Schmemann's Liturgical Theology

The Liturgical Theology of Father A. Schmemann

by Father Michael Pomazansky

Throughout its history, Russian theological science is accused of falling too much under the influence of the non-Orthodox West. The influence of Latin scholasticism on Kievan theology lasted until the beginning of the 19th century. If later theological science freed itself from this influence, then reproaches were heard of another nature, i.e., that our theologians were not independent, that they were often limited by "copying the Germans," as Metropolitan Anthony expressed it. This characterization was unpleasant; but, since this dependency did not destroy the general Orthodox direction of theology, it did no real harm. What can one do if the historical and theological science of the West was extensively developed long ago while ours was still embryonic? Due to necessity we had to draw from these sources, and, having drawn from them, we obviously became dependent on them. More important is the fact that the study of sources concerning all facets of church history, even Eastern sources, predominantly belonged to and belongs to the West. In our tragic era when Russian theological science is nearly obliterated, the study of the Orthodox East has passed exclusively into the hands of Western theologians and historians. Their study is done carefully and, in the majority of cases, with love.
Nevertheless, one should never forget how unique genuine Orthodox consciousness is, how independent, and how full it is of its own inimitable spirit. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? (I Cor. 2:11). The words of Apostle Paul can be applied to the Church. The Western man who is not a member of the Orthodox Church, even if scholarly, is in no position to penetrate the spirit of the Church, the spirit of Orthodoxy. This is to say nothing of those scholarly Western church historians who themselves have lost their Christian faith. Even the scholarly believers of the West inevitably bear the imprint of denominationalism. Protestant scholars are subject to preconceived notions and opinions, long ago deeply rooted in the Protestant psyche. Their false understanding of the era of Constantine the Great is ample proof of this. From this proceeds their biased interpretation of the written sources of the first period of Church history. It would be a grave mistake to acknowledge in Christianity at the present time the presence of a unified, objective, historical-theological science. This would mean, in many circumstances, to accept such a treatment of the history of Christianity which contradicts the historical tradition of the Church and the Orthodox world-view, and undermines the dogmas of the Orthodox Faith. Such "theological ecumenism" would be a great temptation.
Before us is a work of Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology(Paris, YMCA Press, 1961; English translation: The Faith Press, London, 1966). The book is offered as an "introduction" to a special course in liturgical theology planned by the author. In it are indicated the basics of a proposed new system of theology, after which is given an historical outline of the development of the Rule or Typicon of Divine services. This second, historical part has the nature of a scientific investigation.
The author views his book as the foundation for a new area of theological science — "Liturgical Theology," placing before this science, and consequently before himself, the extraordinary task, "to guard the purity of divine services… to preserve it from distortion and misinterpretation" (p. 10). This new theology should be the guide for the "reexamination of limitless liturgical material contained in the Menaion and Octoechoi" (for some reason the last word is in the plural). Together with this task concerning the services is another concerning theology: the historical-liturgical structure of our theology should be the touchstone in determining the worthiness and failings of our usual so-called academic theology. The author writes: we must "historically seek and discover the key to liturgical theology. We must restore the darkened ecclesiological, catholic consciousness of the Church by means of this theological research." These plans are extraordinarily serious, the responsibility is enormous, requiring absolute Orthodoxy in the structure of the proposed science in order that it truly could "stand in defense" of both Divine services as well as theology.
The fundamental part of the Introduction to Liturgical Theology — the history of the Typicon — is based primarily on Western scientific investigations in French, English, and German, and partially on Russian sources. The author is convinced that he has succeeded, as he expresses it, in "escaping Western captivity" while using non-Orthodox sources. He avoids the extreme affirmations of Protestant historians. He writes: "We categorically reject the understanding of the Peace of Constantine (i.e., the era of Constantine the Great) as a 'pseudo-victory' of Christianity — victory bought at the price of compromise" (p. 86). However, such affirmations are not enough in themselves, when we are speaking of a subject having so much significance as has been historically demonstrated. Therefore, disregarding the scholarly baggage in the book, passing over the structure of the work, we consider it our obligation to focus attention on the book's contents in one respect: has the author indeed escaped Western captivity? As many of his statements testify, he has in fact not escaped it.

The Orthodox Liturgical Order:The Product of Historical Cause and Effect,or Divine Inspiration and Guidance?

In investigating the main stages of development of the Rule of Divine services, or Typicon, the author looks upon them as an ordinary historical manifestation, formed as a result of the influence of changing historical circumstances. He writes: "Orthodox writers are usually inclined to 'absolutize' the history of worship, to consider the whole of it as divinely established and Providential" (p. 72). The author rejects such a view. He does not see "the value of principles" in the definitive formulation of the Typicon; in every case he acknowledges them as dubious. He rejects and even censures a "blind absolutization of the Typicon" when in practice this is joined, in his opinion, to a factual violation of it at every step. He sees "the restoration of the Typicon as hopeless"; the theological meaning of the daily cycle of services he finds "obscured and eclipsed by secondary strata in the Typicon" which have accumulated in the Divine services since the 4th century (pp. 161–2). The ecclesiological key to the understanding of the Typicon, according to the author, has been lost, and we are left to seek and find the key to liturgical theology by means of historical research.
Such a view of the Typicon is new to us. The Typicon, in the form which it has come down to our time in its two basic versions, is the realized idea of Christian worship; the worship of the first century was a kernel which has grown and matured to its present state, having now taken its finished form. We have in mind, of course, not the content of the services, not the hymns and prayers themselves, which often bear the stamp of the literary style of an era and are replaced one by another, but the very system of Divine services, their order, concord, harmony, consistency of principles and fullness of God's glory and communion with the Heavenly Church on the one hand, and on the other the fullness of their expression of the human soul — from the Paschal hymns to the Great Lenten lamentation over moral falls. The present Rule of Divine services was already contained in the idea of the Divine services of the first Christians in the same way that in the seed of a plant are already contained the forms of the plant's future growth up to the moment when it begins to bear mature fruits, or in the way that in the embryonic organism of a living creature its future form is already concealed. To the foreign eye, to the non-Orthodox West, the fact that our Rule has taken a static form is viewed as petrification, fossilization. For us this static form represents the finality of growth, the attainment of all possible fullness. Such finality of developed form we also observe in Eastern Church iconography, in church architecture, in the interior appearance of the best churches, in the traditional melodies of church singing. Further attempts at development in these spheres often leads to decadence, leading not up but down. One can draw only one conclusion: we are nearer to the end of history than to the beginning… Of course, as in other spheres of Church history, so also in this sphere of liturgics we should see a path established by God, Providence, and not only the logic of causes and effects.
The author approaches the history of the Typicon from another point of view; we shall call it the pragmatic point of view. In his exposition the fundamental apostolic, early Christian liturgical order has been overlaid by a series of strata which lie one upon the other, partially obscuring each other. These strata are: "mysteriological" worship, which arose not without the indirect influence of the pagan mysteries in the 4th century; then the influence of the liturgical order of desert monasticism; and finally the form adapted for the world from the monastic order. The scientific schema of the author is: the "thesis" of an extreme involvement of Christianity and its worship in the "world" during the Constantinian Era which evoked the "antithesis" of monastic repulsion from the new form of "liturgical piety," and this process concludes with the "synthesis" of the Byzantine period. Alone and without argumentation this phrase stands as a description of the stormy Constantinian Era: "But everything has its germination in the preceding epoch" (p. 73). The author pays tribute to the method that reigns totally in contemporary science: leaving aside the idea of an overshadowing by Divine Grace, the concept of the sanctity of those who established the liturgical order, he limits himself to a naked chain of causes and effects. Thus positivism intrudes now into Christian sciences, into the sphere of the Church's history in all its branches. If, however, the positivist method is acknowledged as a scientific working principle in science, in natural sciences, one can by no means apply it to living religion, nor to every sphere of the life of Christianity and the Church, insofar as we remain believers. And when the author in one place notes concerning this era: "The Church experienced her new freedom as a providential act destined to bring to Christ people then dwelling in the darkness and shadow of death" (p. 87), one wishes to ask: Why does the author himself not express his solidarity with the Church in acknowledging this providentialness?
They tell us: no one keeps the Typicon, and besides, the theological key to understanding it has been lost. We answer: the difficulty in fully keeping the Typicon is connected with the idea of maximalism inherent in the Orthodox understanding of Christianity. This maximalism is found in relation to the moral standards of the Gospel, the strictness of church canons, the area of ascetic practice, of prayer and services based on the commandment, pray without ceasing. Only in monasteries do the church services approach the norm of perfection, and at that only relatively. Life in the world and parishes force an unavoidable lessening of the norm, and therefore the parish practice cannot be viewed as the Orthodox model and ideal in the sphere of church services. Nonetheless, we cannot refer to the practice in parishes as a "distortion," in the theological sense, of the principles of Divine services. Even in the cases of "intolerable" shortening, the services retain a great amount of content and exalted meaning, and do not lose their intrinsic value. Such shortenings are "intolerable" because they bear witness to our self-indulgence, our laziness, our carelessness in our duty of prayer. One cannot objectively judge the value of the liturgical Rule according to the practice here in the diaspora. One cannot draw conclusions from this practice concerning the total loss of understanding of the spirit of the Rubrics.
Let us proceed to more substantial questions.

