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On May 24, on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the I Ecumenical Council, we held a beautiful liturgical celebration at St. George Church. On that day we also celebrated feast of St. Cyril and Methodius, holy equal to the Apostles teachers of Slavs. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel readings he preached a homily:
“These days after the feast of the Ascension we come to celebrate Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. This first large gathering of the bishops of the universal Church took place in the 4th century. The most important document issued by these Holy Fathers was the Nicene Creed, a greater part of the Creed we recite today at our Liturgy. The Nicene Creed contains the truths of our faith: it declares what we believe in. The Church wishes us to commemorate those Fathers today because we are now going through the celebration of the Ascension of the Lord into heaven. Jesus has ascended into His Father’s house in order to prepare there a place for us. Heaven is eternal life. This life is expecting us. But it is not an automatic reward.”
“In today’s Gospel reading our Lord Jesus Christ pronounces His Pontifical Prayer, a prayer to God the Father performed by Jesus as the High Priest. As a High Priest the Lord is praying for His Disciples asking that they may have the gift of eternal life. He further explains that eternal life is “that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17, 3). Thus to have eternal life means to know the only true God and His Jesus Christ whom He sent. What kind of knowledge is that? The knowledge of God goes far beyond rational or academic pursuit. Many people may study Christian doctrine, even Theology, but may not have the true knowledge of God. Knowledge of true God is a participation in divine life in communion with God. It is an ongoing, loving knowledge of God in Christ. It is sometimes very intangible and not easy to grasp. But it is also very easily distinguished in the holy lives of the Saints. If you examine their lives you will learn about knowledge of God they had. It can be easily recognized as living according to the Christian commandments.”
“Many other people in the history failed to have this knowledge of God. First people knew God, but when they agreed to commit a sin of disobedience, it seemed that they lost that knowledge. After Jesus Christ came to redeem the human race, the Jews could not recognize God in Him. Later many Gentiles who listened to the preaching of the Apostles were not able to grasp the idea of God being human and crucified. Therefore St. Paul had to say: “We preach Christ the crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1, 23). Different false teachings, religions and cults lacked that knowledge.”
“Today we also honor St. Cyril and Methodius, the holy equal to the Apostles teachers of Slavs. They were preaching Christian faith to the Slavic tribes living in Eastern Europe in the 9th century. Some of those tribes are our ancestors, and nine centuries after Christ they had no knowledge of true God. They could not attain eternal life. St. Cyril and Methodius, the two Greek missionaries, helped the Slavs to embrace Christianity and to understand it in their own native language. This is why those two brothers from the city of Thessalonica studied Slavic dialects and invented an alphabet to be used by the Slavs. They also performed a great labor by translating the Scripture and liturgical services into Slavonic language, so the first Slavic Christians could have their own books in their own tongue. Thanks to those great Saints we have a huge cultural and religious heritage, especially preserved in our Russian Orthodox Church. St. Cyril and Methodius founded a separate Slavic Christian civilization which embraced several Eastern European nations. Thus these two holy men and their works have a tremendous significance. And the most important and precious result of their life and work was to make the Slavic nations to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent. The most precious for us is that because of their labors we may have eternal life in Christ.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us pursue the gift of eternal life which consists of knowledge of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, God and Man. Let us cherish and acquire that knowledge, an intimate and loving experience of the true God manifesting itself in the holy life according to the teaching of the Holy Gospel. Let us be worthy of heaven prepared for us.”
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector proclaimed traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) to His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill who celebrates his name day on this feast.
On May 21 the Orthodox Church celebrated great holy day of the Ascension of the Lord into Heaven. This year it also fell on the feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian. On that day of a double celebration we had a nice service at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy.
