Exaltation of the Holy Cross


On September 27th, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross, we had a solemn celebration at our temple. Before the Hours St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov placed the cross in the middle of the church and venerated it.
At the Divine Liturgy, after the Gospel lesson Fr. Igor preached a homily:

“Today we celebrate the Lord’s holy day dedicated not to some event in the life of Christ but to His Holy Cross. We celebrate Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross of the Lord. Three centuries after our Lord was crucified, the Cross of Christ was discovered by the pious Christian people and following the order of the Holy Empress Helen. After being found on the Calvary in Jerusalem the Cross was exalted, elevated before the multitude of people by Archbishop Macarius. He exalted the Cross and blessed the people and the multitudes many times exclaimed the petition, “Lord, have mercy!” (“Kyrie eleison”). Today’s feast was established to remember that event and to honor the Holy Cross.”
“Celebrating this feast we may, first of all, reflect upon the great sacrifice our Lord Jesus Christ offered for us on the Cross. The Cross being a tool of shameful execution and horrible death, now became a tool of glorious salvation and new life for the human kind. This is why our pious hymns sung for this holy day call the Cross “the door of paradise”, “the invincible weapon”, “the haven of salvation” and “the resurrection of all the dead”.  Without the Holy Cross our salvation could not happen because the Lord in His merciful Providence willed to redeem us by His own death on that holy tool.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Honoring the Holy Cross we should also remember that the sign of the Cross and its precious image should be with us all the days of our life. Once we are born, the Cross should bless us in the holy rites of the Church, especially in the Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation. When we live and grow up, we have to learn how to bless ourselves with that sign; how to perform that sign appropriately and rightly, without haste and neglect, but with piety and awareness. Making a sign of the Cross is essential in the life of an Orthodox Christian, so it accompanies us all our life as the Cross itself does. The Cross is everywhere in our religious and spiritual life: on the domes of the holy temples, in the churches and in our homes. The pastors bless the people and pious parents bless their children with that sign. And, finally, when we die the Church blesses our remains and our tomb with the cross and a cross is being placed over our grave. But we believe that if we live by the Cross, there will be no death: the Holy Cross will open to us the doors of paradise, the same way as the priest opens the temple doors with the cross on the early morning of Pascha.”
“However, in order to open for us the doors of eternal life the Cross of Christ has to be really honored. We have to live by the Cross. We have to follow the crucified Christ and to accept our own crosses. We should not forget the words of Christ, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt. 16, 24) “And he that takes not his cross, and follows after Me, is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10, 38). Life is carrying the Cross. Many of us desire to free themselves from the cross, to live a life of pleasure and well being, but such people forget or do not know that such freedom from the cross is a true slavery to sin and passion. Such freedom is finally a warrant for our eternal death. Our modern society is very much after that kind of freedom. And we Christians should beware of that.”
“To live by the cross also means to confess Christ the Crucified. Let us not forget the other words of the Lord: “Whoever… shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels” (Mk. 8, 38). Let us not be ashamed to declare our faith in Christ before the world. Let us not be ashamed to make the sign of the Cross in public. Let us not be ashamed and afraid to call the wrong by its name, to call the sin ‘sin’ and to call the evil ‘evil’! Jesus expects that from us. Nowadays even some so-called Christians avoid doing that.”
“Two days ago the pope of Rome came to visit our country. He spoke several times before the multitudes and he never, never mentioned that America did wrong when it legalized same-sex marriage. Instead, he just repeated our important but trivial words, “God bless America!” Yes, we need God’s blessings, but we cannot believe that God blesses all our wrongs and iniquities.  And we could expect more profound statements from the person who claims to be the leader of universal Christianity. And later, when the pope began his sermon in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, he said that his sentiments are now with his “Islamic brothers” celebrating their holiday and suffered a tragedy in Mecca. What about the sentiments with real brothers and sisters in Christ? What about the sentiments with Christians who are now suffering new martyrdom and horrible persecutions from the extreme Muslims in Syria and Iraq? Their churches are being destroyed, the icons are being desecrated, and the holy crosses from the temple domes are being thrown off! They themselves are being tortured and murdered by evil extremists in the name of Islam. What about those Christians, and not those whom the pope called his “brothers”?”
“Dear Orthodox Christians! Let us not be led astray and become like those who forget the truth. Dear true brothers and sisters in Christ! Let us today and always honor the Holy Cross! Let us worship Jesus Christ the Crucified, and let us not be ashamed of Him and of His words. Let us also take up our own crosses and follow Him. Let us follow Him with the Cross, so the Cross may open for us the doors to eternal life!”

Following the end of the Liturgy the Rector performed the rite of Glorification before the Cross and the icon of the feast singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Exaltation. After that the Rector and parishioners venerated the Cross.


