Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women

 

On May 8, on the Sunday of Myrrh-Bearing Women, as well as feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, we had a beautiful service at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy. He was co-served by our guest, Priest Nenad Flora, Rector of St. Seraphim Mission in Dominican Republic. After the reading from the Holy Gospel Fr. Igor preached the following homily:

Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Christ is risen! On this Sunday after Pascha we honor Holy Myrrh-bearing Women, righteous Joseph and Nicodemus who participated in the burial of our Lord Jesus Christ. Later some of them became the witnesses of His Resurrection, as we heard in today’s Gospel lesson. A huge stone was rolled against the door of the tomb where Jesus was laid, but when He rose from the dead the stone became rolled away. As we think today of that tomb of Jesus, other tombs come to mind – tombs where Jesus is buried today, strong tombs, heavily sealed, tombs that are designed to keep Jesus isolated from our lives”.
A Monk of Eastern Church writes: “In many souls, Jesus seems to be buried as if in a sepulcher. He seems to be paralyzed, immobilized, even dead. He is covered by a heavy stone; the stone of sin, of ignorance, of indifference, the stone of bad habits that have accumulated over years.” Buried by those errors we cry out like the Myrrh-bearing Women: “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” (Mk. 16, 3)”.
The sin is the first stone by which we can cover Jesus in His sepulcher. Our sins don’t let us give our Lord a place in our life; they keep us away from Him. First of all, it happens when we let our sins rule over us. Then we serve sin, not our Lord. And second, when our sins, or a particular sin of ours, keeps us away from God”.
The second stone is ignorance. What kind of ignorance buries Jesus? The ignorance about Him. Ignorance about our faith, ignorance about religious matters, ignorance about basic, but very important things in our life. Many people don’t know our faith, why we believe in this or in that. Many people don’t know the pious traditions: why we do certain things in our Church, what we are supposed to have in our Church. I can speak hours telling you the stories of people’s ignorance about faith, Church life and other spiritual things. For instance, today we celebrate feast of the Holy Apotsle and Evangelist Mark who wrote the second Gospel. By the way, today’s Gospel reading about the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women was from the Gospel of St. Mark. This Apostle was a disciple of the Holy Apostle Peter, and he also traveled along with Holy Apostle Paul. St. Mark was not one of the 12 but one of the 70 Apostles. So, many people, if they recall St. Mark they would be confused. If they won’t find him among the 12 Apostles, they would wonder why he is an Apostle. It is an ignorance. We should know that there were 12 and also 70 Apostles of Christ”.
I read a story about a Lutheran pastor who was in the Soviet GULAG and being there he was trying not to forget basic accounts of his religion. So, he was recalling the names of the Apostles. The author of the story says that the minister was enumerating, “Peter, Paul” and so on. Right there we find a mistake. Either the pastor forgot that St. Paul was not one of the 12 or the author confused the names. Ignorance!”
So, ignorance. This is the great stone that keeps Jesus buried in the tomb. If you don’t know something – ask, inquire. Talk to the priest, ask or simply listen when the priest is telling you about it. You can call the priest or text the priest with your questions, and he will be happy to answer and to make you knowledgeable, not ignorant”.
The third and the greatest of the stones is indifference. Indifference is what keeps Jesus buried in the terrible grave of apathy. A priest once stopped in a coffee shop and sat at a counter next to a man. The man glanced at the priest and asked where his church was. When the priest told him, he said, “That’s the church I go myself”. “Isn’t that strange?” the priest said, “I’ve been a rector there for five years and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you.” The man replied, “Come on, Father, I didn’t say I was a fanatic”. It is OK to be fanatic about football but there is something wrong with you if you are serious about Jesus. It is that kind of indifference that keeps Jesus buried. It is an extremely heavy stone and it needs to be removed if Jesus is to become a living presence in our lives”.
In addition, there are the people who bury Christ in their hearts, in their souls. They are the people who tell us: “I may not come to church, but God is always in my soul”. It is a very popular attitude, especially among the people from our old countries. Some famous Russian priest who already passed away said about that attitude, “Then do everything in your soul! Eat in your soul, drink in your soul, get married in your soul”. But, as we all know, people prefer to eat, drink, get married and do other things not in their souls but by their bodies and by actual facts. However, many do not wish to actually practice their faith but keep God “in their souls”. Such people don’t participate in the Liturgy. They don’t receive the Sacraments. They don’t support the work of Christ through His Church. They seldom pray and yet – they tell us – God is in their souls. Maybe He is! But then, that’s where they keep Him dead and buried”.
If there are those today who claim that God is dead, it is also because we Christians have buried Him in our sins, in our ignorance, in our indifference, in our souls. And if we have buried God, there is no wonder why we are so anxious and worried people today”.
“Dear Father, dear brothers and sisters! Roll the stone away from the tomb and let the Risen Christ step out of our indifference, out of our sins, out of our ignorance, even “out of our souls” into our lives and see what happens as a result! It will bring the great power, the great peace and the great joy! Christ is risen!”