The Constantinian Era

We all know what an immense change occurred in the position of the Church with Constantine the Great's proclamation of freedom for the Church at the beginning of the 4th century. This outward act was also reflected everywhere in the inward life of the Church. Was there here a break in the inner structure of the Church's life, or was there a development? The consciousness of the Orthodox Church replies in one way, and Protestantism in another to this question. The main part of Fr. A. Schmemann's book is given over to the elucidation of this question.
The period of Constantine the Great and later is characterized by the author as the era of a profound "regeneration of liturgical piety." Therefore, the author sees in the Church of this time, not new forms of expressions of piety, flowing from the breadth and liberty of the Christian spirit in accord with the words of the Apostle: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, but rather a regeneration of the interpretation of worship and a deviation from the early Christian liturgical spirit. He develops a point of view inspired long ago by the prejudices of the Lutheran Reformation. Thus, the history of the structure of our services is being interpreted in the light of this "regeneration of liturgical piety."
A propos of this, it is also difficult to reconcile oneself to the term "liturgical piety." In the ordinary usage of words, piety is Christian faith, hope, and love, independent of the forms of their expression. Such an understanding is instilled in us by the Sacred Scriptures, which distinguish only authentic piety (piety is profitable unto all things — I Tim. 4:8) from false or empty piety (James 1:26; II Tim. 3:5). Piety is expressed in prayer, in Divine services, and the forms of its expression vary depending on circumstances: whether in church, at home, in prison, or in the catacombs. But we Orthodox scarcely need a special term like "liturgical piety" or "church piety," as if one were pious in a different manner in church than at home, and as if there existed two kinds of religiousness: "religiousness of faith" and "religiousness of cult." Both the language of the Holy Fathers and of theology have always done without such a concept. Therefore it is a new idea, foreign to us, of a special liturgical piety that the author instills when he writes: "It is in the profound regeneration of liturgical piety and not in new forms of cult, however striking these may seem to be at first glance, that we must see the basic change brought about in the Church's liturgical life by the Peace of Constantine" (p. 78). And in another place: "The center of attention is shifted from the living Church to the church building itself, which was until then a simple place of assembly… Now the temple becomes a sanctuary, a place for the habitation and residence of the sacred… This is the beginning of church piety" (pp. 89–90). The freedom of the Church under Constantine establishes, writes the author, "a new understanding of the cult, a new liturgical piety" (p. 80), a "mysteriological piety." In his usage of such terms one senses in the author something more than the replacement of one terminology by another more contemporary one; one senses something foreign to Orthodox consciousness. This fundamental point is decisively reflected in the author's views on the Mysteries, the hierarchy, and the veneration of saints, which we shall now examine.

The Mysteries and the Sanctifying Element in Sacred Rites

The author adheres to the concept that the idea of "sanctification," of "mysteries," and in general of the sanctifying power of sacred rites was foreign to the ancient Church and arose only in the era after Constantine. Although the author denies a direct borrowing of the idea of "mysteries-sacraments" from the pagan mysteries, he nonetheless recognizes the "mysteriality-sacralization" in worship as a new element of "stratification" in this era. "The very word 'mystery,' " he writes, citing the Jesuit scholar (now Cardinal) J. Danielou, "did not originally have the meaning in Christianity that was subsequently given it, a mysteriological meaning; in the New Testament Scriptures it is used only in the singular and in accordance with the general significance of the economy of our salvation. The word 'mystery' (mysterion) in Paul and in early Christianity always signified the whole work of Christ, the whole of salvation"; thus, in the author's opinion, the application of this word even to separate aspects of the work of Christ belongs to the following era.
In vain, however, does the author cite a Western scholar concerning the word "mystery." If in Saint Paul we read the precise words: Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries (Greek: mysterion, genitive plural) of God (I Cor. 4:1). The Apostles were stewards of the Mysteries, and this apostolic stewardship was expressed concretely in the service of the Divine stewardship: a) in invocatory sermons, b) in joining to the Church through Baptism, c) in bringing down the Holy Spirit through the laying down of hands, d) in strengthening the union of the faithful with Christ in the Mystery of the Eucharist, e) in their further deepening in the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, concerning which the same Apostle says: Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom (I Cor. 2:6–7). Thus the activity of the Apostles was full of sacramental* (mysterionmystero) elements.
Basing himself on the ready conclusions of Western researchers in his judgments on the ancient Church, the author pays no attention to the direct evidence of apostolic writings, even though they have the primary significance as landmarks in the life of the early Christian Church. The New Testament Scriptures speak directly of "sanctification," sanctification by the Word of God and prayer. Nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (I Tim. 4:4–5). And it is said of Baptism: Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified (I Cor. 6:11). The very expression cup of blessing (I Cor. 10:16) is testimony of sanctification through blessing. The apostolic laying on of hands cannot be understood otherwise than as a sanctification.
A special place in the book is occupied by a commentary on the Mystery of the Eucharist. The author maintains the idea that in the early Church the Eucharist had a totally different meaning from the one it subsequently received. The Eucharist, he believes, was an expression of the ecclesiological union in an assembly of the faithful, the joyful banquet of the Lord. Its whole meaning was directed to the future, to eschatology, and therefore it presented itself as a "worship outside of time," not bound to history or remembrances, as eschatological worship, by which it was sharply distinct from the simple forms of worship, which are called in the book the "worship in time." In the 4th century, however, we are told there occurred an acute regeneration of the original character of the Eucharist. It was given an "individual-sanctifying" understanding, which was the result of two stratifications: initially mysteriological, and then monastic-ascetic.
Notwithstanding the assertions of this historico-liturgical school, the individual-sanctifying significance of the Mystery of the Eucharist, i.e., the significance not only of a union of believers among themselves, but before anything else a union of each believer with Christ through partaking of His Body and Blood, is fully and definitely expressed by the Apostle in the tenth and eleventh chapters of the First Epistle to the Corinthians: Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's Body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many die (I Cor. 11:27). These teachings of the Apostle are concerned with individual reception of the holy Mysteries and with individual responsibility. If unworthy reception of them is judged, it is clear that, according to the Apostle, a worthy reception of them is the cause for individual sanctification. It is absolutely clear that the Apostle understands the Eucharist as a mystery: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the Communion of the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the Communion of the Body of Christ? (I Cor. 10:16) How can one say that the idea of "mystery" was not in the Church in apostolic times?
Maintaining the idea of the total "extra-temporality" of the Eucharist in the early Church, Fr. A. Schmemann considers as a violation of tradition the uniting of it with historical remembrances of the Gospel. He writes: "In the early Eucharist there was no idea of a ritual symbolization of the life of Christ and His Sacrifice. This is a theme which will appear later…under the influence of one theology and as the point of departure for another. The remembrance of Christ which He instituted (This do in remembrance of Me) is the affirmation of His 'Parousia,' of His presence; it is the actualization of His Kingdom… One may say without exaggeration that the early Church consciously and openly set herself in opposition to mysteriological piety and cults of the mysteries" (pp. 85–86).
Despite all the categoricalness of the author's commentary on the words: This do in remembrance of Me, it contradicts the directives of New Testament Scriptures. The Apostle says outright: For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come (I Cor. 11:26). That is, until the very Second Coming of the Lord the Eucharist will be joined to the remembrance of Christ's death on the Cross. And how could the Apostles and Christians of the ancient Church omit the thought, while celebrating the Eucharist, of the sufferings of Christ, if the Saviour in establishing it, at the Last Supper, Himself spoke of the sufferings of His Body, of the shedding of His Blood (which is broken for you, which is shed for you and for many), and in Gethsemane prayed of the cup: Let this cup pass from Me? How could they not preface the joyful thought of the Resurrection and glory of the Lord with the thought of His Cross and death? Both Christ and the Apostles call upon us never to forget the Cross.
Concerning the later historical practice of serving the Eucharist, Fr. A. Schmemann writes, "the characteristically gradual development of interpreting the rituals of the Liturgy as a mystical depiction of the life of Christ… was a replacement of the ecclesiological understanding of the Eucharist with a depictive-symbolical one, and even more clearly expresses the mysteriological regeneration of liturgical piety. Together with this regeneration is connected the development of an entirely new part of the Eucharist — the Proskomedia, which is entirely and exclusively symbolical (?), and in this respect 'duplicates' the Eucharist (the symbolic sacrifice in cutting the bread and pouring the wine into the chalice, etc.). And finally, nothing exposes this transition to a 'sanctifying' understanding of the Mystery and service more than the change in the manner of communicating — changing [the practice of communicating] from the idea of a liturgical-community act, 'which seals' (?) the Eucharistic change of bread, to the idea of an individual sanctifying act having a relation to personal piety, and not to the ecclesiological status of the communicant. In reference to the practice of Communion we can truly speak here of a 'revolution' " (p. ?).
The thoughts cited above elicit a whole new series of objections. A) Proskomedia is "preparation." How can one proceed without preparation? Any meal, even the most simple meal, cannot take place without preparation. B) The Proskomedia is served by the priest within a closed altar and does not have the characteristic of a community service. C) What should the thoughts of the priest be directed towards during the Proskomedia if not to the recollection of our Saviour's crucifixion? The service book for the Divine Liturgy supports this thought by the words in chapter 53 of the Prophet Isaiah about the suffering Messiah. D) The Liturgy of the Faithful is not duplicated in the recollections of the Proskomedia. In order that the actions of the sacred celebrant not be soulless, in the secret prayers at the Proskomedia, the Church directs him to recall the crucifixion and death of the Saviour, and at the Liturgy of the Faithful, the taking down from the Cross, placing in the tomb, descent into Hades, and His resurrection and ascent into Heaven. These recollections are not "depictions" nor symbols. Concerning symbolism, it occupies a very modest part in the service (we are not speaking here of authors who interpret the services). In fact the service consists of various prayers, symbolism has nothing to do with them, and has a connection only with some of the celebrant's actions. These actions, in fact, have a real significance and are, consequently, only given an extra, supplementary significance. E) The change from the ancient form of communicating from the Chalice to the more contemporary practice of communicating laymen is a change of one practice of communing to another, which does not change the essence of the Mystery. To claim a "regeneration" or "revolution" in the celebration of the Mystery of Communion is a sin against the Orthodox Church.

