33rd Sunday after Pentecost


On January 29, on the 33rd Sunday after Pentecost, we had a nice celebration at our St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! In four weeks we will start Lent, and the Church wishes to prepare us in advance for that important spiritual time. Today we hear the Gospel reading about a man named Zacchaeus (Lk. 19, 1-9). It describes an encounter in the life of Zacchaeus that changed the whole direction of his life. It was the day he met Jesus face to face. The whole Gospel is expressed it that encounter, for it made Zacchaeus a new and redeemed man. Tradition tells us that he later became a follower of Christ, and Bishop of Ceasarea”.
One day Jesus was passing through Jericho. Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd and the shortness of his stature. So he climbed a tree to get to see Him. It was much more than curiosity that made Zacchaeus climb the tree. It was a strong desire to find God in Jesus. Zacchaeus was restless. He was probably fed up with himself, fed up with the kind of life he was living. Restlessness has always been one of the signs of man’s searching for God. As St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, o Lord, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee””.
So, Zacchaeus climbed the tree and was looking for Jesus. Here we have to say that Zacchaeus was up a tree in more than one way. He was a dishonest tax collector considered a traitor by his own people because he collected taxes for the hated Romans. He had lost his self-respect. He had cut himself off from God and man. He was alone on that tree. It was a symbolic tree of his moral failure. Many of us find themselves in such a position, on a tree of our moral failure and lacking courage to come down from that tree. But God sent Jesus, His Son, into the world to invite us to come down. This is the great wonder of God’s love that Zacchaeus experienced when he discovered that he was seeking God and God was also seeking him”.
The Gospel says that when Jesus came to the place, He stopped, looked up right into the tree, right at Zacchaeus, and the eyes of the two men met. Zacchaeus heard Jesus calling him by name and saying, “Make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house” (Lk. 19, 5). Long time ago when King George of England came to some British city, many people lined the streets to see their monarch. After the procession had ended, a small boy was weeping bitterly. Someone asked him, “Why are you crying? Didn’t you see the king?” “Oh,” the boy sobbed, “I saw the king, but he didn’t see me!” What a comfort to know that it is not only we who see our great King, but that He sees us and responds to our needs”.
Jesus saw Zacchaeus, He noticed him and desired to bless his home. And it did happen because Zacchaeus, being a sinner, desired to find God and to change his life. He even performed some labor to climb the tree”.
Dear brothers and sisters! Like Zacchaeus, we will never see Jesus if we remain on the level we are. There are too many persons and things standing in our way. We must climb higher. Fortunately, there are trees we too can climb to help us see Jesus. There is the tree of prayer. Prayer is speaking with Jesus just as really as Zacchaeus did. If we are to see Jesus, to make Him present in our lives, we must climb the tree of prayer. There is the tree of the Sacred Scripture. If we read or listen to it, God speaks to us. There is the tree of repentance. Zacchaeus did repent, and Jesus blessed him and his house. There is the tree of the Holy Sacraments. If we receive them, Jesus blesses us and unites with us”.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we do not need to climb a sycamore tree to see Jesus today. There are other symbolic trees we can climb: the trees of prayer, of the Scripture, of repentance, of Sacraments, of other pious things. From those trees not only shall we see Jesus but He will see us as He saw Zacchaeus. And He will say to us as He said to him, “Make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house – in your heart, in your mind, in your soul!””

The choir nicely performed hymns of the commemorated veneration of the Precious Shackles of the Holy Apostle Peter during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made the announcements regarding parish events in the coming month of February.

