10th Sunday after Pentecost. Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God


On August 28 of this year in addition to the 10th Sunday after Pentecost the Orthodox Church celebrated greatest feast of the Most Holy Mother of God, Her glorious Dormition. We had a beautiful celebration in our parish. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Scripture readings he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we came together to hold a double celebration. As we do every Sunday, we commemorate Christ Resurrection. And today we also observe the great holy day of the Most Holy Mother of God, Her Dormition.”
“Today’s first Gospel lesson tells us about the power of faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ assures His Disciples, “I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to here,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Mt. 17, 20).”
“Faith gives us a great potential. Jesus tells us about an ability to move the mountains. Although it was never seen that mountains were physically moved because of someone’s faith, the true faith is really able to work great things. A lot of human achievements were done because the people who worked for them did possess great faith and trust in God and in His help. They also believed in their own potential if such potential is blessed by God and assisted by divine grace.”
“Again, although man cannot really move the mountains, he has a great potential. We are created to be able of many good and great things. Man was designed to be an image and likeness of God, so we have great abilities. Some of them became taken away from us or limited after the fall of Adam. For instance, I personally suspect that before we sinned we had an ability to fly. This is why sometimes, especially when we are young, we have dreams of flying. But some holy men were able to be lifted up from the ground. The lives of Venerable Mary of Egypt and of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov tell us that these Saints were seen elevated, lifted up while they were intensively praying. Some other Saints were also able to lift up and move from one place to another.”
“Today we celebrate feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, the most important and the greatest solemnity of the Blessed Virgin. Holy tradition says that the Apostles who were in the different countries of the world became taken by an unknown force and brought to Jerusalem to participate in the burial of the Blessed Virgin. There were no airplanes in those days, but the Apostles came together just like in our days people travel by air using airplanes to get together for some important occasions.  They were brought by air to bury the Most Holy Mother of God. This was done by the special force generated from the Almighty God, but it happened because of the faith and fidelity of the Holy Apostles.”
“On the other hand, being lifted up from the ground, levitation may be a result of a demonic possession. Today’s first Gospel lesson is telling us about a man who was possessed by an evil spirit. It depends on which power is working through us, the power of God or the power of the devil.  If we recall the Most Holy Mother of God, we may learn that the power of the devil had no effect on Her. Holy Mary was without sin. Roman Catholics holding that belief could not figure how this was possible since Blessed Virgin was a human being. Thus they came to a rational conclusion that She must have been preserved by God from any sin, even the original sin of Adam and Eve. They adopted a dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, stating that She was conceived and born without sin. But such a dogma is strange to the authentic Christian tradition. Orthodox Christians had always believed that the Theotokos was without sin, however this was not an act of creating Her like that by God, but a result of Her personal blessedness, Her righteousness and Her gracious life. Mary was not some kind of a  robot created without an ability to sin. Her own choice, Her obedience to God and Her humility made Her more honorable than the Cherubim and by far more glorious than the Seraphim. This is why today in our second Gospel lesson the Lord teaches that not only being His Mother, to bear and to nurse Him made Mary the Blessed one, but that She heard the word of God and kept it (Lk. 11, 27-28).”
“This is why, dear brothers and sisters, righteous life and faith of the Most Holy Mother of God made Her able to lift up above the sinful human nature. They made Her able to be elevated above the sinful earth and be ascended above the fallen mankind. And if faith, according to the words of Christ, can move the mountains, it certainly lifted up the Most Holy Mother of the Savior. It lifted Her up so much that when She had to pass away from this life, She did not taste death of a sinful human being but after Her falling asleep She was risen from the dead and taken up to heaven.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Having these instructions of the Lord and seeing the examples of the Saints, especially of the Most Holy Mother of God, let us cherish and cultivate our faith. Let us practice and not cease our prayer and fasting. Then we can move any mountain which would stay on our way to salvation and we could be lifted up above all our troubles of earthly life and above the temptations of the evil one. With faith and with the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos we can reach heavenly glory, being united there with our Lord and with the His Blessed Mother!”

Many faithful desired to go to confession on this holy day and most of the people attending the Liturgy received Holy Communion.

The choir beautifully and prayerfully sang festal hymns dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector along with the altar severs came out of the sanctuary and performed the rite of glorification in front of the festal icon singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Dormition.

After the service the Rector preached a short sermon in English stating main thoughts of his Russian homily. He also made some announcements and called the parishioners to be generous in supporting the church with their donations.

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company. At the time of the dessert a birthday cake was presented to the smallest parishioner Elena Malyshew who recently celebrated her 3th birthday.

