Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord

On January 19th Orthodox Church celebrates great feast of the Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord. Our parish had a beautiful celebration of that holy day conducted by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. He served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel lesson the Rector preached a homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate Holy Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord. This holy day is not so simple in its meaning, it has more aspects than Nativity. On the Nativity we have one great idea expressed by the Angel announcing that holy event to the shepherds: “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior…” (Lk. 2, 11). In today’s feast we may find more ideas, aspects and meanings. Although we celebrate a certain event, namely the Baptism of the Lord performed by St. John, that event is not so simple. When we hear today’s reading from the Gospel we may see that Its aspects are several.”
“Today we will talk about one of those aspects. We will discuss how our Lord Jesus Christ in His Theophany descended upon the nature and upon this world. He had no need to be baptized for St. John baptized people who repent. Jesus had no reason to repent, He was without sin. But He comes to the Jordan River and requests Baptism. Recently, celebrating His Circumcision we were also wandering why the Infant Jesus needed to be circumcised. Now we may ask why He wishes to receive Baptism. St. John was also wandering about it. But the Lord said to him: “Permit it to be now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3, 15). Baptism was necessary for Jesus to “fulfill all the righteousness”, to make the purification of humanity His own, to wash away the sin of men, to grant regeneration. To give us a new life Jesus descended upon this world, entered the waters of Jordan. St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “Jesus enters the filthy waters of the world and when He comes out, brings up the entire world with Him”.”
“This coming of the Lord into our world is very beautifully described in the troparion we sing at Vespers on the Theophany Eve: “Thou Who didst create the world art made manifest in the world, to give light to those who sit in darkness…” Our Creator appeared in the world He created, manifested Himself as a part of that world to make the world better. He Who was in heaven came to the earth. He Who is the Most High descended into the lowest spheres. He Who is All-Holy came to the filthy and sinful environment. It happened “to fulfill all the righteousness”.”
“In a similar way when we bless the water these days, that holy water is being sprinkled all over. It falls on the altar, on the icons in the temple, but it also falls on the floor. Furthermore, we bring it outside the temple, we bless houses and different objects. When a priest comes to your house he becomes a resemblance of Christ coming into the world. Although a priest is a simple man he represents Jesus. He brings a sacred thing to your abode. Our homes are no temples. But the holy water falls there, even on our floors. The grace of God descends upon us as Jesus descended into the filthy waters of this world. Creation had been blessed. In the same way we and our homes receive His blessing.”
“But there is one thing we should realize and remember. If creation cannot fully respond at the blessing of the Lord, if waters, earth, animals and plants are not able to make a choice about the grace they receive, we can and we are able to choose. The creation glorifies God in its way. Today, during the Blessing of water we will pray to the Lord: “The sun hymns Thee, the moon glorifies Thee, the stars assist Thee, the light obeys Thee, the deeps shudder before Thee, the springs serve Thee”. But our response to the Christ appearance could be much stronger. For we are created in His image and likeness and we have a free will. The dirt on which the holy water today falls accidently will remain the dirt. But a sinful man may change after receiving the grace of God, no matter how filthy and dark might be his soul. He may repent, turn away from that filth and darkness.”
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, let us be grateful for this great appearance of the Most High to the universe and let us act upon that reception of His grace saving to all men.”

After the Prayer behind the Ambo the Rector performed the Great Blessing of water.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers came before the icon stand and performed the rite of glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Theophany. Then Fr. Igor congratulated parishioners on the occasion of the great holy day.

