Holy and Great Friday


On April 29, on the Holy and Great Friday we had two special services in our parish temple. This day is the most sorrowful day in Christian calendar. On Holy Friday we commemorate crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, His death on the Cross, as well as His burial. St. George Church’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served Vespers with the procession of the Shroud at 4:00 PM. At the end of this service holy Shroud had been solemnly carried out from the altar to the middle of the church and placed there for veneration.

At the end of Vespers the Rector preached a sermon in Russian. He pointed out that the people who surrounded our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of His earthly ministry can be divided into several types. In particular, according to the New Martyr, St. Seraphim, bishop of Dmitrov, those who caused His holy Passions and His death on the cross were Judas, the leaders of the Jews and Pontius Pilate. Judas betrayed the Lord because he was a materialist. Judas was seeking for material wealth and power. When he realized that Jesus is not going to be a powerful earthly ruler, and being with Jesus cannot make him wealthy he betrayed his Teacher. The leaders of the Jews, especially Caiaphas, were rationalists. They used their reason to kill Jesus in order to avoid the anger of the Romans. And Pilate although he knew that Jesus was innocent, could not free him, but let Him be crucified. Pilate was seeking political stability and was not able to act justly. However, there were the people who followed Christ. These were His Blessed Mother, the women disciples who stood beside the Cross, as well as St. John the Theologian. When Jesus died righteous Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus came and asked for His body. They buried the Lord. Thus, the Rector called the parishioners to imitate those persons who remained faithful to the Lord and to avoid resembling those who caused His condemnation and death. He also called the parishioners not to crucify Jesus again by inappropriate choices and sinful deeds.

 At 7:00 PM the Rector celebrated Matins on the Lord’s Tomb. Most of this service was performed before the Shroud placed in the middle of the church. After the Great Doxologion the Rector, altar servers and parishioners performed the procession around the church. The priest carried the holy Shroud resembling burial of the Lord.

Holy and Great Thursday

On April 28, on Holy and Great Thursday when the Church commemorates the Last Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ we had a service in St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served Vespers with the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a brief homily in Russian about the significance of the special Gift of our Lord left to His followers, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. This special Mystery is a remembrance of the Lord, of His Sacrifice on the Cross and of the Last Supper He had with His disciples.

Palm Sunday


On April 24, on Palm Sunday we had a solemn celebration of the feast of the Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.

After the reading of the Hours the Rector blessed the pussy-willows and distributed them to the parishioners who were holding them during the service resembling the people of Jerusalem who greeted Jesus Christ with the olive and palm branches during His triumphal entry to the city.

Following the readings from the Scripture Fr. Igor preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Today we celebrate Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, a feast preceding the commemoration of the holy Passions. In fact, yesterday we started this separate calendar period of the Passion week, celebrating Lazarus Saturday, a miracle of resurrection of the dead man, a friend of our Lord whose name was Lazarus. Lazarus died and after four days passing his death our Lord came to the village where Lazarus lived and called him away from the tomb. Today’s celebration continues that theme and today we sing the same troparion which mentions righteous Lazarus resurrected by our Lord. At the end of today’s reading from the holy Gospel of John we also heard that the people of Jerusalem went out to greet Jesus because “they heard that He had done this sign” (Jn. 12, 18). People heard that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, so they believed in Him, at least, for some time.”
“We could notice that the miracle of the resurrection is here called “a sign”. This expression is often used in the Gospel to describe some miraculous and important events. This is done because those miracles served as the signs of the true coming of the Messiah, of the Savior. These miraculous events indicated that Jesus Christ was truly the Son of God and the One promised by the Prophets. Every miracle the Lord performed had to show that He is the true Messiah. Thus these were His signs.”
“Signs are important in the life of the people. We use and have them everywhere. The signs tell us about the shop’s working hours, whether it is open or closed. They point us to a right direction. We well know the road signs showing us the way, traffic signs which help us to drive. These are signs used in our regular, earthly life. But also in the spiritual life we use and need signs. The most known religious sign is the sign of the cross which we make many times when we pray. There many other important signs in our holy rites and traditions. For instance, today we bless the pussy-willows, take them and hold. This is a sign, a sign of our allegiance to our Lord. We imitate those people, especially those Hebrew children who came out to greet Jesus when He entered Jerusalem. They held the palm and olive branches which were the signs also, the signs of allegiance and homage. Those people met Jesus as their Lord, their King who entered the holy city with a triumph.”
“We say that the people need the signs. However, the signs by themselves are not solving all the problems. We need to follow them, to obey them or to use them properly. Otherwise they won’t be helpful. If we disregard a stop sign on the road we may have an accident. A similar thing happens with the signs of spiritual nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ performed a lot of miracles before the eyes of the people. He healed the sick, cleaned the lepers, returned the sight to the blind, He even raised the dead, as He did with Lazarus. However, not everyone believed in Him. The Jewish leaders were not persuaded by all those signs. They plotted to kill Him. As the Gospel tells us they still asked Him to show some sign that He is the Messiah, even after He performed all other signs. Jesus answered these people and said: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days in the belly of a great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mt. 12, 39). Thus, according to the words of Jesus, seeking for a sign may be wrong. The Lord, as we already said, did perform many signs but certain people still did not recognize Him. Therefore, He announced in advance that there will be a sign of prophet Jonah who was three days in the belly of a wale. In a similar way, our Lord was buried for three days before His Resurrection.”
“People in today’s world are very often similar to those leaders of the Jews who failed to believe in Christ and to recognize Him. Many have a very little faith or no faith at all. They seek for the signs. They say, “Show us a sign that God exists”, “Show us a proof that Jesus really lived”. No matter that God shows us a great number of signs every day. Every day we see that the sun is rising. For a person who believes it’s a sign of God’s ruling the world. Every year at spring we see that the flowers bloom, like those pussy-willows we bring today to the church to bless. For a believer it’s a sign of God’s care for the creation. But, of course, for the one who doesn’t believe this is no sign. We may go on and recall that our Lord Himself came to this world and became a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies. Everything that happened to Him was foretold by the prophets. However, the leaders of the Jews who knew those prophets did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They were still seeking for some sign. And the unbelieving, evil and adulterous generation of our times seeks for a sign, but never finds it. And it never will. Because it does not trust God. It is about them the Gospel says: “Neither they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Lk. 16, 31). Most of the scribes and Pharisees did not believe even after Christ Resurrection. And modern unbelievers wouldn’t believe even if one rise from the dead.”
“Today we take those blessed branches and try to resemble the people greeting the Lord, recognizing Him as the Messiah, paying Him homage as our King and the King of kings. Let us really mean that and sincerely name Him our Master and our Lord. Let us trust Him and not demand a sign, for He always gives us enough signs and assurances. Let us be able to recognize them. And seeing them, let us truly recognize our Lord and Savior and praise Him saying: “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!””

