Holy and Great Wednesday


On April 28, on Holy and Great Wednesday, when the Church commemorates the betrayal of Judas, our Parish held a service of the last Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in this year. It was headed by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a homily about the significance of this day of the Holy Week. He reflected upon the motives which led Judas to betray Christ. These motives, unfortunately, are common to all humans. Among the 12 Apostles one became a traitor. All of us may betray the Lord but we are called to be like eleven other Apostles, not like Judas. We should also remember that Judas was not successful in his pursuit to have a good life. He became disappointed and even hanged himself out of despair. Such is the outcome of betraying God.
Another important thing to learn from the Great Wednesday is that time is precious. On this day and during this Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts we recite the Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian and make prostrations for the last time before Pascha. We are done with that prayer and the prostrations. The time of Lent had ended and will return only next year if we live until that time. Thus we should use the time appropriately and use it to save our souls.

Holy and Great Monday


Размышление в Святой и Великий Понедельник

В Страстной понедельник в назидание всем нам засохла безплодная смоковница.
Евангельское повествование о смоковнице говорит нам о том, что Господь, восходя в Иерусалим, увидел дерево, которое не имело плодов. И Господь проклял (то есть, лишил его животворящего благословения!) его и оно тотчас иссохло. Это повествование содержит послание к каждому из нас: если не принесем плоды добродетели, то мы подобны бесплодной смоковнице, и Божье слово строгого суда («проклятия») будет произнесено над нами.
У этого повествования о засохшей смоковнице есть и более глубокий смысл. Многие до сих пор её жалеют. А себя нам не жалко, — стоим в храмах, с виду как живые люди, но плодов жизни во Христе совершенно не имеем. Дело в том, что мы, по извращенной грехом природе своей, бесплодны. Мы, – как об пишет Достоевский в своих «Записках из подполья», – все мертворожденные, неспособные принести плод. Мы уже засохли и умерли, будучи живыми. Одни засохшие смоковницы вокруг. И ведь часто до гробовой доски такими остаёмся. Чтобы спасти нас, Господь наш Иисус Христос Сам становится «смоковницей» – Смоковницей цветущей, полной жизни и сил. Господь наш не должен был умирать, не должен был восходить на Крест, не должен был принимать на Себя библейское проклятие, относящееся к всякому, висящему на древе. Но Он сделал это. Так наше проклятие пришло на Его главу: Он стал для нас Смоковницей, чтобы мы смогли приобщиться Его животворящим страданиям и приносить в Нем (благодаря Ему и нашему соединению с Ним) плод воскресения.

Архиеп. ИОВ (Смакоуз)

Palm Sunday. Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem


On April 25, 2021 the Orthodox Church celebrated feast of the Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, also known as Palm Sunday. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed festal liturgical service in our parish.

After the reading of the Hours the Rector blessed the pussy-willows and distributed them to the parishioners who were holding them during the service resembling the people of Jerusalem who greeted Jesus Christ with the olive and palm branches during His triumphal entry to the city.

