27). Jesus warned His disciples from the “leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy” (Lk. 12, 1).”
“As our Lord Himself told, the Pharisees paid attention to the small and insignificant things, but missed the important ones. They “strained out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Mt. 23, 24).  They paid the tithes on mint and rue, but did not pay on their large possessions. They made up different ways of avoiding the real acts of love and charity, but made a big deal out of someone’s failure to fulfill certain rituals. For instance, once Jesus did not wash before sitting to eat with the Pharisees and they noticed that and accused Him.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us not follow the way of the Pharisees and hypocrites, but remember things which are really great and important. Let us beware of the hypocritical attitude, the leaven of the Pharisees. Remember that hypocrisy begins when a person is not doing good, but only shows a likeness of good. Then such a person may wish to confirm his image of a benefactor without doing a charitable work., or having a personal profit from that charity. If such things are practiced and planned, we are dealing with a hypocrite whose heart is filled with lie and deceit. Good things must be done sincerely, from the heart, for the glory of God and without thinking of people’s reaction. Our Lord Jesus Christ wished to help the sick woman on the Sabbath day and did that good and worthy thing without considering what others would say about it. Let us imitate Him and not His enemies to be worthy of His Kingdom.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector briefly explained in Russian language his previously preached sermon to the Russian-speaking parishioners.

Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into Temple

On December 4 the Church celebrates great holy day of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into Temple. St. George parish family had a beautiful celebration on that day. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel reading he preached a homily in Russian.

In his sermon the Rector expressed his joy from seeing some children in the temple who were brought by their parents. He told about the history of the feast and stressed the importance of the temple in the life of any Orthodox Christian. We are receiving the most important spiritual and sacramental comfort in the church. Most of us were baptized in the temple, not at home. We come to the church to confess our sins and receive Holy Communion. Those who are married, received God’s blessing for their marriage in the church through the rite of Crowning. And finally, the remains of every Orthodox Christian should be brought to the church for the proper Christian funeral. cannot Our salvation depends on how we attend the temple. Those who say that they can pray by themselves, personally or can listen to the services from TV, radio or Internet staying at home, are mistaken. They cannot receive enough spiritual comfort and divine grace without being physically in the church building. We have to love and cherish our temples and attend them. We also have to bring to the church our children. It is their home where they should feel comfortable. However, children should be taught to behave well in the church understanding that this is the holy house of God.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and altar server came out of the altar and performed the rite of glorification before the icon of the feast, singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Entrance.