Following the Scripture lessons he preached a homily about the Lord’s holy day and the feast of the Saint. He pointed out that the goal of every Christian is to be in heaven, with the Lord Jesus who ascended there to prepare a place for us. Heaven is our eternal homeland. We must love that homeland and strive to become worthy to enter it. However, this does not mean that we should despise our earthly homeland. According the teaching of the Holy Fathers, we have to love our country where we were born or the country we now live in. And although our goal is to be in heaven, it does not mean that we have to despise our earthly life and try to make it shorter. No, we have to endure all our sufferings and difficulties in order to be worthy of heaven. Our Lord Himself gave us a perfect example when He became Man. He did not rush to go back to heaven. He had to teach, to perform miracles, to fulfill His ministry on earth. Then He had to suffer, to die on the cross. Even after he had risen from the dead, He did not return to heaven but stood on earth for 40 days instructing His Disciples. Only after fulfilling all His mission on earth the Lord left His Apostles and returned to His heavenly abode. In addition, an example of life of St. John the theologian teaches us to persevere in our earthly life. St. John lived a long life and passed away when he was over a hundred years old. He was not killed like other Apostles but had to live a long life full of persecutions and great works. Finally, he passed away and his body was not discovered by his disciples. This example teaches us to endure and to serve God all our life.
And finally, if we love God, we must love our fellow men and women. St. John the Theologian teaches that “if a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 Jn. 40, 20). Only Christian life lived to the fullest extent of our spiritual ability and filled with the works of faith and love may grant us a passage to eternal blessedness in heaven.
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and altar server came out of the sanctuary to the middle of the church and performed a rite of glorification, singing the Troparia of the Ascension and of St. John the Theologian, as well as the kontakion and magnification of the feast.
On May 17, on the Sunday of the Blind Man, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Gospel reading he preached a homily in Russian. An English version of that homily is as follows:
“Today is the sixth Sunday of Pascha and we commemorate the sixth sign of our Lord’s mighty power, a miraculous granting of the sight to the man who was born blind (Jn. 9, 1-38). Of all the miracle stories in the Bible, this is the only one in which the person was blind from birth. Yet nothing was impossible with God, and our Savior Jesus Christ, after appearing to the world was able to give sight to such a person.”
“The man blind from the birth is symbolic of all humanity. All the people needed to see God, to be enlightened by His light. Jesus is the Light of the world, as He calls Himself in today’s Gospel (Jn. 9, 5), and all humanity needed illumination by Him. When He came, the world could see Him and be enlightened. Thus healing of the man born blind was a confirmation of that on a certain level, on the level of human physical senses.”
“Today’s Gospel passage also is a picture of the holy Baptism. Again, we have to admit that during this Easter season. Again, we must speak about Baptism and things related to it. We should recall that sometimes Baptism is called “holy illumination”. A person who is being baptized becomes enlightened by the light of Christ, his or her eyes becomes open to the spiritual things. The themes of washing, illumination, healing, faith, conversion and salvation are all presented in today’s story. The blind man was told by Jesus to wash his eyes in the pool Siloam, as a result, he received his sight, became illumined and healed. This man had to believe in the power of Jesus. He listened to Him and walked a pretty long distance to the pool. The pool of Siloam was on the outskirts of Jerusalem, a considerable distance from the temple where the blind was sitting and begging. What a spectacle was this man, blind and eyes covered with mud, making his way across the city, from the city to the pool, in faithful expectation of the healing promised by Christ! The name of the pool, Siloam, is translated “Sent”. It symbolizes Christ, the One sent by God the Father. It tells us about salvation. And, finally, the blind man after being healed, converts. He becomes the follower of Jesus. Same themes we may recognize in the holy Baptism which involves washing, spiritual illumination, spiritual healing, faith, salvation and conversion.”
“Only through the Lord Jesus Christ such processes become possible. He is the Son of God sent by the Father to the fallen, blind and crippled humanity. This is why it is symbolic that the name of the pool we mention today coincides with Jesus sent by His Father. This is why also, the Lord uses the mud to anoint the eyes of the blind man. The Gospel tells us that Jesus spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva and then anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay (Jn. 9, 6). St. Irenaeus sees in the mixture of dust and spittle a type of the creation of humanity from earth. Once God created man taking the dust of the earth, but man turned away from the Creator. Now the Son of God came to restore the fallen humanity. In the healing of the blind man He showed His deity by restoring part of the creation in the same way He created humanity in the beginning.”