After the readings from the Scripture at the Divine Liturgy the Rector preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! There are different holy days in our Church calendar. Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. It is a tragic feast. It appears to be joyful and bright, it feels like a joyful occasion. And it was supposed to be. Today our Lord Jesus Christ entered the holy city of Jerusalem. The Messiah came to His capital city. The people greeted Him there, met Him with honor, paid Him homage. Jesus was greeted as a true king of Israel. One of the signs of such welcome was holding the palm and olive branches, the sign we are using to greet the Lord when we bless and pick up the pussy-willows. Despite that, this is a sad feast”.
“The tragedy of Palm Sunday lies in the fact that all this exciting welcome and all this triumphal entry into the city is based on a terrible misunderstanding. The Jews misunderstood Jesus. They expected Him to be a powerful political leader, an earthly ruler, a great liberator who would restore the kingdom of Israel, chase away the Romans and establish a perfect society on earth. Even His miracles were understood not as a manifestation of His divine power and nature, but as a proof of His earthly greatness. Our Lord resurrected Lazarus who had been dead for four days. Today’s Gospel reading mentions that this was the reason why people came to meet Him, “because they heard that He had done this sign” (Jn. 12, 18)”.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ was the true Messiah and Savior of the world. This is exactly why He was not an earthly leader. He was the Son of God who became the Son of Man in order to make us the sons of God. Somehow the Jewish leaders did not grasp it. Jesus disappointed them as an earthly king, so they crucified Him. Their excitement and joy of welcoming Him had changed to hatred and desire to put Him to death. The crowd who cried out, “Hosanna!” cried “Crucify Him!” This is why this feast is so tragic. It shows us how shallow, how superficial our human understanding can be. We may easily prefer unimportant things over God Himself. The Jews rejected Jesus, rejected God when He could not satisfy their earthly plans. More than that, they even killed Him”.
“In response to that Jesus said: “Behold, your house is left to you desolate” (Mt. 23, 38). That what happens when God is rejected. Our life becomes desolate; it becomes empty. For there is only one thing which may turn the wilderness of our life into a flowering garden, which would make our life complete, which would make the human society efficient – this one thing is the presence of the Living God who gives an eternal sense to all which is temporary. This is the same Living God who gives His life-giving force to the nature, so every spring we observe with awe and excitement how the branches of the trees become blooming and alive again, how the first flowers emerge after the cold winter. The pussy-willows we are holding today are also the sign of the Living God present in the nature”.
“Your house is left desolate”… The people were looking for earthly freedom, earthly victory, earthly power. They never found it, or if they did, it never lasted long. Only dust and ashes or the tombs were left after those who were looking for these things. Our Lord Jesus, on the contrary, did not use the power to rule, but His kingdom will have no end. He rose from the grave and lives forever. He offers us life everlasting if we allow Him to fill our lives”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! This is why today’s feast is so tragic. A great number of people is going to reject their true God. A small number is going to follow Him and receive what He had promised them: life, and life to the fullest. A great misunderstanding happened. For one kind of people their house becomes empty, yet others enter into the house of God and themselves become the temple of the Holy Spirit, the house of life”.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification before the festal icon. Then Fr. Igor greeted everybody on the occasion of the feast and preached a short sermon in Russian regarding the end of Lent and how did we spend that special time. He also reminded the parishioners about our service schedule for the Holy Week, Pascha and our Patronal feast of St. George.


Fifth Sunday of Lent


On April 18, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent our parishioners gathered for the liturgical celebration in our temple. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! We have come to the Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast. It is dedicated to commemoration of the Venerable mother Mary of Egypt, a holy woman who is an example of how a person can change his or her life. St. Mary of Egypt started her adult life as a harlot, a lose woman in the great city of Alexandria in Egypt. But some day when she happened to come to visit Jerusalem, she experienced a strange feeling: some unknown force prevented her from entering the holy church. Mary understood that it happened because of her sinfulness, she converted, she turned her life around. The rest of it she spent in the desert, living in the wilderness, repenting her sins. For many years no one knew about her. Only some time before her death she met a priest-monk whose name was Zosimas. He was astonished seeing such a great ascetic. He first was not able to recognize what kind of being she was – a human or some ghost. Then he was amazed by her life and ascetic endeavors. St. Mary asked him to meet her again in one year and to bring her Holy Communion. They met again and Zosimas gave her Communion. Soon after that Mary fell asleep in the Lord and a year after Zosimas discovered her uncorrupted body. Many times we can hear that people don’t change. Venerable Mary of Egypt is a perfect example of how the human life may be changed in Christ, with the assistance of God’s grace. Being a harlot, leading a licentious life, Mary changed and spent the rest of her years in repentance, in a very simple way of life, in constant prayer and fasting. She is also a reminder that there is no sin that cannot be cleansed by sincere repentance”.
“Today’s Gospel reading tells us about our Lord Jesus Christ predicting His holy Passions and death. In this way on this Sunday we should be prepared to spiritually revive the events of the sufferings of our Savior. We also heard that two of His disciples, James and John, asked their Master for a favor. They wanted to be given the honorable places, the important positions in the Kingdom of heaven. Our Lord pointed out to them that their attitude is wrong. He said that in His Kingdom, in order to be great one must be serving others, and whoever desires to be first should be a slave of all (Mk. 10, 43-44). In other words, our Lord proclaims some different social order according to which greatness and leadership consists of serving. Again, we hear some interesting, maybe surprising things. Holy Gospel is full of such surprises. When we read it we learn that a publican becomes justified, a prodigal son becomes forgiven, a harlot gets the remission of sins. Whoever humbles himself will be exalted, and the last will be first”.
“Behold, I make all things new” – said the Lord (Rev. 21, 5). This is why His teaching is called the New Testament. And according to the New Testament God becomes united with humanity, redeems it. He becomes the Son of Man who comes “to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10, 45). In this new reality of salvation the sick are healed, the blind see, the lepers are being cleansed, the dead rise. And the sinners are being forgiven. St. Mary of Egypt after being also very sinful becomes not only forgiven but blessed with holiness for her sincere repentance and reformed life”.
“Today’s Sunday should teach us to be the right followers of the New Testament, the disciples of Christ who expect to enter into His Kingdom and to take the places which God prepared for us. In order to be worthy of those places, let us serve one another. And if we stumble, make mistakes or commit sins, let us remember that it is not desperate. Any person is able to change his or her life. If we sincerely repent and turn away from those sins, as holy Mary of Egypt did, God will forgive all of them and will bless us, bestow upon us His grace and will invite us to His Kingdom giving us the honorable and desirable places in the eternity”.

