On January 19th, on the feast of the Holy Theophany, or Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Rector, priest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy in our temple.
Following the reading of the Holy Gospel Fr. Igor preached a homily. He reminded parishioners of the readings the Church pronounces during the Vespers service on the Eve of Theophany. The first reading from the book of Genesis tells that when God created the universe the world was formless and covered in water. Water is the first or primal element. When Jesus in today’s feast steps into the water, He not only sanctifies the waters of the Jordan but He sanctifies all the creation. In that same reading we hear the story of creation and how the Spirit hovered over the water. Now we see the Spirit come in the form of a dove to reveal the Messiah. And the whole Holy Trinity is made manifest to the world.
The other Vespers reading is from Exodus, the story of the release of the Israelites from the captivity in Egypt. We read how they fled into the wilderness and were chased by the army of Pharaoh. They came to the Red Sea and crossed it in a miraculous way. The waters of the sea parted and the Israelites walked through the sea, but after they passed the sea, the waters came back and flooded the Egyptians. The waters of the Red Sea saved those whom God had chosen, and Jesus had freed them from their sins. In the same way as we rise from the waters of Baptism, we rise as new creations.
This purification is foretold in the Prophet Isaiah, “Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they become crimson red, they may become white as wool!” (Is. 1, 18).
Fr. Igor continued his sermon saying, “Today the Creator of all things comes to the earth and comes to be baptized in the Jordan. Jesus Who is free from all sin wishes to be baptized in order to cleanse all of humanity from the enemy of old. The Creator of all is baptized by the hand of a servant, so that He may grant all of humanity purification through water and the Spirit. Today, the one who created all things, begins His ministry that will ultimately end in His death and Resurrection that will complete what is begun today. But this holy mission of Christ will also continue in eternal life prepared for those who will believe and will be baptized. Therefore, let us live up to that great calling for eternal life given to us through the holy Baptism in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
At the end of the Liturgy Fr. Igor conducted the Great Blessing of water and blessed the faithful with the newly sanctified water of Theophany. Parishioners had an opportunity to get the holy water for themselves, as well as to invite the priest to visit their homes.
On January 17, on the Sunday before the Theophany, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. Following the Gospel lesson of Mark (Mk. 1, 1-8) he preached a homily in Russian.
In his homily the Rector pointed out that preparing for the holy day of the Theophany the Church commemorates the preaching of St. John the Baptist who called for repentance. Any true spiritual life begins with repentance, therefore it was the main theme of St. John’s preaching. And the baptism he performed in the Jordan River was a symbol of cleansing from the sins. Holy Forerunner fulfilled his mission to prepare the people for the appearance of Christ. We also should advance in faith living justly and prepare ourselves for the encounter with Christ for we call ourselves, as the Apostle said, “those who loved His appearance” (2 Tim. 4, 8). The Rector called the faithful to prepare worthily for the celebration of that appearance, for the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.
Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in English to stress the main ideas of his Russian homily.
After the Liturgy our Warden and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow congratulated Archpriest Igor Tarasov on the occasion of his 50th Jubilee. She presented him with a gift from parishioners and a flower bouquet. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was sung.
On January 10, on the Sunday after the Nativity, we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the reading from the Gospel he preached the following homily in English:
“On this Sunday after Christmas we have to learn what happened very soon after the Birth of Christ on the earth. Today’s Gospel lesson is telling us that after the departure of the Wise Men the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt because king Herod was looking for the Child Jesus to destroy Him (Mt. 2, 13). So, right after the joy of having Her first-born Child, Blessed Virgin had to run and hide. This gives us a very common picture of the life in this sinful world where fallen human nature, human envy and hatred, human lust for power and wealth do not allow to live peacefully, but, on the contrary, spoil the lives of others and tend to destroy it.”
“King Herod represents all human corrupt rulers who desire to preserve their power at any cost. Herod knew that the Messiah was to come into the world. However, his own power was more important for him than salvation of his own people. And when Jesus was born and the Wise Men came to search for him, Herod became very disturbed (Mt. 2, 3). Instead of being excited about the Birth of the Messiah, he was worried that this little Child could take over his throne. Today we hear from the Gospel that Herod became angry after being deceived by the Wise Men who did not tell him about the place where the Child Jesus was. So he sent to kill all the infants in Bethlehem from two years old and under (Mt. 2, 16). The history of mankind is full of the examples of many Herods who sacrifice their own people, who shed innocent blood in order to strengthen their power. They do not care for spiritual matters but only use them to support their dominion.”
“But we may say that the Christmas story represents the whole human society, gives us a picture of the human world. We said that we see Herod, a ruler who is obsessed with his power. But we also see other kinds of people. We see the shepherds. They become worthy of the appearance of the Angels who proclaim the joyful news to them – that the Savior is born. And the shepherds rush to the cave to worship Him. This is an example of simple, sincere and pious people who are blessed by God. We should now recall that from the beginning of humanity God loved the shepherd. Righteous Abel was a shepherd and God blessed his sacrifice. Thus shepherds are the devout people who sincerely love God.”
“In the story of the Nativity we see the Wise Men. These were the astrologers, the scientists of their age. Many of them were serving false gods, practicing magic and sorcery, but those three wise men described in the Gospel were looking for the truth. And being led by the star of Bethlehem they found the true Savior of the human race, the Child Jesus. Thus those wise men represent the scholars who look for the truth, who search for God.”
