St. George’s Rector joined Bishop John in visitiation to Little Falls, NJ


On Sunday, July 31, our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, as the Dean of Eastern States was invited by His Grace, Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk to join him in visitation to St. John the Baptist Parish in Little Falls, NJ. Bishop John headed the Divine Liturgy there. His Grace was co-served by Fr. Igor, newly-appointed St. John’s Rector, Priest Aleksey Paranyuk and Deacon Mark Rashkov, cleric of St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York City.

At the conclusion of the Liturgy, Bishop John delivered a sermon on the Sunday Gospel reading and officially introduced Fr. Aleksey to the parish.

Interaction between Bishop John, Fr. Igor and parishioners of St. John the Baptist continued in the parish refectory during which a festive meal in honor of His Grace’s visit was held. 

6th Sunday after Pentecost


On July 31, on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Six Ecumenical Councils, we had a liturgical celebration in our Parish. The Divine Liturgy in our temple was served by Priest Rodion Shamazov, a cleric of St. Nicholas Cathedral who substituted for our Rector. Fr. Rodion came along with his family. His Matushka, Liliya Shamazov performed the singing and introduced us to some other church melodies than those we usually use during our services.

Following the Liturgy dismissal Fr. Rodion preached a homily in Russian.

5th Sunday after Pentecost


On July 24, on the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as commemoration day of the Holy Equal to the Apostles Princess Olga, our Parish family had a beautiful celebration. The Divine Liturgy in our temple was served by St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. 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 Gospel concerns the casting out of demons from two possessed men (Mt. 8, 28 – 9, 1). It further tells us that the demons entered into a herd of swine and then it tells us of the suicide of those swine. We can learn some things from this Gospel reading. We should note that the people in the country of the Gergesenes who owned the swine were disobeying the Jewish law. We can presume that those people were Gentiles, but there is an opinion that they were Jews who raised the pigs for sale. If that’s the case, these people did not follow the Law of Moses which did not allow to deal with unclean animals such as the pigs. That is why they begged Christ to leave their area, virtually chasing the Son of God away. That makes us think that the disobedience of these people explains why two of them became possessed.”
“Thus, we learn that disobedience of God leads to misfortune. So as a life without true faith. These days of the second half of July we celebrate the memory of such extraordinary Russian Saints as Equal to the Apostles Olga (whose memory is today) and Vladimir (whom we will honor during the next week). Thus we celebrate the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’. We may see that before becoming a Christian nation the Eastern Slavs living in Kievan Rus’ led a life full of misfortunes, crimes, superstitions and abuses. For instance, there was a custom to burn a wife alive along with her dead husband. The mothers could kill their new born babies, especially the girls if there were too many girls in the family. On the other hand, adult children could kill their elderly parents if they were a burden for the family. The Slavs could make human sacrifices to their gods. But after receiving Christian faith things totally changed. Although Christianity did not spread very quickly and the people for centuries retained a lot of superstitions, the people’s morals and the whole society transformed with the reception of Baptism. All who are familiar with the life of St. Vladimir know how his life changed after he embraced Christianity. Out of a cruel and thirsting for power tyrant he became people’s favorite ruler. Out of a lustful polygamist Vladimir turned into a humble follower of Christian morals. In a similar way, Princess Olga also changed after becoming a Christian.”
“Although many other people of Rus’ in the course of history still sinned, committed crimes and iniquities, the whole mindset of the Russian people changed after the Baptism. Our ancestors became a part of the European, Christian world, of the Christian civilization. God also blessed the Russian lands by allowing them to flourish under the rule of the Orthodox rulers. But when the Russian people turned away from the true faith, life in the country became full of misfortunes. Famine, wars (one of which was fratricidal), abuses, persecutions of the different social classes, economical problems – all these misfortunes fell upon the Russian land and its inhabitants. Only during the last quarter of a century the Russian nation began to return to its Christian roots, to the true faith.”
“But the lesson of today’s Gospel is also important for every nation. If a nation lives in true Christian faith, cherishes right values and obeys the God’s law, then it enjoys a relatively good and prosperous life. It becomes blessed by God. But if a nation lives in the darkness, it suffers from many misfortunes. Such a darkness can be either paganism or atheism or any false religion. Nations living with the false beliefs, with the wrong values become corrupted by sins and iniquities; they experience social tension, wars, economic problems, abuses and crimes. Unfortunately, this now happens to the American nation. God is driven away from our social and political life. Prayer and Christian spirituality is chased out of our schools. False moral values became accepted by our society and the law of God abandoned. American nation now resembles those men of today’s Gospel who kept the swine and who felt sorry for the swine perished in the lake and begged the Son of God to leave their city. Isn’t that a shame?!”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us learn from today’s Gospel to be faithful to God, to obey His law and to cherish the true moral values given to us by the Lord. Let us also follow the example of the Holy Equal to the Apostles princes Vladimir and Olga who enlightened Eastern Slavs with Christian faith. Let us remember that their own lives changed after embracing Christianity. And the life of the whole nation of Kievan Rus’ changed after becoming a Christian country. Let us spiritually belong to that Christian family held by the holy Russian Orthodox Church, a family born from the baptismal font of St. Vladimir. In this family we will be blessed by God, protected by the Most Holy Theotokos, by the intercession of the Saints. And further we may become saved and inherit eternal life.”

