Lenten Mission Vespers in Passaic, NJ


On March 20, on the First Sunday of Lent, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Dean of the Eastern States of the Patriarchal Parishes participated in one of the traditional Lenten Mission Vespers served in our Deanery. This day such service had been celebrated at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Passaic, NJ.

Mission Vespers was headed by Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes, Archpriest George Konyev and co-served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, as well as by Archpriest John Kassatkin, Rector of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ, Hieromonk Stephen (Bushman), cleric of the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ, Priest Stephen Kaznica, Rector of St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Passaic, NJ, and Deacon Demetrius Sukhorukov, cleric of St. Nicholas Church in Bayonne, NJ.

Following the Great Prokimenon a short sermon in English was delivered by Deacon Demetrius Sukhorukov.

After the Vespers dismissal the Cathedral Rector expressed his gratitude to the clergy and lay people present for their participation in the Mission service. Following the church service, a light supper was offered to the guests of the Passaic Cathedral in its parish hall.

Sunday of Orthodoxy


On March 20, 2016 the Church celebrated the First Sunday of Lent, also known as Sunday of Orthodoxy. On that occasion we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today is the First Sunday of Lent, the feast known as the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Celebrating that solemnity we should ask ourselves what is the meaning of this word – ‘Orthodoxy”. Orthodoxy means right or correct teaching. A literally translation from the Greek tells us that it is “the right glory”. And since in the matters of faith the whole glory belongs to God, the Orthodoxy is a correct worship of God.”
“We are first of all Christians, followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. But every human teaching can be altered, perverted or deviated. Take any teaching in religion, politics or philosophy. It may have so many alterations, interpretations and doctrines. It is so in any area of human thought. And it is so in religious matters. Unfortunately, many people follow different religions, have many ways of attempting to understand the supernatural and to reach the Supreme Being. A lot of people on earth do not follow Christ. And even in the true faith in Christ we see many different and separate teachings and Church denominations. Thus, we need a correct understanding, interpretation of the teaching of Christ. Such a correct and true teaching, a right way to the Lord is Orthodoxy.”
“One of the most important parts of the Orthodox teaching is Incarnation of God. The Orthodox Church teaches that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, took our flesh, became Man. Jesus Christ being one Person has two natures: divine and human. Some false teachings called heresies taught differently about the Incarnation of the Son of God and about His natures.”
“Another important aspect of Orthodoxy is especially celebrated today. We commemorate the victory of the Orthodox teaching regarding the holy icons. Again, many people in the past did not understand how can we venerate the images. And today a lot of non-Orthodox people do not grasp the idea of the holy icons being venerated. The Orthodox Church teaches that because Jesus being God is also Man, we can picture Him in a human form. Those pictures are the holy icons. We can see God through them.”
“In today’s Gospel lesson one the Apostles of Christ, Philip told another disciple, Nathanael, “Come and see” (Jn. 1, 46). He was answering to the doubts of Nathanael regarding the Messiah who came from the town of Nazareth. Nathanael was wondering how can “anything good come out of Nazareth” (Jn. 1, 46). It seems that Nazareth did not have the best reputation. But Jesus did come from that town. He lived there and was raised there as a Man. In the same way some people can be asking, “How can we worship God who is Man”? Or, “How can we picture God who is invisible?” These are the questions coming either from those who honestly wish to believe (like Nathanael who was an Israelite with no deceit) or from those who believe incorrectly (like heretics).”
“We Orthodox can answer to both repeating the words of Philip, “Come and see”. Let them come to the Orthodox church and see the holy icons. Let them see our faith in all its beauty. Let them see our services and the people praying the true God incarnate.”
“God did come in an accessible and even human form. This is why He can be pictured as Man. But even before the Incarnation of Jesus, God did appear to the people in a human form. If we recall the Old Testament, God appeared to Abraham as the three men, or the three Angels. Abraham hospitably received them and we in the Orthodox Church have a very beautiful and mysteriously spiritual icon of those three Angels known as the Old Testament Trinity. It is one of our most beautiful icons, especially the one written by the famous Russian iconographer, Venerable Andrew Rublev. If God did so to Abraham, why we should not image Him in Jesus Who was a true human being? Jesus did not just appear in human form but He did become one of us. Therefore we have a right to picture Him as such.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Despite the doubts of man (including the doubts of Nathanael) there is a true teaching of Christ saying that God became Man and we venerate His image. We venerate not wood and paint but the One pictured on and by them. And doing so, keeping this Orthodox faith we may see in the future the divine glory, “heaven open, and the Angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (Jn. 1, 51).”

