Cheesefare Sunday


On the Cheesefare Sunday the Church commemorates the exile of Adam from paradise. This day is also known as the Forgiveness Sunday because Orthodox Christians ask mutual forgiveness before they begin the spiritual journey of the Great Lent. On this day, on February 26, St. George parish had services in our temple. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today is Cheesefare Sunday, the last Sunday before Lent. Tomorrow we will begin that special season, a time of fasting and spiritual endeavors. Before we do so, the Church wishes us to remember the fall of Adam and Eve and how they lost Paradise by eating the forbidden fruit, which is why we fast, eating only “the permitted fruit”. How exactly did that fall happen?”
We know from the Scriptures that the first man and the first woman lived in Paradise, in Eden. We know also that they walked with God, meaning that they lived in harmony and communion with God, suffering neither sin, nor sorrow, neither aging, nor death. We know also that they disobeyed God. The cause of their disobedience was in the temptation of pride: they thought that they knew better than their Creator. They thought that they could disobey Him and benefit from that. The fact that the first man and first woman preferred to trust in themselves, rather than in God, to trust in their proud self-importance, led to their fall from communion with God. But once they had rejected God, they also rejected freedom from sin and freedom from sorrow, rejected freedom from aging and freedom from death”.
The cure for their fall was made clear to them. It was in doing the opposite of all they had done. Instead of disobedience, they needed obedience; instead of pride, they needed humility. In other words, they had to turn back on what they had done in repentance and ask forgiveness. At first they had been unable to do this. When God had first spoken to Adam and Eve after their act of disobedience, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Neither had the humility to take responsibility for his errors and ask for forgiveness. It was not that God did not know what they had done; it was simply that He wanted to give them the opportunity to ask Him, and to ask each other, for forgiveness. Instead they blamed each other and in the process blamed God their Creator”.
To us, as children of Adam and Eve, God also gives opportunities to ask for forgiveness, as Adam and Eve should have done. He gives us the Sacrament of Confession. Confession does not exist because God wants to hear from us what we have done. He already knows that. Confession exists because God is giving us an opportunity to correct our mistakes and failings. He wants us to ask for forgiveness, so that we can then take strength from Him through the prayers of the priest, so as to clean ourselves and strive not to repeat our mistakes. God does not need our confession, but we do. Every confession is a repeating of that opportunity given to Adam and Eve in Eden, to ask God for forgiveness. And unlike human beings, God always forgives those who sincerely, with repentance, ask Him for forgiveness”.
I once read what some child, probably a Sunday school student, said, “Forgiveness is like a fragrance the flower gives when it is being trampled”. What a beautiful saying! Adam and Eve trampled God’s love but God was ready to forgive. We also trample God’s love by our sins, but He is giving us a fragrance of forgiveness, an aroma of His compassionate love in the Mystery of Confession. How could we reject such love?”
However, before we ask forgiveness of God, we first have to ask forgiveness of each other. And just at this time, on Cheesefare Sunday, it is a custom of Orthodox throughout the world to come to Confession, to ask each other for forgiveness. We can ask forgiveness of those who are not here by visiting them or calling them. But of those who are here, we can now ask forgiveness directly, for all our errors towards them in thought, word or deed, whether conscious or unconscious. On the other hand, let us imitate God in granting forgiveness to our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us engulf them with a fragrance of our forgiving love”.
Dear brothers and sisters! The Lord said in today’s Gospel lesson, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt. 6, 14-15). For if we do not first ask each other for forgiveness, we cannot ask God for forgiveness. And without forgiveness, there is no way back into Paradise for any of us. Let us then forgive to be forgiven and to regain our lost blessedness with our ever-loving Creator!”

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 country” at the Great Entrance.

During preparation for Holy Communion the choir director prayerfully sang Psalm 33.

Following the Divine Liturgy the Rector performed Vespers with the Rite of Forgiveness. After the singing of the Great Prokimenon he changed his priestly vestments to the Lenten color of black.

After the dismissal of Vespers Fr. Igor preached a sermon in Russian and English about the importance of forgiveness at the beginning of Lenten journey towards Holy Pascha.

Following the services of this special day Rector and parishioners joined at the Blini Luncheon. All of them enjoyed delicious meals, especially the Russian blini prepared by Olga Roussanow and Maria Malyshev.

2023 Annual Parish Meeting


The Annual Parish Meeting of St. George Church was held on Sunday, February 19, 2023, following the Divine Liturgy. Parish Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov presided.

Church Treasurer, Emilian Suric read the minutes of the last Annual Meeting held in 2022.

The Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov had a speech. He first spoke about our spiritual state. The Rector mentioned that during the last year our parish lost 2 members who left for personal reasons. Some other people also stopped attending the church on the regular basis. Our attendance decreased a little but generally we are continuing to fulfill our spiritual mission.