The Hierarchy and the Mystery of the Priesthood

The author expresses the idea that only in the post-Constantinian era did there occur a division into clergy and simple believers, which did not exist in the early Church and occurred as the result of a "breakthrough of mysteriological conceptions." The very idea of the "assembly of the Church," he says, was reformed: "In the Byzantine era the emphasis is gradually transferred…to the clergy as celebrants of the mystery" (p. 99). "The early Church lived with the consciousness of herself as the people of God, a royal priesthood, with the idea of the elect, but she did not apply the principle of consecration either to entry into the Church or much less to ordination to the various hierarchical orders" (p. 100). From the 4th century on, he continues, there can be traced the "idea of sanctification," i.e., consecration to the hierarchical ranks. Now the baptized, the "consecrated," turn out to be not yet consecrated for the mysteries; "the true mystery of consecration became now not Baptism, but the sacrament of ordination." "The cult was removed from the unconsecrated not only 'psychologically,' but also in its external organization. The altar or sanctuary became its place, and access to the sanctuary was closed to the uninitiated" (p. 101); the division was furthered by the gradual raising of the iconostasis. "The mystery presupposes theurgii, consecrated celebrants; the sacralization of the clergy led in its turn to the 'secularization' of the laity." There fell aside "the understanding of all Christians as a 'royal priesthood'," expressed in the symbol of royal anointing, after which there is no "step by step elevation through the degrees of a sacred mystery" (p. 100). The author quotes Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, who warned against revealing the holy mysteries "to profane impurity," and likewise similar warnings of Saints Cyril of Jerusalem and Basil the Great.
In this description of the Constantinian era and thereafter, the Protestant treatment is evident. The golden age of Christian freedom and the age of the great hierarchs, the age of the flowering of Christian literature, is presented here as something negative, a supposed intrusion of pagan elements into the Church, rather than as something positive. But at any time in the Church have simple believers actually received the condemnatory appellation of "profane"? From the Catechetical Lectures of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem it is absolutely clear that he warns against communicating the mysteries of faith to pagans. Saint Basil the Great writes of the same thing: "What would be the propriety of writing to proclaim the teaching concerning that which the unbaptized are not permitted even to view?" (On the Holy Spirit, ch. 27) Do we really have to quote the numerous testimonies in the words of the Lord Himself and in the writings of the Apostles concerning the division into pastors and "flock," the warnings to pastors of their duty, their responsibility, their obligation to give an accounting for the souls entrusted to them, the strict admonitions of the angels to the Churches which are engraved in the Apocalypse? Do not the Acts of the Apostles and the pastoral Epistles of the Apostle Paul speak of a special consecration through laying on of hands into the hierarchical degrees?
The author of this book acknowledges that a closed altar separated the clergy from the faithful. But he gives an incorrect conception of the altar. One should know that the altar and its altar table in the Orthodox Church serve only for the offering of the Bloodless Sacrifice at the Liturgy. The remaining Divine services, according to the idea of the Typicon, are celebrated in the middle part of the church. An indication of this is the pontifical service. Even while celebrating the Liturgy the bishop enters the altar only at the "Small Entry" in order to listen to the Gospel and celebrate the Mystery of the Eucharist; all remaining Divine services the bishop celebrates in the middle of the church. The litanies are intoned by the deacon at all services, including the Liturgy, outside the altar; and the Typicon directs priests who celebrate Vespers and Matins without a deacon to intone the litanies before the Royal Doors. All services of the Book of Needs (Trebnik) and all mysteries of the Church, except for the Eucharist and Ordination, are celebrated outside the altar. Only to augment the solemnity of the services at feast-day Vespers and Matins it is accepted to open the doors of the altar for a short time, and that only for the exit of the celebrants at solemn moments to go to the middle of the church. During daily and lenten services the altar, one may say, is excluded from the sphere of the faithful's attention; and if the celebrant goes off into the altar even then, this is rather in order not to attract needless attention to himself, and not at all to emphasize his clerical prestige.
The idea of the appearance from the 4th century on of a new "church" piety is an obvious exaggeration. Christians who had been raised from the first days of the Church on images not only of the New Testament, but also of the Old Testament, especially the Psalter, could not have been totally deprived of a feeling of special reverence for the places of worship (the House of the Lord). They had the example of the Lord Himself, Who called the Temple of Jerusalem "the House of My Father"; they had the instruction of the Apostle: If any man defile the Temple of God, him shall God destroy(ICor. 3:17), and although here in the Apostle the idea of temple is transferred to the soul of man, this does not destroy the acknowledgment by the Apostle of the sanctity of the material temple.

The Invocation and Glorification of Saints

Speaking of the intercession and glorification of saints in the form in which it was defined in the 4th to 5th centuries, Fr. A. Schmemann underlines [what he refers to as] the excessiveness of this glorification in the present structure of our Divine services, and he sees in this an indication of the "eclipse of catholic ecclesiological consciousness" in the Church (p. 166). Is not one real problem centered in the fact that he himself does not enter into the catholic fullness of the Orthodox view of the Church?
What is it in the Divine services, something significant and visible to everyone, that distinguishes the Orthodox Church from all other confessions of the Christian Faith? It is communion with the Heavenly Church. This is our pre-eminence, or primogeniture, our glory. The constant remembrance of the Heavenly Church is our guiding star in difficult circumstances; we are strengthened by the awareness that we are surrounded by choirs of invisible comforters, co-sufferers, defenders, guides, examples of sanctity, from whose nearness we ourselves may receive a fragrance. How fully and how consistently we are reminded of this communion of the heavenly with the earthly by the content of our whole worship — precisely that material from which Fr. A. Schmemann intends to build his system of "liturgical theology"! How fully did Saint John of Kronstadt live by this sense of the nearness to us of the saints of Heaven!
Is this awareness of the unity of the heavenly and the earthly proven by the revelation of the New Testament? It is proven totally. Its firm foundation is found in the words of the Saviour: God is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for in Him all are living (Luke 20:38). We are commanded by the Apostles to remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their lives (Heb. 13:7). Protestantism is completely without an answer for the teaching of the Apostle found in Hebrews 12:22–23, where it is said that Christians have entered into close communion with the Lord Jesus Christ and with the Heavenly Church of angels and righteous men who have attained perfection in Christ. What is more necessary and important for us: to strive for ecumenical communion and union with those who think differently and yet remain in their different opinion, or to preserve catholic communion of spirit with those teachers of the Faith, luminaries of one Faith, who by their life and by their death exhibited faithfulness to Christ and His Church and entered into yet fuller union with Her Head?
Let us hear how this side of the Church's life is understood by Fr. A. Schmemann.
He affirms that there occurred an abrupt change in the Constantinian era in that there appeared a new stratum in worship in the form of "the extraordinary and rapid growth of the veneration of saints" (p. 141). As the final result of this, "the monthly Menaion dominates in worship… Historians of the Liturgy have for some time directed their attention to this literal inundation of worship by the monthly calendar of saints' days" (p. 141).
Concerning this supposed "inundation" of worship we shall note the following. Serving of daily Vespers and Matins requires no less than three hours, while a simple service to a saint takes up some four pages in the Menaion, occupying only a small part of the service. In the remaining services of the daily cycle (the Hours, Compline, Midnight Office) the remembrance of the saints is limited to a kontakion, sometimes a troparion also, or does not appear at all; and it occupies only a small place in the services of Great Lent. If the day of worship is lengthened by a polyeleos service to a saint, it is for this reason, it has acquired that "major key," the diminishing of which the author reproaches the contemporary Typicon.
Let us continue the description given in the book of the glorification of saints. The author writes: "In the broadest terms this change may be defined as follows. The 'emphasis' in the cult of saints shifted from the sacramentally eschatological to the sanctifying and intercessory meaning of veneration of the saints. The remains of the saint, and later even articles belonging to him or having once touched his body, came to be regarded as sacred objects having the effect of communicating their power to those who touched them… The early Church treated the relics of the martyrs with great honor — 'But there is no indication,' writes Fr. Delahaye, 'that any special power was ascribed to relics in this era, or that any special, supernatural result was expected by touching them! Toward the end of the fourth century, however, there is ample evidence to show that in the eyes of believers some special power flowed from the relics themselves' (quoted from Fr. Delahaye's book). This new faith helps to explain such facts of the new era as the invention of relics, their division into pieces, and their transfer or translation, as well as the whole development of the veneration of 'secondary holy objects' — objects which have touched relics and become in turn themselves sources of sanctifying power."
Let us note that from the pen of an Orthodox writer the above description exhibits a particular primitiveness and irreverence.
"At the same time," the author continues, "the intercessory character of the cult of saints was also developing. Again, this was rooted in the tradition of the early Church, in which prayers addressed to deceased members of the Church were very widespread, as evidenced by the inscriptions in the catacombs. But between this early practice and that which developed gradually from the 4th century on there is an essential difference. Originally the invocation of the departed was rooted in the faith in the 'communion of saints' — prayers were addressed to any departed person and not especially to martyrs… But a very substantial change took place when this invocation of the departed was narrowed down and began to be addressed only to a particular category of the departed."
Thus we logically conclude, according to the author, that if we appeal with the words 'pray for us' to the departed members of the Church without reference to whether they were devout in their faith or life or were Christians only in name, then this fully corresponds to the spirit of the Church; but if we appeal to those who by their whole ascetic life or martyr's death testified to their faith, then this is already a lowering of the spirit of the Church!
"From the 4th century onward," continues the excerpt from the book, "there appeared in the Church first an everyday and practical, but later a theoretical and theological concept of the saints as special intercessors before God, as intermediaries between men and God."
This is a completely Protestant approach, not to be expected from an Orthodox theologian. It is sufficient to read in the Apostle Paul how he asks those to whom he writes to be intercessors for him and intermediaries before God so that he might be returned to them from imprisonment and might visit them; in the Apostle James (5:16): The prayer of a righteous man availeth much; in the book of Job (42:8): My servant Job shall pray for you; for him will I accept.
The author continues: "The original Christocentric significance of the veneration of saints was altered in this intercessory concept. In the early tradition the martyr or saint was first and foremost a witness to the new life and therefore an image of Christ." The reading of the Acts of the Martyrs in the early Church had as its purpose "to show the presence and action of Christ in the martyr, i.e., the presence in him of the 'new life.' It was not meant to 'glorify' the saint himself… But in the new intercessory view of the saint the center of gravity shifted. The saint is now an intercessor and a helper… The honoring of saints fell into the category of a Feast Day," with the purpose of "the communication to the faithful of the sacred power of a particular saint, his special grace… The saint is present and as it were manifested in his relics or icon, and the meaning of his holy day lies in acquiring sanctification (?) by means of praising him or coming into contact with him, which is, as we know, the main element in mysteriological piety."
Likewise unfavorable is the literary appraisal by the author of the liturgical material referring to the veneration of saints. We read:"We know also how important in the development of Christian hagiography was the form of the panegyric… It was precisely this conventional, rhetorical form of solemn praise which almost wholly determined the liturgical texts dealing with the veneration of saints. One cannot fail to be struck by the rhetorical elements in our Menaion, and especially the 'impersonality' of the countless prayers to and readings about the saints. Indeed this impersonality is retained even when the saint's life is well known and a wealth of material could be offered as an inspired 'instruction.' While the lives of the saints are designed mainly to strike the reader's imagination with miracles, horrors, etc., the liturgical material consists almost exclusively of praises and petitions" (pp. 143–146).
We presume that there is no need to sort out in detail this whole long series of assertions made by the author, who so often exaggerates the forms of our veneration of saints. We are amazed that an Orthodox author takes his stand in the line of un-Orthodox reviewers of Orthodox piety who are incapable of entering into a psychology foreign to them. We shall make only a few short remarks.
The honoring of saints is included in the category of feasts because in them Christ is glorified, concerning which it is constantly and clearly stated in the hymns and other appeals to them; for in the saints is fulfilled the Apostle's testament: That Christ may dwell in you (Eph. 3:17).
We touch the icon of a saint or his relics guided not by the calculation of receiving a sanctification from them, or some kind of power, a special grace, but by the natural desire of expressing in action our veneration and love for the saint.
Besides, we receive the fragrance of sanctity, of fullness of Grace, in various forms. Everything material that reminds us of the sacred sphere, everything that diverts our consciousness, even if only for a moment, from the vanity of the world and directs it to the thought of the destination of our soul and acts beneficially on it, on our moral state — whether it be an icon, antidoron, sanctified water, a particle of relics, a part of a vestment that belonged to a saint, a blessing with the sign of the Cross — all this is sacred for us because, as we see in practice, it is capable of making one reverent and awakening the soul. For such a relationship to tangible objects we have a direct justification in Holy Scripture: in the accounts of the woman with a flow of blood who touched the garment of the Saviour, of the healing action of pieces of the garment of the Apostle Paul, and even of the shadow of the Apostle Peter.
The reasons for the seemingly stereotyped character of Church hymns, in particular hymns to saints, are to be found not in the intellectual poverty nor in the spiritual primitiveness of the hymnographers. We see that in all spheres of the Church's work there reigns a canon, a model: whether in sacred melodies, in the construction of hymns, or in iconography. Characteristic of hymns is a typification corresponding to the particular rank of saints to which the saint belongs: hierarchs, monk-saints, etc. But at the same time there is always the element of individualization, so that one cannot speak of the impersonality of the images of saints. Evidently the Church has sufficient psychological motives for such a representation.
As for petitions to saints, they have almost exclusively as object their prayers for our salvation. Is this reprehensible? Is there here a lowering of Church spirit? Thus did the Apostle Paul pray for his spiritual children: I pray to God that ye do no evil; and for this also we pray, even for your perfection (I Cor. 13:7). If in prayers, especially in molebens, we pray for protection from general disasters and for general needs, this is only natural; but these molebens do not even enter into the framework of the Typicon.