Before the rite of the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully sang the hymns dedicated to the Holy Princess Olga.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing the main ideas of his Russian homily. He then congratulated our Warden and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow, as well as Olga Vnukova-Stateikin on the occasion of their name day. Fr. Igor wished them God’s blessings and intercession of St. Olga. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta”) was proclaimed.

Following the service the Rector and parishioners continued celebrating at the trapeza table enjoying delicious meals and a nice company. The toasts in honor of the two Olgas celebrating their name day were raised.

4th Sunday after Pentecost


On July 17, on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Gospel is telling us about the healing of the servant of the centurion. Reflecting upon this miracle performed by our Lord Jesus Christ, we may note two things.”
“First of all, the centurion was certainly a good person, for he cared for the health of his servant. He was not one of those who considered human life expendable. He did not say to himself: “My servant is sick, I’ll let him die and tomorrow I will buy another slave at the market to replace him”. Therefore, we may conclude that he was also very serious about his responsibilities towards the one hundred soldiers under his command.”
“The second thing for us to notice is that the centurion’s attitude towards other men is confirmed by his faith in Christ, and in His power to heal. He said to Jesus: “Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Mt. 8, 8). This faith was far greater than that of the Jews. Despite their Old Testament heritage, all that they could do was to criticize, find fault and destroy. The centurion, on the other hand, had complete faith in the power of Christ.”
“Speaking about the centurion we may recall the Saints whose blessed memory we celebrate today, the Royal Passion-bearers of Russia, Emperor Nicholas and his family. Tsar Nicholas had not just one hundred people under his command, but many millions of his subjects, the people of the whole Russian Empire. And he was very serious about his royal responsibilities towards the Russian people. The last Tsar also had a firm faith in the Lord and in the Lord’s power to lead the country. And his faith was greater than the faith of many of his subjects, especially of those who acted to overthrow him. These people had no faith in God. But also those who surrounded the Tsar, those who were supposed to assist him, his ministers, generals and politicians – they did not have such a faith as the last Tsar did. It appeared that all they could do was to criticize, find fault and destroy the Russian Empire. This is why the Emperor Nicholas was forced to renounce his throne and later the whole Royal family was undergoing passions and was murdered by godless people.”
“Going back to think about today’s Gospel, we may see that in return for these qualities our Lord granted the centurion, and so to all the faithful people whom the centurion represents, two things.”
“First, Jesus Christ grants the Kingdom of Heaven to the centurion and to all faithful humanity. The Kingdom is no longer for the Jews only, but it is opened to all. The Lord proclaims: “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness” (Mt. 8, 11-12). In other words it is no longer race or nationality that gives salvation, but faith. The Jews took it for granted in a racist way, that they would be saved and not the rest of humanity. But today it is revealed that we shall be judged according to our faith, not according to some external sign of nationality or a color of the skin. From now on, our faith is the one quality that opens the Kingdom of God. No artificial human boundaries and standards serve any purpose any longer, it is faith in the grace and power of God that saves.”
“The second thing is that this Gospel lesson reveals to us that it is faith that determines not only our future in the Kingdom of God, but it also determines our present. Jesus says to the centurion, “As you have believed, so let it be done for you” (Mt. 8, 13). These words are comforting and healing for the people like that centurion. We learn from the Gospel that his servant became healed that same hour (Mt. 8, 13). But these words are terrible for those without faith. They say that as we believe, so shall it be done unto us. If we believe in good things, so we shall receive good things. But if we believe in evil, so we shall receive evil things. Those who live by the virtue shall receive the virtue. And those who live by the vice will receive the vice. “The wages of sin is death”, says St. Paul in today’s Epistle lesson (Rom. 6, 23). Those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword. If we love our neighbor, they will mostly love us. If we hate our neighbor, they will mostly hate us. Our lives are determined by the faith in them. Our lives are determined by our beliefs. Without faith, our lives are empty. With faith, our lives are full.”
“Speaking of the holy Royal Martyrs of Russia we may be wondering why in return for their faith in the Lord and their love towards the Russian people, they were killed by some of those people? The answer is simple: because many of the Russian people stopped to believe in God and began to live by hatred. Many others became the victims of that hatred and godless attitude, including the Royal family.”
“The proper understanding of today’s Gospel lesson proves that our only chance of happiness in this world or our future blessedness in the world to come is to believe in, and so base our lives on, the highest virtues. If we do this, then our lives will be transformed, not only in this earthly life, but also in the life to come. And what is the highest virtue? All mankind will agree that it is Love. And this is the Christian Revelation, in the words of St John the Evangelist, that God is Love.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us shape our lives around the virtue of Love in the firm assurance and knowledge that all else will come aright as a result. For as we believe, so shall it be done unto us.”

