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).
MARRIAGE OF NICHOLAS AND HIS CORONATION
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).
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!
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):
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…"
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
PRAY TO GOD FOR US!
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