7th Sunday after Pentecost


On July 23, on the 7th Sunday after Pentecost, feast of Venerable Anthony of the Caves, St. George parish family gathered for a nice celebration. The Divine Liturgy in our temple was celebrated by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he addressed the faithful with the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! This Sunday again the reading from the Holy Gospel is telling us about the healings performed by our Lord Jesus Christ. He returned the sight to the blind and he healed the mute. The blind men followed Him crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” (Mt. 9, 27). Let us remember today who was David. He was the King of Judea blessed by God; he was one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ”.
The Old Testament Scripture tells us a lot about holy king David. Since childhood days many of us were probably thrilled to the story of David defeating Goliath. The Philistine giant, Goliath was feared by the Jews who fought the Philistines. And he dared them to choose a warrior to fight him, cursing the Jews and making fun of them. For forty days the Jews could not find anyone willing to meet Goliath in the battle. Finally, a shepherd boy named David undertook that seemingly impossible task. He met and conquered the giant with the simplest of weapons, and with no visible armor”.
Each of us, in some sense, has a giant to fight. For some of us it is a physical ailment. For some it is a bad habit. For many of us it is fear of the future. For others, it is deep sorrow disturbing our peace. And generally, speaking of our spiritual state, the most fearsome giant is our sinful nature, our passions that threaten our salvation. Day by day we are battling our own giant, and we may ask, what are our chances to defeat it?”
Let us recall that the match between David and Goliath seemed to be a hopeless encounter. David was not trained as a warrior. But in answer to Goliath’s cursing and taunting, he replied: You come to me with a sword… But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts” (1 Sam. 17, 45). This was the secret of this battle. And as we fight our giants, this must be the secret – the battle is the Lord’s and our main weapon is God’s strength”.
As we read the Scripture, we see others facing giants. We may recall that the Jews led by Moses from Egypt finally reached the borders of the promised land. And they sent the spies to investigate that land. After weeks of observation those spies returned full of terrifying impressions. They said, There we saw the giants… and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Num. 13, 34). After hearing this report most of the Jews became very afraid to cross the border but two of those spies, Joshua and Caleb told them to have faith in God because the people of Canaan, even if they are so great and fearsome, they have no power against God who is with His people”.
Let us not forget that our Lord Jesus Himself was facing His own giant of persecution and crucifixion. Inspiring the Apostles He said, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16, 33). And He went forth to conquer the mightiest giant of all – death.
The two blind men in today’s Gospel lesson faced the giant of physical blindness. But they came to Someone Who was the real Giant. In the power of their faith in Him the giant of blindness was overcome. “According to your faith be it done to you,” Jesus said to them (Mt. 9, 29)”.
Today we commemorate Venerable Father Anthony of the Kiev Caves. He was also facing a giant of his own. If we read his life story we may be convinced of that. St. Anthony faced temptations and a lot of difficulties in his ascetic warfare. But he trusted in God and saw his goal of ascetic life. So he conquered all these obstacles”.
Dear brothers and sisters! When like David, like Joshua and Caleb, like the two blind men, like Venerable Anthony of the Caves, we look at life with faith in the Lord, the giants become cut down in size. We no longer grovel before them. For we are not grasshoppers in the presence of overpowering giants, but sons and daughters of Almighty God, clothed in the armor of Christ, trusting in Him. Being created in God’s image, we ourselves are supposed to be not grasshoppers but giants. If we invite Him to come and live within us, then there is a real giant in each one of us.”

The choir prayerfully performed the hymns dedicated to Venerable Anthony of the Caves whose memory was celebrated on that day.