Secondly, the Rector reported on financial situation. He pointed out that the last year showed some unusual financial developments in our parish. Generally, we did well receiving very generous donations. Our anonymous donors contributed more than $ 19,000. Thus, despite our challenges, parish revenue was very high.

On the other hand, our expenses increased very much. Especially it was due to the renovations and repairs we had to perform. We had to renovate the building after the fire and correct the floor renovations in the altar area. In addition, we were forced to pay for the plumbing repair of the street pipes which we did not have to do. The city though forced us to undertake that work.

After accepting the financial report, the Rector and parishioners discussed the perspective celebration of the parish’s 100th Anniversary this year. However, some parishioners expressed doubts as to the date when St. George was founded. Therefore, it had been decided that we should study the city records regarding the exact date of the beginning of our parish, and then make a decision regarding our anniversary celebration. But in any event it had been decided that we should do some more renovations in our temple this year. We certainly need to paint the walls inside the church. We may also consider installation of the air conditioning and heating system.

Having discussed some other matters the meeting was adjourned.

Meatfare Sunday


On February 19, on the Meetfare Sunday, 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! Today’s Meatfare Sunday is dedicated to the Last Judgment. Preparing us for Lent, the Holy Church commands us to remember about the end of the ends of our earthly life – the second coming of Christ and His Dreadful Judgment”.
Since we recently celebrated feast of the Meeting of the Lord and continue its liturgical celebration, we should be especially sensitive to the idea of the encounter with our Creator. As the holy elder Simeon met His God and Savior, we are going to meet Him also. That encounter will take place after our passing from this life. And it will also occur at the Last Judgment. Therefore, let us seriously reflect upon that perspective that, according to our faith, everyone is facing”.
Today’s Gospel lesson says that at the Last Judgment our Lord Jesus Christ will judge us according to our deeds. Those deeds are the basic works of mercy towards other people. We ought to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, take in the stranger, visit the sick or the prisoner (Mt. 25, 35-36). That will be the main criteria by which we are going to be evaluated at the Dreadful Judgment of the Lord. We often consider our salvation to be dependent on the way we pray, we fast and do other important religious works. But Christ Himself in His Gospel teaches that the most important and necessary things for our salvation are our works of mercy toward other fellow men and women. Salvation means exercising real love. All our pious works of prayer, fasting and receiving Sacraments will mean little if we won’t have love and mercy”.
Thinking of that leads us to an idea that one of the most important things in our human life is to be able to build proper relations with others. We are living among other people, and the Lord is expecting us to get along. The works of mercy mentioned in today’s Gospel – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and so on – all these works are the signs of proper relationships with other people. And, in the contrary, lacking of such works would be the sign of our inability to build good relations. The most prominent positive example of being able to build such relations is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. For He loved us, human beings, and He became Man, being infinite God; He served us and suffered for us; He died for us on the cross. By His great divine and human works He covered all possible aspects of love and mercy. By redeeming the human race the Lord surpassed all possible human works of mercy. Now He expects us to be similar. But have to do much lesser job: not to save the whole world, but only to serve certain people whom we meet in our earthly life journey. However, if we try to build good relations with more people, to be good to as many persons as we can, then we will certainly become closer to the level of work done by our Lord, Jesus Christ. Of course, we may never reach His level, but at least, we may be a little closer”.
Speaking of positive examples we may not be limited to remembering our Lord. We may recall many people who followed Christ and who did great works of mercy and love. Nowadays we may see many such examples. I was really delighted to see how many American people began to help the needy Ukrainians during the last year of the terrible war in Ukraine. Tons of clothes, a lot of goods and money were sent to Ukraine. Now we are also called to help the people in Turkey and Syria after the terrible earthquake that happened there. However, every day and every moment we may called to assist anyone whom we encounter around us and who is in need. And those needed works, those abilities to build up relationships – they are not limited to the list given in today’s Gospel. There may be big and small works, great deeds and just little favors – all of them will be considered at the Last Judgment. Sometimes we just need to watch the house of our neighbor, to feed his cat. Sometimes we only need to jump start our neighbor’s car or give him a ride. That will certainly build and strengthen our good relationships. And it will count at the Last Judgment. We cannot judge in advance, but we may say that most likely they will hear the kind and gracious words of Christ at His Last Judgment,Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt. 25, 33)”.
On the other hand, there many negative examples when people fail to build good relations and refuse to do the works of love. Such people, instead of seeking to resolve their problems peacefully, start to fight the wars, as we now see in Ukraine. Such people, instead of building relationships with their neighbors, engage in the acts of terror, as we see in the Middle East. Such people attack others, steal and commit criminal acts, as we see everywhere, and particularly in this city of New York. We cannot judge in advance but most likely they will hear the harsh sentencing from our Lord at His Last Judgment, Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25, 41)”.
Dear brothers and sisters, reflecting on these important and saving matters, let us work to build good relations with other people, with our family members, with our neighbors, our co-workers, our superiors and subordinates. Let us assist them in need. Let us be compassionate towards the needy around us. Let us perform those works by which we will be considered to become worthy of the Heavenly Kingdom. Let us avoid hostile and bad attitude of those who fail to be merciful. Let us learn how to be successful in building good relations and pleasing others, so we will eternally please the Lord God, our future Judge at His second coming!”

