Sunday after the Nativity

 

On January 10, on the Sunday after the Nativity, 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 the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! This Sunday after the Nativity is dedicated to St. Joseph, the Sponsor of the Holy Family, and to King David and holy Apostle James the Brother of the Lord. We know from the Gospel of today that when the joy of the Birth of Christ was over, when the wise men departed, the angels returned to heaven and shepherds left the cave, righteous Joseph had to begin his work of protecting the Holy Family. For him, as well as for the Blessed Mother of God, the miracle of Christmas ended and a hard and dangerous life began”.
“For many of us it is a similar feeling when Christmas is over. The holy days ended, and we have to think about our daily life. Some people rush to take off the decorations, especially after the New Year’s Day. Although our tradition leads us to the other two winter holy days (St. Basil’s and Theophany), we feel like something big is already finished. The radiant days of celebration have passed and the gray and boring time of our daily cares approaches again. Now it is very important not to lose the spirit of Christmas. Again, our beautiful and holy tradition helps us with that. It prolongs our celebration with two more holy days. It tells us to keep the decorations and the tree until after the Theophany or, as done in some local traditions, until February. But more important is to keep Christmas within our hearts, to be aware of the fact that “the Child was born to us, the Son is given to us” (Is. 9, 6) and God is with us. We have to remember that “for our sake the Young Child is born, God before ages”. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt within us (Jn. 1, 14). If God is with us, no one will overcome us”.
“God will give us the power to conquer all evil in our daily life. Our everyday existence seems to be a constant fight for survival. But it was the same for the little Infant Jesus. He had to flee to Egypt, flee for His life. He had to stay there for some time, to be a refugee, a foreigner. Even when He could come back to His homeland, He had to avoid coming to Judea where the son of Herod was ruling, but went to Nazareth in Galilee. We say He did, the Child Jesus, but we know that all this was done by His Sponsor and protector, holy and righteous Joseph who was the head of that household. St. Joseph did a great job protecting Christ; he literally saved the Savior of the world. Despite all the difficulties and dangers of the evil world around him, Joseph, being helped by the grace of the Lord and assisted by the angels, could accomplish his task of preserving Jesus for the human kind”.
“Following actual Christmas celebration we are having a similar task. We have to preserve faith in Jesus, the real spirit of His Birth for ourselves and for the other people, even for the generations to come. St. Paul says in today’s Epistle: “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace to reveal His Son to me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles” (Gal. 1, 15-16). God’s grace calls us to preach Jesus among other people by our life and actions. This will make us the protectors of faith, similar to St. Joseph. Let us imitate holy Joseph in his humble readiness to obey the will of God, in his bravery before the misfortunes of life and in his caring and loving protection of the precious gift he was entrusted – the Holy Infant Jesus and the Blessed Mother of God. Let us practice this kind of attitude in our daily life, so this life will become a joyful continuation of the miracle of Christmas”.

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, the Rector had a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.

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

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

Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas

 

On January 7 the Russian Orthodox Church observes feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, also known as Christmas. Our St. George Church had a nice celebration of that holy day. Our parishioners as well as some visitors came to the temple to participate in the services, however due to the pandemic we did not have so many people attending.

On January 6, on Christmas Eve, our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the All-Night Vigil. That service consists of the Great Compline, Matins and the First Hour. On Christmas day, January 7, our Rector served the Divine Liturgy. Since Our Sacristan and altar server, Andrew Malyshev, was sick and could not come for the services, Emilian Suric was blessed by the Rector to substitute and to serve in the altar.

Following the Gospel lesson the Rector proclaimed the Christmas Sermon of Venerable Isaac the Syrian.

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, the Rector had a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.

During the preparation for Holy Communion at the Liturgy the choir beautifully performed different liturgical hymns of the Nativity.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar server performed the rite of glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Nativity before the festal icon in the middle of the church. Then the Rector greeted the faithful on the occasion of the great holy day of the birth of the Son of God. He preached a sermon in Russian pointing out that we usually look for some comfort in this life. There is no other true comfort than our Lord and God. The recent tumultuous times showed that everything in this world is uncertain, thus the people were looking for some consolation and moral support. However, they are mistaken if they wish to find those in other things than God. Recalling the Nativity of Christ we may also think that the event of the Birth of the Savior was far from being certain and comfortable. Jesus was born in a cave, not in a royal palace, not even in his home. Not so many people knew and cared about His Birth. Right after that His life was threatened. But this was the coming of the Lord into this world and it made a huge difference in our lives because this was the coming of the Savior. God entered into our life; God in Whom only we have comfort. We, as His children, have to fulfill His will and serve Him. The wise men, the shepherds, St. Joseph and Mary – all served Him in their own way. On the other hand, king Herod was troubled by His Birth fearing that this small Child could deprive him of his kingdom. Herod who was a ruler over a small piece of land, over a quarter of the Holy Land, trembled because he was afraid to lose his little domain. Thus Herod became an enemy of Christ. Even Augustus, the Roman emperor, served the Lord’s Providence by ordering a census. Because of that order St. Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem where Jesus had to be born. That place of birth was important to fulfill the prophecies. Thus even not knowing about Christ, Ceasar Augustus served Him while a small ruler Herod opposed Him. The Rector concluded his sermon by saying that seeing different reactions from the people, we should put our trust in God and serve Him in our own way.

