This weekend marks the commemoration in the Orthodox Church of the Holy Royal Martyrs of Russia. It is 104 years this Sunday since the Russian Tsar and his family and loyal retainers will killed by the godless Bolsheviks, ushering in the Red Terror and an era of totalitarian mass murder and cultural genocide. Memory eternal! And may the Lord Jesus Christ our God and Savior give us wisdom and strength today and ever-vigilance to remain faithful to His Church in these latter days.
Their deaths led to their glorification and their recognition around the world as Saints in an era that would see the rebirth of the Orthodox Church in Russia. Four years ago our mission parish in central Pennsylvania commemorated the centennial of their martyrdom with an Akathist service at Rooke Chapel at Bucknell University. Here are words from our mission’s patron, St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, from 1957 of special relevance today.
Forty Years Ago, a single day saw the collapse of the greatness and glory of the Russian State, a bulwark of peace throughout the whole world. The signature of the Sovereign, the Emperor Nicholas II, on the act of abdication from the Throne, is a historical boundary separating Russia’s great and glorious past from her present dark and cruel circumstances.
The entire weight of the present regime’s evil and its reordering of life is aimed at honest, well-intentioned and devout people, and the whole nation lies in oppression and constant fear. People are afraid of their own thoughts, thoughts they have not expressed aloud; they are afraid that what they are thinking might be reflected in their facial expressions.
What happened that day, forty years ago?
Apostasy from God’s Anointed, apostasy from an authority submissive to God, apostasy from the oath of fidelity to the Anointed Sovereign, given before God, and the giving over of him to death.
He who had devoted all his strength in God’s name to the service of Russia was deprived of authority, and then also of freedom.
For decades the dark forces of evil carried on a struggle against God’s Anointed, against the ruling authority faithful to God. These same forces also killed the Emperor Alexander II, the Tsar-Liberator.
This crime sobered the people, it shook the entire country, and that moral upsurge gave Emperor Alexander III, the Peacemaker, the opportunity to rule Russia with a strong arm.
Russia enjoyed two decades of peaceful life and development. Then a new conspiracy arose for the overthrow of the Royal Throne.
It was a conspiracy of Russia’s enemies.
Within Russia itself there was a struggle against her very essence, and, having destroyed the Throne, Russia’s enemies even obliterated her name.
Now the whole world can see the close connection between the Royal authority, faithful to God, and Russia. When the Tsar ceased to be — Russia ceased to be.
The struggle against the Tsar and Russia was carried out by concealed godlessness, which later revealed itself openly.
Such was the essence of the struggle against the Tsar and Russia, against the foundation of her life and historical development.
Such are the meaning and aim of that struggle, which perhaps not everyone realized — those who were its accomplices.
Everything filthy and paltry and sinful which could be found in the human soul was summoned against the Tsar and Russia. All of this, with all its might, rose up in struggle against the Royal Crown, which was crowned by a cross, for Royal service is a bearing of the Cross.
People always rise up against the Cross by means of slander and falsehood, doing the devil’s work, for, according to the word of the Lord Jesus Christ, When he speaketh a He, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44).
Everything was roused up against the most meek, pure and abundantly-loving Tsar, so that at the terrible hour of the struggle against him he would remain alone. Filthy slanders were spread beforehand against the Tsar and his family, so that the people would grow cool towards him.
Faithless allies took part in the conspiracy. When the Sovereign was in need of moral support, his closest associates did not provide it and violated their oath. Some took part in the conspiracy; others, out of weakness, counseled abdication. The Tsar remained completely alone, surrounded by “treachery, baseness and cowardice.”
From the day of the abdication, everything began to collapse. It could not have been otherwise. The one who united everything, who stood guard for the Truth, was overthrown. A sin was committed, and now sin had easy access. In vain do some wish to separate February from October; the one was a direct consequence of the other.
In those March days, Pskov became the Tsar’s Gethsemane, and Ekaterinburg — his Golgotha.
Tsar Nicholas died as a martyr, with unshakable faith and patience, having drunk the cup of suffering to the dregs.
The sin against him and against Russia was perpetrated by all who in one way or another acted against him, who did not oppose, or who merely by sympathizing participated in those events which took place forty years ago. That sin lies upon everyone until it is washed away by sincere repentance.
In raising up prayers for the repose of his soul, we pray also for Tsars Paul I and Alexander II, who were likewise slain in March. And we pray for the forgiveness of the Russian people of the grave sin of betrayal and regicide. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil. Before us, before the Russian people, lies the path of resurgence — which is the path of consciousness of sin and repentance.
For the rebirth of Russia, all political and other programs of unification are in vain: what Russia needs is the moral renewal of the Russian people.
We must pray for the forgiveness of our sins and for mercy on our homeland, just as the Lord God freed Israel from the Babylonian captivity and restored the ruined city of Jerusalem.