Church Feasts

We shall conclude our review with a question of secondary importance, namely, concerning Church feasts as they are presented in the book. The author agrees with a Western liturgical historian that for ancient Christians there was no distinction between Church feasts and ordinary days, and he says in the words of the historian (J. Danielou, S.J.): "Baptism introduced each person into the only Feast — the eternal Passover, the Eighth Day. There were no holidays — since everything had in fact became a holy day" (p. 133). But with the beginning of the mysteriological era this sense was lost. Feast days were multiplied, and together with them ordinary days were also multiplied. (So asserts the author; but in reality it is precisely according to the Typicon that there are no "ordinary days," since for every day there is prescribed a whole cycle of church services.) According to Fr. A. Schmemann, the bond with the liturgical self-awareness of the early Church was lost, and the element of chance was introduced in the uniting of feasts among themselves and to the "Christian year." The author gives examples: "The dating of the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord on August 6 has no explanation other than this was the date of consecration of three churches on Mount Tabor"(p. 136), whereas in antiquity, according to the author's assertion, this commemoration was bound up with Pascha, which is indicated also by the words of the kontakion: that when they should see Thee crucified… The dates of the feasts of the Mother of God, in the words of the author, are accidental. "The Feast of the Dormition, on August 15, originates in the consecration of a church to the Mother of God located between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and the dates of September 8 (the Nativity of the Mother of God and November 21, Her Entry into the Temple) have a similar origin. Outside the Mariological cycle there appeared, for similar reasons, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (connected with the consecration of the Holy Sepulcher), and the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist on August 29 (the consecration of the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Samaria at Sebaste)" (p. 137).
In these references of the author a characteristic sign is his trust of Western conclusions in contrast to, as we believe, the simple conclusion drawn from the order of the church-worship year. The Byzantine church year begins on September 1. The first feast in the year corresponds to the beginning of New Testament history: the Nativity of the Most-holy Mother of God; the last great feast of the church year is in its last month: the Dormition of the Mother of God. This is sequential and logical. The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord occurs at the beginning of August doubtless because the cycle of Gospel reading at about this time approaches the account of the Evangelist Matthew of the Lord's Transfiguration, and the commemoration of this significant Gospel event is apportioned to a special feast. As for the words of the kontakion of the Transfiguration: that when they should see Thee crucified, they correspond to the words of the Lord spoken to His disciples six days before His Transfiguration on the Mount and repeated immediately after the Transfiguration: From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go into Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day (Matt. 16:21, 17:9, 22). Therefore the Church, in accordance with the Gospel, six days before the Transfiguration begins the singing of the katavasia "Moses, inscribing the Cross" (it may be that the bringing out of the Cross on August 1 is bound up with this), and just forty days after the Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated the commemoration of the Lord's sufferings on the Cross and death on the day of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross. And the designation of the time of this feast also is scarcely accidental: this time corresponds, like the time of the Feast of the Transfiguration, to the approach of the Gospel reading at the Liturgy of the Lord's suffering on the Cross and death. Here is one of the examples that indicate that the structure of Divine services in the Typicon is distinguished by proper sequence, harmony, and a sound basis.
If it is suggested that in the church calendar a strict sequentialness of the Gospel events is not observed, this is because the Gospel events take in many years and in the calendar they are arranged as it were in the form of a spiral embracing several years: it contains a series of nine-month periods (from the conception to the nativity of Saint John the Baptist, the Mother of God, the Saviour), two 40-day periods of the Gospel, etc.
In the concluding part of his book the author, not in entire agreement with what he has said up to that point, is ready to come closer, it would seem, to the historical Orthodox point of view; but just here he makes such reservations that they virtually conceal the basic position. He says: "The Byzantine synthesis must be accepted as the elaboration and revelation of the Church's original 'rule of prayer,' no matter how well developed in it are the elements which are alien (?) to this lex orandi (rule of prayer) and which have obscured it. Thus in spite of the strong influence of the mysteriological psychology (?) on the one hand and the ascetical-individualistic psychology on the other — an influence that affected above all the regeneration (?) of liturgical piety, the Typicon as such has remained organically connected with the 'worship of time' which, as we have tried to show, contained the original organizing principle. This worship of time, we repeat, was obscured and eclipsed by 'secondary' layers (?) in the Typicon, but it remained always as the foundation of its inner logic and the principle of its inner unity" (p. 162).
Such is the author's resume. It remains for one to be satisfied with little. It was too much to expect that our Typicon has preserved even the very principle of Christian worship!


We have dealt with the book of Father A. Schmemann in full detail because in the future a liturgical dogmatics text may be given to Orthodox readers based on the views presented in this book. If the foundation is so dubious, can we be convinced that the building erected on them will be sound? We do not at all negate the Western historico-liturgical and theological science and its objective value. We cannot manage entirely without it. We acknowledge its merits. But we cannot blindly trust the conclusions of Western historians. If we speak of worship as members of the Orthodox Church, the principle of understanding the history of our worship and its current status by which the Church Herself lives should be present. This principle diverges fundamentally from Western Protestant attitudes. If we have not understood this principle, our efforts should be directed to discovering it, understanding it.
The logic of history tells us that in public life departures from a straight path occur as the consequence of changes in principles and ideas. If we maintain the Orthodox Symbol of Faith, if we confess that we stand on the right dogmatic path, we should not doubt that both the direction of Church life and the structure of worship which was erected on the foundation of our Orthodox confession of faith, are faultless and true. We cannot acknowledge that our "liturgical piety," after a series of regenerations, has gone far, far away from the spirit of Apostolic times. If we observe a decline in piety, a failure to understand the Divine services, the reason for this lies outside the Church: it is in the decline of faith in the masses, in the decline of morality, in the loss of Church consciousness. But where Church consciousness and piety are preserved, there is no rebirth in the understanding of Christianity. We accept the Gospel and Apostolic Scriptures not in a refraction through some kind of special prism, but in their immediate, straightforward sense. We are convinced that our public prayer is based on the very same dogmatic and psychological foundations on which it was made in Apostolic and ancient Christian times, notwithstanding the difference in forms of worship.
Is Father Alexander Schmemann prepared to acknowledge that in fact the character of his piety is different from the character of the piety of the ancient Church?
*The words "mystery" and "sacrament" are fully interchangeable, and either have been used in places where they make sense and provide clarity in this translation. Ed.
From Selected Essays, by Fr. Michael Pomazansky (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1996), pp. 82-102. This is an invaluable collection of his best essays.

Moscow City Court declared illegal the termination of the criminal case of the murder of Nicholas II and his family

May 12 2010, 17:22
Moscow City Court has declared illegal the termination of the criminal case of the murder of Nicholas II and his family. Thus, the court granted the appeal lawyer Herman Lukyanov, representing the interests of the Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna Romanova. According to the decision of cassation, the case materials will be returned to the court of first instance and re-examined in a different composition.

After the meeting, Mr. Lukyanov said InterfaxThat does not consider the transfer of the case back to the Basmanny court tightening process. "The duration of the legal process demonstrates the complexity of the case. We will treat this properly." We hope that the new case our evidence will be given a fair assessment, "- the lawyer said.

He does not intend to submit new evidence to re-process in the Basmanny court. "We have the most important evidence - the ruling of the Supreme Court, which recognizes neither prosecutors nor the UPC, as they do not give him estimates", - he added.