Before the Liturgy dismissal the Rector performed prayer service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy solemnly declaring the Orthodox faith and proclaiming eternal memory to the champions of that faith and the polychronion to the Church hierarchy and Orthodox Christians.

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

Compline with the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete


On March 16, on Wednesday of the first week of Lent the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Compline with the reading of penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.

This Canon is composed as a conversation of a person with his own soul. It reveals that often we imitate sinners mentioned in the Scripture but do not wish to follow the steps of the righteous ones. It also calls us to bring the fruits of repentance and not to exalt ourselves.

Following the service the Rector preached a brief sermon about the meaning of penitential Canon. He pointed out that the Canon teaches us to examine our conscience and to fight passions and sins. This warfare is very hard. Fr. Igor referred to the sermon recently preached by His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill who said that very often our soul resembles a field where the tares grow along with the wheat. It is difficult to pull out all the tares. And we should not fight the greatest sins first because we may lose our strength as an army fighting the strongest enemy at once could lose all the resources. It is more suitable to fight lesser sins and to achieve a victory over them, and then attempt to fight the greater ones. Fr. Igor concluded his sermon saying that Lent is very helpful to give us strength needed to lead such an important warfare in order to be saved.


Cheesefare Sunday


On the Cheesefare Sunday the Church commemorates the exile of Adam and Eve from paradise. This day is also known as the Forgiveness Sunday because Orthodox Christians ask mutual forgiveness before they begin the spiritual journey of the Great Lent. On this day, on March 13, St. George parish had services in our temple. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is the following:

“Today is Cheesefare Sunday, the last Sunday before Lent. Tomorrow we will begin that special season, a time of fasting and spiritual endeavors. Before we do so, the Church wishes us to remember the fall of Adam and Eve and how they lost Paradise by eating the forbidden fruit, which is why we fast, eating only “the permitted fruit”. How exactly did that fall happen?”

“We know from the Scriptures that the first man and the first woman lived in Paradise, in Eden. We know also that they walked with God, meaning that they lived in harmony and communion with God, suffering neither sin, nor sorrow, neither aging, nor death. We know also that they disobeyed God. The cause of their disobedience was in the temptation of pride: they thought that they knew better than their Creator. They thought that they could disobey Him and benefit from that. The fact that the first man and first woman preferred to trust in themselves, rather than in God, to trust in their proud self-importance, led to their fall from communion with God. But once they had rejected God, they also rejected freedom from sin and freedom from sorrow, rejected freedom from aging and freedom from death.”
“The cure for their fall was made clear to them. It was in doing the opposite of all they had done. Instead of disobedience, they needed obedience; instead of pride, they needed humility. In other words, they had to turn back on what they had done in repentance and ask forgiveness. At first they had been unable to do this. When God had first spoken to Adam and Eve after their act of disobedience, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Neither had the humility to take responsibility for his errors and ask for forgiveness. It was not that God did not know what they had done; it was simply that He wanted to give them the opportunity to ask Him, and to ask each other, for forgiveness. Instead they blamed each other and in the process blamed God their Creator.”
“To us, as children of Adam and Eve, God also gives opportunities to ask for forgiveness, as Adam and Eve should have done. He gives us the Sacrament of Confession. Confession does not exist because God wants to hear from us what we have done. He already knows that. Confession exists because God is giving us an opportunity to correct our mistakes and failings. He wants us to ask for forgiveness, so that we can then take strength from Him through the prayers of the priest, so as to clean ourselves and strive not to repeat our mistakes. God does not need our confession, but we do. Every confession is a repeating of that opportunity given to Adam and Eve in Eden, to ask God for forgiveness. And unlike human beings, God always forgives those who sincerely, with repentance, ask Him for forgiveness.”
“I recently read what some child, probably a Sunday school student, said, “Forgiveness is like a fragrance the flower gives when it is being trampled”. What a beautiful saying! Adam and Eve trampled God’s love but God was ready to forgive. We also trample God’s love by our sins, but He is giving us a fragrance of forgiveness, an aroma of His compassionate love in the Mystery of Confession. How could we reject such love?”
“However, before we ask forgiveness of God, we first have to ask forgiveness of each other. And just at this time, on Cheesefare Sunday, it is a custom of Orthodox throughout the world to come to Confession, to ask each other for forgiveness. We can ask forgiveness of those who are not here by visiting them or calling them. But of those who are here, we can now ask forgiveness directly, for all our errors towards them in thought, word or deed, whether conscious or unconscious. On the other hand, let us imitate God in granting forgiveness to our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us engulf them with a fragrance of our forgiving love.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The Lord said in today’s Gospel lesson, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt. 6, 14-15). For if we do not first ask each other for forgiveness, we cannot ask God for forgiveness. And without forgiveness, there is no way back into Paradise for any of us. Let us then forgive to be forgiven and to regain our lost blessedness with our ever-loving Creator!”

