On March 5 the Church celebrated the First Sunday of Lent, also known as Sunday of Orthodoxy. On that occasion we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. After the Gospel lesson he preached a homily in Russian.
In his homily the Rector pointed out that if we consider Lent to be a symbolic journey of returning to paradise, the initial stage of that journey is the first week of Lent. It is known for a strict fasting and repentance. Now when that first week is over, on the First Sunday of Lent we may take some rest and see where are now spiritually. First of all, we should realize that God is always with us. We may not see or feel His presence but He is with us always. In today’s Gospel lesson we heard about the encounter of our Jesus Christ with one of His future disciples, Nathanael. Nathanael suddenly believed that Jesus is the Son of God when Christ told him that He saw Nathanael when he was under the fig tree (Jn. 1, 48-49). We do not know exactly what was going on when Nathanael was under that fig tree, but it is certain that being there Nathanael had to experience some very personal and intimate moment. He thought that he was there alone. But God saw Him; God was there with him. This is why Nathanael believed that Jesus is the Son of God. And this why Jesus being God and knowing Nathanael’s inner thoughts could say about him that he is “an Israelite indeed in whom there is no deceit” (Jn. 1, 47).
Thus, another important lesson for us today is to be a person with no deceit, a good person with no evil thoughts and evil deeds. Only being such a person we could return to paradise, to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
However, we may say that all of us are sinful and we are unable to live this life and avoid being evil. But the Lord is with us even in this situation. He does not turn away from a sinner. He gives us an opportunity to repent and to live a pious life. And He does it through the Orthodox faith the triumph of which we celebrate today. God leads us to eternal life through His Holy Orthodox Church and gives us guidance, so we may not deviate from the right way. Therefore, the third and final lesson of today’s Sunday is to adhere to the Orthodox faith. Only through that true faith we will be able to accomplish our journey back to the Kingdom of heaven, to God’s paradise. Then the prophetic words of our Savior which we heard in today’s Gospel will be fulfilled: “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafteryou shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (Jn. 1, 51).
Before the Liturgy dismissal the Rector performed prayer service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy solemnly declaring the Orthodox faith and proclaiming eternal memory to the champions of that faith and the polychronion to the Church hierarchy and Orthodox Christians.
Following the dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing the main thoughts of his Russian homily.