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 to the Holy Apostle Mark, as well as Paschal hymns during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector congratulated our ladies on the occasion of this Sunday which is the Orthodox Women’s day. He also greeted them on the occasion of today’s celebrated Mother’s Day. Traditional Polychronion (“Mnogaia leta!”) was proclaimed. Then Fr. Igor also greeted Mark Deleon and Tamara Gusnezow on the occasion of their past name days, proclaiming a Polychronion on their behalf and dividing the Theotokian prosphora among them. Finally, Fr. Igor expressed his best wishes of God’s blessings and success for the pastoral ministry of Fr. Nenad Flora who will soon be returning to his missionary community in Dominican Republic.

After the Liturgy the Rector performed a memorial Litia requested by Olga Kniazeva.

Patronal Feast of St. George

 

On Friday, May 6 our Parish celebrated its Patronal Feast of the Holy Victorious Great Martyr George. Our festal service was headed by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. He was co-served by the guest clergy from the ROCOR: Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk), Priest Nenad Flora and Deacon Matthew Keil. After the reading of the Hours they celebrated the Divine Liturgy. Later, during the service there arrived Abbot Zosimas (Krampis) who was praying along with the faithful in the temple.

Following the readings from Sacred Scripture Priest Nenad Flora preached a short homily in English. He stressed that in the Gospel reading appointed for this feast the Lord says, “These things I command you, that you love one another” (Jn. 15, 17). Thus the Lord did not ask or suggest that we love another but He commanded that. Love is a crucial commandment of Christianity and it should be practiced if we wish to attain salvation.

The choir beautifully performed hymns dedicated to St. George, as well as Paschal hymns during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy the clergy and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification of St. George in front of his icon in the middle of the church. They sang the troparion, kontakion and magnification of our temple Saint. Then the Rector greeted everybody present on the feast and said a few words about our celebrated holy patron. The two group photographs were taken: one of the clergy and altar servers, then another of all present at the celebration.

Our Patronal Feast continued after the liturgical service. All were invited to a luncheon at the nearby Italian restaurant where the clergy and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company.

Antipascha. Sunday of St. Thomas

 

On May 1, on the Sunday of Antipascha, also known as Sunday of St. Thomas, we had a nice service at St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy in our temple. He was co-served by Priest Nenad Flora, Rector of St. Seraphim Mission in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Following the Gospel lesson our guest, Fr. Nenad preached a homily in English about celebrated feast.

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 beautifully performed the Aposticha of St. Thomas Sunday and the Aposticha of Pascha during preparation for Holy Communion.

Since we did not hold a service on Bright Saturday when the Paschal blessed bread, called the Artos is usually distributed, the Rector proclaimed the prayer for the breaking of the Artos following the Ambo prayer.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector welcomed Fr. Nenad who used to be our parishioner and is a very good friend of our community of St. George. Fr. Igor also preached a sermon in Russian addressing the spiritual importance of knowing God in the life of every Christian. Holy Apostle Thomas recognized His Lord Jesus Christ seeing His risen body. Very often people learn about God studying the Scripture and Theology but doing that they not always come to the true knowledge of God. Some Romanian priest acknowledged that he came to know God not after he studied in theological schools, but only when he ended up in prison. God reveals Himself to the people in suffering. Nowadays a lot of people suffer terrible things in Ukraine. And if someone wonders where God is in these misfortunes, we may answer that God is truly there, among the suffering people. They can easily know Him. If there is a desire to know God, He will permit to become known. Thomas sincerely wished to believe although he demanded proof. But when the Risen Lord had appeared to him, Thomas forgot about his demand and recognized Him.
The Rector also made an announcement regarding our Patronal feast of St. George which comes soon.
Finally, the Rector distributed the Artos among the parishioners.

HOLY PASCHA

 

On April 24 of this year 2022 all Orthodox Christians celebrated the greatest holy day, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Pascha.