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 penitent hymns during the preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made the announcements about the future celebrations of the Holy Week and Pascha and regarding the importance to receive the Holy Mysteries of Penance and Eucharist in these special days of Lent.

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 April 11, 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. After the Scripture readings he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Sunday continues to lead us in our spiritual journey of the Great Fast. Today the Church wishes us to commemorate Holy Father John Climacus, or John of the Ladder, a holy monk who lived in the monastery on Mt. Sinai and became an author of the book called “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”. This book is known as a guide for spiritual life. And today’s reading from the holy Gospel of Mark is telling us what is important for the life to be spiritual. The important thing is to have faith. Faith helps people to acquire many gifts. Today’s Gospel tells that faith helped a father of a young man possessed by a demon. Due to his father’s faith, he was made whole by our Lord Jesus Christ”.
“Lack of faith becomes the reason for many troubles in the world. People who have a very shaky and small faith are easy to be drawn away from the right perception of everything around them. This is why we have so many problems in the society, so much immorality in the conduct of the people. I have recently read that in India a man whose wife died, decided to marry a rat because he believed that his wife’s soul was in that animal. These people there are not Christian and believe in many idols. Therefore, due to their wrong perception of spiritual world they may do such odd things. But this country, America, had been founded by Christians. They were not Orthodox but they did believe in Christ and read their Bible. And what happened to that country? Nowadays the American people are lacking faith and therefore, they are not having a right view of many things. We are now told that we can marry a person of the same sex. We are told that a child can change his or her sex. I suspect that in the near future we will be told that a person can marry an animal. And this is not really surprising because the statistics says that now less than 50% of the American people belong to some church or denomination. More than a half of the population has no strong ties with any religion. It happened in this 21st century although before, in the 20th century, about 70% of the Americans did belong to some denomination. Thus the problems and immorality in the society are caused by the lack of faith which is now so widespread”.
“The world populated with people having insufficient faith resembles a chaos. People suffer in that world because they lack faith. This is why our Lord Jesus is shown losing His temper in today’s Gospel and exclaiming: “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?”(Mk. 9, 19). And when faith is lacking, the people and the world becomes driven by the evil forces, because they have no difficulty to overcome them. The example of the young man possessed by such evil force in today’s Gospel has to show us what may happen to the people lacking faith and not living a spiritual life. They may become prisoners of evil and have no possibility to free themselves”.
“On the other hand, if people have faith, all things become possible. God’s power is being then released through peoples’ faith. And our Lord seeks to elicit such faith from us, as He was seeking to find it in the father of the possessed young man. We read that the father was not certain about his faith in Jesus. He pleaded with the Lord: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”(Mk. 9, 24). What was that? It is a faith, but faith seeking God’s help. The presence of a doubt does not mean the absence of faith. Christ honors whatever faith we have, as long as it is sincere. He then will increase our faith when we sincerely desire Him to do so”.
“The two essential expressions of faith are prayer and fasting. Our Lord stresses today that the evil force may not be driven away without them. Remember, two weeks ago we were talking about four friends who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus? We said that prayer, fasting, repentance and participation in the life of the Church are those friends bringing us to the Lord. Today we have to repeat it again saying that prayer and fasting are our first friends to help us, to make us whole, to bring us to the Lord and to protect us against the evil”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us practice prayer, endure in fasting and thus drive away our enemies and get closer to our Lord Jesus Christ whose saving Passions we are now anticipate to celebrate. Let us cherish and hold our faith, so we could not be called “faithless generation”. Let us rather understand that our faith may not be great, but let us sincerely ask the Lord to increase it through His divine grace. Let us exclaim with the father of the young man: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” Then He will help and make our faith strong and making wonders. And thus, let us persist in our spiritual journey toward His Holy Resurrection”.