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

6th Sunday after Pentecost


On July 16, on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, 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 Gospel is telling us about a miracle of healing of the paralytic (Mt. 9, 1-8). If we attend the Church on Sundays we may recall that the story of such healing is repeated three times during the year. First, on the 2nd Sunday of Lent we hear about the healing of the paralytic brought to Jesus by four men, by four friends (Mk. 2, 3-12). Then later, during our Paschal celebration, there is a Sunday called the Sunday of the Paralytic when we read the story of the paralyzed man healed by the Lord near the Pool at the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem (Jn. 5, 1-9). And today, on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, we read about the same healing that we heard on the 2nd Sunday of Lent, but we read it from another Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew. Why do we repeat this story twice a year and we read about another miracle of such healing to mention a paralytic three times per year?”
This is done not because of the importance of understanding the disease called paralysis, but because spiritual, not physical, paralysis is the most common human spiritual problem. A paralytic is unable to do anything by himself. His body is paralyzed. In the same way a spiritual paralysis makes us unable to act upon our salvation. Our soul is paralyzed, unable to change for better, to perform good deeds, to live spiritual life. And every Christian person, if he is honest with himself and is really able to evaluate his soul, could see that he is suffering from that spiritual disease. For example, we make a resolution to pray morning and evening prayers every day, to read the Scripture. We say that from this Monday I will start to pray and to read the Bible. Monday comes and we feel bad, have a headache in the morning, then we are busy during the day. On Monday night we feel tired. In addition, different problems and daily cares distract us from our plan. Tuesday comes and again we fail to do what we decided. It is called spiritual paralysis. We cannot mobilize ourselves for spiritual life. Or we decided to avoid certain sins. For instance, we made a resolution to stop judging other people. But we go somewhere, meet someone and begin talking, and we mention someone in our conversation and begin to discuss that person’s mistakes, shortcomings and wrongs. These are just a couple of examples, but they are so familiar. We are suffering from a paralysis of souls”.
What does the Holy Gospel teach us about that? First of all, it shows us the main reason for our spiritual paralysis. Before healing the paralyzed man, our Lord Jesus Christ forgave him his sins (Mt. 9, 2). Our sins cause us to be spiritually paralyzed. And the Church offers us an effective remedy for our sins, the repentance. Unfortunately, our paralyzed spiritual state often makes us unable to repent. But if we find strength to confess our sins, we may begin to heal. But since these efforts are usually very weak, we need something else. We need faith. In today’s Gospel the Lord performs the miracle after seeing the faith of the people who brought to him a paralytic (Mt. 9, 2). Note that Jesus did not see the faith of the paralytic but of his friends”.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we ourselves may not have a sufficient faith to receive healing from our spiritual paralysis, but the faith of our brethren in Christ may help us. Such a faith is the faith of the Holy Church. Each of us may not have enough faith in his or her heart, but the Church, the community of the believers, does possess such faith. We belong to the Church of the Holy Apostles, Martyrs, Venerable ascetics and other holy righteous people. We are united with them, and they constantly pray for us before God’s heavenly throne”.
We are also united with the Holy Angels. Today we commemorate Holy Martyr Hyacinth, a 12-year-old boy who was tortured for being a Christian. He refused to eat the food offered as sacrifice to the idols, and we should remember that this is forbidden for Christians. So, the torturers made him starve and eventually that holy boy died. But before his death the jailers saw him being comforted by the Angels. The Angels came to help him when no human person could do it. St. Hyacinth was dying alone, not with other Christians, so the Angels came to comfort”.
Thus, dear brothers and sisters, we are united with all the Saints who pray for us and may help us. And the Lord looking at our hearts and seeing our desire to be healed, then looking at the faith of our brethren, at the faith of His Holy Church, will forgive our sins and will eventually grant us healing from our spiritual infirmity. And He will make us who are spiritually paralyzed able to walk spiritually”.
Dear brothers and sisters! Let us ask our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that seeing the faith of the Holy Church He may forgive our sins and may say to us, “Arise and walk!”, so we may walk following His steps”.

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.

Before the Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed hymns dedicated to St. Hyacinth whose memory was celebrated on that day.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector welcomed back Paraskeva Kosmidis who returned from her trip to Greece and greeted some visitors to our parish. Then he invited everyone to the coffee hour held after the service.