9th Sunday after Pentecost


On August 21, on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters! The Gospel lesson of today is showing us a very impressive picture: Jesus walking on water. It should be easily understood because He was the Son of God, and all the nature was subject to His infinite power. He could override the laws of creation being Himself the Creator of this world. It was though very unusual for the Apostles who, at that point, did not fully realize Who their Teacher was. But at the end of the lesson we heard that the Disciples “came and worshipped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God”” (Mt. 14, 33). They did understand Who Jesus was. And this is the first aspect of today’s reading from the Holy Gospel.”
“Another very important thing is that apart from an impressive image of the Lord walking on waters we should consider another image from today’s Gospel reading: an image of St. Peter sinking beneath the waves. That is the image of us. Jesus could walk on the water because He was God. But Peter was a simple man, completely like us. He also tried to walk with Jesus but began to sink. Anyone can imagine himself or herself in such a situation.”
“Our life can be compared to the waters of some sea. How often we sink in the waves doubt, guilt, fear, tension, anxiety, temptation, despair, sin! How often we are attacked by the winds of problems, sicknesses and misfortunes! I don’t know what kind of waves and winds you have in your life, but the Gospel lesson today assures us of one thing: in the wind and the waves there is a Presence. The same Jesus Who was with Peter when he began to sink is with us. His presence can make all the difference in the world. “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” – Jesus said to His Apostles being in the boat (Mt. 14, 27). And He is saying that and he is coming to His followers in the midst of their storms for the past 2000 years. Thus, it is very important to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ is always with us in all our troubles.”
“The worst thing for the Disciples during the storm described in today’s Gospel story was the fact that Jesus was not there with them. Same thing happens to us if we forget that the Lord is always present in our lives. The real trouble in the storms of life is to lose our trust in God. In days of tension and stress when we burdened with problems and all the world looks dark, we may exclaim: “If only Jesus were here!” In moments of anxiety when we don’t know how we can possibly face what lies ahead, we cry out: “If only Jesus were here!” In days of fierce temptation, when we feel so powerless against the wracking passions of the soul, we entreat: “If only Jesus were here!” But He is here – nearer than we think. He can let the storm happen but He will stay with us. Jesus never promised to still all the storms, be He said that He always remain in the boat with us. “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” – He said. That was His promise and in His company we can face whatever storm may come.”
“The presence of Jesus in the boat does not prevent the storms from taking place. That surprises a lot of people who have come to believe that the existence of the loving God means no more emergencies, no bitter experiences, no occasions when we can say to ourselves, “I never thought it could happen to me”. It is still possible, even when Jesus is present, for some terrible disease to appear suddenly, or some dreadful accident to happen. But His presence in the boat with us will make a difference in the way we face the storm.”
“Our Lord stretched His hand to save Peter in the waves. But He also said to Peter: “Come” (Mt. 14, 29) assuring him that we are also able to overcome the nature, fear and weakness. Jesus says to us: “Come, you can walk on the troubled waters of your life”. If some illness has struck you or your loved one, you can say, “God, bid me walk on the water of that illness.” If financial trouble torn your life apart, you can say: “God, bid me walk on the water of this need.” The same power, the same faith, the same Jesus Who helped Peter walk on stormy waters of Lake Galilee is available to you today. The power to weather the storms of your life, to walk over them and through them to eternal victory!”

During the Liturgy, especially before the Holy Communion, the choir was prayerfully singing the hymns of Transfiguration, a feast which celebration was still going on.