Celebration at St. George Church began before midnight on Saturday, April 23. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov performed Midnight service at the Lord’s Tomb. He was co-served by Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyk). During the service the priests transferred the Holy Shroud to the altar.

Soon after midnight joyful Paschal celebration began. The Rector and Fr. Eutychius assisted by the altar servers led faithful in the procession around the temple. At the end of the procession everyone stood in front of the closed church doors where Fr. Igor began Resurrection Matins and proclaimed the Easter greeting, “Christ is risen”. Faithful responded and sung Paschal troparion. Then the priest opened the doors of the temple and faithful entered into the church.

After the Matins Fr. Igor and Fr. Eutychius served the Divine Liturgy. The Gospel lesson on Pascha is traditionally read in several languages. The faithful had an opportunity to listen the verses of the reading in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Church Slavonic, English, Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian, Serbian, Romanian, Belorussian, Polish and Spanish. Following the Gospel reading Fr. Igor proclaimed Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom on Pascha. Following the Ambo prayer he also performed the blessing of the special Paschal Bread called Artos.

After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector greeted the parishioners on the occasion of the greatest Christian holy day.

Following main services the Rector blessed Easter food.

Rector and parishioners continued their celebration of Pascha at the table where they had an opportunity to enjoy delicious meals after the long time of fasting.

 

Holy and Great Friday

 

On April 22, on the Holy and Great Friday we had two special services in our parish temple. This day is the most sorrowful day in Christian calendar. On Holy Friday we commemorate crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, His death on the Cross, as well as His burial. St. George Church’s Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served Vespers with the procession of the Shroud at 4:00 PM. He was co-served by Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk).

At the end of this service holy Shroud had been solemnly carried out from the altar to the middle of the church and placed there for veneration.

Following the dismissal the Rector preached a homily. He addressed the sorrowful fact that God died on that day. Jesus Christ, the Son of God was crucified and died, He was then buried. It is an incomprehensible concept to grasp. On the other hand, our Lord was also a true Man. And as a true Man He also died. It is more comprehensible but still we are shocked that an innocent person such as Jesus was condemned to a terrible death, a kind and miracle working Christ was crucified by His own people. That reflection sends us to the present horrible and sorrowful events in Ukraine. Ukraine is now going through its own way of the Cross. Many Ukrainians die because of the unjust and evil war. The enemies of Ukraine are killing the civilians, bombing the cities and destroying the buildings. They do it in a devilish way, committing terrible atrocities. The hierarchy of the Church was asking to cease fire for the Holy Week but they did not. Then it had been proposed to stop bombing for the feast of Pascha. But they probably won’t listen. They cannot serve the just cause as they claim because they are acting in such an evil and barbaric way. Where they come, they restore the monuments to Lenin and rename the streets after the Communist butchers while they intentionally bombard the holy churches, including the churches belonging to the Patriarchate of Moscow. Seeing that how can we comfort people who lost their children, parents, spouses – lost them forever?! We can find the spiritual answer to that sorrow by looking at the Lord’s Tomb, at the Holy Shroud. God the Father also lost His only Son today. The Most Holy Theotokos also lost Her only Son. God permitted that to occur. God desired that to happen to redeem mankind. And in our earthly life God permits sufferings to happen if He loves us. God allows us to be punished for our sinfulness. God loves Orthodox people of Ukraine and thus permits them to undergo that terrible ordeal. But we believe and we are sure that good always wins. The sufferings, death and burial of Christ ended in His Resurrection. Without His Holy Passions, without the cross, without His death and without His burial there would be no radiant Resurrection. Therefore, we should believe and hope that every evil will end and good will prevail.

At 7:00 PM Fr. Igor and Fr. Eutychius celebrated Matins on the Lord’s Tomb. Most of this service was performed before the Shroud placed in the middle of the church. After the Great Doxologion the priests, altar servers and parishioners performed the procession around the church. The clergy carried the holy Shroud resembling burial of the Lord.

Holy and Great Thursday

 

On April 21, on Holy and Great Thursday when the Church commemorates the Last Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ we had a service in St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served Vespers with the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.

Following the dismissal Fr. Igor preached a homily regarding the importance of commemoration of the Last Supper on which our Lord Jesus Christ instituted two Holy Mysteries, of Priesthood and of the Holy Eucharist.

Service was attended by Deacon Matthew Keil, a ROCOR cleric, along with his big family.

Holy and Great Wednesday

 

On April 20, on Holy and Great Wednesday, when the Church commemorates the betrayal of Judas, our Parish held a service of the last Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in this year. It was headed by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Service was attended by Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk) who was praying in the sanctuary.

