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.

St. Mary’s Standing

 

On Wednesday of the 5th week of Lent the Church celebrates a special service known as St. Mary’s Standing. Great penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read in its entirety during that service. 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.

This year, according to the liturgical statutes, that service was moved to Monday evening because on Wednesday evening the Church will celebrate vigil of the Annunciation. Therefore, celebration of St. Mary’s Standing was held on Monday, April 4. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov led the service at St. George Church reading the Canon.

Fourth Sunday of Lent

 

On April 3, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy in our parish temple. After the Gospel reading he preached the following homily:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we came to the celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Lent. On this day the Church offers us a Gospel story about casting out a demon from the young man, about a healing. It was done by the power of Jesus, but also through the faith of that young man’s father. Thus, the Gospel of today tells us about the importance of our faith”.
On this Sunday the Church also honors the memory of St. John Climacus, or Venerable John of the Ladder. He was a knowledgeable monk in the monastery on the Mt. Sinai who wrote a book of guidance for the monks on how to ascend spiritually to heaven. That ascending was described as the steps, thus it was called the “Ladder of Divine Assent”, or “Ladder of paradise”.
God wants our faith. But we should realize that our faith is not sufficient. The father of the young man exclaimed, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9, 24). On one hand, our faith is too little. On the other hand, if we live by faith, lead a spiritual life, then we see how far we are from perfection. Same with our sense of sin. The more we repent, the more we understand how many sins we may commit”.
The ladder leading to perfection is impossible to finish ascending. Because God is on the top of that ladder. But it is possible to get to many higher steps. The more we strive to get the more we achieve”.
However, climbing the ladder of divine ascent is very difficult. On the icon that we have today in the middle of the church, we may see that some people climbing the ladder are being thrown down by the demons. They fall from the steps. This happens because on our ascent we encounter temptations, difficulties and obstacles. It is important for us not to lose the perspective, but to fix our eyes on our goal which is God Himself or His eternal Kingdom. We don’t have to look at the obstacles, at the wind, at the temptations, but to look at Christ. Let us recall how Holy Apostle Peter was trying to walk on the water. First he did, but very soon he became distracted by the wind and he began to sink. If he looked not at the wind but at Jesus Christ who was waiting for him on the boat, he could successfully go on the waters to His Master”.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us persist in our ascent, in our spiritual life, looking at Jesus Christ. Let us believe and, realizing that our faith is weak, let us ask God like the father of the possessed young man did, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

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 Venerable John Climacus during preparation for Holy Communion.

After the dismissal the Rector made some announcements regarding our April service schedule. He also reminded the parishioners to receive the Holy Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist during the remainder of Lent and before Pascha.

Following the Liturgy the Rector celebrated a Prayer service of Thanksgiving requested by Tatiana Migal. After that service we had coffee and refreshments enjoying simple but delicious meals and a nice company.