Further during the service, before the Holy Communion, the church choir beautifully and prayerfully sang the hymns dedicated to the Royal Passion-bearers.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector made some announcements regarding the future services and parish events.


Feast of St. Peter and Paul


On July 12, on the feast of the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul, our Parish family had a nice celebration in our temple. The Divine Liturgy was headed by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Following the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian reflecting upon the lives of St. Peter and Paul, on their human differences but their common firm faith and their holy lives according to that faith. Stressing that the holy Church, being the Body of Christ, is a divine and human organism, Fr. Igor pointed out that Christ built His Church upon the Apostles and their faith, solid like a rock. Thus today’s Church is supposed to be built on our faith.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector congratulated parishioners on the end of the Apostolic fast and on the occasion of the celebrated holy day.

3rd Sunday after Pentecost


On July 10, on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the Gospel reading he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters! Today’s Gospel is taken from the Sermon on the Mount, the first occasion when Christ preached publicly to the people. Our Lord says that the light of the body is the eye. If the eye is light, so the body will be light. But if the eye is dark, so the body will be dark (Mt. 6, 22-23).  The ‘eye’ means either our attitude toward life around us, or simply it means the soul. In these words our Lord says that we should not blame our bodies for our sins. Our bodies are the servants of our souls. If our souls are corrupted, then so also will be our bodies. On the other hand, if our souls are clean, then our bodies will also be clean. It is not our bodies which control our lives, or even our minds, but our souls. And we are called to cleanse the souls. Once our souls are clean, then our minds and our bodies will also be cleaned.”
“The Lord continues by saying that we cannot serve two masters, the master of the material world and the master of the spiritual world. One must be superior to the other. Thus we cannot serve God, the master of the spiritual, and mammon, the master of the fallen world (Mt. 6, 24). The word mammon means money or wealth. This teaching is just the opposite to the ideas of today’s world. Our society is based on money, on mammon. It is based on investments, stock exchanges, currencies. Furthermore, the philosophy which guides modern governments and much of human nature is called ‘monetarism’, in other words the belief in the primacy of money in human life and human motivation. Such a philosophy causes panic and depression both among those who have no money and also among those who have a lot, for such a philosophy excludes God from the serious life considerations, it bases everything on the idolatry of paper and electronic numbers.”
“But the Lord teaches, “Do not worry about your life” (Mt. 6, 25). The birds are nourished by God, the flowers grow, and they do not worry. We are told not to devote ourselves to what might or might not happen tomorrow. Our worries won’t change anything, cannot add any cubit to our stature (Mt. 6, 27). The Gospel tells us to do our best and then leave the rest to God, to trust in God. Modern life, on the other hand, tells us to worry all the time, to be always stressed. Such worry only causes depression, for it excludes God and His loving providence. On the other hand, there is nothing inevitable in the life of those who believe in God and His providence. Even the most terrible situations can end up positively, if we let God into our lives and societies. If we include God, then we can exclude worry and depression. As the Lord teaches us, we have to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt. 6, 33). And then all other things that we need “shall be added” to us.”
“Today we honor Venerable Father Sampson. Although we call him among Venerable ascetic Fathers, he was also an Unmercenary Physician which is a separate kind of Saints honored by the Church tradition. He was a holy ascetic by his way of life and a physician by profession. St. Sampson was granted by God the graced gift of healing the sick. By his good and unselfish attitude towards people, combined with his exceptional kindness, he was able to work many great things. And healing the people he never asked to be paid. Once he healed Emperor Justinian himself. The Emperor wished to give St. Sampson a lot of money but the Saint refused to take wealth. He asked the Emperor to build a hospital instead. The Emperor fulfilled the Saint’s request and did build the hospital. Now we can imagine how much money St. Sampson was offered if a hospital could be built. This attitude is so different from the attitude of our modern-day doctors who strive to make as much money as they can. They charge people for their services and charge the insurance companies. Of course, it is just to be paid for your work, however, today’s Gospel tells us, “Do not worry about your life “(Mt. 6, 25). We may say that the holy men and women like St. Sampson did nor worry, but simply put the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first. These values, to put the things of the spirit first, are the values of the Saints of God. They are exactly the opposite of the values of modern society, which puts anti-Gospel and anti-spiritual values first. By following the Gospel, we challenge all the cruelty and arrogance of the modern world.”
