Fourth Sunday of Lent


On March 26, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy at our parish temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he addressed the faithful with the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent, and we have already made more than a half way of our journey towards the Holy Pascha. And today the Church offers us a Gospel story about casting out of an evil spirit and it also honors Venerable John of the Ladder, a holy ascetic man who wrote a book on spiritual perfection. Thus today we have to realize that there are different difficulties and dangers on our way to the Kingdom of God. Realizing them we may understand how to overcome them”.
First of all, we have to be aware that there exists an enemy of the human race, the devil. He is tempting us and is willing to lead us away from our salvation. In today’s Gospel lesson we heard that the Lord cast out an evil spirit from some young man (Mk. 9, 17-31). Such things happen although rarely – a demon enters into a human body and tortures a man willing to destroy him. And we have to believe that it really happens because in our days many people, even those who call themselves the believers in Christ, refuse to believe in the existence of the devil and evil spirits. However, the cases of direct and physical possession by the demons are not so many. It much more often happens that the enemy is tempting us spiritually and we give in to that temptation, committing a sin and turning away from God. Such thing happened to Adam and Eve”.
But we have already said in the past that people should not blame the devil for their sins. If we did not consent to commit a sin, the devil would never force us to do it. But he finds different ways and approaches to our heart, to our nature perverted by sin and seduces us to act sinfully”.
We have to note that the enemy especially attacks those who is attempting to lead a spiritual life and engages in the acts of piety. Ven. John whom we honor today described spiritual perfection as a Ladder leading from earth to heaven. Today we may see the image of that Ladder in the middle of the church. Observing that icon we may see that some people pictured there are climbing the Ladder but some of them fall being snapped by the demons. Some fall being on a higher step. And we see that among them there are monks, priests and bishops. What does it mean? It means that the higher a person ascends in his spiritual life, the more he is overcome by the evil forces”.
The destiny of Judas Iscariot is a perfect example of that. He was one of the 12 Apostles chosen by the Lord. He was close to Jesus Christ. But this could not preserve him from being tempted, and in his case the devil attained a victory. Judas was not possessed by a demon in a literal sense but Holy Evangelist Luke writes, Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them” (Lk. 22, 3-4). Thus Judas became filled with the spirit of Satan and betrayed the Son of God. This is why we have to be very careful about our thoughts and desires. Judas did not become filled with the spirit of the devil from the beginning. We read in the Gospel that he was the Apostles’ treasurer. And behold, the devil found his weakness – his love of money. Holy Evangelist John writes that Judas was a thief and he used to take from the donations given for Christ and the Apostles (Jn. 12, 6). Later this weakness and this sin made Judas mad, so he decided to betray Christ Himself for the money. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us be careful with our passions!”
Another thing that we need to understand from today’s celebration of the 4th Sunday of Lent is that we need a firm faith. In today’s Gospel we heard what the Lord said to the father of the possessed young man, If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk. 9, 23). The father of the young man cried out, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9, 24). Our faith is weak and appears like unbelief. Therefore, we need to ask the Lord to help our unbelief. And we have to strengthen our faith by the acts of piety, by prayer and fasting”.
In today’s Gospel story we heard that the Disciples of Christ were unable to cast out a demon. And we should note that this happened after many of them, particularly not the 12 but the 70 Apostles did cast out the evil spirits. They joyfully reported the Lord that even the demons are subject to them in the name of Christ (Lk. 10, 17). But here the Apostles failed. The Lord later explained that this kind of demons is being driven out only by prayer and fasting (Mk. 9, 29). Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, our struggle against the enemy of the human kind, our fight against him is possible only if we practice prayer and keep fast. Otherwise we are not going to overcome him as the Apostles failed to overcome him in today’s reading from the Gospel”.
Dear brothers and sisters! Let us remember that the devil never sleeps. As Holy Apostle Peter teaches us, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5, 6). But if we will have a firm faith, we will be able to overcome the intrigues of the evil one. And if we are going to live by prayer and fasting, we will be able to chase the unclean spirit from our thoughts, from our deeds and from our lives, and then we will be able to reach the Kingdom of Heaven!”

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.

The choir director prayerfully performed hymns dedicated to Venerable John Climacus during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal the Rector made some announcements regarding the April schedule in our church and encouraged the parishioners to attend special services that are going to be held in that month.

Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross


On March 19, on the Third Sunday of Lent we held a 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 the 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 this Third Sunday of Lent we come to the very middle of our journey towards Holy Pascha. On this Sunday we are offered to take some rest under the holy Tree of the Cross of Christ. As we venerate that Precious Cross, we have to realize that the only way to the Kingdom of God is the way of the Cross. If we wish to be back in paradise, there is no other way than this”.
Everyone has his or her own cross in this life. Such a cross consists of our sorrows and sufferings, our worries and cares, our misfortunes and pains. The Lord says, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mk. 8, 34). It means that we need to carry our crosses and thus we will follow the Lord Jesus who Himself carried His Cross. It is understood that we may not like our crosses and even hate them. But let us remember that this is the difference between the Christian Church which wishes to carry the Cross and the sinful world which desires to reject the Cross and to find an easy way. However, those who attempt to reject their cross, suffer anyway and suffer even more. For instance, if people do not wish to be patient with each other, and they fight and lose their temper, they suffer. If a person does not want to be abstinent and indulges in drinking or drugs, he suffers himself and also brings suffering to his loved ones. If a married couple does not want to have a child and they decide to have an abortion, that innocent child suffers, but the mother who does it suffers too. Every sin is a pain, and our enemy desires to tempt us not to suffer the cross, but then makes us suffer even more”.
When our Lord Jesus Christ had been suffering on the cross, the devil through sinful people tempted him saying, “Save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mt. 27, 40). In the same way the devil in many different ways tells us to avoid sufferings and to leave our crosses. But let us remember that our Lord remained on the cross to save us from our sins. If He did not take up His cross, we would not be redeemed. As the Lord teaches in today’s Gospel lesson, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8, 35). Jesus preferred to lose His life for us. As a result, He conquered death and redeemed us. Now it is our turn: if we do not take up our crosses, we do not follow the Lord, and we cannot be saved”.
Today’s Gospel lesson ends with the following words of Christ: Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the Kingdom of God present with power” (Mk. 9, 1). What do these words mean? They were said about some of the Disciples of Christ who later had a chance to be witnesses of Christ’s Transfiguration. They did not taste death till they saw the divine glory of Jesus on Mt. Tabor. But these same words of Jesus are referred also to all of us. We may also do not taste death till we see the Kingdom of God”.
““To taste death” means to suffer from all that entered into the world when death entered into the world. For when Adam and Eve fell, not only did death enter, but also hard work, pain, sorrow, worry, disease, old age. And all these things are the taste of death. How then are we to overcome them? Only by returning to paradise. And to return we need to carry our cross. Christ is the New Adam and the Cross is the new Tree which is not forbidden. Its fruit is the Resurrection. The tasting its fruit is tasting the Body of the risen Christ. We do it when we receive Holy Communion. And this precisely is the meaning of the words in today’s Gospel that it is possible “to see the Kingdom of God come with power”. If we face up to the difficulties of life with the Cross of Christ, we shall not taste death, those difficulties, in the light of the resurrecting power of the Cross”.
Everyone has his or her own cross. Let us then carry it following our Savior Jesus Christ. Let us ask Him that His eternal Kingdom may touch our souls. There is no pain, sorrows and sufferings in that Kingdom. Let us look for a comfort in the Holy Cross of Christ and let us put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us on the Cross and who was risen from the dead”.

The choir director prayerfully performed the hymns dedicated to the Holy Cross during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector had a speech pointing out to the parishioners that children present in the church still do not behave appropriately. During that particular service they distracted the priest during very important parts of the service, such as Eucharistic Canon. Fr. Igor was very emotional in his criticism and called the parents to improve the situation before Pascha. He also imposed a penance on all the faithful and said that he himself will fulfill it also.

After his speech the Rector and the altar server came out of the sanctuary before the stand in the middle of the church and venerated the Precious Cross. The faithful followed them in that veneration.

Second Sunday of Lent


On March 12, on the Second Sunday of Lent, the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple.

Following the readings from the Sacred Scripture Fr. Igor preached a homily based on the Gospel lesson and addressing the necessity of divine grace for attaining salvation. He mentioned St. Gregory Palamas, the Holy Father whom we honor on the Second Sunday of Lent. In his writings, St. Gregory stressed the importance of grace and a possibility to acquire it by pious and godly life.

The choir nicely performed the hymns dedicated to St. Gregory Palamas during preparation for Holy Communion.

