On the Feast of the Royal Martyrs

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Feast!  

Mosaic in the crypt of the Church on the Blood, above the spot on which the Imperial Family were martyred.

It was great blessing to celebrate the Holy Royal Martyrs today, and in so doing, we looked beyond the bloody-horror and violence of their martyrdom to appreciate the priceless treasure that God has granted to the Orthodox people by calling the Imperial Family to enter the mystery of Golgotha, and  to drink from the cup of suffering and martyrdom, as they were conformed to the image of the Saviour, as we heard in the Apostle reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans: 

“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestine to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  (Romans 8: 29-30)

As God lovers, He called the Royal-Martyrs “according to His purpose”, and in their suffering for that Divine purpose – contrary to the wisdom of the world – they were conformed to the image of Christ, the Suffering Servant, pouring out Himself for His people, until He was without beauty or comeliness. 

In the Gospel for the feast, we heard, 

“If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:18-20) 

The world vision promoted by Lenin (returned to Russia at the expense of the Western powers) and his fellow Bolsheviks, was at odds of the world represented by the Royal Martyrs: of Christian Monarchy defending and promoting the Church and Faith; of society built upon the precepts of the Gospel; of national life in which the Church, Divine Services, and Christian Tradition was shaped by the rhythms and routines of the fasts and feasts, and the seasons of the Christian year. 

As a visible embodiment of Orthodox authority, Christian governance and sacral-kingship, the Royal Martyrs were an impossible threat to the Marxist-Leninist vision, the Royal Martyrs and had to be destroyed – by lies, deception and hate, and ultimately by the violence to which these gave license. 

For Orthodox Christians the resultant false ‘histories’ and mythologies necessary to dehumanise the Royal Martyrs, to justify unspeakable violence, and to desensitise the Russian people and the wider world to the horrors of the Ipatiev House and the Four Brothers Mine are an irrelevance and distraction from the glorious works of grace wrought by God through His saints. 

In the 1990’s, after aCcross had been set up on the site of the Ipatiev House, it was illumined by a heavenly light, as the clouds opened and rotated above the Cross, and no snow fell within the large circle of light which fell upon the ground around the site of the martyrdom. In the same decade, a former guard of the “Museum of the Workers’ Revenge” in the Ipatiev House signed an affidavit describing how she would hear beautiful church-singing from the basement room of execution, and that light shone from beneath the door during the night.

In on November 7 1997, the anniversary of the Revolution, an icon of the Tsar-Martyr began to weep myrrh, and the following May, during a procession to mark the Tsar’s birtday, another icon began to weep myrrh during a procession. At this time. of course, the Moscow Patriarchate had yet to canonise the Royal Martyrs. Our Russian Orthodox Church Church Outside of Russia had already done so in 1981.

Through the prayers of the Royal Martyrs, the godless have been brought to Faith; hardened hearts have been softened; the young have been delivered from depression, despair and destructive lives; addicts have been delivered from alcohol and drugs; childless women have been granted children; students have received help in studies; soldiers and refugees have been delivered fom capture and great dangers; families have been reconciled and healed; the sick and infirm have received healing – such as a blind child who received sight after his face was covered with a towel that had absorbed the myrrh from a myrrh-weeping icon of the Tsar.

We encounter the sanctity, rightness, and righteousness of the Royal Martyrs in these miracles, and to those of Faith, the lies and salacious stories bandied in the newspapers in America, Britain, and the Russia ‘proletarian-press’ on the eve of the revolution, seem two-dimensional, flimsy and ridiculous compared to the miracles through which Almighty God has glorified the Royal-Martyrs ever since their martyrdom. 

To return to the Apostle, “…whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified” – and despite the lies the world invented and wrote about them, God has glorified the Royal Martyrs through countless miracles and outpourings of grace. 

Through earthly suffering, they were translated to heavenly glory and, as the Russian Empire and the wider world was gripped by the satanic plague of Bolshevism and Revolution, the All-Merciful Lord raised up the Royal Martyrs as intercessors and as spiritual warriors whose intercessions and merciful care for their land would resurrect the Russian Orthodox Church and people. 

For the faithful, the countless miracles and wonders of the Royal Martyrs should dissolve the propaganda, myths and lies invented, not only by communists, but also by the western powers who sought the destruction of the dynasty as part of the destruction of Russia as a world- power at the beginning of the 20th century – the same powers who wished to see a defeated and humiliated Russia carved up into ‘zones of influence’ distributed between themselves.

And, as we read of the events surrounding the end of the House of Romanov, and the passion and sufferings of the Royal Martyrs, we should not worry ourselves with imagined alternative outcomes; ‘what-ifs’ – imagining how things could have been different though a White Army Victory or escape form the Urals; or rueing over the lack of rescue by royal relatives. 

The lives of various holy men and women make it clear that the death of the Imperial Family was their calling – their sacrificial-vocation – to ultimately play their own metaphysical and spiritual part in the deliverance and salvation of Russia from the darkness and evil which it was entering. “As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Romans 8:36-37) For the Royal Martyrs, there suffering was not only for the sake of Christ, but for the sake of Russia.