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! May all the Saints, especially Venerable Father Sampson, pray to God for us that we may come to partake of their values and their lives.”

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector congratulated our young parishioner John (Ethan) Kay on the occasion of his past name day. Traditional Polychronion (Mnogaia leta!) was sung.

After the liturgical celebration the Rector and parishioners enjoyed simple but very delicious meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.


Sunday of All the Saints of the Lands of Rus’


On July 3, on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, dedicated to All the Saints of the Lands of Rus’, St. George Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov 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:

“Today’s Sunday is dedicated to all the Saints of the Lands of Rus’. It is the end of our continuous celebration of the history of salvation. During our Paschal cycle of celebrations we commemorated our Lord’s Holy Passions, His death on the cross, His glorious Resurrection from the dead. After 40 days of celebrating the joy of Christ Resurrection we came to the feast of His Ascension. And in 10 days after that we solemnly celebrated Pentecost, the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Thus, today’s feast is the result of all that has gone before it. Last Sunday the Church honored All the Saints who lived in the whole world. And today we commemorate those holy men and women who pleased God being members of our local Orthodox Church, the Church of Rus’. The purpose of all the events in Christ’s life is to make Saints, to make people holy. Today’s holy day is the feast of the identity of the Russian Church, of Her sacred personality. For a Church that does not make Saints is not a Church, it is merely an institution which abuses the word ‘Church’.”
“What is a Saint? First of all, we should understand that Saints are not born, they become them during their lives. We are all born potentially to become Saints. The only difference between the Saints and other people, is that the Saints are those who are continually picking themselves up after sinning, continually repenting until they attain holiness, while others give up.”
“We should also say that there are different kinds of Saints. For instance, there are Martyrs, holy Hierarchs, Venerable Fathers and Mothers, faithful Rulers, the Fools for Christ sake, and some others. It is so because here are different personalities of the people. Due to the divine Providence, as well as because of the different personalities and different talents of the people, as well as because of the different circumstances of people’s lives, the Saints differ by their endeavors. Especially, we know the holy Martyrs. And our Russian Church has a lot of them. The number of our Martyrs increased lately because of the fierce persecutions of the Church by the Communists in the 20th century.”
“However, in our time, in our land, as well as in our old country, it would seem that we are not called to be Martyrs, but Confessors. This is another kind of Saints. These are the people who suppose to live a Christian life, to be righteous, and to be an example for others. And at the time of persecutions they should be ready to become Martyrs. They should openly confess the Lord Jesus Christ. To that kind of holiness we are called in our times when the society becomes more and more remote from the Christian faith and Christian ideals. Our present day rulers, especially in the Western world, are very often like Julian the Apostate, they are the apostates from Christian faith. Thus we should become ready to confess Christ before them.”
“But even in our old countries, the rulers are not always adhering to the faith of Christ. For instance, some concern was recently raised because of the new law enacted in Russia. That law substantially limits missionary activity, mostly reduces it to the places of worship. This may cause many problems to any Christian person who would preach his or her faith to anyone else. Some Orthodox Christians already wrote to the Russian President asking him to veto that law. However, it is sad to note that no Orthodox Bishop in Russia said anything regarding that law directed against religious freedom. In any case, we should always remember that the Church will always prevail and endure all the tribulations and persecutions. And we, as the members of the Church have to be ready to confess our Lord before this generation.”
“We may conclude our reflection upon the Saints by saying that all of us, Orthodox Christians are called to become Saints. And we, dear brothers and sisters, are called to become the Russian Saints. In order to accomplish this we need to constantly repent our sins and to avoid staying in our sins and iniquities. We may finish this reflection by listening and fulfilling the command of the Holy Apostle Paul who is uttering to us the following words of today’s Epistle reading, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12, 1-2).”