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

Transfiguration of the Lord


On August 19 all Orthodox Christians adhering to Julian calendar observe feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. We had a nice liturgical celebration on that day. St. George’s Rector, 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 we celebrate the great holy day of the Transfiguration. The Gospel lesson told us today how it happened. Our Lord Jesus Christ took three of His disciples, Peter, James and John, led them to the mountain and transfigured before them. Jesus’ face became shining like the sun, and His garments like a light. Our Lord showed His disciples His divine glory, He showed Who He really is. The reasons we consider that event so important are two. We believe and confess that our Lord has two natures: divine and human. And everything we celebrate about Him concerns those two natures. Today, as we said, our Lord showed the Apostles that He is God. And this is one reason to honor this event. But we celebrate Transfiguration also because our Lord’s human nature was transfigured. The humanity taken by our Lord became so linked with the divine nature, so it also shone like the sun. And we may add to that reflection that it happened by the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father, Whose voice witnessed to the Son’s divine nature.”
“Celebrating Transfiguration we are perhaps reminded of another feast of the Church taken from the Holy Scriptures, where the divinity of Christ was also witnessed to by the Father and the Spirit proceeding from the Father – Theophany, the Baptism of Christ. Both these feasts have a great prominence in our Church. In both of them we may see the manifestation of the Holy Trinity and an indication that our Lord Jesus Christ is the true God and the true Man.”
“Transfiguration shows us that the human and divine natures of Christ are united in One Person of Jesus. As the Orthodox Church professes, those two natures are bound together in a mysterious way, being not mixed and undivided, not commingled and yet inseparable. It is also important to remember that no such a unity is possible without the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit is taking part in every event of the life of the Lord manifested to us. His action is seen in the Nativity of Christ, in His Baptism and in His Transfiguration.”
“Another important aspect of today’s feast is that our Savior is the Lord over life and death. The Scripture tells us that two holy persons appeared at the Transfiguration: Moses and Elijah. They represent two kinds of people: those who died and those who live. Moses was dead long before Jesus came into the world. And Elijah also lived several centuries before Christ, but he did not taste death, but was taken up to heaven. Now, at the Mt. Tabor they both appeared to worship the Son of God, the Lord of the living and the dead.”
“And finally, we may notice that today’s feast is almost lost outside of the Orthodox Church. In the similar way, the feast of Theophany is almost unnoticed outside of the Orthodoxy. They are not really celebrated in the communities where people do not believe in the words of the Holy Scripture, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father alone. This error makes those Christians deprived of the right believe in Holy Trinity. But it also makes them deprived of the true understanding of the importance of the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ becoming a man, so men could become divine, could unite with God. Such a unity was shown in Christ Transfiguration. Such a unity is possible through Christ and the Orthodox faith. Because Christ united those two natures for us. And the Orthodox faith gives us an opportunity to unite them in our lives, being partakers of the divine nature. Let us then keep our faith in true God and pray that His everlasting light may shine to us!”

Before the rite of the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully sang festal hymns of Transfiguration.

Following the Ambo prayer the Rector performed traditional Blessing of fruits.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy Fr. Igor preached a short sermon in Russian and congratulated the parishioners on the occasion of the holy day.

8th Sunday after Pentecost. Feast of the Holy Cross and of the Holy Martyrs Maccabees


On August 14 of this year the Church celebrated 8th Sunday after Pentecost along with the feast of the Procession of the Precious Wood of the Holy Cross and commemoration of the Holy Martyrs Maccabees. We had a beautiful service in our Parish temple celebrated by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.

After the reading of the Third Hour the Rector solemnly transferred decorated cross from the altar to the middle of the church and placed it on the stand.

Following the Sixth Hour Fr. Igor served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Today, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, we also celebrate feast of the Procession of the Precious Wood of the Holy Cross. On this day the Church also commemorates the Old Testament Martyrs, called the Maccabees who suffered for the faith in true God. Our first reading from the Holy Gospel tells us about miraculous feeding of five thousand men by five loaves of bread and two fishes (Mt. 14, 14-22).”
“This special miracle tells us that the power of God is endless and God Himself is infinite. In that miraculous multiplication of bread He just showed some of His eternity. It is more important for us to see in this miracle a symbol of another miracle happening with us every time when we become present at the Divine Liturgy, a miracle of the Eucharist. For every time at the Liturgy bread and wine become the true Body and Blood of Christ. And the Eucharist is accessible not only to five thousand men but to all faithful Orthodox Christians. The same Christ is being offered on the sacred altar in every temple and is being distributed in Holy Communion at every Liturgy. When the priest is breaking the holy Lamb and prepares it for the Communion, he says the following words, “Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God; broken but never divided; ever eaten, yet never consumed…” Thus Christ in the Holy Communion is being broken into many pieces yet is never divided. St. Paul is asking in today’s Epistle lesson, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor. 1, 13). No, Christ is broken in the Communion but not divided. He is being eaten by the partakers yet is never consumed. And if the five loaves of bread were consumed even after they were multiplied, leaving only the fragments and crumbs, the holy Bread of the Eucharist never ends on the earth.”
“This is why, dear brothers and sisters, we need to be aware what kind of treasure we possess. And we need to be faithful to that treasure. Coming to the temple for the Divine Liturgy we become worthy of the greater miracle than the one happened in the desert with those five thousand men. They were given plain bread while we are given Christ Himself. The five loaves of bread, though they were multiplied, were finally finished but the Eucharist will never be finished until the end of this world. Those people were filled with the material bread while we are fed with the Bread from heaven. Their visible advantage is in the fact that Jesus Himself was present with them. But with us the same Jesus is also present though being invisible.”
“Therefore, let us become aware of the importance of the holy Liturgy and the importance of being faithful to the Lord and follow Him. The Gospel tells us that the multitude of people followed Him to the desert. They were listening to His words and remained with Him until night (Mt. 14, 15). We can imagine how these people left their usual business and forgot about their cares following the Lord into wilderness. And among us, contemporary Orthodox Christians, there are many those who on Sunday prefer not to come to the church and not to participate in the Divine Liturgy. They find excuses and reasons why they could not come to the temple and to become united with Christ, to be faithful to Him, especially on this holy day of the Lord.”
“Today’s feast in honor of the Maccabees Martyrs also teaches us to be faithful to the Lord. Seven Jewish Martyrs along with her mother Solomonia and their teacher Eleazer whom we commemorate today, refused to betray the faith in true God and to worship the idols. It could be easy to concede to the demands of the Gentile conquerors and to offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods. But they chose to suffer instead. And we should think whether we could prefer to suffer than to concede to this vicious and lawless world of sin which does not differ from the ancient pagan world of the idolaters.”
“And let us refer to the Precious and Life-giving Cross whom we also honor today. May its invincible, ineffable and divine power strengthen us in our fidelity to Christ. May the Holy Cross preserve us on our journey to salvation bestowing upon us the grace of Christ and leading us for the eternal blessedness!”