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and altar servers came before the stand in the middle of the church and performed the rite of glorification before the festal image singing the troparia, kontakion and the magnification of the feast.

Following the glorification the Rector preached a short sermon in English explaining the ideas of his Russian homily. He also reminded the parishioners about our service schedule for the Holy Week and Pascha. The Rector said that we are beginning the Holy Passion Week, a very important and spiritually intense time, and called to attend the services celebrated during that week.

After the service parishioners and the Rector enjoyed delicious meals and interesting conversation during the coffee hour.


Mystery of the Anointing of the Sick


On April 23, on Lazarus Saturday the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Mystery of the Anointing of the sick in our parish temple. All persons who desired to receive that Sacrament participated in the service and were anointed with the blessed oil.
At the conclusion of the service Fr. Igor preached a sermon about the significance and importance of the Mystery of Anointing of the sick which is aimed for the healing of soul and body.

Fifth Sunday of Lent


On April 17, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in English:

“On the Fifth Sunday of Lent we hear again, for the second time, that our Lord Jesus Christ is foretelling His death and sufferings. In this way we, little by little, are being prepared for the days when we are going to commemorate the holy Passions of the Lord. These days are coming soon. Next Sunday will be the beginning of them. We will observe the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. And following that feast we will enter into the Passion week. The Lord says, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of God will be betrayed…” (Mk. 10, 33). We are also going up to Jerusalem, we do it in a spiritual way.”
“Today’s Gospel is also telling us about the difference between the ideals of the Christian teaching and the ideals of worldly life. The Lord rebuked His disciples, James and John who wished to be given the seats closest to the Lord in His Kingdom. He said to them, “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be yours servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all” (Mk. 10, 43-44).”
“Today we also honor Venerable Mary of Egypt. She was a great sinner who became a great Saint. There is no such thing as sinless life, but there is no such sin that cannot be forgiven if the sinner repents. Mary being a harlot for 17 years (from the age of 12 to the age of 29) repented and became a greatest woman-Saint. We usually like to say that people don’t change. But here is an example of a person who totally changed her life. If you read the life story of St. Mary of Egypt you can be convinced of that. When she could not enter the church in Jerusalem because some unknown force prevented her to do so for the reason of her impurity and sinfulness, she prayed to the Most Holy Mother of God in front of Her icon outside of the temple. The Blessed Mother told Mary that she must repent and listen to Her. After she repented, received the Mysteries of Penance and Communion, Mary heard the call of the Mother of God, “Cross the Jordan, and you will find true peace”. She crossed the river of Jordan and spent the rest of her life in the desert.”
“The life of St Mary teaches us that the true and everlasting values are quite different from those of the world. Mary of Egypt went out into the desert and had nothing. She had no friends, no home, no possessions, no clothes and almost no food. The world looked for pleasure, the satisfaction of the senses, money and power, but St Mary had no money, no property and no power in the world. Today’s Gospel confirms the choice of St Mary, for it says that those who wish to be great must be servants. This is the opposite from all the ways of this world. But our Lord preached this and St Mary lived by this.”
“As we said, the Church calls St Mary “the greatest of Saints”. The use of this word “great” may surprise. In everyday life, we use “great” in other meanings. The world speaks of “great politicians” “great soldiers”, “great movie stars”, “great sportsmen”. But the Church calls St Mary of Egypt “great” and all the centuries after she lived we ask for her prayers, but not for prayers of any politician or soldier or movie star or sportsman. Let us then think more carefully when we use this word “great”.”
“And as we approach the days of the holy Passions of Christ, the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, let us also think of the words of the Mother of God, which led Mary to her salvation through repentance and her greatness: “If you cross the Jordan, you will find true peace”. These mysterious words are today also addressed to each of us; the interpretation of their mystery is open to the souls of each of us, but only if we ask the Mother of God and St Mary to guide us. And then we shall find our own “entry into Jerusalem”.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to the Most Holy Mother of God and to Venerable Mother Mary of Egypt to assist us in our journey to our own Jerusalem! Holy Mother Mary, pray to God for us!”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian to stress the main ideas of his English homily.