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

Celebration of Bishop John’s Name Day


On Saturday July 2, on the day of commemoration of St. John, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes, His Grace Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk celebrated his name day. On that occasion he led the Divine Liturgy in St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York.

His Grace was co-served by the Dean of the Eastern States and Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov and clerics of the Cathedral. 

At the conclusion of the Liturgy, the clergy proceeded before the icon of the holy Hierarch containing a piece of St. John’s Holy Relics and performed a short prayer service. Afterwards, on behalf of the clergy of the Patriarchal Parishes, Fr. Igor congratulated Bishop John on his name day. 

Interaction between the clergy and faithful continued in the cathedral’s refectory where a luncheon was served. A toast in honor of His Grace was made and the traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was sung by the clergy and faithful present.

St. George Rector Visited Prague


During his trip to Europe the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov visited Czech Republic.  On Pentecost Sunday, June 19, he co-served at the Divine Liturgy celebrated at St. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in Prague. This is the principal temple of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. The existing structure of the cathedral had its origins as a Roman Catholic church built in the 18th century. Later it was acquired by the Orthodox community.

The Divine Liturgy was headed by the senior cleric of the Cathedral, Archpriest Jaroslav Suvarsky. The service was celebrated in the Czech language, with some hymns sung in Slavonic. The church was filled with a great number of faithful, the majority of whom are the recent immigrants from Ukraine, Russia and some other countries. A lot of them received Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy the main celebrant led the congregation in kneeling prayers of Pentecost proclaimed in the middle of the temple.

After the Liturgy Fr. Igor expressed his gratitude to Fr. Jaroslav for allowing him to pray and to serve in the Cathedral. He also visited the memorial dedicated to St. Gorazd of Prague and his assistants, as well as the Czech patriots killed in the Cathedral during the Nazi occupation. The memorial is situated at the outside Cathedral wall and has an interesting history.

In 1942, during the World War II the cathedral was the scene of the last stand of a number of Czech and Slovak patriots who had assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi General of the Police. In making their escape, the group found refuge in the crypt of the Cathedral. The Nazis found out the hiding places after a betrayal by two members of the resistance group. The Nazi troops stormed the church on 18 June 1942 and all the members of the group were killed. Reprisals came quickly. The two priests and the senior lay church officials were arrested. Bishop Gorazd (Pavlik) who was in charge of the Czech Orthodox community at that time, wishing to help his fellow believers and the Czech Church itself, took the blame for the actions in the Cathedral on himself, even writing letters to the Nazi authorities. On June 27, 1942, he was arrested and tortured. On September 4, 1942, Bishop Gorazd, the Cathedral priests and the lay officials were executed by firing squad. In 1961 they were canonized as the New Martyrs.

Concluding his visit to this famous Cathedral Fr. Igor had an opportunity to speak with some of the local clergy and parishioners.