Lenten Mission Vespers in Passaic, NJ


On March 25, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes headed this year’s third Lenten Mission Vespers served in our Deanery. This day the service had been celebrated at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Passaic, NJ. Our Parish Warden, Olga Roussanow as well as our parishioner Moses Dunetz attended that service.

At the mission Vespers Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes and our Rector was co-served by Priest Aleksiy Paranyuk, Dean of the Eastern States and Rector of St. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls, NJ; Archpriest Emil Minkovich, Rector of St. Peter and Paul Church in Elizabeth, NJ; Archpriest John Kassatkin, Rector of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ; Archpriest George Konyev, Rector of the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ; Priest Stephen Kaznica, Rector of St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Passaic, NJ; Hieromonk Stephen (Bushman), cleric of the Deanery; and Deacon Andrew Massey, cleric of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ.

Following the Great Prokimenon a sermon in English was delivered by Hieromonk Stephen (Bushman).

After the Vespers dismissal parish Rector expressed his gratitude to the clergy and lay people present for their participation in the Mission service. Following the service in the temple, a supper was offered to the guests of the Passaic Cathedral in its parish hall.

Fifth Sunday of Lent


On March 25, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent our parishioners gathered for a liturgical celebration in our temple. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! The time of Lent calls us for a special care for the spiritual matters. And if we begin to pay attention to the works of piety and ourselves engage in them, we may have certain temptations. One of such temptations is to see the spiritual shortcomings of others and a desire to correct them.”
“For instance, if members of our family don’t go to the church, we may try to make them go. And we may be disappointed if they don’t listen to us. Then we may be unhappy looking everywhere around us. The world outside of the temple has a very little care about Orthodox faith, about spiritual life, about our fasts and holy days. And we may begin to think that it is the society’s fault, that the government should be different, that meat products should be prohibited to sell and entertainment should be banned during Lent. We may recall that how good it was centuries ago, in the Orthodox Byzantine or Russian Empire. And if we give in to such thoughts, we may go further and imagine how we would act if we had the power: we would correct everything and we would make everyone a pious Christian. And thus we forget about our own soul, about our own shortcomings and about our own correction. This temptation is very common, and I believe, many of us could not avoid it.”
“Today we heard the Gospel lesson in which our Lord Jesus Christ predicts His sufferings in Jerusalem. He tells His Disciples about His future endeavor of humiliation and death that He has to accomplish. In this way our Savior tells us that this is the only way to overcome evil – the way of sacrifice, the way of love, the way of service to others. Our Lord came into the world and did not destroy His enemies, did not eliminate bad people and did not force everyone to be kind. He did not become a ruler of the world, some king or an emperor who would make the laws to command everyone to be religious. He did not do it. He came to suffer, to be humiliated, and, finally, to die on the cross.”
“Why this way is the only one? Because we became so attached to sin and sin became so rooted in our hearts, so if the Lord would decide to destroy the evil, to eliminate the sin, He would totally destroy our souls. They would be annihilated and we would perish. But the Lord chose the only right way – to heal our souls. He chose to suffer with us, to be tempted with us and to die for us. But He dies to rise from the dead and to resurrect us, to raise us up renewed, purified, reborn and freed from sin. As He taught, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3, 17).”
“We often like to eliminate evil, to eradicate the vices and crimes and we may think that in order to do it, we need to destroy, to punish and to execute. And many human societies and human leaders follow that path. This way seems to be easy but is a wrong idea of overcoming evil. The wise men of the world knew it long ago. The ancient Roman writer, Cornelius Tacitus understood how wrong is to gain a victory by destroying your enemy. He wrote that such victors “create a desert and call it peace”. Fighting evil by evil, killing your enemy is showing your weakness, your inability to find a better way. All of us may be good or evil, thus we are no better than our enemies. And if think we are good but kill our enemy, we deprive him of an opportunity to change for better. Instead, we are called to wake up good which is rooted in us and in all the others. That might be the true victory.”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ acted in that way, the only right way. He tells His Disciples about that endeavor of Redemption through sufferings and death, not through the destruction. He also teaches them to serve each other. He reverses common social order and proclaims the new rule: “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all” (Mk. 10, 43-44). This is another surprising principle and different from what we are accustomed to see among the people. But our Lord Himself followed that path and He was successful. He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10, 45).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! No power or authority, no order or command can make us follow Christ. Today we honor Venerable Mary of Egypt who was a great sinner but became a great Saint. She lived sinful and immoral life before she repented. But could any law or command force her to repent and to change her lifestyle? She changed due to the grace of God. And today we have different laws against such immoral lifestyle like prostitution; these laws help but they cannot make any harlot to change, to become a Saint. Our Savior came not to force us but to serve us, to sacrifice His life for us, so we may become His followers and do the same for our brethren. And although we may be sad seeing members of our family, our friends or other people around us not being Orthodox or not living religious life, not caring for their salvation, the only right way to convert them is to serve them to show them our love, compassion, and mercy. The only right way is to pray for them, so the Lord may lead them into a right direction. Let us then ask our Lord, the Savior of the world who came to not to condemn but to save, and who suffered for our sake, let us ask that He may grant us to follow this only right path to salvation!”

The choir prayerfully performed penitent hymns during the preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian stressing the main ideas of his English homily. He also made announcements about the future celebrations of the Holy Week and Pascha.

After the Divine Liturgy the Rector performed the Sacrament of the Anointing of the sick. All persons who desired to receive that Mystery participated in the service and were anointed with the blessed oil.

Fourth Sunday of Lent


On March 18, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, St. George Parish held a nice liturgical celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Scripture readings he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Time goes by, and now we have passed more than half of Lent. Today is the 4th Sunday of the holy time of fasting. This Sunday we honor the memory of St. John of the Ladder – the great ascetic and monastic mentor. In his famous book called “The Ladder of Divine Assent,” he described how a man, struggling with his passions, gradually ascends to piety. In this work are listed as steps of the ladder, those small victories that a man can accomplish in his personal perfection, with God’s help and through the grace of the Holy Spirit in, eradicating his sins and shortcomings.”
“So we, noting that we have already passed most of the Great Lent, must sum up some of the results of our endeavor of fasting. We must honestly answer how we practiced in fasting and prayer, in deeds of piety. Did we use the time that was given to us? Did we go up the stairs? After all, the Lord has given us this period of time, these four weeks for our spiritual perfection. So, did we do it? Or was our time spent on other things and cares?”
“The Lord says that we ​​will have to give an account for all of our life. And telling us thus, the Lord calls us to appreciate the time we have been given, and that we must not give a chance to our enemy, the enemy of the human race, to capture our soul. And we should not seek false comfort, a feeling that that our enemy does not bother us. If a person thinks so, then he is deceived or has long been living under the influence of that same enemy, that is, the devil. This can be compared to a disease. If a person feels pain, then the body is fighting. And the person seeks treatment, goes to the doctors. But it may happen that the disease has already overcome the human body so much that it does not feel pain. In this case, doctors say that the body gave up. Therefore, it is also useful for us to feel the devil’s temptations, suffer from satanic slander and feel the arrows of the evil one that hurt our soul. Unfortunately, many people are already incapable of that, they live peacefully without remorse and without spiritual sensitivity. In this case, the enemy has already overcome them, and it is very difficult or almost impossible for such people to free themselves from such a deplorable spiritual state.”
“Today’s Gospel lesson is telling us about a boy who was possessed by an unclean spirit. His father desired him to be healed and he brought this boy to the Disciples of Christ. But, unfortunately, at that time they themselves were not spiritually mature, they were on a lower step of the spiritual ladder, so they could not cast out the evil spirit from that miserable boy. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the only one who could accomplish such a healing. And thus, that boy possessed by an evil spirit that was torturing his body, throwing the boy into the fire and into the water willing to destroy him – this is an image of the sinful human soul. It also suffers all the time, it is exposed to the attacks of the evil one and sometimes it may become possessed by him. And only such things as faith, prayer and fasting are able to help it.”
“The Lord says to the father of the possessed boy, “Everything is possible to him who believes” (Mk. 9, 23). And He says to His Disciples that “this kind can come out by nothing prayer and fasting” (Mk. 9, 29).”
“Therefore, let not be deceived those who say that there is enough to have some kind of “faith in the soul”, and not a sincere and firm Christian faith. Let not be deceived those who believe that you don’t need the Church prayers, rituals and Sacraments. Let not be deceived those who believe that fasting is a relative matter and that it means little. We heard the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The only one weapon in the fight against sin, against the power of the devil is fasting and prayer! And there is no other weapon. And if we do not use this weapon in the fight against evil, our soul will be in the same position as the son of that man, about whom we heard today in the Holy Gospel.”
“At the same time, we have to remember that our own strength is not enough to pray and fast appropriately, but we need the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross, and who conquered the power of the devil and who had risen. Then our souls will also be resurrected, like that boy in today’s reading: the boy who first was numb, and everyone thought that he was dead, and then he began to live.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us use all our strength for the spiritual warfare and let us spend the remaining time of the holy Lent in fasting and prayer. Let all the attacks of the enemy be repelled from our souls, so we may joyfully encounter the holy and bright days when we will be buried together with Christ, but we will rise with Him also!”

The choir led by our Choir Director, Olga Roussanow, prayerfully sang penitential hymns and hymns in honor of Venerable John of the Ladder during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English explaining the content of his Russian homily.

Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross


On the Third Sunday of Lent the Orthodox Church venerates the Holy Cross. This year on this day, March 11 we had a beautiful celebration in our parish church conducted by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.
Before the reading of the Hours the Rector solemnly transferred decorated cross from the altar to the middle of the church and placed it on the stand. After the Gospel lesson during the Divine Liturgy Fr. Igor preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s 3rd Sunday of Lent is dedicated to the veneration of the Holy Cross. Our Lord Jesus Christ says that the way of salvation is the way of the Cross. It requires certain dedication and denial to a selfish attitude.”
“However, people don’t like to follow this way. Ours had been called the “me-generation”. Everything is focused on what I need and what I want. For instance, a pregnant young woman may not be willing to have a child and wants to have an abortion. She may say, “I am not going to let that damn child interfere with my career… or even with my ski trip”. We are being told that the whole purpose of existence is self-discovery and self-fulfillment. The foundation for right or wrong is not then what God commends, but what self demands, “whatever makes me happy”. And if anything stands in the way of my pleasure, be it family, or my neighbors, or even God – they are to be eliminated.”
“This way seem to be the latest and the coolest lifestyle, but it is not new. It’s just another name for sin and it was started a long time ago, at the beginning of the world, by Satan himself. He was not satisfied being one of the most beautiful God’s creatures – an angel – he wanted to be “number one”. So, he started a rebellion against God. He later tempted the first people, Adam and Eve.”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ has something to say to that kind of attitude in today’s Gospel lesson: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8, 34-35). He tells us that the only way to the Kingdom of God is to deny oneself and to take up the cross. And if we are selfish with life by trying to preserve it just to serve ourselves, we shall lose it. It is only as we forget self and lose ourselves in loving service to others, we will find life and real happiness.”
“Our Lord did deny His very self as God and took up the cross for us. Therefore, the cross became so precious for each Christian that we venerate it, as we especially do today. Let us remember that it was also a tool of Lord’s denial of Himself. And we cannot achieve any self-fulfillment without God and without denial of our selfishness. If we give in to the temptation and begin to live by the attitude of selfishness, we will lose our true happiness and our salvation. Some Holy Fathers say that the Antichrist number, the mark of the Beast, 666 is interpreted from Greek as Cristos Xenos Stauros – “Christ strange to the Cross”. If Christ did not take up His cross, no salvation could be accomplished. And the Antichrist will exactly attempt to imitate Christ, but without the Cross, without self-denial and sacrifice. Let us beware of that.”
“A great Russian writer Dostoyevsky told the following tale: “There was a wicked woman. When she died, she left no single good deed behind. The devils caught her and plunged her into the lake of fire. The guardian Angel however, found that she had once pulled an onion from her garden and had given it to a beggar. God allowed the Angel to take the onion, let her take hold and be pulled out. The Angel did this and began to pull the woman out. Then other sinners in the lake, seeing her getting out, caught hold of her so as to get out with her. But she was wicked and began kicking them saying, ‘I am to be pulled out, not you! It’s my onion, not yours!’ As soon as she said that the onion broke, and the woman fell back into the lake and is there to this day”. If only that woman had not said “my onion”, if only she had said “our onion”! Thus we say “Our Father”, not “my Father”, therefore we say “our daily bread”, not “my daily bread”.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! This story should be a lesson for all of us that we are not isolated, but we have to care for each other, deny our very self and thus achieve salvation through the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ.”

The choir prayerfully performed penitential hymns during preparation for Holy Communion.

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

Following that the Rector and the altar servers came out of the sanctuary before the stand in the middle of the church and venerated the Precious Cross.

Second Sunday of Lent


On March 4, on the Second Sunday of Lent, St. George Parish family gathered for a nice celebration. Following the Hours the Divine Liturgy was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. After the Scripture lessons he preached a homily in Russian.

Fr. Igor recalled that the Second Sunday of Lent is sometimes called “the Sunday of the Light-creating fasts”, and during the week preceding it the Church is praying for the enlightenment of the souls of faithful who fast. The darkness of our souls exists because of sin. And the enlightenment our souls need is in our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. A person who is suffering from certain sin resembles the one being in a dark room. He may easily hurt himself by any subject. In a similar way, any simple thing or simple product may cause a person harm if it is an instrument of sin. For example, God blessed wine, and we know wine to be a useful and healthy product, but if a person is possessed by the sin of drunkenness, wine becomes very harmful to him. It destroys one’s life. This can be seen in any serious sin.
When a person is possessed by a sinful passion, usually suffers not only soul but body also. Take the sin of anger: it may cause spasms in the stomach and lead to ulcers. It may also cause high blood pressure and lead to a stroke. Human soul and body are so connected that they may “catch each other diseases”, as one preacher said. This is why in today’s Gospel story our Lord Jesus Christ first forgave the paralytic’s sins and then healed him of his disease. That man’s sins were the cause of his paralysis. Probably, the reason of his sufferings was one unforgiven sin.
The light to enlighten our souls is coming from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This uncreated light was seen by the Apostles on Mt. Tabor during Christ Transfiguration. And certain holy people could see that light in their lives because of their spiritual endeavors. The Saint whom we honor today, on this Sunday, St. Gregory Palamas, was writing and preaching about that light and about a possibility to acquire it.
Fr. Igor called the parishioners to pray and to ask the Lord to enlighten our souls and lead us to salvation. He finished his homily citing the words of a known Church prayer: “Christ, the true Light, enlighten and sanctify every man who comes into the world…”

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in English stressing the main thoughts of his Russian homily. He also expressed best wishes to our parishioners Andrew and Anton Malyshev who returned from their trip to Europe, as well as to Natalia Tsyvilyova who offered a thanksgiving for an important achievement in her life.