Sunday of All Saints

 

On June 23, on the 1st Sunday after Pentecost, the Church celebrates memory of All the Saints who pleased the Lord by their pious lives. On that day we had a nice service at St. George Church. Our parish Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Dear brothers and sisters! Today, on the 1st Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate All Saints Day. And this celebration gives us the answer to an important question: why the whole history of salvation of the human race took place? Why did God create man? Why did God incarnate and become Man? Why did God accept suffering and was crucified on the cross? Why did He die and rise from the dead? Why did He ascend into heaven, and why did He send the Holy Spirit from His Father to His Apostles?”
“This whole history of salvation is remembered in our Church holy days, in our calendar. We celebrate the Nativity of Christ, His Baptism in the Jordan, then we commemorate His Entry into Jerusalem, His sufferings, and then on Pascha we celebrate His Resurrection. After Pascha, 40 days after we celebrate the Ascension into heaven. Then, after 9 more days, we mark the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost. And today, on Sunday after Pentecost, we sum up: what are the results of the whole history of salvation? And they are the following: that people who follow Christ can acquire salvation; they can become the Saints, they can become Holy.”
“Thus, today’s feast gives us an answer why all this occurred. And all this happened, so the holiness may shine in the hearts of men. The purpose of our Lord to come into the world is that we could become Holy.”
“This is marvelous because we constantly say that we are sinful people. Yet the Lord came into the world, so we may become not sinners but Saints. However, we may say to ourselves that we are not Saints. We are not holy for we acknowledge our weaknesses, recognize our unworthiness, understand our sins and realize our shortcomings.  God calls us to holiness but we are sinners. It is easy to fall into despair. But God established His Holy Church, a gathering of the Saints, and the Church does not allow us to be fall into despair, because everyone of us, with no exceptions, every baptized person has a gleam of divine grace. And as much as we are united with God, so much holiness is manifested in our life. Despite our unworthiness, despite our shortcomings, despite our sins, holiness is possible for us. The Lord gives us His grace to change our unworthiness, because He took our sins upon Himself, He came to correct our shortcomings.”
“Celebrating memory of All Saints we see how very different people, children and elderly, men and women, educated and illiterate, rich and poor – are being glorified as Saints by the Church. People of various nations, of different intellect, of different cultural level are honored as Saints because holiness does not depend on those things. Salvation and holiness depend only on how much we open our soul to the grace and operation of the Holy Spirit.”
“And today, rejoicing about those fruits that the Church gave to our life, rejoicing about millions of Saints who fulfilled their calling from the Lord Jesus Christ, let us ask the grace of God for ourselves, let us ask the Lord to bless our life journey that we may become Saints despite our falls and our sins. And we may be holy because for that reason our Lord Jesus came into the world, so no one who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.”
“Let us then turn to the multitudes of the Saints glorified today by the Church and let us ask them to elevate their prayers for us, sinners, that we may follow the holy Commandments of God and live along with our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom shall be glory into the ages of ages. Amen.”

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian explaining the content of his English homily. He also reminded the faithful of the beginning of St. Peter’s Fast dedicated to the works of the Holy Apostles.

 

Pentecost. Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

 

On June 16 of this year all Orthodox Christians celebrated Pentecost, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. Our St. George parish family had a beautiful celebration in our temple. The church was nicely adorned with greenery. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.

Following the reading from the Holy Gospel the Rector preached a homily in Russian. He addressed our Christian faith in the Most Holy Trinity, in One God in Three Persons. Such faith is important because it opens for us a way to salvation. Those who know that God is one may have a fear of God but such a fear is not that saving fear that is described in the Scripture. Such a fear is not caused by one’s love of God. That fear leads to despair. That kind of faith only in one God is seen among the Muslims. And they do not recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and God. They fear one God but are not able to approach Him, to be with Him. We Christians tremble before one God, but we also rejoice that we are united with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ who became Man for our salvation.
There are many other people who believe that God may be incarnate but they invent many other gods and see them in the whole world. They worship the forces of nature. These are different followers of the pagan cults, the ancient ones like Hindus and the new ones like various followers of the occult teachings, astrology and sorcery. They worship the spirits thinking that they serve the true gods. In fact, they worship the demons and do not know the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit. But we, Orthodox Christians, are blessed to know the Holy Spirit because by the Holy Spirit the world is alive and the Church of Christ exists.
That is why it is so important to know the true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit because our salvation depends on that. Thus it is a great blessing and happiness to be an Orthodox Christian and to know the true God one in the Holy Trinity.

