On October 1, on the Sunday after Exaltation, we had a beautiful service in our parish temple. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. He was co-served by Deacon John Peters, cleric of St. Nicholas Cathedral. Following the Gospel lesson the Rector delivered the following homily in English:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today is Sunday after the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and thus the Gospel lesson is about taking up a cross to follow Christ. It also contains an interesting statement: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk. 8, 36). If our Lord Himself uses such earthly words as “profit” and “gain”, let us make a conclusion using the similar vocabulary: Jesus says that gaining the whole world and losing one’s soul is the world’s worst bargain.”
“Let us imagine, for a moment, that man gains the whole world. It cannot keep him from trouble; it cannot give him peace; it cannot comfort him in sorrow; it cannot purchase him immortality and it cannot secure him a place in heaven when he is gone. All he can do with the world, is to keep it until he dies; he cannot carry any of it with him to the other life. This is why we may hear of the people who are well-known, who are the celebrities, but who commit suicide although they live a very wealthy life. Their treasures don’t even give them a happy life here. And, of course, they don’t give them eternal life.”
“Our greatest treasure is our soul. Therefore, to lose it would be to lose the most valuable thing we may possess. Even the Gentiles could understand that. When a thief stole his lamp, the Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “It is the thief who loses. I bought a lamp; it cost me a few pennies. But it cost thief his soul”. We lose our souls when we are no longer alive to God and to His love. We lose our souls when we place some other person or thing at the center of life. We lose our souls when we move away from God and no longer experience the power of His presence. And we lose our souls when we feel there is no longer any hope of forgiveness. It was to keep us from losing our soul that God sent His Son to be our Savior. Through Him no person need to loose his soul. Through Him, the door to salvation is always open. Through Jesus we can now become alive toward God and toward our fellow humans. Through Jesus we can gain treasures far greater in value than the entire universe.”
“The Gospel today tells us how to follow Jesus and how to prepare for heaven. The Lord says, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mk. 8, 34). If we wish to save our souls, the secret is to deny oneself. It doesn’t mean we need to deny our personality, ourselves as human beings. It means to deny what is sinful and corrupt. It means to say “no” to sin. It means to say “no” to anything that stops on our way to salvation. A famous violin player was asked, what was the secret of his marvelous success. He replied, “Planned neglect. I deliberately neglect other things in order to concentrate on the one task that is all-important”. What makes a great chess player? Planned neglect. What makes a great writer? Planned neglect. What makes a great Christian? Planned neglect of the less important things in life in order to concentrate on the all-important call of Jesus: “Follow Me.””
“If we really follow the Lord, He will bless us and secure our eternity. He says, “Whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8, 35). Losing one’s life for Jesus equals saving it for eternity; it equals gaining eternal life. Returning to an earthly business vocabulary we may say that investing our life in following Christ is to make a good deal. It is to get eternal security. A man once prayed, “Lord, tie me to something eternal. I tie to houses and lands, stocks and bonds, and by some turn of fate, I lose them. I tie myself to a loved one, and a single microbe comes and death snatches her away. I tie myself to a friend, and the friendship vanishes. Lord, tie me to Your program, to service to Your Kingdom, to You, God, that I might be tied to the eternal”.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Being tied to God, the soul finds eternal security. Therefore, let us listen to the words of the Holy Gospel and deny our sinful nature and its inclinations. Let us say “no” to sin and to all that could prevent us from being saved. Let us tie our life to our Savior Jesus Christ, our only Hope who can grant us eternal life and make us gain His everlasting Kingdom!”
The choir prayerfully performed the hymns dedicated to the Holy Cross during preparation for Holy Communion.
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in Russian conveying main ideas of his English homily.
Following the Rector’s sermon our Sacristan Andrew Malyshew congratulated Fr. Igor on the occasion of his coming name day and of his 10th anniversary of serving as Rector of St. George. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed. Fr. Igor expressed his gratitude to the parishioners for their greetings, as well as to Fr. John for coming to participate in this celebration. The Rector also praised the choir for a beautiful singing.
Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and an interesting conversation.