Circumcision of the Lord. Feast of St. Basil the Great

On January 14, on the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, and memory of St. Basil the Great, St. George Church had a nice celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the readings from the Gospel he preached a sermon in Russian. An English version of that sermon is as follows:

“Today we celebrate a double Church feast, the Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ, and memory of St. Basil the Great. In addition, if we lived according to the Old Calendar in our secular life, today we would have the New Year’s Day.”
“Circumcision of Child Jesus was performed according to the Law of Moses. That law followed by the Jews, by the Church of the Old Testament, provided that each baby boy had to be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This was the sign of the covenant between God and His chosen people. Thus, Jesus was no exception. He had to undergo that procedure. He had to receive that sign of the covenant. But many today’s Christians tend to wonder why we celebrate that event as a feast. Certainly, there are reasons for that. One of the main reasons is that our Savior had to follow all the laws given by God to His people in order to be a true Man and then to be able to redeem us. But there are a number of other thoughts about that.”
“Let us, for instance, refer to the interpretation given by holy Father Andrew of Crete. He wrote that the eighth day is the completion of the week, and the beginning of the new. He noted that a child completes the week of his life, and is perfected on the eighth day, being granted a name. Jesus was given His name meaning “God who saves” and also being numbered with the perfect. The eighth day is the beginning of infancy, while through the period of the week Jesus was a baby, now the child begins to learn. The eighth day leads on to the things of infancy: to crawl and to stand, and to speak, and to think. The week comes to completion, and the eighth day signifies perfection. Circumcision again signifies the name-giving, which the child undergoes on the eighth day.”
“St. Andrew of Crete further reasons that Circumcision is not without reason. For Abraham of old, whom God commanded to have the first circumcision, dwelt among the idols of his father, being part of his creation, until the true Creator gave him a sign of a people set aside until His coming. So this was a sign of a future renewal that may be granted to men. Circumcision removes a covering of flesh, and grants an eighth-day sign to the members. Circumcision declared that the presence of Christ was coming, and that He would grant rebirth through the Spirit. By the seal of circumcision, the people were granted divine correction from idolatry, and the ceasing of destruction through the worship to the idols. The former things were a symbol of the new. The rules of the Old Testament were images of the New Testament precepts.”
“St. Andrew also notes that Jesus Christ was the eighth Law-giver from Adam. Because Adam first received a law, and secondly Noah, and Abraham third, and Moses fourth, and David, regarding the Kingdom and the Tent of Glory, was the fifth law-giver. And Ezra, following the captivity of Babylon, for a second time gave the law to the nations that had transgressed it, and was the sixth. John the Baptist, who preached a baptism of repentance to the people, and purification through the water, was the seventh law-giver. Jesus Christ was the eighth.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us adhere to the precepts of the New Testament Church which cherished the reverence towards this feast of the Lord’s Circumcision. There are reasons for the Church to do so. Today we touched only some of them.”
“And another occasion to celebrate today is the memory of the holy Father among the Saints, Basil the Great. This was a holy man who lived three centuries after Christ but who wished to follow Jesus the way as His contemporaries, His Apostles did. He led a holy life of an ascetic. He was a hard working Church leader and a good pastor of the souls. He also was very specific about different Church rules and customs. He systemized them, he spelled them out in his writings. So, his role in our tradition in some way resembles our Lord who followed the law in His Circumcision, so all righteousness may be fulfilled (Mt. 3, 14).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us also follow the laws of our Church, the Church of the New Testament of Jesus Christ. Let us adhere to her holy traditions and not miss them in our lives. Let us imitate our Holy Father Basil in his zeal and righteousness, so we may be blessed by the Child Jesus who was born for us and who had to undergo Circumcision on the eighth day to fulfill the law for us, to redeem and save us!”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and altar servers came before the icon of St. Basil and performed a rite of glorification singing the troparia, kontakia of both feasts, as well as the magnification of St. Basil.

The Rector congratulated faithful on the occasion of that great feast.

