26th Sunday after Pentecost


On November 29, on the 26th Sunday after Pentecost, and on the feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, our parish had a nice liturgical celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Today’s first Gospel lesson offers us a great instruction telling the parable about Good Samaritan. It is interesting to note that those two words were not imaginable by the Jews in the time of Christ. Samaritans were enemies and could not be called “good”. However, our Lord tells this parable and wishes His listeners to change their mind. As we celebrate today the feast of the Holy Apostle Matthew, we learn from the second Gospel lesson that this disciple of Christ was called from the tax office. St. Matthew was a publican, a tax collector. Publicans were considered immoral people and public sinners. Pious Jews could not communicate with them. Therefore, it was not imaginable also to call a publican “good”. But Holy Apostle Matthew became a “good” publican when he followed Christ. Therefore, Jesus was breaking stereotypes of the Jews and wished the people to change their mind regarding “bad” people. By His parable about Good Samaritan He teaches us that God’s commandment of love towards the neighbor concerns all men, and not just our relatives or compatriots. That is the direct and moral sense of that parable.”
“But today we should reflect about the spiritual meaning of that parable.”
“A certain man goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho. A certain man means any man, any one of us. Jerusalem signifies heaven and Jericho signifies the earth. This is the destiny of us all, to be on earth, although our home is in heaven. This man falls among thieves who strip him of his raiment, wounding him and leaving him half-dead (Lk. 10, 30). Here the thieves are the demons who attack us through our weaknesses and wound us, leaving us weak and spiritually dying, having lost grace and faith, in sorrow and despair.”
“A priest and then a Levite pass by and do not help (Lk. 10, 31-32). By them we understand those who, having a certain rank and duty, have hard hearts and show no love, for they are hypocrites and “pass by on the other side”. But a Samaritan helps the man, shows compassion. Although the Samaritan does not share the fullness of the official faith, his heart is kind, and he shows mercy. This Good Samaritan represents Christ Himself. Christ was rejected by the Jews, but had the essential compassion which the Jews did not have.”
“The Samaritan went to the man and bound up his wounds and poured in oil and wine and then set the man on his own animal (Lk. 10, 34). This is what Christ did for us: He came to us. In other words He became man, one of us. He then bound up our spiritual wounds with His word and poured on us His grace of salvation, the oil and wine of our souls. Then he set us on his own animal, in other words he gave us faith. Without faith we are not able to walk, so faith is our ride to salvation, our transport.”
“The Samaritan then took the man to an inn, cared for him and gave the innkeeper two coins to look after the man, telling the innkeeper that if it cost more, he would repay him when he returned. (Lk. 10, 34-35). By the inn, we would understand the Church, where men can receive Christ’s healing and care. Faith transports us to the Church. Then the innkeeper is the priest, the dispenser of sacramental grace and healing. But it is true that all members of the Church are also innkeepers, dispensers of spiritual and other help to those in the world around us.”
“The two coins represent the two ways in which we are saved. First of all, we need to take an effort through, fasting and repentance. That is the first coin. The second coin is the grace of the Sacraments that we receive from God in response to our efforts. And there is a connection between those two coins. If we members of the Church of God, ‘innkeepers’, stretch ourselves and give more of ourselves, then Christ will reward us when He returns at the end of the world.”
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! This is the spiritual meaning of today’s parable. Christ tells it to the lawyer who knows the commandments but does not apply them. And Christ says to him: “Go and do likewise” (Lk. 10, 37). Let us also, after reflection on that parable, do likewise by showing compassion towards those who are in need, those whom we encounter during the journey of our life. Today’s second Gospel tells us that our Lord desires compassion, not sacrifice (Mt. 9, 13). Let us show that and take care of our neighbors bodily and spiritually, so when our Lord returns to the earth, He may bless our deeds and reward us for them in the eternity!”

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in English conveying the ideas of his Russian homily. He also reminded the parishioners that we began the Nativity Fast, a period of spiritual preparation for the solemnity of the Birth of Christ.

