Cheesefare Sunday


On February 26, on the Cheesefare Sunday, we had a nice and prayerful celebration in our parish. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the reading from the Gospel he preached the following homily in English:

“Today, on Cheesefare Sunday, on the last day before the beginning of Lent, the Holy Church commemorates the expulsion of the first man from paradise. This remembrance is offered for our spiritual reflection, so we could become aware what we lose when we commit a sin. Adam, being the first man and God’s favorite creation, had everything to enjoy eternal blessedness because he was with God. Adam was given the only commandment: to abstain from the forbidden fruit. This was a commandment of obedience and abstinence. And it was not difficult to keep because there were a lot of other fruits in the Garden of Eden which Adam could eat and enjoy. But the enemy of the human kind tempted Adam sowing the seed of distrust to God in Adam’s soul. He made the first people think that they could live without God and become “like gods” themselves.”
“This is an insane, a futile, a disastrous, and a terrible idea that man can exist without God!”
“But the devil tempted the first people and said to them, “Did God tell you the truth? No! If you disobey Him, you won’t die, but become like gods”. And first people believed the devil. They decided to violate God’s commandment. And they did.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! This Lent that starts tomorrow is given to us to teach those two important virtues, the virtues of obedience and abstinence. And we could learn how to follow them through repentance, through the awareness of our sins. Such awareness was offered to Adam and Eve by God Himself. He did not expel them from paradise right away when they committed their sin. He spoke with them and attempted to incline them to repentance. But Adam became afraid and, instead of asking for forgiveness, began to justify himself saying that it is not his fault. He said that the wife God gave him, she brought the fruit, so he ate. Thus Adam did not see that he was guilty, but he blamed his wife and he also blamed God who gave him the wife.”
“Very often we also complain about our life and blame others for our misfortunes. We blame other people with whom we interact in our life. We say that it is their fault. Or we blame the circumstances of our lives. But we cannot choose the time and place of our birth. If we were born in this age, from these parents, then it was God’s will. And if we are unhappy with God’s will, we repeat Adam’s fault. And we may even dare to say that it is God’s fault that we commit sins.”
“In a similar manner, when God spoke with Eve, expecting her repentance, she also failed to ask for God’s forgiveness. She blamed the serpent. She said, “This is the devil’s fault, not mine!” This can also remind us, dear brothers and sisters, of how we blame the devil for our sins. We blame him and we forget that the devil is not able to force us to sin. We ourselves decide. And if we did not wish, we would never commit a sin.”
“Therefore, the first man and the first woman did not have a spirit of repentance, so their connection with God became broken. And thus because of violation of God’s commandment the sin came into this world, and along with the sin there came death. This happened because when Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise, they have lost the main thing – the communion with the Source of life. Therefore, the diseases, sufferings and death came into the world. This is why in these days before Lent the Church is reminding us about those biblical events, so in them we may see the history of our own falls. In them we should see our own sins. And seeing them, we should do what Adam and Eve failed to do – to repent.”
“The all-merciful Lord is expecting our repentance. He opens to us the doors of repentance and calls us to unite with Him. Dear brothers and sisters! Let us hear that call! Let us ask for His blessing for the coming time of Lent, a time so needed for our improvement and purification.”

The choir beautifully performed the hymns of repentance at the time of the preparation for Holy Communion.

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 Russian which was a short version of his homily preached at the Liturgy in English. 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.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Feast of the Three Hierarchs