The choir piously performed the hymns of the feast during the preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar server performed the rite of Glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast before the festal icon in the middle of the church. Then the Rector preached a short sermon in English stressing the main thoughts of his Russian homily. He also congratulated our men on the occasion of the Father’s Day. A traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was performed.

After the Liturgy the Rector served Pentecostal Vespers with kneeling prayers.

Following the services the Rector and parishioners continued their celebration of the feast at the trapeza table enjoying delicious food and a nice conversation.

 

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the I Ecumenical Council

 

On June 9, on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows::

“Dear brothers and sisters! On this Sunday following the Ascension of the Lord we celebrate the memory of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. We should remember that this was the first gathering of the Christian Bishops from the whole world. It took place in the 4th century. That Council adopted most of our Creed that we recite in our daily prayers and sing it during every Liturgy. Today we may wonder why those Ecumenical Councils gathered and what kind of gatherings they were.”
“We believe that the Head of the Holy Orthodox Church is Jesus Christ Himself. There is no other head. Our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior who came into the world, became Man, lived a human life, died on the cross, risen from the dead and ascended into heaven – He is the Head of His Body, the Church. Roman Catholics believe that the head of the Church is the Pope of Rome but we, Orthodox always remember that only Jesus Christ can be the Head of His Church. But since Christ sent His Apostles to preach to different nations, they went to various countries where they made the disciples different people. Thus today we know Orthodox Christians from many nations and from different ethnic background. Holy Apostles being enlightened by the Holy Spirit began to speak different languages and they also brought the grace to the nations they preached. And in each country which became Christian local communities of the believers, local Churches were established. Some of them became known as local independent, autocephalous Orthodox Churches.”
“There are 15 such local Orthodox Churches in the world: the Church of Constantinople, of Alexandria, of Antioch, of Jerusalem, our Russian Church, then Georgian, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian Churches, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Czech and Slovak Lands, the Church of Greece, Polish Church, Albanian Church, and the Church in America (OCA). All these Churches are independent and have their own hierarchy and their own first hierarchs – either Patriarchs, Metropolitans or Archbishops who head that local Church. We know that our Russian Church is headed by His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill. Orthodox Church in America is headed by Metropolitan Tikhon. They are the heads of the local Churches but the Head of the whole, Universal Church is Jesus Christ.”
“All these Churches hold the same holy Orthodox faith. They are independent in their administration and their internal life but they have the same faith, the same teaching. They all belong to the same Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church. And to define the truths of faith Universal Church called Ecumenical Councils. The decisions of those Councils are mandatory for all Orthodox people, for every local Orthodox Church. We believe that Ecumenical Councils are led by the Holy Spirit., and that their decisions are inspired by Him. If Catholics believe that the Pope of Rome is infallible when he preaches on faith or morals, we Orthodox believe that not a particular person but the whole Church is infallible, cannot make a mistake because the Holy Spirit would not let her to fall into an error.”
“There were 7 Ecumenical Councils in the history of the Church. At each of the Councils the Holy Fathers condemned certain false teachings called heresies. All the heresies of those times were condemned by those Councils and the true teaching of the Orthodoxy defined. After those Councils many new heresies emerged, and who knows, maybe there will be called a new Ecumenical Council to condemn them and to teach us again. Some attempts to prepare such a Council are being made.”
“Today we honor the Fathers of the First Council who despite the pressure from different powerful people and parties made right definitions of faith. Inspired by the Holy Spirit they declared the truth that our Lord Jesus Christ is true God, one in essence with God the Father.”
“Let us then glorify the Fathers of the First Council. Let us pray to them that despite various modern heresies we may be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ who established His Church on the earth strengthened by the holy hierarchs of the Councils. Let us give Him glory for the ages of ages!”

The choir beautifully performed the hymns of the feast of the Ascension and dedicated to the Holy Fathers of the First Council.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector congratulated our youngest parishioner, Elena Malyshev and her family on the occasion of her past name day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed.

Ascension of the Lord

 

On June 6 of this year the Orthodox Church celebrated great feast of the Ascension of the Lord. St. George parish had a nice celebration on this day. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy.

After the Gospel lesson the Rector preached a homily in Russian. He explained that Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven cannot be compared to the “ascension” of the first man into space in 1961. Our traveling by airplanes or flights into the outer space are only lifting upon the earth and in this earthly and visible world. Our Lord ascended into heaven meaning He passed over to the spiritual, invisible world, heaven which is the abode of God. The Son of God was there before His human birth and He returned there after accomplishing His mission of salvation.
The Lord also is waiting for us to join Him in heaven since all of us will have to leave this earthly world. Therefore, we need to prepare for that making all possible efforts to be worthy of heaven. We need to prefer heavenly, spiritual things and despise and avoid things which are inferior, passionate and sinful. Living in this inferior world does not mean adhere to all the passions and sins of this world. We do respect and follow certain laws and rules of the earthly life but we should avoid the evil things of this world.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar server performed the rite of Glorification in front of the festal icon singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast.

Following the service the Rector preached a short sermon in English to stress the main thoughts of his Russian homily and congratulated the parishioners on the occasion of the great feast.

Sunday of the Blind Man

 

On June 2, on the Sunday of the Blind Man, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:
“Today the Holy Church in the Gospel story is telling us about a miracle performed by our Lord Jesus Christ when He healed a man born blind. That man never had a sight; he was born blind and he had no eyes. And behold, the Lord performs a miracle which is inconceivable for men. How did it happen?”
“The Lord spat on the ground, made clay with the saliva; thus He made the new eyes for that man. Then He anointed the spots on the face of that man where the eyes should be and told him to go to a pool of Siloam and to wash (Jn. 9, 6-7). And behold, the man began to see. This should convince us that our Lord Jesus Christ offers us the way of salvation through the Church rituals, through the ceremonies in which we materially touch something holy. We kiss the holy icons and the cross, we also kiss the relics. We sprinkle ourselves with holy water. And we consume the Body and Blood of Christ under the species of bread and wine.”

“But there are many of false teachers who say that those rites and the use of materials are not needed. They teach that we should believe in God spiritually and to come to know Him spiritually. In this way they are playing with the words of Christ that we heard in the Gospel lesson of the past Sunday: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4, 24). But, firstly, worshiping God in spirit and truth does not contradict the use of the holy objects or materials. And secondly, the Lord Himself is giving us an example of the use of a material and of the bodily touch with such a material in today’s Gospel story.”
“Of course, God can do anything and He was able to heal the blind man by His word or command alone. But Christ is making clay and is anointing the eyes of that man. Thus He shows him His love, desiring to touch the sick. And He also shows us that if the man’s body is made of matter, it needs a material touch, it needs a material intervention, some kind of a “surgery”. In the very beginning of the Sacred Scripture, in the book of Genesis, we read that God “formed man from the dust of the ground” (Gen. 2, 7). Thus He created man from the matter, from the same elements of which the world consists, from the same molecules and atoms. And that earthly body of ours needs the God’s touch, and the Lord is showing us that.”
“And the Lord established His Holy Church on the earth, so through the Church Sacraments and rites we would touch the sacred or materially receive the Sacraments through different materials, and that we were aware that the Lord is with us and that His divine power is sanctifying both our soul and our body.”
“Sadly, not everyone understands that. But today we read in the Gospel that also in the times of Christ not everybody was understanding that. Today we heard that the Jews, especially the Pharisees, did the whole investigation of the healing. They summoned the healed blind man many times and kept asking him how it happened. They called his parents and interrogated them. Then they began to accuse Jesus for being a “sinful man”. Finally, they got into a fight with the healed man and chased him away. People who had the eyes turned out to be blind because they failed to see the Son of God in Jesus.”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we need a God’s blessing not only for our soul but for our body also. And if we understand that and believe in that, our soul won’t be blind as it was with soul of those Pharisees who performed an investigation of the healing.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The Holy Church enables us to have a spiritual sight and to receive the blessing of God. By its holy rites and Sacraments it often bodily touches us to convey its spiritual power, the divine grace. We were baptized by water, chrismated by the Holy Chrism, we are anointed by holy oil in the Mystery of Unction. And finally, we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. Without those things there is no Church life, no divine grace and no salvation. The Lord Himself comes to us in those holy rites in the same way as he touched the man born blind and healed him.”
“Let us then glorify the risen Christ who granted us eternal life. Let us follow the example of the healed blind man and worship the Lord Jesus (Jn. 9, 38). Let us worship Him always and remain faithful to Him, to His Holy Church and let us follow Him in our life on His way of salvation!”

The choir prayerfully performed Paschal Aposticha and hymns assigned to the Sunday of the Blind man and during the preparation for Holy Communion.

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

After the Liturgy we enjoyed some delicious food and a nice company at the coffee hour.