5th Sunday after Pentecost


On July 9, on the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Gospel does not give us a lesson of what we should do, but rather shows us what we should avoid, what we should not do. It shows us a shocking reality of the existence of the power of evil. But it also teaches us that we need to avoid not only the powers of the evil one, but an attitude of desiring to be away from God, to be spiritually on our own”.
Today’s Gospel draws a terrible picture for us: two demoniacs came out from the tombs, “exceedingly fierce, so that no man might pass by that way” (Mt. 8, 28). Christ permitted the demons to enter into a huge herd of swine. The possessed ones were healed, but the whole herd of swine jumped from the cliff into the lake. So, we can only wonder and be impressed by a terrible force of evil which could do so”.
The demon-possessed men did not live among the people but in the tombs. Today we commemorate Ven. David of Thessalonica who also did not live in the society. He lived under the tree and often stayed on the tree branches. I was there in Thessalonica and I saw where this Father lived and I had an opportunity to see and to venerate his relics. So, sometimes you can see that the demon-possessed people live in a strange place, but sometimes we see that also holy people may live in a strange place. These are the extreme ways of life. And most of us don’t like to be in such extremes, but rather to keep somewhere in the middle. It is possible but we need to remember that anywhere we stand we need to be with God. If we desire to be independent from Him, we make a terrible mistake. Such a mistake was made by the people of that town described in today’s Gospel”.
Last week our country celebrated Independence Day, and we commemorated the historical date when America became independent from the British Empire. It is important and beneficial for a nation to be independent from other nations, so we respect and cherish that right of a nation to be free. That’s normal in the relations between nations. However, when we speak about the relations between people and God, there is nothing good in our independence from Him. Our independence from God has always catastrophic consequences”.
Here is the ending of today’s Gospel: “And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus” (Mt. 8, 34). And now you expect to find something encouraging: the whole town has united in order to meet the Lord. You want to think that it was faith that united them, that they, as once did the Samaritans, would ask the Lord to remain with them, would thank Him for His healing, for the salvation of two of their townspeople, and also for freeing them from the danger present when passing that way. And what happened? Yes, they asked the Lord, but not to stay with them, but rather to “depart out of their region!” (Mt. 8, 34)”.
Here is the most discouraging part in this Gospel reading. First the demons were in two possessed men. Later, we saw them in an entire herd of swine. And then, a whole town possessed. With what? Not directly with the evil spirits, but with the passion for profit. According to Jewish law, raising pigs was unlawful, sinful. But it made money, and huge amounts of money. And here an entire herd perished. And the people seemed to be saying to the Lord: “You have only set foot on our land and have caused us such a terrible loss. What will happen next if you stay here any longer? You will ruin us completely! We see, we understand your greatness: even the devils are obedient to you! But what does that do for us? What do the two healed men matter to us? We don’t need your miracles. We need the profit, we need the money. You are not for us. Go away, go away.””
Today’s Gospel lesson teaches us that we cannot be spiritually on our own. If we are with God, He will take a good care of us in our life. But if we ask God to depart from our life, He will obey. But then we will become an easy prey of the evil forces. God is Almighty but He never forces us to be with Him. He won’t save us without our cooperation with Him, without our desire for Him to be in our lives, to bless us and to abide with us. Thus if we ask Him to go, He will eventually leave. But we won’t be able to be spiritually independent. If God leaves, the devil comes”.
Recently we have heard of fierce storms and disasters everywhere in the world. We are also witnessing terrible war in Ukraine. Some religious people blame sinful way of life. Although God does not act in such a simplistic manner, He does allow evil to act if we live without God. If some sinful way of life, some passion takes over our soul, changes our lifestyle, we may think that we are better off without God. However, it is a terrible delusion”.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us examine our soul. Doesn’t the same thing happen to us? Some kind of passion takes possession of us, but Christ becomes an obstacle. And in our soul, we whisper the same terrible words: “Go away from us.” May the Lord keep us from this! May our words directed to Him always be: “Come to us and never leave us,” “Come and dwell within us and cleanse us from all impurity, and save our souls, o Good one!””

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 dedicated to the commemorated Saint, Venerable David of Thessalonica, during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal Fr. Igor made some announcements.