After the dismissal of the Liturgy Fr. Igor preached a homily. He addressed the commemorated  betrayal of Judas and reflected upon that horrible act of a Disciple of Christ. The Rector pointed out that the choice of Judah and his behavior tell us that even among the servants of there may be found persons unworthy and evil. We should not doubt the Church because of the conduct of some bishops, priests and other important Church members. If among 12 Apostles there happen to be one betrayer, in every Christian community may be unworthy members. On the other hand, in a spiritual way, every serious sin we commit is a kind of betrayal of the Lord and Savior. However, the difference between a good and pious Christian, a true Disciple of Christ and Judas is that we sin and repent, ask God for forgiveness. Judas did feel sorry and remorseful but he did not truly repent and did not ask the Lord to forgive him. Instead, he fell in despair and hanged himself. Our Lenten penitential practice of making prostrations shows us the way we should act: our fall should be followed by our getting up; our sins should be followed by repentance.

Palm Sunday. Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem

 

On April 17, 2022 the Orthodox Church celebrated feast of the Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, also known as Palm Sunday.

Our parish prepared to celebrate that great feast but we suffered a misfortune. An electric fire in one of our back closets started in the morning before the service. We had to call the Fire Department that quickly responded and put all the fire down. However, our temple suffered a minor damage. Since the fire fighters permitted us to use the building, we did some basic cleaning and started our service. It began later than it was scheduled. Because our electric system caused the fire, our power had to be shut off and we served without electricity.

The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed festal liturgical service. Abbot Eutychius (Dovganyuk) was present, prayed in the sanctuary and was hearing confessions. Some of his spiritual children also joined us at the Liturgy.

After the reading of the Hours the Rector blessed the pussy-willows and distributed them to the parishioners who were holding them during the service resembling the people of Jerusalem who greeted Jesus Christ with the olive and palm branches during His triumphal entry to the city.

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 festal hymns of Palm Sundayduring preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector and the altar servers performed the rite of glorification before the festal icon. Then Fr. Igor preached a sermon in English and in Russian about the celebrated feast. He pointed out that in the Gospel reading assigned for this feast we heard that the people of Jerusalem came out to greet Jesus because they knew that He performed a sign: Jesus resurrected Lazarus. People are often looking for the signs. Today we had a fire in our church. Was that a sign? Probably. First of all, it should be a sign that we need to be more caring and diligent regarding our precious temple. And the pussy-willows we have blessed and holding today are also a sign of our allegiance to Christ the Savior. If we hold them as such sign, not as just a tribute to our tradition, we may do it appropriately and be worthy of the Holy Passions of Christ which we are going to celebrate next week.

At the conclusion Fr. Igor greeted everybody on the occasion of the feast and preached a short sermon in Russian regarding the end of Lent and how did we spend that special time. He also reminded the parishioners about our service schedule for the Holy Week.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