Sunday after the Theophany


On January 22, on the Sunday after the Theophany, 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! Last week we celebrated great holy day of Theophany, which is the Baptism of Christ. The Gospel of today says that after Christ was baptized, He began to preach the same theme as St. John the Baptist did. He appealed to the people saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4, 17). Why? Because after we have been baptized, we are always tempted and the only way to end temptation is to repent. Our Gospel lessons proclaimed on Sundays do not tell us all the details of the life of Christ, but those lessons are rather some short messages telling us about His teaching. But if we read the Gospel of Matthew we would learn that after being baptized Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Christ did not fall after temptation and began His ministry. Thus His first sermon to the people was to repent because the Kingdom of heaven is near. But what exactly do these words mean? What is repentance? What is the Kingdom of Heaven?”
Sometimes we hear how people say, “We are sinful, but we will repent…” They may imagine that repentance is some abstract thing, a mood or an idea. But it is not just an idea, a thought. First of all, it is an action. Repentance is a change of mind which leads to a practical and visible change in our way of life. It does start in our mind, but it must produce action”.
Repentance is a conversion to God. Every time we repent, we must undertake a mini-conversion. Because if we commit a sin, especially a grave sin, we turn away from God, and we need to come back. It is like being lost on some road. Very often if we took a wrong highway we need to exit and go back. Our highway system is very comfortable. We can easily find our way. If we are lost we usually take an exit and go back to get to a proper route. Thus, repentance is like an exit from the wrong highway. We get out, come back and find the right way”.
If this is repentance, what then is the Kingdom of Heaven? First of all, the Kingdom of Heaven is Christ Himself Who spoke these words to the people of that time, before whom He stood. The Kingdom of Heaven was indeed at hand, for He stood before them. Secondly, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and stands before us here and now. The Kingdom of Heaven is here and now, but it depends on our willingness to accept Christ. At this very moment each one of us is in fact able to meet God and enter into His eternal joy, but only if we wish to do so through deep repentance. The joy of the Kingdom of Heaven is a state of our soul, a state of our mind, and it is open to all those who wish to accept Christ”.
Yes, it is true that our well-being does depend on whether we have a roof over our heads, enough money to pay our way in the world. But none of these things is absolutely essential, for there are people who have all these things but are still unhappy, they do not have the Kingdom of Heaven. And there are people who have none of these things and yet they are happy, they have the Kingdom of Heaven”.
Some people marry and then divorce, remarry and redivorce and do this even several times, and each time blame the others for the divorce. In fact it is them who bear the problem inside themselves, in their selfishness and hardness of heart. Some people may go from country to country and from job to job, blaming each failure on others. In fact the problem is carried in their suitcase, the problem is with the instability of the person, their inability to get on with others”.
Dear brothers and sisters! The presence of the Kingdom of Heaven depends ultimately not on our circumstances but on us, on our interior disposition, on our ability to repent. Indeed it is only if we repent that the Kingdom of Heaven at hand. Therefore, let us ask our Lord baptized in the Jordan to grant us a desire and an ability of true repentance”.

The choir performed festal hymns of the Theophany during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made some announcements.

Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord


On January 19th the Orthodox Church celebrates great feast of the Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord. Our parish had a beautiful celebration of that holy day headed by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. He served the Divine Liturgy at St. George Church. After the Gospel lesson the Rector preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, also called Theophany or Epiphany, words which mean the Appearance of God, and this feast is also called the Enlightenment. For that is exactly what this feast is about, it is the first public Appearance of Christ, the beginning of His public preaching at the age of 30, and so the Enlightenment of mankind”.
Theophany is in fact one of three Trinitarian feasts in the Church Year, where “the worship of the Trinity is made manifest”. For today the voice of the Father bears witness that, “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased”, and the Spirit is seen in the form of a dove. Another such feast is Pentecost, also called Trinity or Trinity Sunday, where the Son sends down the Spirit from the Father, from Whom the Spirit proceeds. Thirdly, there is also the feast of the Transfiguration, where the voice of the Father is also heard and the Spirit is seen in the form of the Light of Tabor transfiguring the Son”.
Today’s feast proves to the world that Christ is both God and man, that He has two natures. On the one hand, the Father calls Him “My beloved Son” and the Spirit bears witness. On the other hand, as St. John the Baptist shows in his humility that he is unworthy even to undo Christ’s shoelaces, the sinless human nature of Christ did not need baptism. Christ underwent baptism in his human nature only because He needed to set us an example, to undergo all that we must undergo in order to be worthy of the Kingdom of God. Christ was indeed human flesh and blood – you cannot baptize a spirit or a ghost – Christ truly took on Himself our human nature”.
The effects of the Baptism of Christ’s human nature, of His body and soul, His mind and will, are immediate, for the world around Him may also be baptized through Him. In the icon of today’s Feast we see in the waters of the Jordan a serpent-monster, a demon lurking in the water. Until the time of Christ, the whole world lay in evil. Through Christ’s coming, however, the whole world can be purified and redeemed. This process began with the purification of water, on which all life depends, of which our own bodies are mainly made up. Through Christ’s Baptism the way is open for the baptism of the whole of mankind and the purification of the whole Cosmos. Christ’s Baptism was the beginning of the purging of the world from evil. Those who reject Baptism allow the world to be filled with evil once more. This is why we baptize the new-born child, before the seeds of evil can come to lurk in his soul. This is why we sprinkle with Theophany water our homes and work-places, our cars and buses – so that no evil can lurk in them”.
But what does Baptism mean for us, however, who are already baptized? Although we believe that there is only One Baptism, in Church practice we use the word baptism in a figurative sense, for the sacrament of Confession is often called “a second baptism”. It is through the “second baptism” of Confession that we can renew ourselves by preparing ourselves to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, in the same way as the waters of the Jordan received Christ bodily when He was baptized. Thus among us too the old waters of the Jordan of human sin can be driven back and sin flees, as the demon-serpent is driven out of us by the Appearance of Christ and His Enlightenment of us”.