It is widely believed that their fate had been revealed to St Seraphim of Sarov, who recorded this in a letter shortly before his death in 1833, sealing it with five wax seals and addressing it “to the fourth sovereign who will arrive in Sarov, and as yet is not known”. At the canonisation of St Seraphim in 1903, the letter was given to the Tsar, who wept bitterly on reading it, but kept the contents a secret. 

In Diveyevo, on their return from the canonisation, the Tsar and Tsarina visited Blessed Pasha of Sarov, who told the Tsar, “Your Highness, come down from the throne yourself.” 

Before her death she had her cell-attendants physically support her to make prostrations before the Tsar’s portrait, and when they asked her “Why, Mamashenka, do you pray so to the Tsar?” she replied “Silly ones. He will be higher than all the Tsars.” Shortly before her death in 1915, having already called him a martyr, Blessed Pasha kissed the feet of his portrait, saying, “My dear one is already near the end.”  

The following year, in 1916, the Eldress Maria Mikhailovna of the Novgorod-Desyarina monastery greeted the visiting Empress with the words, “Here comes the martyr, Tsaritsa Alexandra!” And, in May the same year, a startets in the Sarov Hermitage, related a vision to the celebrated writer, Sergei Nilus: 

“At a time of his profound sorrow over the sufferings of the Royal Family, when he was praying for them with tears, he fell asleep during his prayers. He saw himself in Tsarskoe Selo, and over the Alexander Palace there stood a bright, radiant pillar that reached up to heaven. Then the elder went up to the palace, where he saw a wondrous vision. The Emperor was sitting at a desk, occupied with writing. Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich was sitting at another small table reading books. Close by, the Empress and her daughters were sitting and doing handiwork, and among them was the radiant Elder, St. Seraphim, the Wonderworker of Sarov, giving them spiritual instruction and consolation. When Elder Seraphim saw the archimandrite he went up to him and said, ‘Don’t be too grieved. Father, don’t be despondent; God will not abandon His chosen and beloved children. He has the power to snatch them away from evildoers, but He desires for them, not earthly happiness, but heavenly. It is easier for the Lord to send legions of angels to destroy all their enemies than it is for us to speak a word, but He only takes away their enemies’ reason, so that they destroy themselves. The Lord has sent me for a while to console, strengthen and protect the Royal sufferers, for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and they have need of our heavenly assistance in difficult moments of sorrow. Look at the resplendent light that emanates from the faces of the Royal sufferers — this is a sign that they are under God’s special care, as righteous ones. Just as, from the beginning of the world, the righteous have been vilified, wronged and slandered by iniquitous people — followers of the first liar and deceiver, the devil; so also have these righteous Royal sufferers been vilified, humiliated, slandered and wronged by evil people, instigated by the same universal evildoer who rose up against the righteous ones and against our Creator and God Himself, Christ, the Giver of life. Look at the face of the Empress and you will see that the light emanating from her face is brighter than the others — this is a sign that she has borne more slanders and false accusations than anyone, from followers of the universal slanderer.’ This vision made such a powerful impression on the archimandrite that when he related it he could not restrain his tears.” 

Placing their hope in God, the Royal Martyrs accepted the portion He allotted them, and accepting their cup of suffering, they lived in a spiritual and prayerful captivity, reassured of the love of God through their Faith and relationship with Him, reflecting the sentiments of the Apostle: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Romans 8:35-37) 

Peace and trust in God shine through this realisation, and can be seen in royal correspondence, such as in the letter that the Empress wrote to Colonel A.V. Syroboyarsky from detention in Tsarskoe Selo, in 1917,: 

“Everything can be endured if you feel His (God’s) presence and love and if you believe in Him steadfastly in everything. Severe trials are helpful – they prepare us for the other life, for the distant journey.  

It is easier to bear one’s own sufferings than to see the woe of others without it being possible to help them… 

One must ever thank God for all that He gives, and even if He took it away, then perhaps, when one endures without a murmur, all will be even brighter. One must always hope… 

You see, we have not lost our faith, and I hope we never will. It alone provides strength, the streadfastness of spirit, to endure all. And one must be grateful for everything, for it could be much worse…Isn’t that so?” 

If we, as Christian people can reflect this spiritual fortitude, constant hope in God and immense Faith, refusing to lose our trust in His love, then that love will flow into the world with a joy that shocks and challenges evil, violence and cruelty with the mind of Christ, so that we can join with the Apostle Paul, with the Royal Martyrs and all the saints in confessing “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39) 

Emulating the Royal Martyrs in Faith, let us put aside earthly cares, knowing that all things are in the hands of God, and that whatever may happen to us in life, His love remains immeasurable and immovable; His inscrutable will always seeks what is needful for us in the eternal scheme of His providence and wisdom, rather than according to the fickle standards and measures of success in  the world; and that in all things He seeks our transformation to reflect His image and likeness and to be with Him in the endless blessedness of the Kingdom – not a temporary and passing Kingdom of this world, but the endless glory of the age to come. 

Let us abandon ourselves into His hands, with the faith, hope, humility and spiritual-courage of the Royal Martyrs.

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!