“In the end of the story, the blind man worshiped Jesus. Having opened the man’s eyes, Jesus opened the eyes of his heart, offering spiritual sight. Thus the man saw the divinity of the Son of Man and worshiped Him.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Our spiritual eyes of heart were supposed to be opened by the holy mystery of Baptism. Therefore, let us live worshiping the true Light of the world, our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Following the Liturgy our Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.
On May 10, on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, St. George parish had a beautiful liturgical celebration. The Divine Liturgy was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in English:
“Today’s pretty long Gospel reading may give us a great number of ideas. Our Lord Jesus Christ discussed a number of things with the Samaritan woman beside the Jacob’s well. It would be interesting to note who are the Samaritans. These were people very close to the Jews, but they held a different belief. Although they worshiped the one and true God, they refused to honor the prophets and they recognized only the first five books of the Bible, the Law of Moses. They also claimed that the place of worship must be on Mt. Gorazin and not on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. Thus the Jews considered them heretics and strangers. It should also be noted that Jesus in His conversation with the Samaritan woman does not change the Jewish opinion that Samaritans are in error. On the contrary He confirms that “salvation is of the Jews” (Jn. 4, 22). But the Lord offers both the Samaritans and the Jews a totally new approach to the faith which is His New Testament. They argued about the Old Testament and the Jews were correct in that argument, but the Son of God, the Messiah whom they both expected, came and now offered to them the new life, the new spirit, the living water.”
“Again we are speaking about the water in these days of the paschal celebration. Today’s Gospel tells us about the Jacob’s well. The wells were always important for the people as the sources of water. Especially in the Middle East, the wells and springs are significant because of their rarity in desert life. In the Scripture they often symbolize the life given by God. But the well mentioned today was primarily the source of the earthly life. Jesus, as a Man was tired and thirsty. He came to the well to get some water. In the course of the conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus tells her about another kind of water, a living water, that “Whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst” (Jn. 4, 14). The “living water” in the language of the Scripture means flowing water, a water from a spring rather from a pond or a cistern. In the spiritual sense it symbolizes true life from God, who is the Source of life.”
”The living water given by Jesus is the gift of the Holy Spirit which believers receive. And the Holy Spirit becomes a Fountain of water which flows with eternal life. Living water is true life from God. It is a life of faith in the New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ rather than a water from the Jacob’s well, a spirit of the Old Testament. This is why it is a completely new spiritual reality. The Samaritan woman is bothered by the question where to worship God, on which mountain is the proper place of worship. The Lord tells her that “the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father”(Jn. 4, 21). The idea of worship only at a specific place is going to give way to the understanding that worship must be in spirit and in truth. Upon the completion of His mission of salvation Jesus is going to bestow the Holy Spirit. In that Spirit the true believers will worship the Father. They will worship the Father also in truth. The truth is Jesus Christ Himself and His revelation.”
”Let us then desire to live according to our spiritual call of acquiring the living water given by our risen Lord Jesus Christ. Let us be worthy of the eternal life promised by our Savior. Let us also imitate the Samaritan woman in her thirst for spiritual things, in her readiness to accept the teaching of the Lord. We may be wondering who was that woman. The Scripture does not tell us her name. But the Tradition does and it says that her name was Photini which in Greek means ‘the light’, pertaining to the light. She became a follower of Christ and died a Martyr. The Church honors her as St. Photini. Therefore, let us imitate her not in her previous sinful life but in her readiness to follow Christ.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us also worship the true God the Spirit in His spirit and His truth.”
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector congratulated all our women and mothers on the occasion of Mother’s Day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was sung.
The Rector also announced that a memorial service for all perished on the battle field during World War 2, as well for all killed or fallen asleep because of that war, will be celebrated shortly. Fr. Igor reminded parishioners that 70th Anniversary of the Victory in World War 2 was celebrated on May 8 (on May 9 in Russia). This is why, we as the Church should commemorate those who perished because of that terrible tragedy.
Further the Rector expressed his gratitude to our parishioners for their great efforts to prepare for the celebration of our Parish Patronal feast of St. George.
Following his speech the Rector served the Memorial service (Litia) for all those who perished during the World War 2, the soldiers at the battle fields, the civilians killed or tortured and all who fell asleep because of that war.
On May 6 the Church commemorates Holy Great Victorious Martyr George. It is a Patronal feast of our Parish.