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

After the Prayer behind the Ambo the Rector performed the Great Blessing of water.

Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar server came before the icon stand and performed the rite of glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Theophany. Then the Rector greeted the faithful on the great holy day.


Sunday before the Theophany


On January 15, on the Sunday before the Theophany, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On this Sunday before the feast of the Baptism of the Lord we hear the reading from the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. And we just heard of the preparation for the appearance of the Lord to the world.  That preparation was made by God sending His Prophet, John the Baptist. We call him the Forerunner meaning that he was running before Christ; he was a predecessor of Christ. He ran before to prepare the ways of the Lord”.
“That Gospel story spiritually instructs us that we have to prepare the ways of the Lord in our own lives.  St. John the Forerunner specifically called the people for the preparation for the coming of the Savior. He called them saying, “Prepare the ways of the Lord; make His paths straight” (Mk. 1, 3). Therefore, we have to participate in that preparation”.
“Let us take an example. When we are preparing for the Holy Communion, we have to repent, to ask the Lord to make us worthy to receive His Body and Blood. We have pray that the Lord may unite with our human essence, that He may sanctify and cleanse us. We need to practice prayer, fasting and repentance to prepare for our union with the Lord. Preparation is important”.
“We often complain that we do not feel God’s help in our life, in our deeds. Today’s Gospel lesson should open our eyes and help us see our spiritual state. If we wish God to be present in our lives, to help us; if we desire that the divine grace may shine in our souls; if we wish that the blessing of God was upon us – we need to prepare ourselves. We have to undertake spiritual labor. St. John the Baptist called to such a labor when he said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mt. 3, 2)”.
“Today we commemorate Venerable Father Seraphim of Sarov. He lived 3 centuries ago. Most of his life was spent in spiritual labor. He was praying a lot, he had an endeavor of staying on a rock for a long time. In such a way St. Seraphim was preparing his soul for the Lord. Could he complain that God is not with him? He could but he probably never did. Could he feel that God is not helping him? Maybe. But he endured and persisted in his spiritual labor. Therefore, St. Seraphim deserved a great devotion among the Orthodox people and became one of the Lord’s elected ones in the Heavenly Kingdom. He believed that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, as the Gospel says, so he acted to prepare for it”.
“And for us, dear brothers and sisters, spiritual labor may not be so intense as it was in the life of St. Seraphim. For us would be sufficient to realize how sinful we are and to repent the way it was done by the people who were coming to St. John the Baptist. He plunged them into the waters of Jordan, and that meant washing away their sins. But he told them, “I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk. 1, 8)”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! We have the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ who through the Holy Church grants us abundant and various gifts of the Holy Spirit. And in order to be spiritually comforted by God’s blessings and His help, we need to undertake spiritual labor, to prepare ourselves, our hearts, our souls to be always united with the Lord”.
“The two feasts, Nativity and Theophany, being united, make a joyful winter holiday season. In the ancient Church those two feasts were celebrated together, on one day, in order to honor the great work of the Incarnation of the Son of God and the coming of the Savior into this world. We, nowadays having two separate feasts, should remember about their spiritual connection. On the Nativity, when our Lord was about to be born into the world, the Holy Family came to Bethlehem but could not find any place to stay. Human dwellings shut their doors for the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. This was because the human souls were also closed for the Son of God coming into the world. Let us not repeat what those people did in those times. Through the lips of St. John the Baptist the Church calls us to open our hearts to the Lord, to prepare ourselves for His coming and to prepare ourselves to follow Him. Let us open our souls to follow Him, so that we may enter His Heavenly Kingdom, the Kingdom He brought to us, so “whoever believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn. 3, 16)”.

The choir nicely performed various hymns of the holy day season during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made announcements regarding the approaching feast of the Theophany.
Following the services the Rector and parishioners enjoyed a delicious luncheon held in honor of Fr. Igor’s past birthday. A toast to our Rector was raised by our Warden, Olga Roussanow.