As reported, on March 19 Basmanny Court of Moscow dismissed a complaint G. Lukyanov, upheld the decision to dismiss the criminal case of the murder of the emperor and his family.

"The court took the position of Prosecutor General's Office and the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor's Office and does not take into account the decision of the Supreme Court, which decided to exonerate Nicholas II and his family" - said then to Interfax G. Lukyanov.

October 1, 2008 the Presidium of the Supreme Court of Russia agreed on the rehabilitation of Nicholas II and his family, January 15, 2009 was adopted by a court order to terminate the criminal case of murder of the Romanov family.

House of the Romanovs did not agree with the conclusions of the UPC that members of the royal family were victims of common criminals, believing that the Romanovs were deprived of life, on behalf of the state.

A Life of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

This copy is as the original.   As of 11/13/15 all other copies on the internet have been edited.

Martyrology of the
    Communist Yoke:

The Life of
Nicholas II

by R. Monk Zacharia (Liebmann) 


FEW figures in history have been so misunderstood and maligned as the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the last emperor of Orthodox Holy Russia. The modern "Western" mind tends to view history in a strictly political way. But with an Orthodox world view, history must be seen as the unfolding of the story of man's redemption through the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, His death on the cross for our sakes, and His Holy Resurrection. The rising and falling of nations, the development of culture—in short, all of history—can only be correctly analyzed in this context. With the murder of Tsar Nicholas, the Byzantine form of government, which places Christ at its head, ended, ushering in the present age of lawlessness, apostasy and confusion. His was a government in the tradition begun sixteen centuries earlier by St. Constantine the Great. That such an unthinkable tragedy as the Russian Revolution could take place attests to the truth of the scriptural warning that "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:12). This pious Christian emperor was surrounded by people, even among his own relatives, whose self-centeredness and petty worldliness had obscured the love of God in their hearts to the point that they failed to unite around their sovereign in his time of need. They thereby cleared the way for the revolutionary element—the enemies of God—to despoil the Holy Russian Empire and place in its stead a satanocracy whose aim was the annihilation of the remembrance of God from the face of the earth.

    Much has been written through the years about the tragedy of the Royal Martyrs—some well-meaning, some disappointingly critical, some outright slanderous—but almost none from the viewpoint of the Orthodox Christian "measuring stick." We are presenting this short Life in an attempt to provide that viewpoint, and to encourage Orthodox believers to turn to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and his family in prayer for their intercession before the throne of God.


    Tsar-Martyr Nicholas was born in 1868 in St. Petersburg on May 6, the day upon which the Holy Church celebrates the memory of St. Job the Long-Suffering. And how prophetic this turned out to be—for Nicholas was destined to follow the example of this great Old Testament Saint both in circumstance and in faith. Just as the Lord allowed the Patriarch Job to suffer many things, trying him in the fire of calamity to test his faith, so was Nicholas tried and tempted, but he too never yielded and remained above all a man of God. His parents were the then-Tsarevich (heir) Alexander Alexandrovich and Grand Duchess Marie Feodorovna. They were a good strong couple whose relationship was without quarreling or dissension.

    Alexander was a firm and uncomplicated man who feared God and become one of Russia's great Tsars, though his reign was short (1881-1894). Nicholas' mother, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark, was a loving and supportive wife and mother who accepted her adopted faith, Holy Orthodoxy, into her soul and along with Alexander transmitted it to her children, building their house upon a rock. "And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon hat house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock" (Luke 6:48).

    On March 13, 1881, when Nicholas was only thirteen years of age, a tragic event occurred which shook the sensitive soul of the youth. This was the assassination of his beloved grandfather, Emperor Alexander II, the "Tsar-Liberator," who was responsible for freeing the serfs in Russia. On a Petersburg street, in broad daylight, a bomb was thrown which injured some of the guards but left the Tsar unhurt. With disregard for personal safety, he left his carriage and was attending to the injured when a second bomb was thrown, fatally wounding him and many others. He was rushed to the Winter Palace where he died in the presence of his grief-stricken family. Later, on the spot of the murder, there was build a magnificent church, Christ the Saviour "Upon the Blood."

    The activity of hateful revolutionaries was to plague Nicholas and his family throughout their lives. In 1888, while Tsar Alexander III and his family were traveling towards Kharkov, the imperial train was rocked by two explosions and derailed. Only the level-headedness and great physical strength of the Tsar kept the Royal Family from being killed.

    Despite such difficult circumstances, Nicholas, now the Tsarevich, was being formed in all the Christian virtues. During his youth his kindness to others and selflessness impressed all who met him. While living frugally himself, he gave freely to those less fortunate. It is known that he often anonymously gave scholarships and other gifts through the agency of one of his childhood teachers.

    The Tsarevich, at a young age, entered into military service, which formed him in manhood through discipline and responsibility. It was during this period, on a visit to Japan, that he was attacked by a Japanese policeman with a sword and injured. As the heir of the Russian throne, he could have easily had the policeman punished severely. But he chose instead to ignore the incident, preferring to turn the other cheek and forgive. This wound, to his head, was to cause occasional pain throughout the rest of his life. Concerning his time of formation it can be said, as was said of our Lord whom the young Nicholas strove to imitate, that he "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).


    By 1894 the health of Nicholas' father, Tsar Alexander, began to fail, and on October 20 he reposed under the loving hand of his confessor, St. John of Kronstadt. By this time Nicholas was already engaged to Princess Alix of Hesse (Germany); and they were married one month after Alexander's repose. The Princess had been born and raised as a Lutheran and was very devoted to her faith, but she needed to convert to Orthodoxy in order to become Empress of the Russian nation. Being a highly principled woman, she did not take this as a light matter and at first resisted. But God in His loving-kindness did not abandon her; and soon, after a number of meetings with an Orthodox archpriest who expounded to her the Faith, she gladly accepted baptism. Her conversion was anything but nominal. The depth of her embrace of Orthodoxy and the strength which it gave to her family was to be a spiritual reproach to the modern Russian nobility and to the "intelligentsia" who, listening to the spirit of antichrist, had gradually become ashamed of their faith, considering it something "outdated."

    The official coronation took place in May of 1896. The young Tsar and Tsaritsa spent the majority of their time in seclusion and intense prayer, preparing themselves for the awesome responsibility of governing, with God's help, the largest nation in the world, which was the protector of the Orthodox Faith. The coronation of a tsar is no mere secular affair of state. As Bishop Nektary Kontzevitch has written, "The Tsar was and is anointed by God. This mystery is performed by the Church during the coronation, and the Anointed of God enters the Royal Doors into the altar, goes to the altar table and receives the Holy Mysteries as does the priest, with the Body and Blood taken separately. Thus the Holy Church emphasizes the great spiritual significance of the podvig (struggle) of ruling as a monarch, equaling this to the holy sacrament of the priesthood… He (the Tsar) is the sacramental image, the carrier of the special power of the Grace of the Holy Spirit."1

    As Tsar Nicholas was crowned, he knelt and prayed aloud: "Lord God of our fathers, and King of Kings, Who created all things by Thy word, and by Thy wisdom has made man, that he should walk uprightly and rule righteously over Thy world; Thou hast chosen me as Tsar and judge over Thy people. I acknowledge Thine unsearchable purpose towards me, and bow in thankfulness before Thy Majesty. Do Thou, my Lord and Governor, fit me for the work to which Thou has sent me; teach me and guide me in this great service. May there be with me the wisdom which belongs to Thy throne; send it from Thy Holy Heaven, that I may know what is well-pleasing in Thy sight, and what is right according to Thy commandment. May my heart be in Thine hand, to accomplish all that is to the profit of the people committed to my charge, and to Thy glory, that so in the day of Thy Judgment I may give Thee account of my stewardship without blame; through the grace and mercy of Thy Son, Who was once crucified for us, to Whom be all honor and glory with Thee and the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, for ever and ever. Amen."

    So it was that the new Tsar in all things placed God first, and therein was his treasure laid, "where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Matthew 6:20).


    The Royal couple settled into their life of responsibility and took the lead in setting an example of godliness and true pastoral care for their enormous flock. Nowhere was this more evident than in their love and care for the Holy Orthodox Church. They gave much money and support to monasteries and to the building of churches. The Tsar considered it his sacred duty to restore to Russia her ancient traditional culture, which had been abandoned by many of the "educated" class in favor of modern Western styles. He encouraged the building of churches in the ancient architectural styles, rather than in the styles favored since the disastrous "reforms" of Tsar Peter I and Empress Catherine II. He commissioned the painting of large numbers of icons in the Byzantine and Old Russian styles, adorning many churches with them. In the words of Archpriest Michael Polsky, "In the person of the Emperor Nicholas II the believers had the best and most worthy representative of the Church, truly 'The Most Devout' as he was referred to in church services. He was a true patron of the Church, and a solicitor of all its blessings.

    "During the reign of Nicholas II, the Church reached its fullest development and power. The number of churches increased by more than 10,000. There were 57,000 churches by the end of the period. The number of monasteries increased by 250, bringing their total up to 1025. Ancient churches were renovated. The Emperor himself took part in the laying of the first cornerstones and the consecration of many churches. He donated large sums for their construction from his private income. He visited churches and monasteries in all parts of the country, (venerating) their saints. The Emperor stressed the importance of educating the peasant children within the framework of church and parish and, as a result, the number of parish schools grew to 37,000."2

    Christian literature flourished at this time. Excellent journals were published, such as "Soul-Profiting Read," "Soul-Profiting Converser," "Wanderer," "The Rudder," "Russian Monk," and the ever-popular "Russian Pilgrim." The Russian people were surrounded by spiritual nourishment as never before.