25th Sunday after Pentecost


On November 22, on the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, we had a beautiful celebration in our parish church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily:

”Today’s Gospel reading from St. Luke (Lk. 8, 40-56) tells us about two miracles, one the healing of an illness and the other the overcoming of death. This double miracle is also reported in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (Mt. 9, 18-26; Mk. 5, 22-43). Thus, these two miracles should be viewed as related, for both illness and death have the same origin, the same cause, they are both the result of sin, both entered the world as a result of the sin of Adam. As the Apostle Paul says, “The wages of sin are death” (Rom. 6, 23).”
“Let us consider the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. We should note that this issue of blood was not that monthly issue of blood suffered by all women, but something else. It had lasted for twelve years. On this subject, it is worth making clear that the monthly issue of blood endured by all women is not of course the result of personal sin, but a result of the general sin of Eve. It is written in the Book of Genesis that women will suffer this as a result of the fall: “In pain you will give birth”  (Gen. 3, 16). In the same way men are forced into having to work for a living, into “toiling by the sweat of their brow”. Both men and women suffer from the fall, but in different ways.”
”The issue of blood suffered by this woman was then an illness and it was healed by her touching the fringe of the clothes of Our Savior, Who, as it is written, felt ‘the power go out of Him’ (Lk. 8, 46). In these words we have a description of the nature of all illness. If it takes the power of Christ to heal an illness, then it is clear that every illness is in fact some lack, some absence of the power of Christ. Sickness is not something that is added, it is rather the sign of absence of the grace of God. As we are told in the Gospel when the woman was healed, or in other words she was ‘made whole’. Thus, a sick person suffers from a lack, that person is not whole. Such a person lacks the fullness of the power of Christ.”

“How and why was the woman in the Gospel “made whole”? This question is easy to answer, for Christ Himself says to her that: “Your faith has made you well” (Lk. 8, 48). In other words, if any of us is to be made whole, to be made well, we must first have faith. If we do not have faith, we lack something, we are without something, we are faithless or godless. But if we have faith, then healing can be inspired in us by the power of God.”
“This combination of faith and the power of God is so special that it can even overcome death. We see this very clearly in the second miracle, the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter. Here was this young girl, twelve years old, dying. We can easily imagine the frustration of her father Jairus. And yet he had faith, for he was seeking out Christ, the Only One Who could heal his daughter. As a result of Jairus’ faith and the power of Christ, his daughter was not only healed, but restored from death before the eyes of those who mocked Christ.”
”Reflecting upon those two closely related miracles, we may see that today our Lord Jesus Christ says to us all: “Have faith and I will give you all the power that you need to do My will”. Let us then hear His words to be made well in this life and later to be raised from the dead, especially for the eternal blessedness after His second coming.”

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian to stress the main ideas of his English homily. He also reminded the parishioners that next week we begin the Nativity, or St. Philip’s Fast which is a special time of spiritual preparation before the celebration of the Birth of Christ. The Rector mentioned that right before we start fast we could celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Although it is not a Church holy day, it has an important spiritual significance – we have an opportunity to give thanks to the Lord for all the blessings we received during the past year. Fr. Igor encouraged the parishioners to spend the Thanksgiving in the spirit of gratitude to the Lord. We can also have a nice traditional turkey dinner but we should remember that next day, on Friday, we begin fasting. Thus our festal food should be all consumed on the Thanksgiving Day.

Following the service the Rector and parishioners already enjoyed Thanksgiving meal together, having a very abundant luncheon with a delicious turkey and other meals prepared by our great cooks.

