Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. Feast of the 5 Martyrs


On December 26, on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, as well as feast of the 5 Martyrs, we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. 

Following the reading from the Holy Gospel Fr. Igor preached a homily. He addressed the celebration of the Holy Forefathers, the ancestors of our faith in the Old Testament times; and he mentioned today’s Gospel lesson telling a parable of a man who invited many guests for his great supper. The Rector pointed out that the main idea of that Gospel reading is that “many are called but few are chosen” (Lk. 14, 24).
God the Creator called all humanity to be in HIs Kingdom. However, the very first humans, Adam and Eve, who were invited to eternal blessedness, dosobeyed God and were not able to stay in paradise. Therefore, the mankind was expecting the promised Messiah to come and to redeem the human race. He did come, our Lord Jesus Christ, becoming the New Adam, being born of the Virgin who became the New Eve. Before that coming God also called the people to serve Him but not many were chosen to accept that invitation. Only certain righteous persons were whom we honor as the Holy Forefathers, the Saints of the Old Testament.
Fr. Igor further reminded parishioners that we are holding the Bible Study meetings every Saturday to learn the truths of the Sacred Scripture (now we posed the meetings for Christmas break). At this point we are reviewing the Old Testament and already spoke about some of those Holy Forefathers. The Rector encouraged the people yo attend those study meetings to study the Bible and understand it.
Reading the Old Testament we may notice that first God chose certain just persons to serve Him in a special way but then those persons did accept God’s invitation. In that way they became chosen. Noah, Abraham, Moses and other holy men – all of them did say “yes” to God’s call. Thus they were becoming those few chosen among many who were called. Although these hole people “did not receive the promise” (Hebr. 11, 38) – they did not see Christ being born – they became worthy of His Kingdom.
In the similar way, the Holy 5 Martyrs whom we celebrate on December 26, the Christian era Saints, the holy people of the New Testament, became chosen because they answered God’s invitation. There were many people in the region of Cappadocia in the 3th century; they were even a number of Christians there. But only those 5 men became the Martyrs for Christ. They did not conspire to suffer together. But one by one, seeing the boldness of each other, they were coming forward and confessing Christ. Only them became chosen in that particular time and in that particular locality. 
The Rector concluded his homily by calling the faithful to look at the examples of the holy people of both Old and New Testament and to accept the God’s invitation to join Him in His Kingdom.

Since our Choir Director, Olga Roussanow was sick, and some other choir singers did not appear, the singing was mostly done by the singer Olga Vnukova. She prayerfully performed the hymns from the Nativity Canon during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made some announcements and encouraged the parishioners to participate in service of the Liturgy by singing at least of some parts, like the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

Christmas Break for the Bible Study

Dear Parishioners and Friends!

Please, be advised that we won’t have our Bible Study meetings from December 25 to January 21 due to the Christmas holiday break.
Our next meeting will be held on Saturday, January 22.

26th Sunday after Pentecost. Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker


On December 19, on the 26th Sunday after Pentecost, feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, St. George Parish family gathered for a beautiful celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate 26th Sunday after Pentecost, as well as feast of the Holy Father Nicholas the Wonderworker”.
“Our first Gospel reading is about gratefulness. Among the ten lepers cured by our Lord Jesus Christ, only one came back to the Savior to give Him thanks (Lk. 17, 12-19). The other nine people healed from a terrible disease did not return to show their appreciation”.
“That story makes us wonder how corrupt and bad our human nature is. And we are not really surprised by what happened in the Gospel reading. We know from our life experience that such things happen. Our lack of being grateful takes place when we do not really appreciate good things that we have. We do not appreciate God’s blessings. Or we take them for granted. Celebrating St. Nicholas day, we may recall that in many Orthodox countries children are expecting presents from St. Nicholas. And the parents before that day keep telling their kids that they should be nice, obedient and kind, otherwise St. Nicholas won’t bring them presents. But what usually happens is that children get their presents anyway. And such children learn that no matter how good or bad you may be, St. Nicholas will bring you something anyway. So, such a little thing may teach us from our childhood that good things come easily”.
“How can we change that wrong attitude when we either do not appreciate God’s blessings in our life or take them for granted? We can change it by keeping in mind that all good things we have are from the merciful Lord. And He distributes those things through different circumstances of our life and through different people in our life. We need to use our mind to understand that. Usually in religious life we prefer to use our faith and our heart. In this case we need our mind to help us to understand and appreciate the divine care and God’s grace. Therefore, let us attempt to use it”.
“Let us think of those ten lepers. We should imagine how miserable and horrible their life was. Leprosy is a terrible disease, causing your flesh to decay while you still alive. But in addition to physical sufferings, the lepers, especially in those times of Christ, had to suffer the alienation from the society. They were the outcasts, they were considered unclean and could not approach the people. This is why, as the Gospel mentions, they stayed afar off (Lk. 17, 12). Now Jesus healed them from that illness and cleansed them from their impurity. Their life changed completely, from being miserable to being at least normal. And yet most of them did not give thanks. Was it a right attitude? Of course, not”.
“Using our mind we may also imagine the opposite situation. Someone is feeling good but suddenly gets sick or something bad happens. How do most of us react? We begin to be disappointed or even angry. Often become angry even with God”.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when we feel disappointed by some things, let us again recall those ten lepers. Let us recall other people who suffer from terrible diseases, who are in great pain, who are dying or suffering all their lives! There are many such people all around us. Let us remember about that. And maybe then our mind will tell us that we are in a much better situation. And maybe then we will begin to appreciate the great blessings of the Lord bestowed upon us, who are unworthy”.
“Consider the case of the 3 military generals in the life of St. Nicholas whom we honor today. They were wrongfully accused and sentenced to death. How miserable and desperate they had to feel! But they prayed the Lord to save them through the intercession of St. Nicholas. And he appeared in a dream to the Emperor and defended those generals. As a result, the Emperor reviewed their case and found them not guilty”.
“Consider the father of the 3 daughters who was very poor and could not arrange for their marriages. That man was so desperate that he planned to force his daughters to become harlots. But St. Nicholas learned about that family and left a sac with money in their hut. He was doing it 3 times, so all the 3 daughters could be married”.
“In both instances people were miserable but through the grace of God and by the good works of the Lord’s Saint were made happy. Did they give thanks? At least, the father of the 3 daughters did. The life of St. Nicholas tells us that the man saw the Saint secretly leaving the money for the third time and he followed the benefactor. He caught him up and fell on his knees thanking him”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us use our mind, let us think and learn that we have to be grateful to the Lord for everything. First of all, our Lord deserves our thanks just for the fact that we live. And everything good we have in that life is His generous gift. Since now, before Christmas or on St. Nicholas day, is time of presents, let us remember that the most important present from God is our own life. Let us avoid the wrong attitude of the ungrateful people like the 9 out of those 10 lepers. Let us also not fall in anger or bitterness when we encounter misery or different disappointing things in our life. Let us remember that very often our problems are much lesser than sorrows of some other people. Let us ask the Lord through the prayers of His great Saint, Holy Wonderworker Nicholas to make us mindful, strong and faithful and make us learn to appreciate divine blessings and to be truly grateful for them!”

During the Litany of Fervent Supplication, Fr. Igor proclaimed a petition beseeching the Lord to spare the faithful from the outbreak of the disease, as well as a petition of thanksgiving requested by Malyshev family.

During preparation for Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed the magnification of St. Nicholas and pre-Nativity hymns from the Christmas canon.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector greeted our Sacristan and altar server, Andrew Malyshev on the occasion of his past name day and our guest Nicholas on his celebrated name day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed and the Theotokian prosphora divided among those two persons. Then Fr. Igor handed the presents from St. Nicholas to the parish children.