Sunday before the Exaltation. Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God

On September 20, on the Sunday before Exaltation of the Cross, St. George parish had a proper liturgical service. We also observed feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God which was falling on the next day. Despite a small number of people attending the temple we had a nice celebration.
Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the readings from the Scripture he preached a homily:

“Today’s reading from the Holy Gospel mentions the events from the Old Testament history. It says that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn. 3, 14). Our Lord Jesus Christ recalled that to teach His disciples about His own mission in the world, the mission of salvation. And He compared His mission to the mission of Moses who led the chosen people of God from the Egyptian captivity to the promised land. The Jews were wandering in the wilderness for the long 40 years. But God was taking care of them. He gave them food and water, He provided for His people. But the people complained and regretted that they left Egypt where they had a lot of food. They forgot that they were slaves in that country, and remembered only some good things they used to have there. A punishment for that ungratefulness to God and to Moses came soon. The Israelites came to an area full of poisonous snakes. Those serpents bit and killed a lot of people. Everybody could perish there if God did not stop that. God told Moses to make a copper snake and to raise it on a pillar. God told that any person who would look at the copper snake will not die of the poison.”
“This event is the symbol of what happened at Calvary, and a prophecy of what is going on with the whole human race. Desert is this earthly life. It is full of poisonous snakes. Evil bites any human from birth and up to the last hour of his or her life. Countless snakes surround human life from all the sides. These are the sins and passion that surround us.”
“We remember that when Adam and Eve, our ancestors, committed the first sin, they were tempted by a serpent. And when we may become bit by a snake? When we meddle with a snake, come into a close contact.  Adam and Eve sinned because they entered into a contact, a conversation with the snake. When we commit sins, we do the same. We converse with the snake. We enter into a close contact with it. And it bites us with the deadly poison, it pours that poison right into our soul. And there is no cure to any man. No cure, if not a merciful God, who sends us not Moses, but His Onlybegotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Only if our gaze is turned to Christ, to His Cross, to the copper serpent of our faith, then we get healed. Just as the copper serpent had no poison, so Christ was similar to all of us, being one of us. He experienced all human sorrows, the pains and sorrows which encounter us in the desert, in our human life. He was similar to us in everything, except sin. Thus as the copper serpent was similar to a living serpent but was not poisonous, so Jesus was not sinful. And when we turn to Him, He will deliver us from the evil. We have to turn to Him and gaze at Him not just with our external eyes but with the eyes of our heart and with our faith. We have to ask for the forgiveness of our sins, and beg for the sanctification of our lives. Then the Lord will grant us deliverance from all the snakes of this world. Evil in the world is extremely frantic. It seems that only a few men left who actually turn to Christ and His Holy Cross. But we know about the best kept secret of life: what is sin and what is death, and where salvation is. Only the cross of Christ is giving us such a salvation.”
“Let us also remember how such a salvation was actually obtained. Our Lord was born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Since today we celebrate feast of Her Nativity, Her Birth, let us remember that She was the one who brought our Savior into the human world. As we sing in today’s troparion to Her, “The Sun of righteousness, Christ our God, has shone from You!” Without Her we could not have Jesus, our Savior. and if today we celebrate the day of Her Birth, we celebrate the beginning of the history of our salvation.”
“The Most Holy Mother of God had always been with Her Son, if not physically then She was always with Him in spirit. She followed with Him to Calvary and She was standing besides His Cross. Thus the Theotokos has a special connection to the Sacrifice on the Cross made for all of us. And being always with Christ in His earthly mission, She is always with Him in His glory. The Mother of God now stands besides His throne in the blessedness of heaven. Therefore, we should always remember that She is our Helper and Protectress. Our salvation comes from Jesus Christ alone, but also through the Most Holy Mother of God. Let us honor Her and ask to save us!”
“Let us then, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, turn our spiritual eyes to the holy Cross of Christ, let us ask for the forgiveness and delivery. Let us remember that God redeemed us, purchased us with great price of His own Blood shed on the Cross. Let us also ask the Most Holy Mother of the Savior to help us in our journey to salvation. Let us pray that She may be with us always in this life, as well as at the hour of our departure from it. Thus, we would not die but have life everlasting.”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector performed the rite of Glorification in front of the icon of the feast, singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos.