    There was no tsar in whose reign more saints were glorified (canonized) than that of Nicholas. His love of Orthodoxy and the Church's holy ones knew no bounds; and he himself often pressured the Holy Synod to speedily accord fitting reverence to many of God's saints. Among those glorified during his reign were: St. Theodosius of Chernigov (glorified in 1896), St. Isidore Yurievsky (1897), St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk (1909), St. Anna of Kashin (1910), St. Germogen (Hermogenes) of Moscow (1913), St. Pitrim of Tambov (1914), St. John (Maximovitch) of Tobolsk (1916), St. Paul of Tobolsk (1917) and St. Sophrony of Irkutsk (1918). In addition, one of the most revered of Russia's saints, Seraphim of Sarov, was glorified by the Church during the reign of this pious Tsar in 1903, at his insistence. At this time Nicholas was made aware of the future apostasy and downfall of the Russian nation and church through a prophetic letter written by St. Seraphim himself. The Saint had, shortly before his death in 1833, written this letter and addressed it "to the Tsar in whose reign I shall be glorified." He then gave it to Elena Motovilov, the young wife of N. I. Motovilov, who is now well-known for recording his conversation with the Saint about he acquisition of the Holy Spirit. She kept that letter for seventy years and gave it to the Tsar at the glorification ceremony. While the exact contents are today unknown, it is nevertheless certain that St. Seraphim prepared Nicholas for the coming tribulations. Furthermore, on the return trip from Sarov, the Royal Family visited St. Seraphim's Diveyevo Convent where Blessed Pasha (Parasceva) the Fool-for-Christ spoke to them for several hours; it is said that she foretold to them their own martyrdom as well as that of Holy Russia. They left her cell pale and shaken but resolute—they would accept with faith whatever God had prepared for them, esteeming the incorruptible crown of martyrdom higher than corruptible earthly crowns; electing to accept the cup of suffering offered to them by God Almighty, that by drinking of it they might offer themselves up as a sacrifice for their people.

    The young Tsar, as a fervent lover of the Beatitudes of Christ, strove to emulate them all. He was truly meek, sought after righteousness, and was acknowledged by all who knew him as pure-hearted. As desirous of peace, he made an unprecedented suggestion to the world early in his reign—that all nations come together and meet in order to cut down on their military forces and submit to general arbitration on international disputes. The result of his proposal, the Hague Peace Conference, was convened on May 18, 1899, and served as the precedent for the later League of Nations and United Nations. As a giver of mercy he was unparalleled in Russian history—pardoning criminals, even revolutionaries; giving away vast quantities of his own land to alleviate the plight of the peasants; and countless other charitable deeds of which only God knows. And, of course, few mourned as he did, and few were persecuted unjustly as he was.

    There soon began an endless succession of tragedies, even a small number of which would have broken a lesser man. But for the Tsar they only served to further refine the nobility of his soul. First there was the disastrous war with Japan of 1904-1905 during which most of the Russian fleet was lost. At this time also, sensing public disappointment with the defeat, the nihilistic enemies of Christ seized the moment and instigated mutinies, strikes, riots and assassinations. Here was a whole class of society who were, in the words of St. Paul, "…lovers of their own selves, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despiser of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded…" (II Timothy 3:2-4). The last great prophet of Holy Russia, St. John of Kronstadt, who clearly foresaw the approaching catastrophe, repeatedly exhorted his countrymen to repent and return to their former piety and support their God-anointed ruler or face untold disaster, both here and in the world to come.

    The year 1905 was to be a "rehearsal" for the bloody events which took place twelve years later. Encouraged by the traitors Lenin and Trotsky, a campaign of disorders was begun all over the Empire. Many high government officials were murdered in the streets, among whom, in 1905 was Nicholas' cousin, the Grand Duke Sergei, husband of the Empress' sister, Elizabeth. This good woman later visited the assassin of her husband in the spirit of forgiveness and tried to induce him to repentance, for the salvation of his soul. She went on to enter monastic life, founding a sisterhood for charitable works, the convent of Sts. Martha and Mary. The nun Elizabeth was finally to share the same martyric end as the Tsar and his family.

    In the midst of these troubles, in the summer of 1904, an event which should have been the cause of great joy was turned into tragedy when it was learned that the long-awaited newborn heir, Alexis, was born with the dread disease hemophilia, which was to afflict him horribly during the course of his all too short life. What pain of heart this caused the gentle ruler can scarcely be imagined. Yet this child, brought up in the love of Christ under the wise guidance of his parents, lived in imitation of the Saviour and manfully endured his terrible sufferings in such a way that all who knew him were amazed. His agonies purified his young soul, and he was, at the time of his martyrdom, a "sacrificial lamb" for his people.

    After the disturbances of 1905-06, Russia entered into a period of great prosperity and moral renewal. With the wise and dynamic assistance of his Prime Minister, Pyotr Stolypin, Nicholas led the nation through a time of such growth—agricultural, economic, educational and industrial—that had the first World War not occurred, Russia would have undoubtedly become the leading nation of the world. But Satan, the enemy of our salvation, could not countenance such a threat to his plans. In 1911, during the performance of an opera in Kiev, at which the Tsar was also present, Stolypin was assassinated. Before he fell to the ground, he turned to his sovereign in the balcony and blessing him with the sign of the Cross, said, "May God save him!"

    Then, in 1914, Russia was forced to enter World War I. The peace-loving Tsar had no desire to go to war, but aggression against Orthodox Serbia by Germany left him no other honorable choice. It was from this war that neither the Royal Family nor Holy Russia herself would ever return.

    As soon as the war broke out, the Empress and the four Grand Duchesses (Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia) became nurses (Sisters of Mercy); and hospitals were opened at Tsarskoe Selo, near the family's residence, where wounded soldiers were brought. They worked long hours, diligently and tirelessly following the commandment of Christ to visit the sick, since "inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me" (Matthew 25:30). The Tsar spent much of his time at army headquarters, personally overseeing the war effort and visiting the troops to encourage them.

    At first the war went well, and the country was united heart, soul and body in patriotic fervor behind their Tsar. But soon, due to poor communications, low-level mismanagement and subversive treachery, problems arose in supplying the armed forces with ammunition and food; the Russian army began to suffer reversals and many men were lost. It was at this crucial time that the Bolsheviks, fueled by German money, went to work spreading discord among the troops and at home. The enemies of Holy Russia knew well that the greatest unifying factors in Russia were love of God and love for the Tsar, the visible symbol of the Orthodox Empire. By cutting off the head, they hoped to render the body powerless through fragmentation, thereby making it malleable to their evil intents. Through infiltration of the press, slanderous stories against the Royal Family were printed. The foreign press, hungry for scandal, printed unverified stories, many of which are still believed to this day. Even the Empress was accused of disloyalty and treason—she who was above reproach in hr heartfelt love for her adopted land. Conspiracies began to take shape among court officials, the Duma (Parliament), the generals and the nobility, even including relatives of the Tsar. This, at a time when unity was more than ever needed. As Nicholas himself sadly wrote in his diary at that time: "All around me I see treason, cowardice and deceit."

    At this point, many people began to accuse the Tsar of being "cut off" and aloof. But the Tsar and his family, surrounded by elements foreign to the spiritual atmosphere of their home life, by the political machinations of selfish people and by whole segments of society grown cold towards God, could not be blamed for safeguarding their pearl of great price. As Archimandrite Constantine of Jordanville has written: "Need one be amazed that the Tsar shut himself off? … This was the chaste guarding of his spiritual personality from an alienated out world, because not only the Tsar's co-workers, but even his kinsmen turned out to be alien to him."3 It should also be noted that the Emperor and Empress were very trusting and believed deeply in the essential goodness of humanity, created in the image and likeness of God. What grief it must have caused them when they finally realized into what depths of spiritual depravity many of their subjects had fallen!


    Finally, on March 3, 1917, isolated from his family, bereft of friends, Nicholas II, the Anointed Tsar of the last Christian Empire, abdicated the throne, pushed to this decision against his better judgment by his faithless advisors. But, he wanted to know, was this wanted by all the people? Yes, they assured him. It was not true, however, since at that time almost all of Russia outside of St. Petersburg was still behind him. But he did no know this. And so, after an entire night spent in prayer, he laid aside the crown for what he felt was the good of his country. Later, seeing the result of this decision, he was to regret it to his dying day. At the time he wrote: "I am ready to give up both throne and life if I should become a hindrance to the happiness of the homeland." And; "There is no sacrifice that I would not make for the real benefit of Russia and for her salvation." Though he no longer bore the responsibility of government, his first thoughts were for his nation, as he said to one of his officers, "Just to think that, now I am Tsar no longer, they won't even let me fight for my country."

    On this very day, a miracle took place that attested to God's love for Russia. In the village of Kolomskoe, near Moscow, a woman had a dream in which she was told to locate a particular icon of the Mother of God. After much searching, it was discovered in the basement of the main church of this village, almost black with age and soot. When it was carefully cleaned, there appeared the "Reigning Icon" of the Theotokos, with the Mother of God depicted seated on a throne, her countenance both stern and sorrowful, the blessing Christ-Child in her lap. This icon soon thereafter miraculously renewed itself and the robe of the Theotokos was seen to be blood red, something which had been foretold also in the dream. Services were written to this icon and many people made the pilgrimage to venerate it. Healings, both of physical and mental infirmities began to take place before it. As it is well-known that the Tsar had a particularly strong reverence for the Mother of God, it is believed by many that it was his fervent prayer to Her that caused Her to make Her mercy to the Russian people known through this miracle; that She would henceforth reign over Holy Russia interceding for the faithful (This icon was preserved and has been recently returned to the Kolomskoe church).

    The Church reacted to Nicholas' abdication by providing the country with its missing father-figure. For the first time since the reign of Peter I (who had abolished the patriarchate) the Synod, owing to this time of great need, elevated Archbishop Tikhon, a courageous confessor against the godless tyranny that was soon to descend upon Russia, to the patriarchal throne.

    After the abdication, Nicholas made his way back to his family in Petersburg, all of whom were under house arrest like common criminals, and found all of his children ill. Alexis, Olga, and Maria had the measles and were bedridden with high fevers; Tatiana and Anastasia both had painful ear abscesses, which left Tatiana temporarily deaf. Again the image of Job overshadowed him—all had been taken from him except his dear ones and his indomitable faith. He did not curse his fate, accepting all as the will of God, and did not even murmur against his captors who treated him with disrespect and even contempt. What greater example could the Russian people have asked for, or what nobler man could have led them as their king? Thus Christ's lament over the chosen people was fulfilled in Holy Russia as well: "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Matthew 23:37-38).