Circumcision of the Lord. Feast of St. Basil the Great


On Saturday, January 14, our parish celebrated great holy day of the Circumcision of the Lord and feast of St. Basil the Great. The Divine Liturgy in our temple was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Following the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we have a combined celebration. On this day we celebrate Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as commemoration of St. Basil the Great. In addition, many of us remember that today is the civic New Year, so-called the “Old New Year”. First of all, let me tell you that the New Year’s Day is not so important for the Church celebrations. It is not even something absolute or unchangeable. The New Year in Byzantine Empire was on September 1, the way it is still observed in our Church calendar. Our ancestors, ancient Slavs celebrated their New Year on March 1. It was rather Western European custom to begin the New Year in January, as we do now. This is why the New Year’s Day is not so important in the Church than celebration of other, more religious feasts”.
Our authentic Christian and folk tradition knows three winter holy days celebrated on the row: Nativity, Circumcision and Baptism of Christ. And the period of their celebration is called “Sviatki” in Russian tradition. Today we are in the very middle of that festal period. We just finished celebrating Christmas and are preparing to celebrate Theophany. Between those great holy days we have today’s feast of the Circumcision. Sometimes we may hear that our people are wandering why we, the Christian Church, celebrate the Circumcision of Christ, since we don’t practice circumcision”.
To answer that question we should look at all these three winter holy days as connected and proclaiming for us one great message: God became Man, God came to the world; He did it to save mankind. This is why Nativity and Baptism of Christ used to be celebrated on one day and was called the Theophany. This was done in the Ancient Church, but later the Church decided to introduce a separate feast of the Nativity to replace a popular pagan celebration in honor of the sun. Therefore, the idea of both Christmas and Theophany is that God became Man, appeared to the world to save it. And becoming Man, He had to follow the rules given by God Himself to the men. One of those rules was to circumcise male children after 8 days of their birth. This was in the Covenant between God and Abraham and this was in the Law of Moses. And Child Jesus had been circumcised on the 8th day of His birth. It took place, and we commemorate it. And this commemoration teaches us to follow the rules of the Church. Jesus followed the rules of the Old Testament Church although He was to establish the Church of the New Testament. So we should now obey all the rules of our Church. The Saint whom we honor today, St. Basil the Great, was, by the way, a prominent maker of the different Church rules. His memory today also reminds us of those important things”.
Today’s feast offers us a great mystery to reflect on: Infinite and Eternal God becomes a little Child and does not despise to be circumcised. But keeping in mind His future, we understand that Jesus also did not despise to be crucified. Thus, circumcision was only the beginning of His humble service and sacrifice for the human race. Today’s hymn calls Jesus an “eight-day-old by Mother and beginningless by Father”. This is the mystery of our faith: a beginningless and endless God becomes a Man, He condescends to our nature to save it. This is why today’s troparion says, “glory to Thine Providence, glory to Thine condescendence, o only Lover of mankind!”

This is why, dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate today’s feast. And again, it is not a separate feast but a part of our wonderful celebration of the Incarnation of the Lord. Therefore, let us pray that our Lord Jesus Christ through the prayers of the Holy Father Basil the Great grant us His abundant blessings in this festal season and in this New Year, so it will be spent in piety and pleasing God who came to save us!”

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

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar server performed the rite of glorification singing the troparia, kontakia and magnifications of the Circumcision and of St. Basil the Great.

Parish Warden and Choir Director, Olga Roussanow greeted the Rector on his birthday wishing him good health and a long service to the Holy Church. Tradition Polychronion was proclaimed to Fr. Igor.

Sunday after the Nativity


On January 8, on the Sunday after the Nativity, feast of the Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God, our St. George Parish family gathered again for a nice celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the Gospel reading he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate the second day of Christmas which is dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God who gave birth to the Savior of the world. Today is Her gathering feast. And today is also Sunday after Nativity which 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”.

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

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made announcements regarding our January service schedule and encouraged the faithful to attend them.

Nativity of the 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 Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. He was co-served by our guest and friend of the parish, Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk) from the ROCOR.

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 for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian land” at the Great Entrance.

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

After the Liturgy dismissal the clergy 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.

After the Rector’s greetings Fr. Eutychius had a speech in which he congratulated Archpriest Igor Tarasov on the occasion of his 33rd 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. Several toasts in honor of Fr. Igor were raised by parishioners and the Polychronion to our pastor was sung again.