25th Sunday after Pentecost


On December 12, on the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, our Parish family gathered for a nice celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov performed the Divine Liturgy in our St. George Church. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Gospel tells us about a miracle of healing performed by our Lord Jesus Christ over a sick woman. She had a spirit of infirmity 18 years, and was bent over and could not raise herself up (Lk. 13, 11). As in many other instances when our Lord healed the people, He had compassion, He felt for this woman, thus He called her and said, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity” (Lk. 13, 12). He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God (Lk. 13, 13). We should recall that St. Luke whose Gospel we read today, was a physician, therefore he attempted to describe people’s illnesses with precision”.
“If we were present there at that glorious miracle of the Lord, we would probably rejoice for the woman who was healed and for the glory of God revealed. But the reaction of some people present there was different. We read that the ruler of the synagogue was not happy because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. So, the ruler said to the people that they may come to be healed on the other six days, but not on the Sabbath. In such a reaction we see a very formal and superficial observance of the law of Moses. The ruler of the synagogue, as well as all the Pharisees and scribes, kept the letter of the law, instead of the spirit of the law. Such an observance can still be seen in the orthodox Jewish communities. In this city of New York, if you go to certain neighborhoods populated by the religious Jews, like Borough Park or Williamsburg, you can see that they observe Sabbath and other different rules very meticulously. These people do not drive their cars and do not use the elevator on the Sabbath. If you analyze that, you may find that they are very specific about keeping lots of rules and continue what the Pharisees did in the times of Jesus being on the earth”.
“Thus, these people, as well as their ancestors mentioned in today’s Gospel, keep the letter of the law, not the spirit. This is why the Lord called them hypocrites. He said, “Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?” (Lk. 13, 15). Certain things should be done no matter whether today is Sabbath or any other day. Especially, good deeds of mercy should be performed on each day. Furthermore, Jesus wishes us to understand that such works of love and charity should especially be done on the holy days. Good Christians understand that. We are also called to keep Ten Commandments, to honor and sanctify the Sabbath. For us Sunday is our Sabbath, the holy day of the week, the day of rest and the day of worship. However, we cannot think that a miracle could not be performed on such a day. We further cannot imagine that works of mercy could be prohibited on Sunday. In addition, we agree that certain jobs like emergency help or works necessary for your life or health may be done on Sunday”.
“Of course, on Sunday you should not do any physical work, you should and you have to go to the church. If you are working on Sunday because you want to and you want to make more money – you do commit a sin. But if you have to perform an emergency work, you can do it on Sunday. And people who are on duty on Sunday, like police officers or firefighters – they do not sin when they work on their Sunday shifts”.
“This is why today’s Gospel teaches us to observe the spirit of the God’s law, not just the letter of it. We have to live by our faith, and not just show that we are so religious. Our piety has to show what is in our hearts. Otherwise we risk to become similar to the Jewish scribes or Pharisees who demonstrated their piety and zeal in external observance of the rituals, but inside of their hearts were evil. Our Lord called them “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Mt. 23, 27). Jesus warned His disciples from the “leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy” (Lk. 12, 1)”.
“We may ridicule the orthodox Jews but we have to admit that we may see similar attitude among us, Orthodox Christians. Sometimes we also keep the letter of our faith, not its spirit. Being recently in Ukraine, I met a man who was in pain. He has a problem with his spine. When I spoke with him, he complained that he was suffering the whole night. But, as he told, he could not take the pain killers because he was supposed to receive Communion. I was a little surprised and told him that taking medicine with some water in such a case would not break the Eucharistic fast. But he said, “No, you in America can do that. We here are strict in our piety”. So, what do we see? A person suffers because he thinks he cannot break the fast before Communion. But it is permissible to take medicine if you are sick. It is permissible to take the pain killers if you are in pain. It is permissible to drink some water if you need it for medical reasons. We are not talking about eating a breakfast. But even some breakfast is allowed to the people having high blood sugar. In the large parishes, where an early Liturgy is celebrated, such people can come for Communion very early, and then they would keep the fast. They can eat breakfast after the early service. But in a parish like ours, we have only one Liturgy, so if someone has diabetes and needs to eat something in the morning, such person may be blessed to do so before Communion. Again, the spirit of our faith should be observed, not the letter.”
“The spirit of the law is found in the whole works of divine grace. The healing, life-giving, renewing power of God, His grace has no limits. It cannot be limited to the certain days, to the certain places or certain nations. It acts everywhere. And we have to be joyful to receive it and to see it at work. This was the purpose of the Lord to come into this world, that His grace may be shed upon every person. As a sign of that Jesus Himself cured all the infirmities and diseases among the people whom He encountered in pain. And the whole human race had to be healed, made well and straight the way the Lord healed and made straight the woman in today’s Gospel. Thus, dear brothers and sisters, let us be grateful and adhere to His commands, fulfilling first of all the spirit of His law, to be worthy of His eternal ruling”.