After the Rector’s sermon the parish Warden, Olga Roussanow had a speech in which she congratulated Archpriest Igor Tarasov on the occasion of his 31st Anniversary of priestly ordination. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) to Fr. Igor was proclaimed.

Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where a tasty luncheon was prepared by our parishioners. Everybody enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company.

Sunday before the Nativity

 

On January 3, on the Sunday before the Nativity, our community had a nice celebration at St. George Church.  Since it was already a time of the Prefeast of the Nativity, the temple was adorned for the anticipated holy day. Our parish Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Sunday before the Nativity in some way duplicates the previous Sunday, dedicated to the Holy Forefathers. The Holy Fathers whom we honor today are the blood relatives of our Lord Jesus Christ. But we sing again the troparia and kontakia of the Ancestors and commemorate the Old Testament Saints. Today’s Epistle lesson enumerates many heroes of the Old Testament telling us that all their achievements were due to their faith. Thus faith becomes a very important theme of today’s celebration of the anticipation of the Birth of Christ”.
“If we reflect upon the last passages of today’s Gospel reading, we may notice that faith was very crucial for St. Joseph when he had his doubts about the Virgin Mary being pregnant. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Joseph and Mary were betrothed, but before they came together, Mary was found with the child of the Holy Spirit. We may easily imagine what kind of thoughts crossed the mind of Joseph. The words from the Akathistos of the Annunciation calls his feelings “the inner storm of doubtful thoughts”.  He was thinking that Mary deceived him although She was raised in the Temple of Jerusalem. But the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and revealed that Mary conceived from the Holy Spirit, and that Her Son will be called Jesus, which means the Savior. Thus Joseph was instructed that Mary is a holy Virgin and She will bear the Son of God. Although the way of revealing this to Joseph was very adequate for the divine Revelation (it was told him in a dream), he needed a strong faith to believe in that. We learn from the Gospel that St. Joseph not only believed in the Most Holy Virgin Mary and Her mission, he also acted in accordance with that belief serving and protecting the Most Holy Mother of God and the Child Jesus. This was the same kind of belief the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets and other heroes of faith had”.
”Same faith has to be imitated by the generations of the New Testament followers of Christ. The Birth of Christ teaches us to believe in things which are very hard to accept using only our human mind. It tells us that our Lord was born from the Mother without human father. It tells us that He was the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. It tells us that His Mother was a Virgin. She was a Virgin before His Birth, She was a Virgin during His Birth, and She remained a Virgin after His Birth. Virginal conception and permanent virginity of Mary are the truths of Christian faith. Our mind has difficulties with comprehending that. But we always have difficulties with comprehending God. His being and nature are ineffable. Same with the events of the Nativity”.
“For the Son of God to become man He had to unite Himself bodily with our nature, to be born from a human mother. But that could not be any woman. Divine Providence elected a representative of the Jewish nation, an heir of David, an immaculate Virgin. She became a living Tabernacle in which the very God had His place. Therefore, that person could not be a common woman living according to the corrupted human nature. She had to be without sin, an immaculate ever-Virgin. Thus, the virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God can be explained, but it is still a truth which is difficult to understand. We need faith, a strong faith”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us cherish our faith and act upon it to make things impossible possible, to accept the miracle of the Birth of Christ and to be saved by Him”.

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, the Rector proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.

The choir prayerfully performed the singing of the Psalm 33 during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector expressed his gratitude to the parishioners who prepared the temple for Christmas holy days, including the Malyshev family who provided the new artificial Christmas tree, as well as Olga Vnukova and Olga Roussanow who cleaned the items in the temple and decorated the interior. Fr. Igor also greeted everybody on the civil New Year and stressed the importance of keeping the true faith and the right Christian values when we begin the new period of time in our lives and spiritually expect the Birth of the Lord.