4th Sunday after Pentecost


On July 2, on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, memory of the Holy Apostle Jude, our St. George parish family had a nice celebration. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. After the reading from the Holy Gospel he preached the following homily:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s Gospel is telling us about the healing of the servant of the centurion. Reflecting upon this miracle performed by our Lord Jesus Christ, we may note two or even three things”.
Before we do that, let us mention that today we commemorate Holy Apostle Jude, brother of the Lord. It is an English tradition to call him St. Jude, although he had the same name as another Apostle, the one who betrayed Christ – Judas. They both were named Judas, and in our Slavic languages we call them by the same name – “Juda”. English Christians probably wished to distinguish the Holy Apostle from the one who betrayed Jesus, so began to use a different name for him. St. Jude is called “brother of the Lord” because he was the son of Joseph the Spouse of the Holy Virgin Mary. He was Jesus’ stepbrother but legally was considered his half-brother. He was one of the 12 Apostles and preached in different countries before he was martyred. He wrote one of the books of the New Testament, the Epistle of Jude which was read today as the second Epistle. In that book he is telling about interesting spiritual matters: regarding the Angels, moral issues and human salvation. Thus, when you will be home, open the Bible, find the Epistle of Jude and read it.”
Now, returning to our conversation on today’s Gospel, let us note to or three important things. First thing to note is that the centurion was a good person, because he cared for his servant. He was not one of those who considered human life expendable. He did not say to himself: “My servant is sick, I’ll let him die and tomorrow I will buy another slave to replace him”. Or, if that servant was not a slave, he could say, “Tomorrow I will hire another servant”. Therefore, we may conclude that he was also very serious about his responsibilities towards the one hundred soldiers under his command”.
The second thing for us to notice is that the centurion’s faith. He really believed in Christ and in His power to heal. He said to Jesus: “Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Mt. 8, 8). This faith was great, so Jesus considered it to be far greater than the faith of the Jews. Despite their Old Testament heritage, all that they could do to Jesus was to criticize, find fault in Him and wish to destroy Him. The centurion, on the other hand, had complete faith in the power of Christ. That’s the second thing. And he had complete trust, so we may add this as a third thing”.
In return for these two or three qualities our Lord granted the centurion his humble request. But in the person of that Roman officer we may see all the faithful people, people possessing those two qualities that we noted – loving care for others, firm faith and full trust. And to all such people Christ granted two things”.
First thing that Jesus grants is the Kingdom of Heaven. He grants it to the centurion and to all faithful humanity. The Kingdom is no longer for the Jews only, but it is opened to all. The Lord proclaims: “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness” (Mt. 8, 11-12). In other words it is no longer race or nationality that gives salvation, but faith. The Jews took it for granted in a racist way, that they would be blessed and not the rest of humanity. But today it is revealed that we shall be judged according to our faith, not according to some external sign of nationality. From now on, our faith is the one quality that opens the Kingdom of God. No human boundaries and standards apply any longer, it is faith in the grace and power of God that saves”.
Secondly, this Gospel lesson reveals to us that it is faith that determines not only our future in the Kingdom of God, but it also determines our present. Jesus says to the centurion, “As you have believed, so let it be done for you” (Mt. 8, 13). These words are comforting and healing for the people like that centurion. We learn from the Gospel that his servant became healed that same hour (Mt. 8, 13). But these words are terrible for those without faith. They say that as we believe, so shall it be done unto us. If we believe in good things, so we shall receive good things. But if we believe in something bad, so we shall receive bad things. Those who live by the vice will receive the vice. “The wages of sin is death”, says St. Paul in today’s first Epistle lesson (Rom. 6, 23). Those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword. If we love our neighbor, they will mostly love us. If we hate our neighbor, they will mostly hate us. Our lives are determined by the faith in them. Our lives are determined by our beliefs. Without faith, our lives are empty. With faith, our lives are full”.
This understanding of this Gospel story shows that our happiness in this world or our future blessedness in the world to come is to live by the highest virtues. If we do this, then our lives will be transformed, not only in this earthly life, but also in the life to come. And the highest virtues showed in today’s Gospel are love and faith and hope – the three main Christian virtues, called theological virtues. They are called so, because in these three virtues God is fulfilling Himself in us. So, if we possess those virtues, faith, hope and love we become close to God and He fulfills His will in us”.
Dear brothers and sisters! Let us shape our lives around the virtues of love and faith in the firm assurance and knowledge that all else will come aright as a result. For as we believe, so shall it be done unto us”.

The choir prayerfully performed hymns dedicated to Holy Apostle Jude during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal the Rector made some announcements, especially regarding our July schedule.

Following the Liturgy Fr. Igor performed the Mystery of Baptism over Mateo Trujillo requested by his father, recently converted David Trujillo. Following the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation the baby was introduced into the Church and received his first Holy Communion. The Rector and parishioners were also invited to have a lunch served by the Trujillo family in honor of the Christening of their son.