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 prayerfully performed the pre-Nativity hymns from the Christmas canon.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector addressed again the importance of fulfilling the spirit of our faith in religious life, not the superficial observance of the rules. Especially now, during the Nativity Fast, such issues arise. People ask how should they fast, what should they eat. Of course, trying to keep the canons and regulations of our Church, we have to understand that the most important thing in fasting is to spiritually attune to the works of salvation. The Rector also made some announcements regarding coming feasts.

Following the Liturgy the Rector performed the Mystery of Baptism over Johnmark Deleon who desired to convert and to join the Holy Orthodox Church. In the Holy Baptism he was given the name Mark. Following the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation Mark received his first Holy Communion. The Rector then congratulated him on that very solemn and important occasion.

24th Sunday after Pentecost


On December 5, on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the Gospel reading he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s pretty short Gospel reading tells us about man’s foolishness in the eyes of God. A man had a good harvest, he had a lot of riches and he was planning to store them. At the first look, there is nothing wrong with his reasoning. People who have certain possessions or business, do plan for the future. It is natural and necessary to look at the future perspective of your affairs. There is even some area of scholarship called “business planning”. Thus that man appeared to be reasonable”.
“But God calls him fool. And God says, “This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Lk. 12, 20). We may say that God is right because very often we do not know when we will pass from this world. Very often death is unexpected. And this is the first lesson from today’s Gospel for us. We have to be prepared. Holy ascetic fathers always kept thinking of death. “Memory of death” is considered a very important ascetic tool. “Remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin”, says the Scripture (Sir. 7, 36). Many ascetics were praying, “Lord, grant me the memory of death!””
“St. Ignatius Brianchianinov wrote, “Remember and mourn yourself alive, says the memory of death, I came to disappoint you charitably, and I brought with me a host of thoughts, most beneficial to the soul…. She is a performer of the will of the Most Holy God. Once she hears the command, she rushes for execution just like a lightning. She will not be ashamed neither of a rich man, nor a hero, nor a genius, she won’t have mercy for youth, for beauty, for earthly happiness: she relocates man into eternity. And by death a servant of God enters into the blessedness of eternity, and the enemy of God into eternal torment””.
“Thus, let us remember about the end of our earthly life. Holy Apostle Paul says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5, 15). Here again, we hear the word “fool”. St. Paul calls us not to be as fools but as wise. He teaches to “redeem time”. That means that the time of our life has to be spent in good works, in spiritual endeavors and in acquiring the grace. He is warning us that the “days are evil”, meaning that we never know when our soul will be required of us. Thus, time must be used for salvation, for the purpose of becoming “rich toward God” (Lk. 12, 21)”.
“Now we may come to the second lesson from today’s Gospel. It teaches us that all our earthly achievements, treasures, ranks, educations, talents, powers and riches – all this is in vain if we do not become rich toward God. All this will pass away. Only our riches acquired with God, our treasures laid up in heaven will remain forever. But how can we be rich toward God? The answer to that is simple. We have to use our talents, or anything else we received from God in this life, to serve God and to serve the neighbor. Not everybody enjoys material wealth like the person in today’s parable, but everybody is gifted by some talent, some achievement. Thus, that gift we have to use, we have to share it with others”.
“Yesterday we celebrated feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple, and today we continue its church observance. We commemorate that the holy parents of the Most Holy Theotokos, righteous Joachim and Anna, brought their 3-year-old daughter to the holy Temple in Jerusalem. She was their most precious treasure; She was the dearest person they had. Yet they entrusted Her to the Lord and left in the Temple to be educated and instructed there. And we all know how rewarded they were because the special daughter became the Mother of the Savior, the Bearer of God, the living Temple of the Most High”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Hearing the words from the Scripture and from the wise Saints, let us strive for becoming rich toward God, for being not fools but wise, for redeeming the time of our earthly life, for having the memory of death and for acquiring everlasting treasures in heavenly Kingdom!”

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

The choir prayerfully performed the magnification of the feast of the Entrance, and for the pre-Nativity hymns from the Christmas canon.


Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple


On December 4, on the feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On this day we celebrate feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple. We commemorate a wonderful event from the history of salvation, a day when the Blessed Mother of the Savior, being only a 3-year old girl, was brought to the holy Temple of Jerusalem by her righteous parents. She entered the holy place and was even allowed in the Holy of the Holies where only the high priest could enter. That was a strange thing but it happened because of the God’s will to show who that little girl was – the future Mother of the Messiah, the future living Temple of God”.
“Celebrating this feast we should think about the significance of the holy temple in our life. As the Jews of old had the holy Temple in Jerusalem, we Christians have our holy churches. But if the Old Testament Temple was only one, in Jerusalem, our New Testament places of worship are many. We are blessed to have them everywhere. In our Orthodox temple we begin our Christian life being baptized and chrismated. Then we are blessed in our childhood years if our parents bring us to the church to be at the divine services and to receive Holy Communion. Thus in the temple, from our early age, we may imitate the Most Holy Mother of God who entered the holy place. And if She entered the holiest place of the sanctuary, we are partaking of the true Body and Blood of the Lord. We may do it from our earliest age until our passing, do it in the holy temple. Growing up, we come to the temple as to a hospital to seek the cure from our spiritual illnesses, to receive forgiveness of sins in confession. And if we desire to be married, we receive a blessing being crowned in the church in the Sacrament of Matrimony. And when we leave this world, the temple can do us the last favor when our body may be brought here for the burial service”.
“These are the main spiritual but also practical things to consider when we talk about the meaning of the temple. But apart from that, the holy church is meaningful because it is a holy place by itself, because it sanctifies the environment where we live. This is a place where the grace of God is being always bestowed upon us; the place where the Holy Church offers its prayers; the place where a real miracle happens all the time. When the Divine Liturgy is served in the temple, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. And as we believe, the Holy Angels are present in the temple during the divine services. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, such is the great meaning of the holy temple in our life”.
“Thinking of all these exalted and sublime things, we need to admit how often we disregard the holy temple. Needless to speak about people who have no faith or very little faith: they do not come to the church or come very rarely; they cannot appreciate the holy temple. However, even if we speak of them, many of them were baptized and will be buried in the church. But it is important to speak of those who have faith. But even they sometimes disrespect the temple. Sometimes people miss the services or come late. Let us remember that if the Jews in the Old Testament times could come to the Temple in Jerusalem only once or twice a year, we ought to come to the church every Sunday and major holy day. If we don’t, we commit a sin. Sometimes people do not pay attention in the church or disturb the solemnity of the service. Let us remember that the temple is a holy place and let us not disrespect it”.
“Another unpleasant thing seen nowadays is that the holy temple is treated like some business providing ritual services. People come to baptize their children, to get married or to commemorate their deceased, but many of them do not come to the church again. This is the great spiritual problem especially seen in the old country, but also existing here. Unfortunately, many priests, being kind and gentle, give in and act like some providers of the ritual services. And then the people are encouraged to think in a wrong way”.
“You can also hear of the “parish shopping” when the people choose the church they like. In one parish they don’t like that the choir is singing poorly, in another they do not like how the priest looks, then they want certain special treatment for themselves – you name it. Of course, in New York we have a lot of option, many Orthodox churches, even several Russian churches in one city. People do have a choice where to go. But they should be members of one parish and stay in that parish. And in the places where they have only one Orthodox church in the area – what should they do if they don’t like something? Sometimes people leave and don’t go anywhere. Then their souls are almost lost. But people should be humble and patient. They should stick with their church and don’t exercise pride”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! The holy temple of God is the place of worship. The Lord said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Mt. 21, 13). It cannot be called as a house of vanity or pride. We come here to pray, to participate in the divine services, to receive the Sacraments, to be healed and comforted. We do not come just to see the friends, to demonstrate our clothes or cars. It is no club. We do not come here to get served but to serve the Lord. It is no shop or business. I can talk a lot about these issues and these problems but we are limited in time”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us then respect, honor and love the holy temple of God! Let us imitate the Most Holy Theotokos and Her righteous parents coming into the holy church, entering the sacred place and desiring to stay here to acquire God’s blessings and true salvation”.

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

The choir nicely performed festal hymns, and for the first time in the year began singing the pre-Christmas hymns from the Nativity canon.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification in front of the icon of the feast. Then Fr. Igor greeted the faithful on the occasion of the feast and praised the parents who brought their children to the temple on this day resembling righteous Joachim and Anna.