Sunday after the Nativity

On January 11, on Sunday after the Nativity, we had a nice liturgical celebration in St. George Church. Our parish Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in English:

“Sunday after the Nativity is dedicated to St. Joseph, the Sponsor of the Holy Family, and to king David and holy Apostle James the Brother of the Lord. We know from the Gospel of today that when the joy of the Birth of Christ was over, when the wise men departed, the angels returned to heaven and shepherds left the cave, righteous Joseph had to begin his work of protecting the Holy Family. For him, as well as for the Blessed Mother of God, the miracle of Christmas ended and a hard and dangerous life began.”
“For many of us it is a similar feeling when Christmas is over. The holy days ended, and we have to think about our daily life. Some people rush to take off the decorations. Although our tradition leads us to the other two winter holy days (St. Basil’s and Theophany), we feel like something big is already finished. The radiant days of celebration have passed and the gray and boring time of our daily cares approaches again. Now it is very important not to lose the spirit of Christmas. Again, our beautiful and holy tradition helps us with that. It prolongs our celebration with two more holy days. It tells us to keep the decorations and the tree until February. But more important is to keep Christmas within our hearts, to be aware of the fact that “the Child was born to us, the Son is given to us” (Is. 9, 6) and God is with us. We have to remember that “for our sake the Young Child is born, God before ages”. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt within us (Jn. 1). If God is with us, no one will overcome us.”
“God will give us the power to conquer all evil in our daily life. Our every day existence seems to be a constant fight for survival. But it was the same for the little Infant Jesus. He had to flee to Egypt, flee for His life. He had to stay there for some time, to be a refugee, a foreigner. Even when He could come back to His homeland, He had to avoid coming to Judea where the son of Herod was ruling, but went to Nazareth in Galilee. We say He did, the Child Jesus, but we know that all this was done by His Sponsor and protector, holy and righteous Joseph who was the head of that household. St. Joseph did a great job protecting Christ; he literally saved the Savior of the world. Despite all the difficulties and dangers of the evil world around him, Joseph, being helped by the grace of the Lord and assisted by the angels, could accomplish his task of preserving Jesus for the human kind.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Following actual Christmas celebration we are having a similar task. We have to preserve faith in Jesus, the real spirit of His Birth for ourselves and for the other people, even for the generations to come. St. Paul says in today’s Epistle: “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace to reveal His Son to me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles” (Gal. 1, 15-16). God’s grace calls us to preach Jesus among other people by our life and actions. This will make us the protectors of faith, similar to St. Joseph. Let us imitate holy Joseph in his humble readiness to obey the will of God, in his bravery before the misfortunes of life and in his caring and loving protection of the precious gift he was entrusted – the Holy Infant Jesus and the Blessed Mother of God. Let us practice this kind of attitude in our daily life, so this life will become a joyful continuation of the miracle of Christmas.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector congratulated our parishioner and altar server Joseph Kay on the occasion of his name day, the memory of Righteous Joseph the Spouse of the Mother of God. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was proclaimed.

Following the service Rector and parishioners continued their celebration enjoying delicious meals and a nice company at coffee hour.

Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated 25th Anniversary of Priesthood

This Christmas the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrates 25th Anniversary of his ordination to the Holy Priesthood.

A quarter of a century ago, on January 7, 1990 Fr. Igor was ordained a priest by His Grace, Bishop Vladimir (now Metropolitan of Chisinau and All Moldova). Our Rector performed his priestly ministry in Moldova and Ukraine. In 1994 he came to the United States. Since 2007 he serves in the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA being our parish priest.

On this Christmas of 2015 Archpriest Igor was congratulated on the occasion of his Silver priestly jubilee. On Christmas Eve Fr. Igor received a phone call from the Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes, Archpriest George Konyev who took that opportunity to greet the jubilarian. On Christmas Day, following the beautiful Divine Liturgy in our temple, the Rector was congratulated by parishioners. Church Warden and Choir Director Olga Roussanow proclaimed the greetings from all the members of the Parish and presented Fr. Igor with a bouquet of flowers and a nice gift. In their greetings St. George’s parishioners wished Fr. Igor good health and further successful ministry for the glory of God. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was also proclaimed in honor of the Rector.