Since there were no services for the departed performed on Meatfare Memorial Saturday, the Rector added the Litany for the deceased to the Liturgy with commemoration of those who had fallen asleep.

During preparation for Holy Communion the choir director prayerfully performed hymns of the feast of the Lord’s Meeting, as well as penitential hymns.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made the announcements regarding the coming dairy week (“Maslenitsa” in Russian) and about our parish events.

After the services the Rector and parishioners stayed for the coffee hour. Then our Annual Parish Meeting was held right after that.

Meeting of the Lord


On February 15 the Orthodox Church celebrates great feast of the Meeting of the Lord. On that day we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov performed the Divine Liturgy. Following the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today the Church celebrates the great feast of The Meeting of our Lord. The Gospel lesson for that day relates how the mother of Jesus brought Him to the temple, as was the custom and requirement under the God-given Law of Moses, of Israel (Exodus 13:2, 12; Leviticus 12:2-8). When the righteous Simeon, who received Christ in his arms at the temple, saw the child he knew immediately that this was the Redeemer promised by all of Israel’s prophecies, for the elder was inspired by the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:26-27). Being inspired he himself uttered prophetic words which form the hymn sung or chanted at the end of every Vespers service: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32)”.
This particular feast is part of the great celebration that began forty days prior, with the Nativity of Christ. Eight days later we remembered the Circumcision of Christ and then His Baptism. The commemoration of these events in our Lord’s earth life basically form one feast, the feast of the Incarnation of God the Word”.
God literally entered the world, into time and history. He was physically present in the midst of His people, His creatures whom He loves. Our Lord took on human nature in order to reconcile unto Himself, man who had strayed far from the Source of his life”.
In taking on the “form of a servant” God, at the same time, in the Person of Christ, fulfilled every requirement of the Law that He Himself had given to His people through Moses. He demonstrated that everything that had happened in Israel’s history could not be described merely as a succession of unrelated events. Rather this was a history with a definite goal: the salvation of mankind. And the history of salvation may be called the history of the meetings with the Lord, the history of our encounters with our God and Creator. Thus, the name of today’s feast sounds very meaningful”.
We celebrate a Meeting of the Lord with Himself in His Temple. We also celebrate a meeting of the elder Simeon with his Savior. When the righteous Simeon took the child into His arms and declared that this indeed was Salvation Incarnate, the “Light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of Israel”, a new era began; the era of God’s presence among His children”.
To this day, all of the Church’s celebrations, no matter what the event commemorated may be, whether in the life of Christ, of the Theotokos, or of the Saints, all are celebrations of Christ and the establishment on earth of the Kingdom of His presence. He initiated this Kingdom and promised its fulfillment. And now, just as the Old Israel had awaited the beginning of God’s Kingdom, the New Israel (the Church) awaits the second and glorious coming of Christ and the fullness of His Kingdom, revealed. That will be our last meeting with the Lord which hopefully for us, will never end”.
Although all our worship is rooted in the knowledge of that meetings with the Lord, meetings in the past and our final meeting with Him in the future, we still do not live according to it. We Christians, in spite of having accepted a necessity of God’s presence among us, are constantly attracted by ways of seeking happiness and fulfillment that exclude God. So our lives go back and forth, between faith and indifference, between moments of real joy because we know that God is with us, and moments of boredom because we cannot give ourselves totally over to Him”.
We all know that our meetings with the Lord can take place every time when we participate in the Church services, especially in the Divine Liturgy. However, such meetings do not happen for many, even for those who do come to the temple. Why? Because they come being unprepared, destructed or unworthy. Even if they think that they may get something out of their visits to the church, sometimes such thoughts are in vain. Righteous Simeon was preparing for the encounter with his Savior almost all his life. He was concentrated on that event and by his way of life he was worthy to have that encounter. And his expectation were not in vain”.
Basically what is important for us Christians is that we have really “seen the True Light, received the Heavenly Spirit, found the true faith” in this experience of being at the temple. Let us imitate the holy people, people like righteous Simeon and Anna the prophetess who awaited the consolation of Israel, but in fact awaited the salvation “before the face of all peoples”. Let us await our meeting with the Lord, let us be prepared for it, so our expectations will not be in vain. To Christ Who willed to be held in the arms of the righteous Simeon for our salvation be glory, honor and worship, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen”.

