On September 12, on the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, St. George Parish held a nice celebration. In addition to the Sunday observance we celebrated feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist that had been transferred to that day. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the readings from the Scripture he preached the following homily in English:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as we observe feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist transferred to Sunday”.
“Today’s first reading from the Holy Gospel deals with a very important question, about everlasting life. The young man presented such a question to our Lord Jesus Christ saying: “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Mt. 19, 16). The young man did not doubt that eternal life exists, but he wanted to know how to enter into it”.
“Answering his question, our Lord reminded him of the Commandments. He said that in order to enter into eternal life, one must keep them. He enumerated certain Commandments pertaining to the love of the neighbor. Jesus did it to stress that loving or pleasing God is impossible without loving our neighbors”.
“We should also be confronted with that very important question: “What shall we do to have eternal life?” It is known that our life here on earth will end. We will have to leave this world. But our holy faith tells us that after our earthly existence we will enter into everlasting life. Faith also tells us that everlasting life will become eternal blessing and happiness for one and eternal punishment and torment for the others. Therefore, when the young man was asking about “having eternal life”, he wished to know how to acquire everlasting happiness. We should also reflect upon that question”.
“This earthly life is a brief moment in comparison with the eternity that is waiting for us. Therefore, this life has to become our preparation for the life everlasting. Again, Jesus reminds us of the Commandments of God given to the people through Moses. Keeping them we may rightly prepare for the eternity”.
“Today we commemorate the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. The second Gospel lesson was telling us about that terrible event (Mk. 6, 14-3). It was about murder, about breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Executing St. John was an unjust and deceptive murder of a righteous man. And it was also about adultery, about breaking of another Commandment. King Herod took the wife of his living brother Philip and married her committing adultery. Both Herod and Herodias lived in that sin”.
“St. John the Baptist was living a life that sought perfection. If the young man from the first Gospel lesson could not give up his possessions and follow the Lord, Holy Forerunner John could and did. He lived a holy life in the wilderness not possessing any wealth but trying to serve the Lord. As a part of such service was to be a Prophet, to tell the people about God’s will. Thus St. John was bold to say to King Herod that he is breaking the law by marrying his bother’s wife. And we heard from the Gospel that Herod was not happy with the words of St. John but did not dare to commit a murder. However, his unlawful wife, Herodias found a way to procure the murder of the Holy Prophet. The Gospel tells us how she acted using her daughter Salome. Our festal kontakion says about Herodias that “she did not love the law of God, nor the eternal age, but preferred the delusive, the temporary one”. Herodias preferred a brief moment of this earthly life instead of having life everlasting. She preferred this delusive age living in a sinful pleasure. In that earthly life she had a glimpse of sinful delight, of vicious happiness and triumph over the just man. But it did not last long. Even her earthly life was not so happy. Herod, being a subject to the Roman emperor, was swept of his authority and exiled to Europe. Herodias and her daughter Salome followed him. In Europe, in today’s France, they experienced a cold winter. Once Salome was crossing the river over the ice and she fell through it. Her neck became trapped in ice. She was dangling her legs under the water, she was dancing in the icy river. Then her neck was cut by the ice and her head remained on the surface while her body was drowned and was never found. Her head then was brought to her mother on the plate, the same way as she once brought the head of the Holy Forerunner. Herod and Herodias died later being fallen into the ground”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us see how deceptive is sin and how delusive is this earthly life! Again, it has to be spent in preparation for life eternal, for the everlasting age which was loved by the just man, St. John but not preferred by sinful Herod and Herodias. They died and perished shamefully. On the other hand, the righteous man, St. John by keeping the Commandments and even going further than that – by his life of perfection – inherited eternal life in the Kingdom of God”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Keeping of the Commandments leads to eternal life. Their breaking leads to eternal punishment. The young man said to Jesus that he kept all of them. But, in fact, he was not perfect in doing so. He was attached to his wealth and he left Jesus in sorrow when he heard that he should sell everything and give it to the poor. His riches became his passion that precluded him from acquiring eternal life. Same happens with many of us because we have our weaknesses, our passions that preclude us from being saved. It is not easy to acquire salvation. But Jesus assured us that with God everything is possible, so a rich man may enter into eternal life if he trusts God and serves Him. A sinful man may enter into eternal life if he is asking God’s help”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us keep the Commandments, and let us do so with God’s help, acquiring His grace, let us pray to the Holy Forerunner and Baptist John to help us also, so by his righteous prayers we would enter the life everlasting!”
During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, Fr. Igor proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease.
During preparation for Holy Communion the choir nicely performed the hymns of the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist.
After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers performed glorification in the middle of the church singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the feast before the icon stand.
Following that he Rector congratulated Alexander Bezkrovny on his name day, as well as Moses Dunetz on his past name day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed and the Theotokian prosphora was divided among those two parishioners. The Rector also made some announcements, especially regarding the Bible study which started in our parish and is planned to be held every Saturday.
After the liturgical service the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the trapeza table.