    The Royal Family was moved to Tobolsk in Siberia in August of 1917, as the provisional government began to collapse amidst Bolshevik ravings. Many Russians everywhere behaved as though in a trance, against their better

(the eldest daughter of Nicholas II):
"… Father asks to have it passed on to all who have remained loyal
to him and to those on whom they might have influence, that they
not avenge him; he has forgiven and prays for everyone; and not
to avenge themselves, but to remember that the evil which is now in
the world will become yet more powerful, and that it is not evil
which conquers evil, but love…"
Tobolsk, 1918
(From Letters of the Imperial Family
from Confinement, 1974.)

instincts or even worse—as though possessed. The Tsar and his family remained in Tobolsk until the following April, taking comfort only in prayer and in each other. "In what consisted the meaning of [their] life? In fulfilling God's commandments. Where could support be found? In prayer, in awareness of the providential hand of God stretched out over it. It may have been that the only family experiencing complete calm and untroubled family happiness was the imprisoned Royal Family; so great was the adornment of its spiritual powers, so clear was its conscience, so near was God to it. This indeed was a 'home church.'"4 Even in the midst of their persecution they had one great consolation—there were still those who loved them, true godly people all over Russia who prayed for them; and many were those who, in defiance of the authorities, would pause in front of the house of their captivity and, making the sign of the Cross, pray for the safety and well-being of their sovereigns.


    In April of 1918, Tsar Nicholas and his family and faithful servants were transferred to Ekaterinburg by the now victorious Bolsheviks. There they spent three hellish months of psychological torture—and yet they all retained their inward calm and state of prayer, so that not a small number of their tormentors were softened by these valiant Christian strugglers. As Pierre Gilliard, the French tutor to the Tsarevich Alexis recalled: "The courage of the prisoners was sustained in a remarkable way by religion. They had kept that wonderful faith which at Tobolsk had been the admiration of their entourage and which had given them such strength, such serenity in suffering. They were already almost entirely detached from this world The Tsaritsa and Grand Duchesses could often be heard singing religious airs, which affected their guards in spite of themselves.

    "Gradually these guards were humanized by contact with their prisoners. They were astonished at their simplicity, attracted by their gentleness, subdued by their serene dignity, and soon found themselves dominated by those whom they thought they held in their power. The drunken Avdiev found himself disarmed by such greatness of soul; he grew conscious of his own infamy. The early ferocity of these men was succeeded by profound pity."5 When this would happen, the inhuman Bolsheviks would replace the guards who had been so touched with crueler and more animalistic ones.

    Seldom being allowed to go to church, they nevertheless nourished their souls with home prayers and greatly rejoiced at every opportunity to receive the Divine Sacraments. Three days before their martyrdom, in the very house in which they were imprisoned, there took place the last church service of their suffering lives. As the officiating priest, Fr. John Storozhev, related: "'It appeared to me that the Emperor, and all his daughters too, were very tired. During such a service it is customary to read a prayer for the deceased. For some reason, the Deacon began to sing it, and I joined him… As soon as we started to sing, we heard the Imperial Family behind us drop to their knees' (as is done during funeral services)… Thus they prepared themselves without suspecting it, for their own death—in accepting the funeral viaticum. Contrary to their custom none of the family sang during the service, and upon leaving the house the clergymen expressed the opinion that they 'appeared different'—as if something had happened to them."6

    Finally, after midnight on July 4, 1918, the entire family, with their doctor and two faithful servants, was brought to the basement of the house of their confinement under the pretext of moving them once again. There they were brutally and mercilessly murdered, the children as well as the adults, under the cover of darkness—for "men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). The Tsar was shot as he stood forward to defend his family. Tsaritsa Alexandra was able to make the sign of the Cross before shoo, too, fell. Amid screams, the children were shot, clubbed and bayoneted, in an act of indescribably brutality. There is evidence that the murders were ritualistic; strange symbols were found on the walls of the room where the crime took place. Thus ended the life of the gentle, Christ-like Tsar, as a sacrifice for the Orthodox Faith and for the Russian people, both of whom he so fervently loved and believed in.

    This crime was the beginning of an inhuman bloodbath which left tens of millions dead, the Church in the grip of atheists and Holy Russia entirely unrecognizable. Now it is up to us to pray to the twice-crowned Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and his family to intercede before the throne of God that the sins of the Orthodox might be forgiven. And may our Lord Jesus Christ grant us the strength of faith to follow the example of these true servants of His.


    God's acceptance of the pure sacrifice of the Tsar-Martyr was not long in manifesting itself through miraculous visions and intercessions. The first of these presented here actually occurred in 1917, the year before the Tsar's martyrdom, and was experienced by Metropolitan Makary of Moscow:

The Dream of Metropolitan Makary
    I saw a field. The Saviour was walking along a path. I went after Him, affirming, "Lord I am following you!" And He, turning tome, replied: "Follow Me!" Finally we approached an immense arch adorned with stars. At the threshold of the arch the Saviour turned to me and said again: "Follow Me!" And He went into a wondrous garden, and I remained at the threshold and awoke.
    Soon I fell asleep again and saw myself standing in the same arch, and with the Saviour stood Tsar Nicholas. The Saviour said to the Tsar: "You see in My hands two cups: one which is bitter for your people and the other sweet for you."
    The Tsar fell to his knees and for a long time begged the Lord to allow him to drink the bitter cup together with his people. The Lord did not agree for a long time, but the Tsar begged importunately. Then the Saviour drew out of the bitter cup a large glowing coal and laid it in the palm of the Tsar's hand. The Tsar began to move the coal from hand to hand and at the same time his body began to grow light, until it had become completely bright, like some radiant spirit.
    At this I again woke up.
    Falling asleep yet again, I saw an immense field covered with flowers. In the middle of the field stood the Tsar, surrounded by a multitude of people, and with his hands he was distributing manna to them. An invisible voice said at this moment: "The Tsar has taken the guilt of the Russian people upon himself, and the Russian people is forgiven.7

 The next two miracles took place in Serbia in the 1920's:

    The Serbian people loved the Russian Tsar with all their heart. On March 30, 1930, there was published in the Serbian newspapers a telegram stating that the Orthodox inhabitants of the city of Leskovats in Serbia had appealed to the Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church with a request to raise the question of the canonization of the late Russian Emperor Nicholas II, who was not only a most humane and purehearted ruler of the Russian people, but who also died with the glory of a martyr's death.

    Already in 1925 there had appeared in the Serbian press an account of what happened to an elderly Serbian lady who had lost two sons in the war and whose third son, who had disappeared without a trace, she considered also to have been killed. Once, after fervently praying for all who had been killed in the war, the poor mother fell asleep and saw in a dream the Emperor Nicholas II, who told her that her son was alive and was in Russia, where he had fought together with his two dead brothers. "You will not die"—said the Russian Tsar—"until you see your son." Soon after this dream, the old woman received news that her son was alive, and within a few months after this she joyously embraced him alive and well when he returned from Russia.

    On August 11, 1927, in the newspapers of Belgrade, there appeared a notice under the headline, "Face of Emperor Nicholas II in the Monastery of St. Naum on Lake Ochrid." It read as follows: "The Russian painter S. F. Kolesnikov was invited to paint the new church in the ancient Serbian Monastery of St. Naum, being given complete creative freedom in adorning the interior dome and walls. While completing this, the artist thought of painting on the walls of the church the faces of fifteen saints, to be placed in fifteen ovals. Fourteen faces were painted immediately, but the place for the fifteenth long remained empty, since some kind of inexplicable feeling compelled Kolesnikov to wait for a while. Once at dusk he entered the church. Below, it was dark, and only the dome was cut through with the rays of the setting sun. As Kolesnikov himself related later, at this moment there was an enchanting play of light and shadows in the church, and all around seem unearthly and singular. At this moment the artist saw that the empty oval which he left unfinished had become animated and from it, as from a frame, looked down the sorrowful face of Emperor Nicholas II. Struck by the miraculous apparition of the martyred Russian Tsar, the artist stood for a time as if rooted to the spot, seized by a kind of paralysis. Then, as he himself describes, under the influence of a prayerful impulse, he leaned the ladder against the oval, and without making with charcoal the outline of the wondrous face, with brushes alone he made the layout. He could not sleep the whole night, and, hardly had the first daylight appeared than he went to the church and in the first morning rays of the sun was already sitting high on the ladder, working with such a fever as he had never known. As he himself writes: "I painted without a photograph. In the past I several times saw the late Emperor close up, while giving him explanations at exhibitions. His image imprinted itself in my memory."8

The following vision was seen in 1971 by a certain Basil, a spiritual son of Archbishop Leonty of Chile of blessed memory, who had reposed that same year, at the time when the church was discussing the glorification of the New Martyrs of Russia:

    At the beginning of this dream I saw myself in a huge temple not built by human hands. On the right kliros for quite a distance was a huge crowd of people dressed in white; I could not make out their faces. Around me there was a quiet, heartrending singing, although I couldn't see anyone there. Then both sides of the altar swung open and from them began to come out holy hierarchs and monks, fully vested in gentle blue vestments: among them I could recognize only St. Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra in Lycia. From the door near me, among the passing bishops, Vladika Leonty passed by and stopped near me, saying: "You, brother Basil, were called and you did come. You know we have a great celebration here today!" "What kind of celebration, Vladika?" I asked. And he continued: "The heavenly glorification of the Tsar-Martyr!" And having bowed to me slightly, he continued on his way to the kathedra (in the center of the church).

    Finally, the holy doors of the altar opened, and out of them came the Tsar-Martyr, looking just as he appears on his official portraits during the first years of his reign—that is, very young. He was dressed in the Tsar's royal mantle, as during his coronation, and he wore the emperor's crown on his head. In his hands he held a large cross and on his pale face I noticed a slight wound, either from a bullet or some blow. He passed by me at an even pace, descended the step of the ambo, and went into the center of the church. As he neared the kathedra, the singing increased in volume, and when his foot touched the step of the kathedra, it became so loud that it seemed that a whole world of people had gathered and were singing with one breath.9   

Then, there is this recent occurrence in 1988, also giving evidence of the sanctity of the Tsar-Martyr. In Switzerland, an Orthodox believer, Claude Lopez, wrote concerning a commemorative coin of the Tsar. He, having great veneration for the New Martyrs, especially the Tsar, had placed the coin in his icon corner, along with an icon of the Royal Martyr with a halo. One day he noticed moisture on the coin and discovered that it was exuding a quantity of fragrant myrrh, which had flowed into the box in which it was kept. This obvious miracle continued until October of 1988, and resumed briefly during Autumn of 1989.