Before the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully sung the hymns in honor of the Holy Martyrs Maccabees.

Following the Prayer behind the Ambo the Rector performed brief Lesser Blessing of water and traditional Blessing of the new honey.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English explaining main ideas of his Russian homily. He also congratulated the Malyshew family on the occasion of their little daughter Elena’s 2nd birthday celebrated last week. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was sung.

7th Sunday after Pentecost


On August 7, on the 7th Sunday after Pentecost our Parish family gathered for a nice liturgical celebration in our temple. The Divine Liturgy was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Following the Gospel lesson he delivered the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters! The Gospel lesson of today tells us about two healings performed by our Lord Jesus Christ. He opened the eyes of the two blind men and he cast out the evil spirit from a mute man who then began to speak (Mt. 9, 27-35). These two healings were only a part of a number of other miraculous works of the Lord described in that chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Summarizing them, the Gospel says, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Mt. 9, 35). This makes us to think that where the Lord Jesus appeared, there all the diseases, all the sicknesses and other misfortunes tended to disappear. This was the manifestation of His presence. Jesus being the Messiah performed the miracles and made things no one else could do. This is why we heard in today’s Gospel reading that the people exclaimed, “It was never seen like this in Israel” (Mt. 9, 32).”
“If such miracles that Jesus performed were never seen in Israel, they could not be seen in other places. The world lived in the darkness of idolatry, error and superstition. The humanity lived in slavery to sin and death. People suffered from diseases and from demonic possessions. But when the Lord Jesus came to the world, He showed that in His presence all these evil things can be conquered. He showed that physical infirmities can be corrected and the evil spirits can be expelled. And man can taste happiness if God is present with him.”
“Today we commemorate the Dormition of the Righteous Anna, mother of the Most Holy Mother of God. Our pious tradition holds that St. Anna was barren, she could not have children. Along with her husband Joachim she had to suffer from moral reproach, because being childless was considered a curse and a shame among the Jews. She was not blind or mute as those people healed in today’s Gospel lesson, but she suffered from being barren. Both Joachim and Anna were righteous people who lived according to God’s Commandments. They invited God into their lives. And God visited Joachim and Anna and blessed them with the holy Child. Anna conceived in her old age and bore Mary, the Mother of God. This tells us that if man wishes God to be present in his life, God will visit him. Just as those two blind man in today’s Gospel asked Jesus to have mercy on them, and had faith in Him, so Joachim and Anna were leading pious life and followed God’s precepts. As a result God blessed them and changed their life circumstances. This also, dear brothers and sisters, tells us that when God comes into man’s life, such life becomes changed for better.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us make no mistake: without God our fate is awful. Without God there are no values, no morals, no spirituality, only the error, sin and darkness, only disease, despair and death. In Russian there is a proverb: “Bez Boga, ne do poroga’”- “if you are without God, you may not enter”.  And indeed people do not enter into salvation without God.  Last week we heard sad news that the Abbot of St. Panteleimon’s Russian Monastery on Mt. Athos, Fr. Jeremiah passed away. He fell asleep in the Lord being over 100 years old. Once he said that if man lives with God the life becomes easy. He did not say that it becomes perfect or even good because it is impossible in this world. But he said that we live easy if we are with God. We will certainly see the troubles and pain, but if we live with God, those pains will be easy.”
“Let us then cherish our faith in true God and attempt all the time to be in His presence. Nowadays Jesus does not walk through our cities and villages, but He is spiritually present everywhere. He is even more present in the holy temple, in our sacred rites and Sacraments, especially in the Most Holy Eucharist where the Lord is offered to us in His true Body and Blood. Let us welcome the Lord God in our lives and let us be benefited from His blessed and life-giving presence!”

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian to stress the main thoughts of his English homily. He then congratulated the Kay family on the occasion of their son Elias’ (Jared) passed name day and their daughter Anna’s name day and birthday. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.