On April 10, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent our parishioners gathered for the liturgical celebration in our temple. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! On the Fifth Sunday of Lent we hear again, for the second time, that our Lord Jesus Christ is foretelling His death and sufferings. In this way we, little by little, are being prepared for the days when we are going to commemorate the holy Passions of the Lord. These days are coming soon. Next Sunday will be the beginning of them. We will observe the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. And following that feast we will enter into the Passion week. The Lord says, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of God will be betrayed…” (Mk. 10, 33). We are also going up to Jerusalem, we do it in a spiritual way”.
“Today’s Gospel is also telling us about the difference between the ideals of the Christian teaching and the ideals of worldly life. The Lord rebuked His disciples, James and John who wished to be given the seats closest to the Lord in His Kingdom. He said to them, “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be yours servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all” (Mk. 10, 43-44)”.
“Today we also honor Venerable Mary of Egypt. She was a great sinner who became a great Saint. There is no such thing as sinless life, but there is no such sin that cannot be forgiven if the sinner repents. Mary being a harlot for 17 years (from the age of 12 to the age of 29) repented and became a greatest woman-Saint. We usually like to say that people don’t change. But here is an example of a person who totally changed her life. If you read the life story of St. Mary of Egypt you can be convinced of that. When she could not enter the church in Jerusalem because some unknown force prevented her to do so for the reason of her impurity and sinfulness, she prayed to the Most Holy Mother of God in front of Her icon outside of the temple. The Blessed Mother told Mary that she must repent and listen to Her. After she repented, received the Mysteries of Penance and Communion, Mary heard the call of the Mother of God, “Cross the Jordan, and you will find true peace”. She crossed the river of Jordan and spent the rest of her life in the desert”.
“The life of St. Mary teaches us that the true and everlasting values are quite different from those of the world. Mary of Egypt went out into the desert and had nothing. She had no friends, no home, no possessions, no clothes and almost no food. The world looked for pleasure, the satisfaction of the senses, money and power, but St. Mary had no money, no property and no power in the world. Today’s Gospel confirms the choice of St Mary, for it says that those who wish to be great must be servants. This is the opposite from all the ways of this world. But our Lord preached this and St. Mary lived by this”.
“As we said, the Church calls St. Mary “the greatest of Saints”. The use of this word “great” may surprise. In everyday life, we use “great” in other meanings. The world speaks of “great politicians” “great soldiers”, “great movie stars”, “great sportsmen”. But the Church calls St. Mary of Egypt “great” and all the centuries after she lived we ask for her prayers, but not for prayers of any politician or soldier or movie star or sportsman. Let us then think more carefully when we use this word “great””.
“Last week, reading penitential Canon of St. Andrew, we encountered the words “great merchant”. The Canon says that if someone would live a godly life, acquire the divine grace, such person will become a “great merchant”. Ven. Andrew composing the Canon took that image from the Gospel parable of a merchant seeking a precious pearl (Mt. 13, 45-46). Jesus telling that parable compared His Heavenly Kingdom to a precious pearl and a person who seeks it to a merchant. Thus, really great merchant is someone who would seek and find God’s Kingdom, a holy person. Such person like Ven. Mary of Egypt”.
“And as we approach the days of the holy Passions of Christ, the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, let us also think of the words of the Mother of God, which led Mary to her salvation through repentance and her greatness: “If you cross the Jordan, you will find true peace”. These mysterious words are today also addressed to each of us; the interpretation of their mystery is open to the souls of each of us, but only if we ask the Mother of God and St Mary to guide us. And then we shall find our own “entry into Jerusalem””.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to the Most Holy Mother of God and to Venerable Mother Mary of Egypt to assist us in our journey to our own Jerusalem!”

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 penitential hymns during preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector expressed his gratitude to Tatiana Migal for bringing an old and beautiful family icon of the Annunciation to the church. That icon was placed on the holy altar and remained there for the Divine Liturgy. After the Liturgy the icon was presented to the faithful for veneration.

Then the Rector had a speech regarding some suggestion he heard from one of the parishioners asking for the usage of Russian language for homilies. Fr. Igor pointed out that some of our parishioners, especially the newly converted persons, do not understand Russian while probably all our Russian-speaking parishioners can understand English. Given such situation, it is preferred that the sermons should be proclaimed in English. However, we are open for further discussion of that issue. The Rector also made the announcements about the future celebrations of the Holy Week and Pascha and regarding the importance to receive the Holy Mysteries of Penance and Eucharist in these special days of Lent.

After the Divine Liturgy the Rector performed the Sacrament of the Anointing of the sick. All persons who desired to receive that Mystery participated in the service and were anointed with the blessed oil.

Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God: our Dean celebrates his 10th Anniversary of Priesthood

 

On April 7 Holy Orthodox Church celebrates feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God. On that day Dean of Eastern States of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, Priest Alexey Paranyuk celebrated his 10th Anniversary of priestly ordination.

Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov visited S. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls, NJ where Fr. Alexey is serving as the Rector. Our parish priest concelebrated Vespers with Divine Liturgy at that temple. Service was attended by Hieromonk Stephen (Bushman) and by a number of faithful.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy Fr. Igor greeted our Dean on joyful occasion of his anniversary of priesthood. He pointed out that Fr. Alexey was ordained on a special feastday commemorating the Annunciation, the Good News that our Lady conceived the Child, the future Savior of the world. The whole priestly ministry is a proclamation of the Good News, of the Holy Gospel to the faithful. And in the course of 10 years Fr. Alexey had such an opportunity to be a messenger of the Gospel, as well as to serve God and the people.

As a sign of appreciation, Fr. Igor presented the Dean with a special gift – a pectoral cross having the engraved images of 12 major holy days of the Church year. He also wished Fr. Alexey that that cross would remind him of the great sacrifice he has to offer bearing his cross as a priest, a family man and a human being. Such sacrifice is demanding but it is also delightful, especially if we remember about the joy of the holy days reminding us about the rejoicing events of our salvation.

At the end of the service Archpriest Igor Tarasov proclaimed the Polychronion to Priest Alexey.