“Finally, we see the Holy Family. Especially, the head of the household, righteous Joseph the Spouse. He humbly fulfills his duty to care and protect the Holy Family. Being advised by the Angel of the Lord he accepted Mary when She was pregnant. Now, again, advised by the Angel he takes the Child Jesus and His Mother and flees to Egypt. We may only imagine how hard it was for him and for the Holy Family to leave their native country and to go to the different land. But they did so in order to preserve the future Savior of the world. Therefore, St. Joseph represents a worthy and decent man who is fulfilling his obligation of taking care of the family, who protects his spouse and his children.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, the Nativity story shows us the human race in different types of people. And we need to imitate some of them and avoid the attitude of others. We need to imitate the shepherds in their sincere trust to God, in their simple but fervent faith. We need to imitate the wise men in their love for knowledge but combined with the search for spiritual truth, the longing for God. And when they found God, found the Child Jesus they presented Him with the gifts. We also should give the Lord our own gifts – gifts of material nature like gold, gifts of spiritual nature like incense and gifts of moral nature like myrrh. But we have to avoid the attitude of Herod, the attitude of sin, evil desire and lack of love. Like those Wise Men who did not return to Herod, we should avoid being in contact with such people or such powers in the world, but to worship the true God, our Lord Jesus Christ born for us in a manger but who will rule the universe and redeem it.”
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian to convey the main ideas of his English homily.
Following the sermon the Rector congratulated our parishioner and altar server Joseph Kay on the occasion of his name day and wished him God’s blessings and protection of his heavenly patron, righteous Joseph. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was sung.
After the liturgical celebration the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the trapeza table during the coffee hour.
On January 7 our Parish family celebrated great holy day of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, also known as Christmas Day. We held a beautiful celebration in our temple. The Divine Liturgy was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Following the Gospel lesson he proclaimed the Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom on the Nativity.
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 the Liturgy 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. He also handed out little presents with the sweets and candies to the parish children.
Parish Warden and Choir Director Olga Roussanow congratulated Fr. Igor on the occasion of his anniversary of priestly ordination. A short speech was also made by the altar server Andrew Malyshew who expressed his appreciation for the spiritual care provided by Fr. Igor to the faithful. An elaborated version of the Nativity kontakion, as well as traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was sung in honor of Fr. Igor. The Rector expressed his gratitude to the parishioners for their heartfelt wishes and rendered thanks to the Lord who made him worthy and able to serve the faithful as a priest for 26 years.
After the service in the temple the Rector and parishioners continued celebration of Christmas at the nearby Veranda Caffe.
On January 3, on Sunday before the Nativity, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the reading from the Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. The English translation of that homily is as follows:
“Dear brothers and sisters! Last Sunday the Church commemorated all the righteous of the Old Testament who awaited the coming of Christ. Today, the Sunday before the Birth of Christ on earth, the Church remembers all those in the Old Testament who were related to Christ by blood and those who spoke of His Birth as a man. That is why today we have read Christ’s family tree from the Gospel of St Matthew.”
“In this way the Church shows us that Christ was a historical figure, not a mythical or a legendary person. He really lived on Earth and was part of the human history. And in a more profound and spiritual way today’s celebration and today’s reading from the Gospel teaches us that Jesus Christ really became a man. Тhe Son of God really took on human nature. He was not a ghost, an apparition, a myth, a distant imagined god, the abstract god of philosophers. Such a god does not have a family tree. Our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He has flesh and blood, human ancestors, many of whom sinned greatly, but like David, also repented greatly. By taking on human nature, the Son of God became like us in all ways, in flesh and blood, in tears and sweat, in mind and soul, in heart and will, He differed from us in only one way, He did not sin. Since we know that Christ’s human nature remained sinless, He shows us the way that we too can go in order to strive to avoid sin and so improve and transform our failing human nature.”
“However, the fact that Christ took on human nature and has a family tree, has another meaning too. Christ is descended from Adam through Abraham and David, through His ancestors Joachim and Anna – in His human nature He is therefore related to us and we are related to Him. He is a cousin of our ancestors. He is one of our own forebears. He is our relative and we are His relatives, we belong to the same family. It is now that we understand that with Christ we belong to a family, a family of Saints and sinners, but a family of which He is the Head and we are His children, the children whose Mother is the Church and the Father is God. And believing in the Fatherhood of God, we believe in the Brotherhood of Man.”
“And our Lord Jesus Christ came to save this human brotherhood who became Man, so through Him we may become true children of God, not only by the fact of our creation by God, but by divine grace and our faith which make us saved in God.”
“These thoughts may be seen proved in the life of the Holy hierarch Peter, Metropolitan of Rus’ whose memory we celebrate today. St. Peter was born in the region of Volyn which is presently on the territory of Ukraine. But he finished his life in the city of Moscow which is, of course, on the territory of Russia. In his time Rus’ was already divided. St. Peter lived in the principlality of Halych and Volyn. But it was the will of God that he was appointed to be the Metropolitan in Vladimir, on the territory subjected to a different prince. And later St. Peter moved his residence to Moscow, which was also God’s will. His life shows us that the Church should not have boundaries. Many servants of God may be born in one country, belong to a certain nation but live and serve in a different country. In fact, many of us here present are a proof of that. We are from different countries but now live in America and belong to this parish. The Church is in fact universal, and we all belong to the great family which is human race. And if we are Orthodox Christians, we belong to a great family which is one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We still have to love our countries and be good citizens and patriots, but we should be aware that our human brotherhood in Christ, under the Fatherhood of God and Motherhood of the Church are very important and must define our spiritual life.”
“And therefore, dear brothers and sisters, preparing for the solemnity of the Birth of our Lord in flesh, let us become aware of our human brotherhood, as well as of our sonship to God, and let us implore our holy Ancestors: “Holy Fathers of Christ, pray to God for us!”
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in English and stressed the main thoughts of his Russian homily. He also called the parishioners to properly prepare for the feast of the Nativity and expressed his gratitude to Natalia Soho who already arranged for a Christmas tree and set it up in the church.