Finally, there is this testimony of a man from Spain:
    I am 48 years old. I am Spanish-born from Barcelona. My name is Mateo Gratacós Vendrell. When the things I am going to mention happened, I was not a member of the Orthodox Church. Now, through God's mercy, I've become a member (August 1989). During four years I had had a pain in the loins and in the belly on the right side. I consulted various doctors and went through the usual routine (x-rays, ecography, etc., and analyses).
    All the results were negative. It was deduced that my pain was psychosomatic (psychological). To calm me down, I was treated through acupuncture and laser, by in vain; my pain was still there. I was desperate.
    One night as I was experiencing again acute pain, I started reading. To mark my page I had put a portrait of Tsar Nicholas (his icon, in fact). I looked at the icon and he (the Tsar) looked at me. I started asking him to pray to Christ our Lord; for having suffered during the last days of his life, he would have compassion. I accepted the pain hat I had but I could not accept the fact that I was "mad," because I knew that my pains were real.
    On the next day, after that very night, as I was on my way to a job, a client who is also a friend of mine asked how I was and upon knowing that I was still suffering, he asked whether I had consulted Dr. P. I answered no. He told me to go and see him on his behalf. I went there on the next day.
    When he examined me he said that there was nothing psychosomatic; I had an invisible (on the radio) kidney stone. I underwent a "natural treatment" and the stone went out naturally after one month.
    During this period of time I prayed to the Lord to remember me because of my love for the Tsar. I promised to Tsar Nicholas that I would distribute and make known his icon as a "moleben" for the mercy he showed to the poor man who suffered for four years and saw his problem solved in less than a month through his intercession. THANK YOU SAINT NICHOLAS II, I AM VERY THANKFUL.
Mateo Gratacós Vendrell
5 Sept., 1989
Barcelona, Spain


    Throughout the long, torturous years of Soviet persecution of the Church and her believers there has always existed a faithful group that has quietly preserved the memory of the Royal Martyrs as a "leaven" of national conscience. This so irked the communist authorities that in 1977, during the Brezhnev era, the Ipatiev house, where the Royal Family was martyred and which had become a place of pilgrimage, was blown up and the site razed. Then, an astounding discovery was made: in 1979, writer and former detective Geli Ryabov located, after extensive research, the holy relics of Tsar Nicholas and his co-sufferers. Due to fear of the government, however, Ryabov waited until 1989 to reveal this sacred find to the public (See Ryabov interview, The Orthodox Word, Vol. 26, No. 4, p. 226).

    Gradually the Russian conscience has begun to awaken. Memorial services to the Tsar have been held across the country; one of which, at the Donskoy Monastery, was even televised (There was present an icon of the Tsar-Martyr as well as a pre-revolutionary imperial flag). Voices in the Russian press have openly brought up the question of "national gilt" for the death of their Tsar, which they say must somehow, through acts of repentance, be expiated.

    This year, in Leningrad, there has been an exhibition of more than 240 photographs of the Romanovs in a state history museum. Organized by the Radonezh Spiritual Enlightenment Society, it is described as intending to promote spiritual rebirth. Tens of thousands of people have enthusiastically attended. At the time, a privately published 30-page pamphlet on the Martyrs quickly sold out 200,000 copies. Thousands of people attending the exhibition have also signed a petition calling for the city to be returned to its original name of St. Petersburg.

    Finally, in an amazing development, two cherished sites have been returned to believers. Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow recently re-consecrated the Uspensky (Dormition) Cathedral in the Kremlin, which for four centuries was used for the coronation of tsars and the enthronement of patriarchs. He stated that this marked the revival of Russia's spiritual and moral ideals. And, miraculously, the site of the Ipatiev house in Ekaterinburg has been given to the Church as a memorial shrine, in response to a multitude of letters demanding this. As Tass, the Soviet news agency has reported, "So far there is only a wooden cross on the spot, but according to Russian Orthodox Church tradition it should be replaced with a chapel or a church."


    The significance of the life and martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II for our times can hardly be overestimated. As the last anointed Orthodox monarch in history, his abdication and death signaled the end of the Byzantine Era of Christianity. For the first time since St. Constantine the Great followed the sign of the Life-Giving Cross and led his subjects to the saving grace of Orthodoxy, Christendom is left without an earthly symbol and protector. The faithful were driven back into the catacombs—in a sense, entering a second time into the womb which gave them birth, there to be spiritually purified and "born again." "The Holy Apostle Paul in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, writes: 'The mystery of iniquity is already in action but is not fulfilled up to today, until there be taken away from the midst he who restraineth' (II Thessalonians 2:7). Our spiritual writer, Bishop Theophan the Recluse, and others explain that by this' he who restraineth' one can understand the power of the Tsar."10 The Orthodox Tsar was "the bearer of the consciousness that the Supreme authority should be obedient go God, should receive sanctification and strength from Him to follow God's commandments. He was a living incarnation of faith in the Divine Providence that works in the destinies of nations and peoples and directs Rulers faithful to God into good and useful actions… The battle against him was closely bound up with the battle against God and faith."11

    Looking back, and at the present, we can clearly see that since the removal of "he who restraineth" the power of Satan is no longer held back. We stand as horrified witnesses to the unleashing of evil which has occurred since 1917 in all aspects of life. The world is rushing to embrace and enthrone antichrist in a way that was not possible before. Instead of the visible manifestation of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church on earth, we see warring "jurisdictions" outstripping each other in worldliness, division over the "calendar question" (since 1923), and the selling out of the soul of the Church through "Sergianism" and the ecumenical movement.

    In the world today examples of godlessness abound—nuclear weapons, dangerous genetics experiments, pollution, wars, famines and terrible new diseases In the realm of morality, shameless excesses are committed. Millions of unborn children are slaughtered each year. Perversity has become an accepted "choice." Drug use is killing off young people, who are listening to so-called music with satanic overtones. And one could go on.

    This has happened because people have lost Jesus Christ in their hearts. There is no Christian nation, no right-believing ruler to set the tone. Divided and scattered, we are easy prey for the fallen spirit of the world.

    However, our merciful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will, in His lovingkindness, grant forgiveness to those with a repentant heart. The enormous sin of regicide still lies heavily upon the consciences of all Orthodox Christians and will not be lifted until the crime is both recognized and deeply repented of by the whole of Christendom, which allowed it. Now in our own time, this is beginning to happen. In the Soviet Union today, over three-fourths of all newly born children are being baptized (compared to less than one-fourth in the U.S.). Belief in communism has completely crumbled and a spiritual revival of enormous magnitude is occurring Russia at this moment. It is certainly not insignificant that the name and image of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas is intimately bound up with this rebirth. Many saints and righteous ones have predicted that there would be a last flowering of true Christianity in Russia and over the whole world before the end of time. Holy Russia has yet a word to say to the world, and the prayers of intercession of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas will play no small part in this. Although we have no earthly Christian emperor to lead us, care for us and protect us, we do have the divinely-crowned Martyr to intercede for us before the throne of the Heavenly King.


    1 Bishop Nektary Kontzevich, "The Mystical Meaning of the Tsar's Martyrdom," The Orthodox Word, Vol. 24, Nos. 5 & 6, p. 327.
    2 Archpriest Michael Polsky, The New Martyrs of Russia, p. 112. 
    3 Archimandrite Constantine, "Guide to Salvation: For the 100th Anniversary of the Tsar Martyr's Birthday," Orthodox Life, 1968, No. 3, p. 4.
    4 Ibid., p. 5.
    5 Pierre Gilliard, Thirteen Years at the Russian Court, p. 284.
    6 Polsky, op. cit., p. 122.
    7 Fr. Seraphim Rose, "Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II," The Orthodox Word, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp. 152-153.
    8 Ibid., pp. 153-155
    9 Ivan Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, pp. 602-603.
    10 Kontzevitch, op. cit., p. 327.
    11 Archbishop John Maximovitch, "Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II," The Orthodox Word, Vol. 4, No. 4, p. 185.

    Andreyev, Ivan, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina, California, St. Herman of Alaska Press, 1982.
    Buxhoeveden, Baroness Sophie, The Life and Tragedy of Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, London and New York, Longmans, Green & Co., 1918.
    Gilliard, Pierre, Thirteen Years at the Russian Court, London, Hutchnson & Co.
    Graham, Stephen, Russia in Division.
    — — — — Undiscovered Russia, London, John Lane Co.
    Letters of the Tsaritsa to the Tsar, 1914-1916, New York, McBride & Co., 1924.
    Lyons, Marvin, Nicholas II, The Last Tsar, New York, St. Martin's Press, 1974.
    Nicholas II: Letters of the Tsar to the Tsaritsa, ed. by C.E. Vulliamy, tr. by A. L. Hynes, Gordon Press, New York, 1976.
    Orthodox Life, periodical, Jordanville, New York, articles in the following issues: 1951, No. 1; 1955, Nos. 5,6; 1966, No. 4; 1968, No. 4; 1981, Nos. 4, 5; 1982, Nos. 2, 4, 5; 1988, No. 4.
    Orthodox Word, The, periodical, Platina, California, articles in the following issues: 1968, No. 4; 1974, Nos. 3, 4; 1983, No. 6; 1988, Nos. 5, 6.
    Polsky, Archpriest Michael, The New Martyrs of Russia, Montreal, Brotherhood of St. Job of Pochaev Press, 1972.
    Trewin, J. C., House of Special Purpose, New York, Stein & Day, 1975.
    Vorres, Ian, The Last Grand Duchess, London, Hutchinson & Co., 1964.
    Vyrubova, Anna, Memories of the Russian Court, New York, McMillan & Co., 1923.
    Wilton, Robert, Last Days of the Romanovs, London, Thorton Butterworth Ltd., 1920.

Reprinted from The Orthodox Word 
Vol. 26, No. 4 (153) July-August, 1990