Following the Divine Liturgy the Rector performed Vespers with the Rite of Forgiveness. After the singing of the Great Prokimenon he changed his priestly vestments to the Lenten color of black.

After the Vespers dismissal the Rector preached a sermon in English which was a short version of his homily preached at the Liturgy in Russian. After finishing the sermon he asked for forgiveness bending his knees. The parishioners also knelt down and asked their pastor for forgiveness. Then each one of the faithful could come to the Rector to kiss the cross and to express the forgiveness.

Following the services of this special day the Rector and parishioners joined at the Blini Lunch. We enjoyed delicious meals, especially the blini, nicely prepared by our ladies.

Clergy of the Eastern States hold a Meeting


On Saturday March 12, clergy of the Eastern States Deanery of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA gathered at St. Nicholas Church in Bayonne NJ to hold a Deanery Meeting. 

Divine Liturgy was celebrated prior to the meeting by parish Rector, Archpriest Mikhail Kapchits and Archpriest Andrew Lowe, Rector of St. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls NJ. Praying in the church was Patriarchal Parishes Chancellor Archpriest George Konyev; Dean of the Eastern States and Rector of St. George Church in Bayside NY, Archpriest Igor Tarasov; Hieromonk Stephen (Bushman) and Protodeacon Daniel Sudol, cleric of Three Saints Church, Garfield NJ. 

After an abundant meal prepared by the parish, Fr. Igor opened the meeting and expressed his gratitude to all those in attendance. The clergy finalized the schedule of the traditional Lenten Vespers held during Great Lent as well as other administrative and pastoral issues.

Meatfare Sunday


On March 6, on the Meatfare Sunday, St. George Parish had a nice liturgical celebration in its temple. The Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in English:

“Today’s Sunday the Church dedicates to the Last Judgment which, as we believe, is going to happen at the end of this world, at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel reading which we just heard describes that unique and awesome event (Mt. 25, 31-46). It tells us that the Lord will come to judge everyone, He will divide all the people into two groups. One kind of people will be blessed and inherit eternal Kingdom prepared for the blessed ones, while another kind will be condemned and sent to eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Commemorating that future event, let us reflect upon those two kinds of men.”
“It is very easy to understand that the two large groups of people divided by the Lord at the Last Judgment are those who tended to be good in their lives and, on the other side will be those who adhered to the evil. Simply saying, these are good and bad people. Whether someone is good or evil will be defined at that Judgment. And it is comforting because living our earthly lives we often do not really know who is good and who is not. It all tends to be confused. And many people like to think that way, to believe that not everything is black or white, but there are lots of shades of grey.”
“Thinking of that, we realize that good and evil coexist in this world. The earthly life is a constant fight between them. Very often we see that evil is winning and good is losing in that fight. The history of mankind is full of wars and injustices. Any plain earthly joy is often changed by sorrow and sickness. The just and unjust live together, and it is often noted that the sinners enjoy welfare while the righteous ones suffer. The warfare between good and evil is taking place everywhere, especially in the hearts of men. As the great Russian writer Dostoyevsky said, “God and the devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the hearts of men”.”
“Many people ask, “Why all these evil is happening? Why the world is so unjust?” The answer we may find in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. In a parable He said that the Kingdom of God is similar to a field on which the wheat grows along with the tares. When the servants of the field’s owner asked whether they should go and gather the tares up, the owner said, “No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest” (Mt. 13, 29-30). By this parable the Lord teaches us that good and evil will not coexist forever. Thus the existing order of things will not be everlasting. It will end at the Last Judgment. That Judgment will be the time of harvest when the tares will be gathered together, bound into bundles and burned while the wheat will be gathered into the barn (Mt. 13, 30).”
“Those who at the Last Judgment will be placed at the right will not be without sin. However, these will be those who asked God’s mercy, help and forgiveness. God wants everybody to be saved. He said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Jn. 6, 37). If we, being sinful and evil, ask God to help us, He will. But if we continue to be evil and do not repent, God will not save us. Thus those who will find themselves at the left side, among the condemned, could not blame God for their condemnation. It will be their fault because they deliberately chose to reject God’s love. It will be their destiny because they themselves chose eternal torment. This is the justice of God – to forgive those who wish to be forgiven and to condemn those who do not.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! If we wish that the Son of Man may place us at his right hand, among the blessed ones, at the Last Judgment, let us repent, let us open our hearts to God that the Holy Spirit may cleanse them from all impurity. Let us serve our neighbor and perform the deeds of mercy, as today’s Gospel teaches us. Then we may have a hope that the Lord may grant us blessed eternal life, that He may place us at His right hand, among the blessed ones. This hope will not make us ashamed at the Last Judgment.”

Since there was no memorial service performed on the day before which was Meatfare Memorial Saturday, the Rector added the Litany for the deceased to the liturgy with commemoration of those who had fallen asleep.

Before the Holy Communion the choir beautifully sang penitential hymns in preparation for Lent

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

2016 Annual Parish Meeting


The Annual Parish Meeting of St. George Church was held on Sunday, February 28, 2016, following the Divine Liturgy and coffee hour. Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov presided.

Church Warden, Olga Roussanow read the minutes of the last Annual Meeting held in 2015. The Rector reported on financial situation. He informed that parish income in the year 2015 was about the same as in the previous year. The expenses were reduced because there were no repair or renovations performed at the church building and premises. As a result, the deficit was not very high. However, the Parish is still in a great financial need. Parishioners still do not cover our spending. Fr. Igor recommended again that Parish should introduce some principles of stewardship and that parishioners should plan their contributions for the church needs. It is expected that those parishioners who miss the church services should send their donations by mail.

Following the discussion of financial situation it was pointed out that Parish Treasurer, Valentina Dron should leave her position and a new Treasurer elected. Such proposal was supported by all present members of the Parish. After a unanimous vote Sophia Kay had been elected the new Parish Treasurer.