On February 12, on the Sunday of Prodigal Son, as well as feast of the Three Hierarchs, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, we had a nice celebration in our parish church. St. George’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the lessons from the Sacred Scripture he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today is another Sunday preparing us for Lent. It tells us about the Prodigal Son, giving us a perfect example of repentance. “Open me the doors of repentance,” – the Church is praying these days of the preparation for the saving time of fast. It is for us now to understand how much important is to practice repentance.”
“Today we also celebrate a memory of the Three great Hierarchs and Teachers of the Church, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. Those holy men lived in the 4th and 5th century and did a lot to define the teaching of the Church. All three of them were revered by the Christian people and each one of them had a day of commemoration in the month of January. However, after several centuries some pious people began to consider St. Basil to be more important, yet others venerated St. Gregory more than other hierarchs, and, finally, St. John also had his own followers. A great number of Christians became divided in their veneration. But all three Hierarchs appeared in a dream to some pious bishop named John and told him that all three of them are equally blessed by the Lord and should be equally venerated by the Christian people. Some time after that appearance the Church introduced a new holy day to honor those three Hierarchs together. This feast we celebrate today. The Three Holy Hierarchs resemble of the Most Holy Trinity being united by one faith and one spirit but being three different persons. As such, they had different personalities but served one purpose of glorifying God and ministering to the Holy Church. In the same way all members of the Church are different, but together we represent a unity in faith.”
“But if all of us are different in our personal traits, we are all similar in one thing – all of us commit sins and need to repent. If last Sunday we could say that most of us could not relate to the Pharisee and to the publican, because those two men are the examples of some extreme way of life, today we should acknowledge that all of us resemble the Prodigal Son. We are all like him. This is due to the whole condition the human kind has – the condition called sin. As the Prodigal Son from today’s Gospel parable, the human race journeyed to the far country, away from God. And it is able and it should come back to the Father’s house.”
“The Almighty and all-merciful God is the Creator of man. Man is God’s most final creation. We were made according to the God’s image and likeness. Thus, we are the children of God, and God is our Father. We were created good and perfect, and we could eternally stay at our Father’s house, in paradise. But like the younger son in today’s parable, we left our home. Enjoying the free will, an ability to choose, having our portion of the Father’s inheritance, we decided to leave Him. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were driven away from paradise to a far land of sin. The whole human race became remote from God and wasted its precious possession, the divine gifts of grace, through the sinful life. It had to endure all kinds of misfortunes, just as the Prodigal Son had to be starving in the far country. But the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ came to that land of misery and redeemed the man who was enslaved by sin. He came to restore the fallen image of God the Creator in us. He showed us the way of coming back to the Father’s house. And He ensured us that the doors of that house are now open to us. More than that, the loving Father is expecting us and is willing to run to meet us and to embrace us! Now, through Him, we acquired back the right to call God “the Father” and use the Lord’s prayer beginning with the words “Our Father”.”
“To complete such a safe return home, we need to follow our Lord’s instruction of repentance. Only the doors of repentance will lead us to the Father’s house. There is no other way. And the image of such repentance is shown in the conduct of the Prodigal Son. We first need to come to our senses, as the Prodigal Son “came to himself”, and realize our sinful state. Then we have to come to a decision to repent, to return to the Father. Then we must arise, we must act upon our resolution. And we must return, come back, repent, confess our sins and ask forgiveness. We have to humble ourselves and declare: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son!” (Lk. 15, 21). Then, the all-merciful Lord will accept our repentance, will embrace us with His love, enrich us with His grace and order to begin a celebration in our honor.”
“Therefore, let us begin loving and practicing the saving deal of repentance. Let us seek the doors of returning to the Father’s house, our home and hope to meet our loving Father at the steps and to enjoy His eternal blessing.”

During the time of preparation for the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed the penitential hymns as well as the hymns dedicated to the Three Hierarchs.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing the main ideas of his Russian homily. He also congratulated a young parishioner Maria on the occasion of her past name day, as well as her past birthday. Traditional Polychronion was proclaimed.

Our celebration continued during the coffee hour when the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company.


Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church


On February 5, on the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, as well as the feast of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, our parish family held a beautiful celebration. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Scripture readings he delivered a homily in English:

“Today’s Sunday is supposed to prepare us for the blessed and saving time of Lent. We heard the parable of the Publican and Pharisee, about the two different men. Today we also celebrate a commemoration of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church. Thus we had two lessons from the Holy Gospel.”
“The first Gospel lesson is telling us about two men who came to the Temple to pray. All about them was different. Their social status and their moral reputation were different. Their prayers were different also. And the outcome of their prayers was totally different. One of them went down to his house justified, yet another did not. We would think using our human logic that God blessed the one who was considered morally upstanding. And not justified would be the one who is despised as a public sinner. But our Lord Jesus Christ reverses the expected conclusion. God’s reasoning is different from the man’s logic. In the eyes of God the publican is justified because of his humility. The Pharisee is condemned because of his pride.”
“If we try to evaluate those two men, let us listen to their prayers. The Pharisee states with satisfaction that he is not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers. He is not lying. He behaves better than those bad people. He further states that he fasts twice a week. Very well, we are supposed to do the same, but who knows whether we actually fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. The Pharisee also tells that he gives tithes of all he possesses. This is much more than most of us do. No parishioner of this church gives tithes meaning 10 percent to his parish. Therefore, we must say that the Pharisee appears to be a much better person that most of us are.”
“As to the publican, he appears to be worse than most of us. As we mentioned last Sunday, the publicans, or tax collectors were public sinners, crooks, extortioners, corrupted criminals, cheaters of the people and collaborators with the Romans. They committed many crimes and offended many people. Most of us are not so evil. Yet that kind of man, a despised evildoer, went down to his house justified.”
“Despite that the Pharisee was a public just man and the tax collector was a public sinner, God judged them in the opposite way. The reason of such an outcome is the attitude those two men had. The Pharisee was proud. He prayed, but his prayer was so preoccupied with his own goodness that he forgot about God. He actually talked to himself, not to God, in his prayer. He praised himself. And he judged others, particularly the publican. All that attitude of self-righteousness, self-exaltation and judging the others condemned him. The publican’s attitude was the opposite. He is aware of his indignity. His posture, his words of prayer express deep humility and contrition. God loves this kind of attitude. He does because it is the most fair and honest understanding of our human nature, our abilities and our position. Our nature is imperfect and corrupt. Our abilities are limited, and we are often inclined to sin. Our position is much lower than God’s position. Therefore, we need not to be proud and self-exalting. We need to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge our weakness, imperfection and evil propensities, as well as our evil deeds committed in the past. Then we will be exalted by God. The publican did and became justified. God opposes the proud, but exalts the humble.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us avoid pride and self-exaltation of the Pharisee and let us imitate humility of the publican, so we will be blessed and justified in the fairest eyes of God.”
“Let us also imitate the publican in his repentance. After finishing our celebration of Christmas and Theophany we keep hearing about repentance. This was the main theme of the first preaching of Christ. We need to repent because we are sinful people. And in another spiritual aspect, when we commemorate Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, we need to repent because so many persons among the members of our community, of the Church of Rus’, were persecuted. The sad historical experience of our Church calls us for repentance. Of course, most of us did not persecute and did not hurt those holy people. But, unfortunately, it is a fact that our ancestors in our old country, at least most of our ancestors, were either the persecutors or the persecuted ones. Those of us who were born in the old country are the heirs of either New Martyrs of Rus’ or their adversaries. And that calls for repentance, not for a pride. It may be heard now that many Russians are proud of their Soviet past. It is sad. Of course, there were the acts of heroism among the Soviet people, however our attitude must be of humility and repentance for the godless past, and not an attitude of pride. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us imitate the repentance of the publican, his humility and awareness of his sins and not the Pharisee with his pride.”

During the time of the preparation for the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed the hymns from the Lenten Triodion which begin to be sung on this Sunday, starting with the words “The door of repentance open to me, o Giver of life…”. After those hymns the singers also sung the hymns dedicated to the New Martyrs and Confessors of Rus’.

Following the Ambo Prayer the Rector performed a memorial service (Litia) to commemorate all the deceased who suffered during the time of godless persecutions.

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