Holy and Great Friday

 

On April 14, 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. 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.

At the end of Vespers the Rector preached a sermon in Russian. He pointed out that the Lord Jesus Christ died on that day for the human kind, so we may now inherit eternal life. We humanly fear death and do not like to think of that subject. However, all of us should remember that through Baptism all of us are supposed to die spiritually, to become dead for sin and alive for Christ. Baptismal font represents the tomb in which we become dead for sin. Jesus allowed Himself to die on the cross and to be laid in the tomb, so we may enjoy eternal life in Him. On this day of the Great Friday we have a procession with the Shroud and we place the Shroud in the middle of the church to be reminded of the burial of the Lord. In some parish the new pastor reviewed the list of parishioners and he noticed that some names were marked by an abbreviation “F.B.P.O.”. The pastor asked a parish activist what this abbreviation meant. The response was that these are the members who do not attend the church but pay their dues, so they could be buried by this church. The abbreviation meant “for burial purpose only”. Such Christians are already dead spiritually although they are much alive and are interested in many life things, but they are not interested in Christ and their salvation. Therefore, we have to live spiritual life to be really alive in Christ. Even if we die eventually, our life will continue in Jesus who died and was buried for us.

 At 7:00 PM the Rector 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 Rector, altar servers and parishioners performed the procession around the church. The priest carried the holy Shroud resembling burial of the Lord.

 

 

Holy and Great Wednesday

 

On April 12, on Holy and Great Wednesday, when the Church commemorates the betrayal of Judas, St. George parish community gathered for the service of the last Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in this year. It was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short homily about the significance of this day of the Holy Week and also about the specifics of the Presanctified Liturgy.

Palm Sunday

 

On April 9, 2017 the Orthodox Church celebrated feast of the Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, also known as Palm Sunday. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed festal liturgical service in our parish.

Before 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.

Following the readings from the Scripture at Divine Liturgy the Rector preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“Dear brothers and sisters! This year we look at this time of Lent and Holy Week as at some journey to the Kingdom of Heaven. And today we came to this great holy day of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem which is called Palm Sunday. In the Russian Church it is known as the Willow Sunday when we bless and hold the branches of the pussy-willows imitating the people of Jerusalem, especially children, who greeted the Savior with the palm and olive branches.”
“Reflecting upon our spiritual return to paradise, we may recall that there were many various trees grown in the Garden of Eden. There was a tree of knowing good and evil from which Adam and Eve ate, but there was also the tree of life. The trees have a great significance in the history of mankind and in human salvation.”
“And behold, today, on this holy day we picked up the branches of the tree and came to the God’s temple to resemble those children who greeted the Savior of the world, Lord Jesus Christ who was entering the city of Jerusalem. The Gospel says that they cut down the branches of the trees and spread them on the road and greeted Him saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mt. 21, 8-9). And the Savior indeed was coming in the name of the Lord; He was walking upon those branches of the trees, so in five days He could take up another tree, the tree of the Cross, upon His shoulders. He was walking to walk later to the Calvary and to die there on the tree of the Cross.”

“In the same way as in there was the tree of life in the middle of the Garden of Eden, thus the Cross on the Calvary became the tree of life that gave back to men paradise which was lost by him. Paradise was lost because of man’s disobedience, because of the man’s will contradicting to the will of God. Now the Son of God and the Son of Man gives up His human will and submits to the will of God and He ascends on the Cross to die for the sins of Adam, so by the Cross the paradise will be returned and we could enter eternal life.”
“This is why, dear brothers and sisters, today we hold the branches of the trees. In this way we commemorate the spiritual sense of the redemptive sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. We may not fully understand the depth of those symbols, as those children who cried out and greeted Christ, did not understand what they were doing. But the scribes and Pharisees who had to have a better understanding, they got angry and told Christ: “Rebuke your disciples” (Lk. 19, 39), “Make them stop!” But Jesus answered to them: “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” (Mt. 21, 16; Ps. 8, 3).  Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, today we resemble those children of Jerusalem who had faithful hearts. And we also come to the Lord’s temple holding the branches.”
“Children had no idea what Jesus was going to endure. They did not know that those who forbade them to welcome Christ, later will teach the adults to cry “Crucify Him!” We do know that and we know Whom we are greeting. We know why the Lord entered Jerusalem; we know but we joyfully and piously praise the Savior of the world who is coming to save us. If He did not come, if He did not enter into Jerusalem, if He did not ascend on the Cross, we would never see the God’s paradise, we would never be able to acquire salvation. But through the Savior of the world, Lord Jesus Christ, through His death on the Cross and through His Resurrection on the third day the gates of paradise which became closed because of our transgressions, became open again.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Let us then turn to the Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, so like those branches of the trees which now, after the winter again become green and blooming, thus our souls would become blooming by the virtues and good deeds; our souls would be risen from the dead as righteous Lazarus was risen by the word of God; so eternal life and eternal joy would be open for our souls; so these branches of the trees would become a reminder of our sins, but also a reminder of our salvation. Since the grace of the Holy Spirit had gathered us today, let us then cry out together to our Savior: “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!””