24th Sunday after Pentecost


On November 15, on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Rector of St. George Church, served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s reading from the Holy Gospel takes us to the country of the Gadarenes which is opposite of Galilee. Our Lord Jesus Christ came there along with His disciples after crossing the Lake of Gennesaret, and there He cast out the evil spirits from a possessed man (Lk. 8, 26-39).”
“Reflecting upon this Gospel story we may say that the power of Christ was able to cast out the demons. It was able to command the forces of the invisible world. It is important to remember that evil is not more powerful or even equally powerful to God.”
“Further we read in today’s Gospel that the demons asked Christ to permit them to enter the herd of swine. And He did. This indicates that God allows evil things to happen for a reason. Last Sunday we said that God allows terrible disasters to happen due to our sinfulness. And in today’s Gospel story we are talking about a much less terrible, but still impressive loss – the demons entered the swine and the whole herd ran down the steep place into the lake and drowned (Lk. 8, 33). According to the Old Testament, pigs were unclean animals, but they are still God’s creatures. And the demons, although it sounds weird, are also God’s creatures! God created them as good, but they chose to be evil and fell away from Him. But today’s Gospel story tells us that the Lord heard their request and allowed that the animals would suffer because of them. And what is a request from a creature to the Creator? It is a prayer. Thus, although it sounds weird, the demons did pray Christ and He answered their prayer.”
“But the demons remained those who they were – the evil spirits. They killed the swine. It shows us their malice, their hatred towards all the God’s creatures. St. John Chrysostom says that if they could, the demons would destroy all God’s creation. They would kill all the people if they could and would not be restrained by God. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, if not for God’s power the evil spirits would long ago destroy all the human kind.”
“The Gospel lesson further tells us that the people from the country of the Gadarenes asked Jesus to depart from them (Lk. 8, 37). This was an evil choice. They did it because they do not wish Jesus to break, to change their usual way of life. He would disturb their sinful way. Those people were pagans, not the Jews. The fact that they had swine tells us that. So, they did not really know the faith in one God and did not probably wish that their pagan lifestyle would be disturbed. They have already suffered a loss, losing several thousand head of cattle, when he was only approaching the town! What might happen if he comes to the city itself? This is an example of selfish fear, a fear before something high and divine, a fear that the Lord may enter into our life and change it. He may make us different while we are so used to be what we are, sinful and unclean, just like those pigs. Something similar happens now, when a person is afraid to let the Lord somehow enter into his soul. Did not we hear sometimes even from the church going people about someone who wants to pray more, fast more and to exercise more piety: “We are no monks! Is it possible to us to demand what is required of the monks and the clergy? We are ordinary laymen.”
“We have to beware of that attitude and avoid it. It makes us renounce God’s grace. In the same way the people from the country of the Gadarenes renounced God’s grace in today’s Gospel lesson when they asked Jesus to depart from their land. But again, we become convinced that God may hear the prayers of those who even wish evil things to happen. When the demons beg Him to permit them to enter the swine the Lord allows them. When the sinful people ask Him to depart from their country, He departs. But today’s Gospel is telling us that before His departure Jesus has left instead a preacher, the healed man (Lk. 8, 38-39). That man who had been freed from the demons and who desired to follow the Lord, he was left by Christ in his own city to preach. He had to instruct his relatives and do not allow at least some of them to perish.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Today’s Gospel story teaches us a few things. It teaches to pray in faith. God listens to the prayers, He heard the prayer of the demons. It also teaches us to avoid evil. We need to stay away from any forms of the evil forces in this world such as occult teachings, spiritism, fortune telling, sorcery and different superstitions. Otherwise, the evil spirits could have a power over us. And finally, today’s Gospel teaches us not to chase Jesus away, but ask for His grace, and preach Him to others. Asking for His grace and instructing others about the Lord and about His salvation we may be delivered from all evil and to may be not among those who chases the Lord away, but among His faithful disciples who follow Him everywhere, follow Him in their earthly life and will follow Him into the eternal blessedness!”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English explaining the main ideas of his previously preached Russian homily.

Following the service our parishioners and the Rector enjoyed delicious food and a nice company at the trapeza table during the coffee hour. At the end of the coffee hour a special Parish Meeting was held and some newly emerged issues had been discussed.


23rd Sunday after Pentecost. Feast of St. Demetrius


On November 8, on the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, as well as on the feast of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrius, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. Following the readings from the Gospel he preached a homily:

“Our today’s celebration combines the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost and feast of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrius. In addition, our calendar mentions that on this day the imperial city of Constantinople suffered a terrible earthquake in the year 740 AD. As we mention such a disaster we may recall that 3 years ago our contemporary imperial city of New York suffered a terrible hurricane Sandy. Hundreds of people died in accidents, many houses were flooded or destroyed, a lot of damage done to the areas of the ocean shore. Indeed, it seems that not a day goes by without some natural catastrophe happening and lives lost – here floods, there a hurricane, here a volcano, there an earthquake. And people tend to blame somebody for these losses. Some people blame governments for not being prepared, some blame big companies for changing the earth climate, and very often we tend to blame God. Even the insurance companies called the damages resulting from natural disasters the “acts of God”. Thus, we blame others but not ourselves. Like children we argue that “it isn’t our fault”. Such a way of thinking is not the way of the Holy Gospel.”
“In today’s Gospel, Lazarus did not blame anyone for his poverty and misery. He never blamed the kings and the rulers or some other human forces for his state. And he never blamed God. He did not even reproach the rich man for his meanness. No, he accepted his situation in humility. And because of his humility he went to heaven, to the bosom of Abraham.”
“As for the rich man, he never thought of thanking God for his wealth. He did not show his gratitude to God by caring for the poor men at his gate. He had only hard-heartedness, allowing Lazarus to die at his gates, surrounded by stray dogs who licked Lazarus’ sores, while he was feasting. And because of his hard-heartedness he went down to hell.”
“Now we may ask: what is the spirit of the Gospel tells us about different catastrophes in the world? Why does God allow natural disasters to happen? And who is to blame? The answer is: man himself is to blame, simply because man does not ask God for catastrophes not to happen, because man does not accept God’s power. Man does not seek God’s protection through prayer and repentance, through confession and Communion. Man has persuaded himself through modern technology that he is so smart that he can live without God. But modern man has so blinded himself with his intelligence that he forgot that he can do nothing to protect himself from the natural elements, only God can do that. Modern man so blinded himself that like the rich man in today’s Gospel, he cannot see Lazarus starving in agony at his gates.”
“On the other hand, it is also true that there could be many more natural disasters. Why not the whole cities and lands are being destroyed by earthquakes? Why not whole countries are being consumed by tidal waves? Why has the earth survived for so long despite the accumulation of human sin? Why God is so patient that He does not allow all these things to happen? Only because there are those who prayed and continue to pray. The Mother of God keeps interceding for us. The Saints like Holy Great Martyr Demetrius continue to pray the Lord being in front of Him in heaven. And the righteous people living on earth keep praying for the peace of the whole world and for the salvation of all. This is the only reason why we are still here. The world hangs by the thread of prayer.”
“The world is run not by governments, or politicians, or generals, or businessmen. In reality it is run by prayer and lack of prayer. There will be peace in the world until there is prayer. And we too shall perish like the rich man unless we pray, unless we hear to Moses and the Prophets and unless we truly follow the One Who is truly risen from the dead, Christ our True God.”

Since there was no services on the previous day which was the St. Demetrius Memorial Saturday, the Rector proclaimed the Litany of commemoration of the deceased which is not usually taken in our parish on Sundays.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector reminded parishioners to pay their parish dues for the current year.


22nd Sunday after Pentecost


On November 1, on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, our parish family had a nice celebration. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Today’s Gospel reading contains very famous parable about the Sower who went to sow his seed (Lk. 8, 5-15). The seed falls to the different ground, and in most of the cases it did not produce any fruit. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself explained that parable to His disciples saying what it means. We easily learn that the seed is the Word of God which is sown by the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Sower of the Word. Now, the grounds are different types of people, different types of human souls. And the Lord tells us what kind of souls He is talking about. In one case they hear the word but the devil comes and takes the word away. In another case people have no root for the word and fall away at the time of temptation. In the third instance the people are too busy with their daily cares, riches or pleasures, so they cannot grow the seed of faith. Only in the fourth example Jesus talks about some “good ground”, about those who have a “noble and good heart”. They hear the word , keep it and bear fruit with patience.”
“As we may see, our Lord teaches us in a very simple and easy way. Christianity is a simple and direct teaching. It may be hard, but it is not complicated. And in today’s Gospel we are given four different way of receiving the Word. Three of them are inappropriate, failing. Only one is right and appropriate. It looks like a multiple choice question with one correct answer.  How can we find the right answer? The right answer is given in today’s Gospel in twelve simple words: “But that on the good ground are they, which in a noble and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Lk. 8, 15).”
“First of all, so that the seed of God does not fall by the wayside and may not be trampled down or devoured by the demons, we must have an ‘honest and good heart’. Our hearts must be ready to receive the word.”
“Secondly, so that we do not fall into careless excitement, we must cultivate the seed of God, giving moisture to it, so that it puts out roots and develops, in other words, we must ‘keep the word’. How the word is kept? By obeying the Commandments. If we live according to them, then we keep the Word of God”
“Finally, so that the seed of God is not choked with the thorns and weeds of our passions, we must ‘bring forth fruit with patience’. We cannot expect sudden and astonishing progress, with our many worldly cares. We have to be patient and persevere, making what at first may only be a mere interest into our priority and living it as a way of life. Sometimes people complain that they fight their passions and sins but see little or even no progress. We have to be patient. It could happen that we do not totally overcome certain sins in our life. However, if we repent and fight those sins, the Lord may still bless and receive us into His blessedness, for we were patient in our fight. Such a fight can produce a fruit.”
“Thus today Christ gives us not learned volumes of complicated instructions to live by, but three simple rules for salvation: to have an ‘honest and good heart’, to keep the word, and bring forth fruit with patience. If we follow that simple rules, we may become a good ground for the seed of God to grow and to make us worthy of eternal blessedness.”

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

After the Liturgy the Rector performed a memorial service (Litia) for the victims of the Russian aircraft crash occurred in Egypt.

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