St. George parish family had a solemn and beautiful celebration. It was headed by our Archpastor, Most Rev. John, Bishop of Naro-Fominsk. His Grace arrived at 10:30 AM and was greeted by our Parish Warden Olga Roussanow at the entrance to the temple. Bishop John entered the church where he was met by the Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. He then celebrated solemn Divine Liturgy. The Liturgy was concelebrated by our Rector, as well as cathedral protodeacon Igor Panachev and deacon Mark Rashkov.
At the end of the Liturgy His Grace congratulated the Rector and parishioners on the joyful Patronal feast of St. George. As a response to the Bishop’s speech Archpriest Igor Tarasov greeted His Grace in our temple.
Celebration continued on the church property where our ladies organized a picnic. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor had a toast to the honor of His Grace, Bishop John.
Everybody enjoyed delicious food and a nice company.
On May 3, on the Sunday of the Paralytic the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian. An English version of that homily is as follows:
“Fourth Sunday of Pascha is devoted to the miracle of healing the paralytic. Today’s Gospel story tells us how it happened and gives us many details (Jn. 5, 1-15). It happened in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate. There was a double-basin pool believed to have the healing powers. It had been discovered by the archeologists about 100 yards north of the temple area. The water for this high-ground pool came from underground springs, and it was used to wash down the sacrificial lambs before they were slain. This is why it was near the Sheep Gate, the gate through which the lambs were carried to the temple. This became the place of the miraculous healing of the paralyzed man who had been sick for 38 years.”
“Pascha is the time of miracles, a time of healings. Our Lord rose from the dead in order to make us risen from spiritual death and infirmity. This is why this event which happened long before the holy Passions and Resurrection of Christ, is commemorated now when we continue our paschal celebration. In the setting of today’s story we may also recognize the image of the holy Baptism. The Church keeps reminding us of the Baptism during the Easter season. On Pascha we sung the baptismal hymn instead of “Holy God…”, on Bright Monday we read the Gospel on the baptism of St. John. Today we hear about a pool having healing water, so everyone who enters the pool first after the stirring of water, becomes cured. It reminds us of the bath of the holy Baptism.”
“Holy Fathers recognized an image of Baptism in this story long ago. They stressed that before the actual coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the pool at the Sheep Gates was only a prefiguration, a primary image of the holy Baptism. After Jesus came, the human race was given a fulfillment of that image, a true purification, a true healing, a spiritual rebirth in the Lord.”
“Bethesda was a place of miracles. They used to happen there. But when our Lord came, He Himself appeared to the world as a Person of miracles, the real Source of them and a perfect Worker of the miracles. At the Sheep Gate pool only one person could be healed at one time. Whoever could stepp in the water first after the stirring, would be made well. Now, in Jesus and in His Baptism, the grace of God is working for everyone and at any time. We further notice that the miracles of healing at that pool happened due to the action of an angel. An angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred the water, so it became healing. Now, in Christ there is no angelic mediation. Our Lord Himself comes down to the pool of our Baptism to give the birth of the new person in Him. Finally, the water of Bethesda used to grant only physical and temporal well-being. It cured the body. The grace of the risen Lord grants spiritual and eternal well-being which begins with Baptism.”
“In addition, we may recall that the paralytic could not step into the pool without any help from others. Because of his condition he was not able to move and to get to the pool. He told the Lord, “I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me” (Jn. 5, 7). The whole human race suffered in a similar way. It was spiritually paralyzed by the fall, and no one could help. No man could save humanity. Only God Himself could do it. And He did it by becoming Man. The paralytic had no man to put him into the pool, but God and Man, Jesus Christ did heal him without even putting into the pool. Therefore, we should appreciate the gift of divine grace given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us continue to rejoice in the Resurrection of the Lord with an understanding that we are reborn, washed up and granted an eternal life in the holy Baptism that makes us similar to the image of the Lord who died and was risen from the dead.”
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English to convey main ideas of his previously preached Russian homily. He also asked the parishioners to remember about our Parish Patronal feast, St. George’s Day which is going to be celebrated next Wednesday and to prepare for that solemnity.
Our Sunday celebration continued at the coffee hour.