The choir beautifully performed holy day hymns selecting special melodies for the most parts of the Liturgy.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in English explaining the ideas of his Russian homily. He also reminded the parishioners about our service schedule for the Holy Week and Pascha.

After the service parishioners and the Rector enjoyed delicious meals and interesting conversation during the coffee hour.

Patronal Feast in Flushing, NY

 

On April 7, on the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God, our neighboring parish, a Russian Orthodox Church in Flushing, NY celebrated its Patronal feast. The Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov visited that temple and participated in its celebration. Vespers with the Divine Liturgy was served by His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. His Eminence was co-served by our Rector, as well as by Archpriest Ion Arama, Rector of the Annunciation Church and other ROCOR clergy.

Some of our parishioners, including our Warden, Olga Roussanow attended that celebration.

Following the beautiful hierarchical service clergy and the faithful continued the Patronal feast celebration in the church hall. They had an opportunity to enjoy lenten but delicious meals and a nice company. Members of the clergy made toasts having interesting and instructive speeches. Our Rector, Fr. Igor had a speech also. He stressed that it is very fortunate to have a parish temple dedicated to the Annunciation. That feast signifies the Good News of salvation in Christ. Many of us living this earthly life feel preoccupied with different troubles and cares. But we should remember that the Good News of Christ had been brought to mankind two thousand years ago, so we should not be troubled. The people of God are led by the Church to salvation in Christ. He also greeted all the faithful present on the occasion of the Patronal feast and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to have a liturgical and prayerful celebration together on this remarkable holy day.

Lenten Mission Vespers in Garfield, NJ

 

On April 2, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Dean of the Eastern States of the Patriarchal Parishes participated in this year’s third Lenten Mission Vespers served in our Deanery. This day the service had been celebrated at the Three Hierarchs Church in Garfield, NJ.

Mission Vespers was headed by the parish Rector, Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes, Archpriest George Konyev and co-served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, as well as by Archpriest John Kassatkin, Rector of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ, Priest Aleksiy Paranyuk, Rector of St. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls, NJ, Deacon Nicholas DeGraaff, cleric of the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ and Deacon Andrew Massey, cleric of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ.

Following the Great Prokimenon a sermon in English was delivered by Deacon Andrew Massey.

After the Vespers dismissal parish Rector expressed his gratitude to the clergy and lay people present for their participation in the Mission service. Following the service in the temple, coffee and sweets were offered to the guests of the Garfield church in its parish hall.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

On April 2, on the Fifth Sunday of Lent our parish family gathered for a liturgical celebration on our temple. Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. Following the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily in English:

“Today we came to the celebration of the Fifth Sunday of Lent which makes us realize certain new things as we spiritually journey towards the Kingdom of Heaven. The Gospel lesson read today is telling us that the usual human and social rules may not apply in the God’s Kingdom. The Lord explains to His Disciples that if “whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all” (Mk. 10, 43-44).  Today we also honor Ven. Mother Mary of Egypt whose life is a great example of how our earthly judgments can be wrong and an example of how a person can change if he or she is being helped by the divine grace.”
“The Gospel lesson shows us that Holy Apostles were living by earthly attitudes. Since they believed that their Teacher is the Messiah, they hoped that He will achieve a great power. Therefore, they asked Jesus to reserve for them the most influential positions in His Kingdom. They wished to be set at His right and at His left hand in His glory (Mk. 10, 37). It was a typical human desire to advance, to gain the best from a leader to whom one is faithful and loyal. Jesus Himself told the Disciples that there are different positions in the Kingdom of Heaven. But the Lord had to explain to them that our ideas about the Kingdom of Heaven are not accurate. Even among His followers on earth He wishes that they behave differently than the usual worldly communities. In such communities the rulers lord over their subjects and the great ones show their importance and their power over the others. “Yet it shall be not so among you”, says the Lord (Mk. 10, 43).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! These words of Christ teach us that the Kingdom of God is different from our world. Therefore, if we desire to reach that Kingdom, we need to abandon our earthly attitudes and human ambitions. And if we wish to become more important among others, or having certain authority among men, we need to learn to serve.  The Lord does not condemn leadership or the authority among His followers. But He warns us that if we wish to become someone having such a call, we need to serve those who are entrusted to our care. Jesus reminds us that He Himself did not come to the world “to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10, 45). And we know that He proved it by His passions and sufferings, by His death on the cross.”
“And the life of Ven. Mary whom we honor today teaches us certain things. Perhaps the first lesson we can learn from it is that we should never judge, never pre-judge. Who will be saved, who will be greater or lesser in the Kingdom of God? It is impossible to answer these questions. The Lord told the Apostles: “To sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared (Mk. 10, 40). We cannot answer these questions because it is never too late to change, to repent. We are all sinners and we may say that salvation is unlikely for us. Some of us are greater sinners and some of us are lesser sinners. We may think that great sinners are not going to be saved. But it is not true. Humanly speaking, when we consider the life of Mary until her 29th year, we might think that salvation had become impossible for her. She was a very sinful woman; she was a harlot, and she enjoyed it. And yet the service to her calls her “the greatest of saints”. Why? Because she did change; she changed completely. Humanly speaking, because of our sins, we are condemned; but by the grace of God everything, including the height of repentance, is possible.”
“The life of Ven. Mary of Egypt also teaches us that we need to accomplish our salvation along with the Holy Church. Ven. Mary retreated from the world, from human society, she lived in the desert, she accomplished all her endeavors of holiness alone. She was not in a monastery or in some parish. She was completely by herself in the desert. Yet she began her endeavors by receiving the Holy Sacraments of Penance and Communion, and she finished her life by confession and Holy Communion. She could not become a Saint without the Church. There is no salvation outside of the Church; and there is no perfect Christian life without the Sacraments.”
“Beginning the last week of Lent, let us come to an understanding that we are willing to approach a Heavenly, not earthly, Kingdom where everything will be different. Thus we should be prepared for that. And the life of Ven. Mary of Egypt is supposed to teach us how to prepare for everlasting blessedness of Paradise. We have to repent, constantly attempt to change our life and to be comforted by the Holy Sacraments of the Church. In this way we will be able to enter into the glory of Christ and to deserve our prepared seats in his Kingdom!”

The choir prayerfully performed penitent hymns during the preparation for Holy Communion.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a short sermon in Russian stressing the main ideas of his English homily.

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.

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.

For the first time in our parish practice we held such a celebration at St. George Church on Wednesday, March 29. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov led the service reading the Canon.

Following the service the Rector preached a short sermon stressing the importance of our spiritual life of prayer and repentance, as well as of the awareness of our sinful state.

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 in our parish temple. Following the readings from the Sacred Scripture he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:

“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!”

In the time preceding the Holy Communion the choir beautifully performed the hymns dedicated to Venerable John of the Ladder whom the Church honors on this Sunday.

Following the dismissal of the Liturgy the Rector preached a brief sermon in English to address the main thoughts of his Russian homily.

 

 

Feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

 

On Wednesday, March 22, feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs of the Sebastian Lake, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in our temple.

Two readings from the Old Testament, as well as the Epistle and Gospel lesson were proclaimed during that lenten and festal service. The choir prayerfully performed singing of this special service and hymns dedicated to the Holy Martyrs.


Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and parishioners venerated the Precious Cross.

Lenten Mission Vespers in Hackettstown, NJ

 

On March 19, on the Third Sunday of Lent, Rector of St. George Church, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, Dean of the Eastern States of the Patriarchal Parishes participated in this year’s second Lenten Mission Vespers served in our Deanery. This day such service had been celebrated at the Elevation of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ.

Mission Vespers was headed by Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes, Archpriest George Konyev and co-served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov, as well as by Hieromonk Stephen (Bushman), cleric of the Three Saints Church in Garfield, NJ, Priest Aleksiy Paranyuk, Rector of St. John the Baptist Church in Little Falls, NJ, and Deacon Andrew Massey, cleric of the Holy Cross Church in Hackettstown, NJ. Unfortunately, Rector of the hosting parish, Archpriest John Kassatkin was ill and could not join our clergy at the Mission service.

Following the Great Prokimenon a sermon in English was delivered by Priest Aleksiy Paranyuk.

After the Vespers dismissal Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes expressed his gratitude to the clergy and lay people present for their participation in the Mission service. Following the service in the temple, a delicious supper was offered to the guests of the Hackettstown church in its parish hall.