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 sang hymns in honor of Venerable John of the Ladder and the Psalm 33 during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector preached a short sermon about the past feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God and made some announcements.

Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross


On April 4, on the Third Sunday of Lent we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. On that Sunday the Orthodox Church venerates the Holy Cross.

Before the reading of the Hours the Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov solemnly transferred decorated cross from the altar to the middle of the church and placed it on the stand.

Following the Hours the Rector served the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On the Third Sunday of Lent when we are in the middle of our spiritual journey towards the holy Resurrection, the Church gives us an opportunity to venerate the holy Cross. The tree of the Cross stands on our way now in order to give us some rest, some comfort, some encouragement for our pilgrimage to the Holy Pascha”.
“The tree of the Cross reminds us that our Lord Jesus Christ offered a perfect sacrifice for us when He died on that holy tree. It tells us that He redeemed us, substituted for us in the punishment He underwent instead of us. He accomplished our salvation for us. We do not have to do anything about it. Our Lord did everything for us. St. Paul talks about that in today’s Epistle lesson calling Christ the High Priest “who has passed through the heavens (Hebr. 4, 14).  As the high priest who offered sacrifice for the people, Jesus offered a highest sacrifice being the Son of God. But if a high priest could do it entering the holy place in the temple, Jesus could offer it passing through heaven, being the Son of God. That makes such sacrifice the highest possible. This is a great comfort and consolation in all the troubles we may encounter in our lives. This is why St. Paul goes on saying: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need” (Hebr. 14, 6). Thus, the big part is done: we are saved. It is now time for us to do our part which is much smaller”.
“Today’s Gospel lesson tells us about our part. It consists of denying our very self, taking up the cross and following Jesus. We may say that it does not appear to be a “small” thing to do. And it is not. But it is much smaller than what the Lord Himself accomplished for us. He redeemed the whole world. We are called to finish, to confirm it for ourselves only. At this point we may be frightened by the words such as ‘denial’, ‘taking up the cross’ and so on. But let us think about them”.
“‘Denying himself’ does not mean that a man must renounce to be himself. We are not called to refuse to be who we are. But we are expected to reject the things which are transitory, unnecessary and pertaining only to this world. These are the things we will lose anyway when we will pass to the eternal life. Especially we need to reject passions, sins and wrong inclinations. Since those things very often become our nature, the Lord uses the expression “denial of himself”. We must refuse to follow what is wrong in our nature, to renounce it”.
“‘Taking up the cross’ means to do what we are doing anyway. Our earthly life is carrying a cross. Everyone has his own cross to carry. We may carry it in a lousy way or we may carry it with dignity. Jesus wishes us to carry our crosses with dignity. It means to accept the cross, to endure and to be obedient to the will of God. Again, the holy Cross of Jesus should be a great comfort for us while we are carrying our own crosses. We should remember and understand that His Cross was much heavier than ours and much harder to carry. It had a weight of all our sins. We carry only our own”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us take a rest under the holy tree of the Cross, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, let us obtain help from our merciful Lord Jesus Christ and let us continue our journey denying ourselves, taking up the cross and following Jesus. Let us follow Him into the eternity”.

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 dedicated to the Holy Cross during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy Fr. Igor made some announcements and greeted Paraskeva Kosmidis on the occasion of her birthday presenting her with a bouquet of flowers and proclaiming a Polychronion on her behalf.

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.

After our services the Rector and parishioners enjoyed a lenten luncheon generously prepared by Paraskeva Kosmidis who celebrated her birthday.