Let us wish Fr. Igor God’s help, all the blessings and many more years of serving the Holy Orthodox Church!
                                  Fr. Igor Tarasov after his ordination in 1990


On January 7 Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas, feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. On that special day St. George Parish had a very beautiful celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Scripture readings he proclaimed Christmas Sermon of the Venerable Father Isaac the Syrian:            

“This Christmas night bestowed peace on the whole world; let no one be threatened. This is the night of the Most Gentle One – let no one be cruel. This is the night of the Humble One – let no one be proud. Now is the day of joy – let us not revenge. Now is the day of Good Will – let us not be mean. In this Day of Peace – let us not be conquered by anger. Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake. So, rich one, invite the poor to your table. Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask. So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us. This present Day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers. Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.”
“Today the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of our humanity, in order for humanity to be decorated by the Seal of Divinity.”

Upon the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers came out of the sanctuary and performed the rite of glorification before the icon of the Nativity singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast.

Following that Fr. Igor preached a short homily in Russian and congratulated parishioners on the occasion of the great holy day of the Birth of our Savior.

After the Rector’s sermon Parish Warden and Choir Director Olga Roussanow congratulated Fr. Igor on the occasion of his 25th Anniversary of priestly ordination. A traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was sung. A group photo was taken.

After the service our Rector and parishioners continued celebration of Christmas at our favorite Pier 25A restaurant.

Sunday before the Nativity

On January 4, on Sunday before the Nativity, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily:

“Sunday before the Nativity in some way repeats previous Sunday, dedicated to the Holy Forefathers. The Holy Fathers whom we honor today are the blood relatives of our Lord Jesus Christ. But we sing again the troparia and kontakia of the Ancestors and commemorate the Old Testament Saints. Today’s Epistle lesson enumerates many heroes of the Old Testament telling us that all their achievements were due to their faith. Thus faith becomes a very important theme of today’s celebration of the anticipation of the Birth of Christ.”
“If we reflect upon the last passages of today’s Gospel reading, we may notice that faith was very crucial for St. Joseph when he had his doubts about the Virgin Mary being pregnant. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Joseph and Mary were betrothed, but before they came together, Mary was found with the child of the Holy Spirit. We may easily imagine what kind of thoughts crossed the mind of Joseph. The words from the Akathistos of the Annunciation call his feelings “the inner storm of doubtful thoughts”.  He was thinking that Mary deceived him although She was raised in the Temple of Jerusalem. But the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and revealed that Mary conceived from the Holy Spirit, and that Her Son will be called Jesus, which means the Savior. Thus Joseph was instructed that Mary is a holy Virgin and She will bear the Son of God. Although the way of revealing this to Joseph was very adequate for the divine Revelation (it was told him in a dream), he needed a strong faith to believe in that. We learn from the Gospel that St. Joseph not only believed in the Most Holy Virgin Mary and Her mission, he also acted in accordance with that belief serving and protecting the Most Holy Mother of God and the Child Jesus. This was the same kind of belief the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets and other heroes of faith had.”
“Same faith has to be imitated by the generations of the New Testament followers of Christ. The Birth of Christ teaches us to believe in things which are very hard to accept using only our human mind. It tells us that our Lord was born from the Mother without human father. It tells us that He was the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. It tells us that His Mother was a Virgin. She was a Virgin before His Birth, She was a Virgin during His Birth, and She remained a Virgin after His Birth. Virginal conception and permanent virginity of Mary are the truths of Christian faith. Our mind has difficulties with comprehending that. But we always have difficulties with comprehending God. His being and nature are ineffable. Same with the events of the Nativity – they are ineffable.” “For the Son of God to become man He had to unite Himself bodily with our nature, to be born from a human mother. But that could not be any woman. Divine Providence elected a representative of the Jewish nation, an heir of David, an immaculate Virgin. She became a living Tabernacle in which the very God had His place. Therefore, that person could not be a common woman living according to the corrupted human nature. She had to be without sin, an immaculate ever-Virgin. Thus, the virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God can be explained, but it is still a truth which is difficult to understand. We need faith, a strong faith.”
”Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us cherish our faith and act upon it to make things impossible possible, to accept the miracle of the Birth of Christ and to be saved by Him.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector briefly explained in the Russian language his homily preached previously in English. He also called the parishioners to properly prepare for the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord.