4th Sunday after Pentecost. Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

 

On July 14, on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. On that day we also observed feast of the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul which was transferred to Sunday. Service was well-attended. In addition to our parishioners, several Merchant Marine Academy cadets came and prayed at our Liturgy.

After the readings from the Sacred Scripture the Rector preached the following homily I English:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today is the 4th Sunday after Pentecost and we also celebrate feast of the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul.”
“Our Sunday Gospel lesson is telling us about a healing of the servant of the Roman centurion performed by our Lord Jesus Christ from the distance. The centurion was a Roman officer under whose command there were one hundred soldiers. It is interesting that today we have representatives of the military present at our church. We welcome them and we are glad that they came on this Sunday when we read the Gospel about a military man, a centurion. He approached the Lord and beseeched Him to cure his servant who was lying at home dreadfully tormented. Jesus agreed to come and to heal him. But the centurion was a Gentile, a pagan, so he considered himself unworthy for Christ to enter into his home. Thus he said to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Mt. 8, 8). These words impressed Jesus and He said that He found no such faith in Israel. The Lord also prophesied that other nations, the Gentiles will come to God and will take the seats along with Jewish Patriarchs of old while many present Jews will be cast out (Mt. 8, 10-12).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The centurion from today’s Gospel is a great example of firm faith and trust in the power of the Lord. It is also an example of humility, a humble attitude of being unworthy before God. All these beautiful virtues can be found in the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul whom we honor today.”
“Our second Gospel lesson today tells us how Holy Apostle Peter expressed his very firm faith in the Lord Jesus calling Him “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt. 16, 16). Jesus was also impressed by that faith and called Peter the Rock on which He will build His Church (Mt. 16, 17-18). But Peter had also a trust and a humble attitude. He trusted heavenly revelation and humbly accepted what heavenly Teacher instilled in his heart, and when he was asked, he professed that truth. Every learning begins with humility and trust in the teacher. Same with the knowledge of spiritual and divine matters. His humility, his trust made Simon Peter “the Rock” on whom the Lord desired to build His Holy Church.”
“Holy Apostle Paul, at first, was not one of the Disciples of Christ. He was an enemy of Christ, a persecutor of Christians. But the Lord appeared to him in a shining light and revealed that He is Christ whom he is persecuting. And Paul humbly followed where Christ was leading him. He also had humility and trust that the One who appeared to him is the Lord and God. And Paul persevered in many labors, sufferings, sorrows and perils. In today’s Epistle lesson we heard how he himself testifies that he suffered more than all other Apostles (2 Cor. 11, 23-32). But Paul did not praise himself for that. On the contrary, he preferred to boast in the things which concern his infirmity. And willing to tell about the revelation he received, he says that it is not profitable for him to boast. But he speaks about himself in the third person: “I know a man in Christ… such a one was caught up to the third heaven… he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. 12, 2-3). St. Paul had such a revelation, he was caught to heaven, but he does not want to boast, to exult himself.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The power and holiness of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul is in such humility. They humbly follow their Teacher and they do not praise themselves for being close to Him. They teach nothing from themselves but only what Christ entrusted them to teach. Holy Apostle Peter even asked to be crucified upside down because he felt to be unworthy to be crucified like Christ. Holy Apostle Paul also repented all his life for being a persecutor of Christ. In his Epistle he called himself a “one born out of due time”, “the least of the Apostles, not worthy to be called an Apostle” (1 Cor. 15, 8-9). He wrote that all his success and miracles he witnessed and made were due to the grace of God, not to his own merits.”
“And because of their faith, trust and humility, Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul are the teachers of the universe, our guides to Christ and to His heavenly Kingdom. We know that usually good students become later good teachers. And good students are those who believe and trust their teacher and humbly receive the knowledge offered to them. Let us remember that the gates of hell won’t prevail not only against the Holy Church built on the rock of true faith of the Apostles, but those terrifying gates will not prevail against us if we will be in the Church, and if we will have faith, trust and humility of the Holy Apostles. Let us then follow Christ with a firm faith, trust and humility as the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul did!”

The choir nicely performed hymns in honor of St. Peter and Paul during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector performed the rite of glorification in the middle of the temple singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Holy Major Apostles. He also preached a short sermon in Russian stressing the main ideas of his English homily.

Our celebration continued after the service at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious and abundant meals and a nice company.

3rd Sunday after Pentecost. Nativity of St. John the Baptist

 

On July 7, on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, our St. George parish community had a beautiful celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel readings he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost and great feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.”
“The first Gospel lesson tells us how our Lord Jesus Christ Himself teaches us to set our priorities in life. He says to care first about our soul, about eternal and spiritual things. “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6, 31-33). Thus the Gospel tells us to put spiritual things first. It further teaches us to do our best and then leave the rest to God, to trust in God. Modern life, on the other hand, tells us to constantly worry, to be stressed. Such a worry only causes depression, for it excludes God and His loving Providence. On the other hand, there is nothing inevitable in the life of those who believe in Divine Providence. Even the most terrible situations can end up positively if we let God into our lives and societies. If we include God then we can exclude worry and depression.”
“The model presented in today’s Gospel had been fulfilled by those who devoted all their lives to God and spiritual endeavors. The ascetics, mostly the monks and nuns chose a difficult but spiritually rewarding path of abstinence and renunciation of the worldly things. They elected a life without worries of this world. And one of the examples of such life was Holy Forerunner and Baptist John whose Nativity we celebrate today.”
“Today’s second Gospel lesson that tells us a story of St. John the Baptist’s birth, also mentions that “the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Lk. 1, 80). Thus St. John lived in the deserts, not in the world. He led a monastic kind of life. Therefore, his life is an example for those who follow the advices of the Lord to renounce everything and to follow Him. In the Church St. John the Baptist is called “an earthly angel” and “a heavenly man”. This is why on his icons he is shown sometimes as having wings. These are not, of course, physical wings; they are the spiritual wings of one who prays unceasingly, which is the task of all, but especially of those in the monastic life.”
“St. John, being the Forerunner of Christ is also called a star compared to Christ who is the Sun of Righteousness. Our Lord Himself called him the greatest one. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Mt. 11, 11). We may wander and ask whether Jesus called St. John greater than Himself. But we have to listen carefully to the words of Christ: He says “born of women” while Jesus was born of a Virgin, not of the woman while St. John’s birth was from a woman. Although it was special and extraordinary, it was humanly natural.”
“The Holy Baptist stands at the very end of the Old Testament, but also at the very beginning of the New Testament. That is why he appears at the beginning of the Gospels. He opens up a new way and answers in a new way the old question which people have posed from ancient times. John the Baptist who never married, who remained a virgin, who prophesized, tells us that the purpose of life is to be spiritually fruitful. This is his prophetic revelation to us. Whether we are called to marriage and having children or not, we are called to bring forth spiritual fruit, to improve the world and not to worsen it, to be fruitful, and not to be barren, as his parents had been. But his parents were barren physically until the Lord blessed them with a child while all of us are called not to be barren spiritually.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Being inspired by today’s two readings from the Holy Gospel, let us seek what are really and truly important – spiritual and eternal things. Let us trust God that He in His Divine Providence will provide for all our needs. Let us also honor and imitate Holy Forerunner and Baptist John. No matter whether we live a married or single, worldly or monastic life, we should bear a spiritual fruit and thus be blessed by the Lord through the prayers of His Holy Forerunner and Baptist John.”

The choir prayerfully performed hymns in honor of St. John the Baptist and his Nativity during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon in English addressing the main ideas of his Russian homily. He also made some announcements regarding the following Sunday celebration.

Deanery Meeting of the Eastern States Clergy

 

On Saturday, June 29, the Eastern States Deanery clergy gathered in Saint John the Baptist parish in Little Falls, NJ to hold a Deanery meeting. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov attended that meeting.

At the beginning, the clergy welcomed two newly-ordained clerics of the Deanery – Priest Nicholas DeGraaff, who was ordained on the feast of Saint Nicholas in 2018 and serves at the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ, and Deacon Artemy Kulikovsky, who was ordained on Bright Saturday in 2019, and serves at the Church of All Saints, Pine Bush, NY. 

The clergy also talked about the current situation in their respective parishes. In general, our parishes are hurting from low attendance and participation at the Divine services and events (some more than others), but everyone remains committed to doing their best with what they have – be it leading their communities in worship, educating them, or being present in the greater communities. 

To conclude the meeting, St. George’s Rector and Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, updated everyone on the upcoming Convocation of the Patriarchal Parishes to be held in Antiochian Village September 30 – Oct. 3, 2019 reminding that registrations have to be submitted by September 7.