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

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar server performed glorification of the feast singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Meeting before the festal icon.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Feast of the Three Hierarchs


On February 12, on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, feast of the Three Hierarchs (Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom), we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached a homily.

Fr. Igor began with explaining the history of the celebrated feast of the Three great Hierarchs and teachers of the Church. He also pointed out that the holy Hierarchs whom we celebrate are known for many useful instructions to the faithful. And the Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son contains an instruction on repentance. That instruction is not from some Holy Father of the Church but from Jesus Christ Himself. The Lord told that parable, thus an instruction on how to repent comes from the primary Source, from God. The Lord’s parable gives us a perfect guidance on how to do the repentance. The Prodigal Son followed the steps that should be followed by us if we wish to repent. He first came to himself, realized his sinful state. Then he was truly sorry for his actions. After that he made a decision to return to his father’s house. He humbled himself and acknowledged that he sinned against heaven and before his father. He was ready to ask his father to make him one of his hired hands. Then he actually arose and returned; he confessed his guilt before his father.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns dedicated to the Three Hierarchs, as well as penitential hymns of the preparatory Sundays for Lent (including the Psalm 136, “By the rivers of Babylon”).

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector made some announcements. He also greeted our Sacristan Andrew Malyshev on his past 60th birthday wishing him all God’s blessings and proclaiming traditional Polychronion on his behalf.

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church


On February 5, on the Sunday of Publican and Pharisee, feast of the Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, our St. George parish family had a nice celebration. In the absence of our Rector, the Divine Liturgy was served by Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk).

After the Gospel lesson Fr. Eutychius preached a short sermon in Russian. Then by the blessing of the Rector, our Cantor, Olga Russanow read the following homily prepared by him:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! In today’s reading from the Gospel our Lord tells us that two men went up to the Temple to pray. One of them, who was a public sinner, went home justified. Yet another who was viewed as a just man was condemned. Why? Simply because of their attitudes: the publican has the right attitude. He is asking God for mercy in repentance for his sins of which he is conscious. On the other hand, the Pharisee has the wrong attitude. He is not asking for mercy. On the contrary, he is satisfied with himself. He is under the illusion of being righteous. And he has this illusion merely because he fulfills all the outward observances of the Jewish Law. His piety is all for show, it is all outward and does not come from the heart. We may say that the Pharisee does the right things, but he does them for all the wrong reasons, and thus they lose all their force”.
The error of the Pharisee is to confuse the means with the ends. Our end, or goal, is to find salvation. There are many means to salvation, to preparing our souls to be with God. However, we should not think that the means to salvation automatically bring salvation, merely because they are outwardly observed. In order to understand this, we first need to know what the means to salvation are”.
First of all, we have to worship God and pray to Him. True, we can worship and pray to God everywhere, but there is one place where we can be particularly close to Him, and where it is easier to speak to Him in prayer, and that is at church. Only at church are services held in His honor and we can thank Him, worship Him and pray to Him more easily during those services and only at church can we partake of the Sacraments”.
Secondly, we can deepen our worship of God through reading and obeying His Word, through fasting and through almsgiving”.
Just as worship, prayer, reading of the Word of God and almsgiving are only means to salvation, and not salvation itself, so fasting too is only a means to drawing closer to God. It is an experience of the spiritual people that fasting helps us to reach certain spiritual state to be closer to our goal of salvation. ‘We are what we eat’, said the philosopher. It makes sense not only for our body, but for our soul. But fasting is not a goal by itself. The Church therefore does not ask us to fast twelve months of the year. It asks us through Great Lent, the three other Fasts, and Wednesdays and Fridays, to fast for six months of the year. The Church’s approach is balanced. That is why this coming week, there is no fast – to remind us that although salvation is not in fasting, on the other hand, it is also true that fasting for Christ’s sake will help us draw closer to salvation”.
We are what we eat”, said the philosopher. We can see this especially clearly in holy Communion. If we come to Communion frequently, we are with Christ and He is with us. But if on the other hand, we never come to Communion, then we shall never be with Christ and He will never be with us: “We are what we eat””.
We may come to a conclusion that if we sincerely, from our hearts, worship and pray to God, read His words, fast and give alms, then we are not behaving as the Pharisee, but as the publican, we are asking for mercy, and thus we find justification. Not justification because of our outward actions, but justification through the Mercy of God, which alone makes our salvation possible. In doing all these things, we are actually saying the Prayer of the Publican, which is at the root of the Jesus Prayer: “God, be merciful to me a sinner”. For it is only the Mercy of God, given as a gift to us for our sincerity, which brings us into His presence, bringing us salvation, for our God is merciful and He loves mankind”.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy Fr. Eutychius served the memorial Litia in commemoration of all the deceased who suffered during the time of godless persecutions.