First Sunday of Lent. Triumph of Orthodoxy


On March 5, on the First Sunday of Lent, also known as celebration of the Triumph of the Orthodoxy, St. George parish had a nice liturgical service. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. After the Scripture readings he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On the First Sunday of Lent we celebrate feast called Triumph of Orthodoxy. It is a commemoration of the victory of the Orthodox teaching regarding the holy images. Being Orthodox Christians and believing that God became Man, we venerate the holy icons, the images of Christ, of His Blessed Mother and of the Saints. There was a time when many Christians refused to honor those images, so it was a long struggle to reach that victory of the Orthodox faith. But that was only one page in the history of the Orthodox Church, one episode in the whole history of human salvation. Christian life requires to struggle and to get the victories all the time. Thus, let us today reflect on that”.
History of mankind is full of different quests for victory and triumphs. A basic example is when people fight a war. Nowadays we are witnessing a terrible war in Ukraine. Regardless, whom do you support in that conflict, it is obvious that both sides are willing to win. But we, Christians, have to remember that the most important war in our life is our war against sin. And regardless, whom we consider our enemy in this life, our worst enemies are our sins, our passions and the devil. Sin is a cause of all wars people fight and of all conflicts they have. Therefore, our most important victory would be the victory over sin; and our most important and desirable triumph is our triumph over our passions. That would be our personal triumph of Orthodoxy”.
Lent is a special time when we have a chance to fight our war against sin and passions. Such war should be fought all the time, but Lent gives us more opportunities to be be victorious. It can be compared to a special military training when the soldiers are focusing on their effectiveness, are actively preparing for the successful operations. During Lent we have special Church services, special prayers and Scripture readings. We have to abstain from certain food and limit our entertainment. All that helps us to fight our spiritual warfare. And Lent is leading us to the celebration of the greatest victory in the history of salvation – to the Resurrection of Christ, to Holy Pascha. Thus Lent can also be compared to a war, after which we anticipate a victory, a triumph of Orthodoxy – Holy Pascha”.
Now, if we want to be victorious, we have to be good fighters in that war, to act like the heroes. Today’s Epistle lesson enumerates many heroic actions of the Old Testament Saints. First of all, we hear about Moses. Faith made him choose to renounce the riches and power and to become a leader of the Israelites. Adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses had been brought up in great luxury of Egypt. He was a prince. But he had never forgotten his people. And the day came when he decided to join them. To do so, he left behind the riches and power, the royalty he might have had. So, St. Paul says that Moses considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Heb. 11, 26). In other words, Moses looked to the spiritual victory, to the triumph of true faith. And that was his greatest reward. Could we choose reproach of Christ over the riches and power? Unfortunately, sometimes we are not able even choose to pray, to attend the church over our earthly cares or simply over our laziness”.
St. Paul also mentions other Old Testament heroes: Gideon, Barack, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and other Prophets. He describes their endeavors (Heb. 11, 32-38). Can we imitate them, or we will prefer to go with the flow? Do we want to act or we want to cheat? Do we want to succeed or we want to slide? If we act, if we fight and want to succeed, we will become victorious. We will get our triumph in this Lent and in our life as well”.
Today’s Gospel lesson describes the first encounter between certain Disciples of Christ with their Teacher and Lord, Jesus. It shows that they had a quest, a goal to find “Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote” (Jn. 1, 45). They desired to find the Messiah. That was their spiritual goal. And we read in the Gospel that they succeeded. Meeting Jesus, they found Him. But to succeed, Nathaniel had to be “an Israelite indeed in whom no deceit” (Jn. 1, 47). The Apostles had to be spiritually and morally prepared, to be fit. Just as the soldiers have to be trained and prepared to fight the war to win. And that first encounter with Christ was not their final victory yet. It was a success but it was just the beginning of their long journey, of their ongoing warfare which finally led them to the victory, to salvation and to their triumph of faith. It was the start of their great life in Christ which led to the desired moment when they truly saw “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (Jn. 1, 51)”.
Dear brothers and sisters! Let us continue our started journey of Lent by spiritual endeavors which can make us victorious in our quest for salvation. We have passed the first week of Lent and some of us could get already involved into spiritual warfare against sin to get a triumph of Orthodoxy on Pascha. Those of you who did not – you still have the remaining six weeks of that blessed time. Again, let us remember that our main war is against sin, and our worst enemies are sins, passions and the devil who inspires them. Let us recall that our patron Saint, Holy Martyr George is called Victorious not because he was a warrior and defeated the human enemies on the battlefield. It is an error to think of him in that way. That error, unfortunately, is widespread. As every Christian Martyr, St. George became victorious because he defeated the sin and conquered the intrigues of the devil; because he preferred to die for Christ, he chose “the reproach of Christ greater riches” than the career of the Roman military officer. Thus, let us seek spiritual sense in our life and doing so, let us seek Christ. Then we will be successful in our spiritual warfare and will reach our own triumph of Orthodoxy – our salvation and Heavenly Kingdom!”

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.

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

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector performed prayer service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy solemnly declaring the Orthodox faith and proclaiming eternal memory to the champions of that faith and the Polychronion to the Church hierarchy and Orthodox Christians.

Following the service the Rector made some announcements and had a speech addressing some aspects of parish life. He pointed out that we need to be more zealous in our spiritual and liturgical life, to be attentive to the service schedule and to improve our pious behavior in the temple.

Compline with penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete


On March 2, on Thursday of the first week of Lent the Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Compline with the reading of penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.

This Canon is composed as a conversation of a person with his own soul. It reveals that often we imitate sinners mentioned in the Scripture but do not wish to follow the steps of the righteous ones. It also calls us to bring the fruits of repentance and not to exalt ourselves.

Following the service the Rector thanked the faithful for joining together for that special service which inspires us to spiritually move from everyday life to the realm of pious reflections on our salvation and on the state of our souls. The Canon of St. Andrew calls us to imitate the just and to avoid the attitude of the sinners, encouraging us to sincerely repent.