15th Sunday after Pentecost

On September 13, 2015 the Church celebrated the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as feast of the Placing of the Precious Cincture of the Most Holy Mother of God. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily:

“Today’s Gospel tells us about the main principle of our faith: “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself”. Unfortunately, sometimes we forget what these words really mean. They mean that, first of all, we must believe in a God who is the Creator of all things. We do not believe in a god who is just some idea, on whom we can hold responsible or whom we can blame. For example, it is very common today to hear the words: “We all believe in the same God”. These words are not true. There are some people for whom god is a bottle of vodka, for others their god is a pop star or a soccer team. We do not have the same god.”
”Secondly, we have to believe in a God who is Love. For example, in other religions there is no god who is Love. Buddhists do not have any god: Buddhism is rather a philosophy, not a religion. Hindus believe in many gods, who try and do the strangest things. Muslims believe in a god who encourages warfare and acts of terror. Even the Jews whom we consider having the same religious roots as we do, believe in a quite different god, a god who takes revenge, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Only the Christian God is the Maker of all and also the God of Love.”
“All the teachings of the Church are based on love. The Christian God is a God in three Persons who love each other, a perfect unity in diversity. The Christian God is He who sent His Son to us. In an act of self-sacrificial love He gave up His life out of compassion for mankind. And when the Son had of His own will thus saved mankind from sin by being crucified and risen, overcoming death by death, the same Son sent the Comforter from His Father to us, the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, the presence of God, the Spirit of truth and love.”
“The second commandment given by Christ is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Christ says that this commandment is like the first one. For if we are called to love the Creator, and then we must also love His creation, including our fellow-men, who are made in the image and the likeness of God the Creator. In this commandment we are also called to love ourselves, not in the sense of selfishness and vain self-admiration, but as a gift of God. And we should remember that we ought to love our neighbor just as we love ourselves. Thus, we cannot love ourselves less than other people! But again, other people deserve the same love as we should have towards ourselves.”
“Here we have to be careful again because by this word “love” are called many things which are not really love. Especially, by “love” are called acts of lust and fornication. Two days ago we commemorated the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. The Holy Forerunner of the Lord was beheaded because he chastised the sinful life of King Herod. That king married unlawfully the wife of his brother. Thus the king’s marriage was not a marriage but adultery. St. John openly condemned that and, as a result, the king’s unlawful wife, Herodias, plotted against him and succeeded in that, so the king ordered St. John to be executed. The Gospel tells us that story in detail. Herodias probably considered her actions to be based on love. But in fact, her behavior was not love, but sin. It was not from God but from the evil. And a lot of other people in every century repeat the same sin of Herodias when they break the marriage bonds in order to follow their “love” call which, in fact, is a call of lustful desire. This is why, let us not confuse love of the neighbor with sinful and lustful desires of the flesh.”
“In the Scriptures the holy Apostle Paul writes that at the end of the world the love for others will grow cold. It seems that this has not yet happened. For as long as there are a few people who continue to keep the Commandments, to love God and love their neighbor as themselves, the world will continue.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! What should we do? In the words of the Psalms, it is all very clear: “Seek God and your soul shall live” (Ps. 68, 32).“

Following the Divine Liturgy the Rector congratulated our long-time parishioner Natalia (Dolores) Soho on the occasion of her past name day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was sung.

Our Sunday celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company.

14th Sunday after Pentecost

On September 6 St. George parish family celebrated the 14th Sunday after Pentecost. We had a nice liturgical celebration led by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.

Following the Gospel reading Fr. Igor preached a homily on that Scripture lesson. It was about the parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt. 22, 1-14). Again, the Lord was describing His eternal Kingdom in parables, so the Apostles could understand it. This time the Kingdom of God was compared to the wedding feast prepared by a king. The Rector explained the parable and stressed our duties as of those who are invited to that feast prepared by God in honor of the wedding of His Son which is the union of God and His Church, His holy people.

Since by the decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first Sunday of September is now dedicated to the prayer for preservation of God’s creation and environment, at the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector added special petitions on that behalf. Following the Litany a special prayer for the creation’s preservation was offered.

13th Sunday after Pentecost

On August 30, on the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, we had a nice celebration at our parish. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Scripture lessons he preached a homily:

“Today’s Gospel is telling us the parable of the vineyard. We heard that story of the owner who built it and was sending his servants to get the fruits in due time. And we heard how the tenants treated them, them and even the owner’s son.”
“In this parable, the vineyard is Israel. The owner is God. Israel is hedged around with natural borders. The wine-press is the altar, the tower is the Temple. The tenants are the Jews. The servants are those sent by God, the prophets and holy ones who reminded the Jews that Israel was not theirs but God’s. But what did the Jews do? They beat and stoned and killed first the servants and then the heir, the Son of God. Why? Because they wanted everything for themselves. And so they ceased to be God’s people, they ceased to be Israel and were cast out of their land and scattered over all the face of the earth. Israel was given to others: the New Israel, the Church, was born.”
“This is why, we should realize that this parable is also addressed today to us, Orthodox of the New Israel. The vineyard is the planet where we Orthodox Christians live. It is hedged around by the presence of the Church. The wine-press is the altar. And the tower is the Church. And the servants are the Saints or the servants of the Church. And we Orthodox should ask ourselves what we have done with God’s Saints who have been sent  for our repentance.”
“In our days the Church of Christ is persecuted in the world. Her voice is hushed.
This is done to the servants of God. This is why some day He will send His Son and that will be the Second Coming, the Coming of the Heir.”
“This parable is also addressed to each of us today in a personal sense. The vineyard is our own soul. It is hedged around with prayer, our guardian Angel, our patron Saint. The wine-press is where we offer ourselves to Christ. The tower is our inner church where we pray to God. We are tenants of our God-created souls. The servants sent to us are all those occasions when God speaks to us. He speaks to us in prayer, He speaks to us through the word of His Scriptures, He speaks to us through every opportunity, every encounter, every event that comes into our lives. He speaks to us through the presence of His Church in the world.”
“And how do we react? Do we reject everything sent to us, everything allowed to us, as a chance to do better, to make good our weaknesses? Do we fail to see God? Do we ignore the Church? If so, then we too beat and stone and kill the servants of God. We are warned: the Heir is coming.
At the end of the parable of the vineyard, Christ says: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the head of the corner, and it is marvelous in our eyes’. The stone rejected is of course the Rock of Faith, Christ Himself, for He was rejected and crucified. And yet He became the head of the corner and it is marvelous in our eyes. Let us too be rocks of faith then, and though the world will reject us, we too shall become heads of the corner, and it will be marvelous in the eyes of God and men. Glory to Thee, O God, glory to Thee!”

Following the liturgical services the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the trapeza table during the coffee hour.

Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God

On August 28, on the holy day of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our parish Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily:

“Today we are celebrating the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God. The name of this feast suggests that we do not celebrate the death of the Mother of God. She did not die, but fell asleep. Thus the feast is called the Dormition, Falling Asleep. Being Orthodox Christians, at every Liturgy we pray that we may also have a falling asleep, a similar end of our earthly life. We ask the Lord that a Christian ending to our lives may be “painless, unashamed and peaceful,” and that we may have a “good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ”.”
“Speaking of the Most Holy Mother of God, we have to remember that She is the holy Virgin and the first Christian Saint. In Her we can see a perfect Christian. And we can see our own vocation as a reality, being accomplished in Her life and death. She is an example for us, but at the same time, we know that because She is the Mother of Christ, She prays for us, and we can ask in our prayers to Her to be with us now and also at the time of our death. And we believe very strongly that She will be there because, as it was said, She became the first Saint of the Church.”
“But speaking about the Blessed Virgin, we have to remember that She was also the first Saint before the Dormition. And the life of the Mother of God can be for us an example of a Christian life.”
“Today’s Gospel lesson which is read for all feasts of the Theotokos, tells us that some woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Jesus: “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You.” (Lk. 11, 27). But the Lord said to her: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Lk. 11, 28). If Jesus agreed only with the words of that woman, He would confirm the blessedness of His Holy Mother. It would be right. But our Lord always wishes us to do more than just right. He does not tell that the woman is wrong, but He adds: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” It is good to be the Mother of the Savior, but it is better to hear the word of God and obey it.”
“The Most Holy Mother of God is an example of a human being who obeys the word of God. She did obey when She received that Annunciation that She will bear the Son of God. She was obedient all other days of Her life. That is very important for us. We are Orthodox Christians, and that means that we also have to accept and to be obedient to the word of God. And what is the word of God to us? It is the Sacred Scripture, first of all, the Holy Gospel. The Gospel is like a constitution for us, the main law.”
“Secondly, the Mother of God was a human being who prayed, who was always with Christ, not only physically but spiritually – at the first sign, the first miracle of Christ, She takes the initiative: She was there. And that is also something for us – we are Christians, so we have to stay in the Church. The life of the Church is necessary for us to be saved – not only the Gospel, the word of Christ, but the work of Christ in the community of the Church.”
“And the third thing – this is very important – the Mother of God is an example of obedience to Her own Son. And that is also important for us, because we have the Gospel – the word of the Lord; we have the life of the Church; and then we have our Church hierarchy, the bishops. It is important and necessary for us to be obedient also to the bishop because he is in the Church the icon of Christ. He is not an authority like the civil authorities. He is not a king, but a servant. The bishops and priests are the servants of God and of the people.”
“So we cannot separate the Gospel, Church life and our obedience to Christ, to His icon in the Church which is the bishop. If we accept that, and if we have a life in that spirit, then the end of our life here in this world will be also not a death but a dormition, a falling asleep – a holy dormition – and we will receive from Christ the Kingdom of heaven.”

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and altar servers performed the rite of glorification in front of the icon of the feast, singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast.
The Rector also congratulated the faithful on the occasion of this great holy day and on the conclusion of the fast in honor of the Most Holy Mother of God.