Among other issues discussed at the Meeting were the need to paint the church walls inside before the celebration of Pascha, a possibility to hold religious instructions for children on Sundays after the Liturgy, as well as some other concerns.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son


On February 28, on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, we had a nice celebration in our parish temple. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian. The English translation of that homily is as follows:

“On this Sunday the Church tells the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15, 11-32). It is a very profound and detailed instruction on repentance. Last Sunday we began to sing, “The doors of repentance open to me, o Giver of life”. It is important to remember about repentance these days. However, we may also reflect today upon some other idea of the today’s parable. It is about the Father who had two sons. Who is the Father and who are the two sons?”
”The Father represents God, the Father of all mankind. The elder son represents the Jewish people because alone of all people the Jewish people had kept the memory of God. They remained with the Father. They kept the memory of God having the Book describing God’s creation, the fall of mankind and telling that God will save His people, will send the Messiah.”
“On the other hand, the younger son represents the Gentiles, that is the pagan world. At the time of Christ, this meant the whole world except for the Jews. Unlike the Jews, the pagans had confused their memories of God the Creator with all sorts of false stories, myths and legends. They had confused the Creator with creation, and instead of worshipping God, they worshipped stones and rivers, the sun and the moon, kings and queens, thinking that they were gods and so making them into idols. The pagans, the younger son, had journeyed into “a far country” and there “wasted their possessions” (Lk. 15, 13). In other words, they distanced themselves from God, forgot His Truth, so wasting their spiritual inheritance. As a result, they suffered from “a severe famine”, in other words, from spiritual hunger, and so ate with “swine”, that is, ate with the illusions of the demons. However, they repented and turned back towards the Father, who welcomed them with open arms, running out towards them to embrace them.”
“This parable is in fact a warning to the Jews. We can see the Father showing love and forgiveness towards the repentant son, who lies at His feet, begging forgiveness. The elder son, however, is angry, full of bitterness and jealousy.”
“Perhaps we feel some sympathy with the elder son. After all, he never wasted his possessions, he did remain loyal to the Father. The problem is that the elder son’s service was a form of slavery; he did not stay with the Father out of love, but out of self-interest, in expectation of a reward. This was not love, but an obligation fulfilled in the hope of being paid. We can compare this with the attitude of the Father. He instantly forgives all that the younger son, the pagan world, has done and says: “Let us make merry” (Lk. 15, 23). The attitude of the Father is not gloom, but joy. The elder son, on the other hand, is full of gloom and cannot bring himself to be joyful or express love, because he has no love for his brother. The Father says: “All that I have is yours” (Lk. 15, 31), and shares everything. The elder son wishes to share nothing, for he is locked up in pride and self-love. Indeed, the elder son does not want to share in all that the Father has. Yes, he wants to share in His wealth and His property, but he does not want to share in what the Father has above all else – in His merciful compassion and love.”
“Thus, dear brothers and sisters, we are reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul, that though we may have all qualities, if we do not have love, then we are nothing (1 Cor. 13, 1-3). In this way, this parable has a meaning for us. We may have great wealth, wonderful gifts or talents, we may have a great profession, a nice house, but if we have no love, then all what we have is worthless and our lives themselves have no meaning. If there is no love, there is only the emptiness of vanity and the gloom of selfish pride.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us not imitate the elder son from today’s parable, but let us learn from the merciful Father.  Let us too be merry, for God the Father Most Compassionate is waiting for us. Let us rejoice, for Jesus, the Lord of Love makes joy even out of the greatest sinner who repents. Let us be glad that all we prodigals are able to return to the Father and be embraced by His love!”

Before the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully sang the Psalm 136 (“Down the rivers of Babylon…”) which the Church begins to add to the services on this Sunday.

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

Following the sermon the altar server Andrew Malyshew spoke and congratulated the Rector on his appointment as Dean of the Eastern States. The choir and congregation then proclaimed “Axios” (“Is worthy”) to Fr. Igor. In response to that the Rector expressed his gratitude to the parishioners and also his joy that they sang the Greek word “Axios” without any command, but as an expression of their feelings. Such was the attitude of the Christians in the early Church when that word was proclaimed by the congregation and defined whether a candidate is worthy to be ordained or to become a Church official. Fr. Igor said that he is glad that our Parish doing so resembles the early Christian community. He also asked the faithful to pray for him that the Lord may assist him to fulfill his new obedience which had been added to his duties as Rector of St. George Church.

Following the liturgical service the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company during the coffee hour. Then Annual Parish Meeting had been held after the trapeza.