Fourth Sunday of Lent


On April 3, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, St. George Parish held a nice liturgical celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Scripture readings he preached a homily in Russian.

The choir led by our Choir Director, Olga Roussanow, prayerfully sang the Liturgy responses and penitential hymns before Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we came to the celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Lent. On this day the Church offers us a Gospel story about casting out a demon from the young man, about a healing. It was done by the power of Jesus, but also through the faith of that young man’s father. Thus, the Gospel of today tells us about the importance of our faith.”
“On this Sunday the Church also honors the memory of St. John Climacus, or Venerable John of the Ladder. He was a knowledgeable monk in the monastery on the Mt. Sinai who wrote a book of guidance for the monks on how to ascend spiritually to heaven. That ascending was described as the steps, thus it was called the “Ladder of paradise”.
“God wants our faith. But we should realize that our faith is not sufficient. The father of the young man exclaimed, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9, 24). On one hand, our faith is too little. On the other hand, if we live by faith, lead a spiritual life, then we see how far we are from perfection. Same with our sense of sin. The more we repent, the more we understand how many sins we may commit.”
“The ladder leading to perfection is impossible to finish ascending. Because God is on the top of that ladder. But it is possible to get to many higher steps. The more we strive to get the more we achieve.”
“However, climbing the ladder of divine ascent is very difficult. On the icon that we have today in the middle of the church, we may see that some people climbing the ladder are being thrown down by the demons. They fall from the steps. This happens because on our ascent we encounter temptations, difficulties and obstacles. It is important for us not to lose the perspective, but to fix our eyes on our goal which is God Himself or His eternal Kingdom. We don’t have to look at the obstacles, at the wind, at the temptations, but to look at Christ. Let us recall how Holy Apostle Peter was trying to walk on the water. First he did, but very soon he became distracted by the wind and he began to sink. If he looked not at the wind but at Jesus Christ who was waiting for him on the boat, he could successfully go on the waters to His Master.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us persist in our ascent, in our spiritual life, looking at Jesus Christ. Let us believe and, realizing that our faith is weak, let us ask God like the father of the possessed young man did, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

After the liturgical service the Rector and our parishioners enjoyed delicious Lenten meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.


Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God


On Thursday, April 7, on the feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov joined His Grace, Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk, in the liturgical celebration held at St. Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in New York.

The Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bishop John was co-served by our Rector and the Cathedral clergy. Our Parish Warden, Olga Roussanow and our parishioner, Moses Dunetz attended that festal service.

Lenten Mission Vespers in Little Falls, NJ


On April 3, on the Third 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. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls (a.k.a. Singac), 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, Archpriest Andrew Keith-Lowe, Rector of St. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls, NJ, and Hieromonk Stephen (Bushman), cleric of the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ.

After the Vespers dismissal the Parish 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 Little Falls church in its parish hall.

Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross


On April 3, on the Third Sunday of Lent dedicated to the veneration of the Holy Cross we had a beautiful service at St. George Parish. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.
Before the reading of the Hours the Rector solemnly transferred decorated cross from the altar to the middle of the church and placed it on the stand.
During the Divine Liturgy, following the lessons from the Scripture Fr. Igor preached the following homily in English:

“Today we approached the middle of our Lenten journey towards the Holy Passions and Resurrection of our Lord. On this Third Sunday of Lent we venerate the Holy Cross, the precious and life-giving tool of our salvation. In today’s Gospel reading we heard the words of Christ, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mk. 8, 34). These words mean that every journey of a man to the true God and every way to man’s salvation is the way of the Cross.”
“We know that our Lord Jesus Christ had to make His way of the Cross when He was condemned to death. There was no other way to save the human kind. In the same fashion, there is no other way for us to attain blessed eternity if we do not take up our own crosses and if we do not follow the Lord. But again, thinking of the Lord we recall that after the painful way of the Cross, after the terrible crucifixion, after the death on the Cross, there came glorious and radiant Resurrection of our Lord. Without the Cross there was no Resurrection. This is why today we sing, “Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, o Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify”. In the same way, without our own crosses there won’t be for us eternal blessedness with the risen Lord.”
“Thinking of the things necessary for salvation, we recall that the first condition for a man to be saved is to receive Baptism. The Lord made it clear saying, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16, 16). But another necessary thing to be saved is to carry the cross. According to Ven. Ephrem the Syrian this is the “second Baptism”. He wrote, “Two baptisms are necessary for the righteous and for the sinners, and one cannot save without another”. Our “second Baptism”, according to St. Ephrem is our sufferings for Christ, our confession of Christ, our life in Christ. This is why we heard in today’s Gospel lesson, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8, 38). Thus, not just being baptized and formally declare our faith in Jesus Christ, but a true life in Christ, true confession of Him before other men, before “sinful and adulterous generation” is a condition for our salvation.”
“Throughout the whole history of Christianity those who truly followed the Lord were persecuted. Those persecutions were different but they always took place. Nowadays they are done in many ways. There are fierce persecutions of the Christian people in the Middle East where our brethren in faith are murdered, tortured and killed all the time. His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill recently said that it had been calculated that every 5 minutes a Christian person in the world dies only for being a Christian.  There were one million and a half Christians living in Iraq before all these calamities and wars began in that country. The same amount of Christians used to live in Syria before the war started there. Now only about half a million of them remained in each of these countries. Others were either murdered or had to flee from their homeland. This is why it is imperative for all the Christian people to unite in telling the world about this evil. And this is why our Patriarch met with the Pope of Rome.”
“But, on the other hand, many other forms of persecution are being employed against us. Again, His Holiness recently said that there exists a modern-day heresy of worshiping man. It is a cult of man along with his sins and deviations. It is an idea that the society has to serve man and his desires without serving God. And who does not wish to adhere to this heresy is being persecuted.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The Lord said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16, 33). Let us then be of good cheer! Let us be courageous and no become frightened by those persecutions for after the Cross always comes holy Resurrection. Let us then confess our Lord without being ashamed of Him in this sinful and adulterous generation. Let us take up our cross and follow Christ. Let us follow Him into blessed eternity!”

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

Following that the Rector and altar servers came out of the sanctuary before the stand in the middle of the church and venerated the Precious Cross.

Second Sunday of Lent


On March 27, on the Second Sunday of Lent, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple.

Following the Gospel lesson the Rector preached a homily in Russian in which he addressed the topic of Christian endeavors needed for the cause of salvation. Fr. Igor said that on the Second Sunday of Lent the Church commemorates St. Gregory Palamas, a Church Father who became known for his writings about the divine grace, about divine energies and for his teaching that through the endeavors of piety a person is able to attain a similarity of God, to undergo so called ‘deification’ (theosis). Honoring of this Saint on the Second Sunday of Lent is not accidental, for during Lent we are called to the endeavors of piety. On this Sunday we also commemorate Venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves who also are the examples of piety.
The Rector further stressed that it is pleasing that our parishioners performed renovations in our temple painting the walls and the ceiling of the church. They also engaged in an endeavor offering their time, strength and labor for our Parish. Thus endeavors can be different.
In today’s Gospel lesson (Mk. 2, 1-12) we also heard about an endeavor performed by the four men who brought a paralytic to Jesus. In order to reach Christ they had to get on the roof of the house where Jesus stayed and taught, to uncover the roof and to let down the bed with the paralytic. This reading from the Gospel teaches us to make efforts, to labor in performing the acts of piety. God needs our co-operation in the great work of our personal salvation. The Lord says, “The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Mt. 11, 12). These important words teach us to make efforts, to spiritually fight for our salvation.
Fr. Igor also stressed that the struggle for salvation involves both our soul and our body. This is why in today’s Gospel lesson, the Lord took care of both the soul and the body of the paralytic. Jesus first forgave his sins and then healed his body.
Concluding his homily the Rector called the faithful to continue their endeavor of Lent, performing spiritual labor, making efforts of the soul and body for the cause of salvation and for the attaining of the Kingdom of Heaven.

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

The Rector also expressed his gratitude to our parishioners Vitaly and Andrew Malyshew for the renovations done in the church during the week before this Sunday, as well as to our ladies who helped to prepare the building for the renovations and for the cleaning of the church after the painting was done.

Following the service the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious Lenten meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.