HOMILY FOR THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD
On the feast of Transfiguration, the Church commemorates the event of the Lord’s transfiguration and shows us the way to our own transfiguration.
The Lord was transfigured before His chosen disciples Peter, James, and John, in order to strengthen their faith in that He is the true God and that He has voluntarily accepted suffering on the cross for our salvation, and in order to have this faith become an asset of His Church through these three disciples. At the same time, by means of His transfiguration the Lord gave us an example of our personal transfiguration, which is necessary for entry into His Kingdom.
The divine law of transfiguration operates in the entire universe – both in the physical world and in the spiritual world.
Thus the grapes and the fruit which we bless on the feast of Transfiguration symbolize the transfiguration of inanimate nature. From the soil, from putrid fertilizers, from the sun’s rays, water, and air, from the seeds, with some participation of human labor, and activated by the Holy Spirit, these fruits grow forth for our nourishment and delight.
The Holy Spirit also engenders the transfiguration of our soul – from a state of malodorous passion into fragrant virtue. However, since we are sentient and free beings, in order to overcome our earthly enslavement we ourselves must also participate in this metamorphosis, as we have been taught by the Lord Christ in His transfiguration.
First of all, for His transfiguration He undertook the spiritual labor of ascending the high Mount Tabor. We, too, must force ourselves to physical and spiritual ascent from earthly valleys to celestial heights. He took three disciples with Him – Peter, because he had confessed Him the Son of God, James, because he was due to become the first martyr from among the apostles for preaching Christ’s divinity, and John, because he was the annunciator of Christ’s divinity.
Furthermore, before His transfiguration the Lord spent a long time in prayer. The ascent to Mt. Tabor probably took place in the evening, at the end of the day, and the transfiguration itself at dawn, at the end of night, because, according to the Evangelist Luke, they descended from the mountain on the day after the transfiguration. Thus, as in other instances, the Lord spent the entire night in prayer. He probably prayed for the transfiguration of His disciples and the transfiguration of His future Church, i.e. for our transfiguration. In this way the Lord indicated that our own transfiguration also requires earnest and lengthy prayer.
And finally, during His transfiguration the Lord conversed with the prophets who appeared before Him – Moses and Elias, and received confirmation from the Heavenly Father: “This is My beloved Son; hear Him.” In like manner we, too, for the sake of our transfiguration, should converse with the Lord God and with His saints. We cannot hope to hear the voice of God, nor have the prophets, apostles, or saints come to converse with us. However, we can always conveniently converse with them by means of prayer and by reading the Holy Scriptures, which contain all that we need for our transfiguration and salvation. Moreover, we should not only read the Holy Scriptures, but examine them according to the word of the Lord: “Search ye the Scriptures…and they are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). If we examine the Scriptures with piety and diligence, then we may be honored with mysterious instruction from God’s saints, as was the case when the holy Apostle Paul instructed St. John Chrysostome while the latter wrote his commentaries on the Apostle’s works, as was attested to by his disciple Saint Proclus.
May the light of Christ’s Transfiguration illuminate our souls on this great and radiant day of the feast, and make them capable of the spiritual labor of transfiguration!
DORMITION OF THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
From the Gospel account of how the blessed event of the Mother of God’s annunciation took place, we know that in response to Archangel Gabriel’s tidings that She had been chosen to become the Mother of God the Word incarnate, the Most-Holy Virgin humbly replied: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word,” and gave herself over completely to the will of God.
And now here She is with the righteous Elizabeth. And St. Elizabeth for the first time calls Her by the name with which afterwards millions and millions of the faithful would exalt Her. The righteous Elizabeth says: “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” The Mother of God has come to me! And now all Christians glorify Her as the Mother of God.
In Her life She was visited by such tribulations, compared to which our own sorrows seem infantile. What She must have suffered when She saw and heard Her divine Son being dragged to the top of the mountain by the rebellious populace of Nazareth, who wanted to throw Him down from there to His death. At this point the Lord used His omnipotent power and escaped unharmed, but with Her motherly heart the Mother of God experienced keen anguish at this danger to Him. She constantly saw the heavy cross that Her Son bore, and the conditions in which He performed His service, pursued by the malignity, envy, and satanic hate of His frenzied enemies. And at the very end She stood at His cross, where, in accordance with the terrible prophecy of the righteous Simeon, “a sword pierced through Her soul.”
This was followed by the radiant joy of His resurrection, but soon there was the parting with Her divine Son, Who ascended into heaven. And although She knew His words about remaining with us to the end of time, nevertheless Her motherly heart was deprived of actually seeing Her beloved Son for many years.
Finally there came the day of Her dormition. This was like a threshold to a new life, like a turning point in it. Before the dormition there was only humbleness and anonymity… Tradition has retained many accounts of how meek and humble She was, how She never put Herself forward in anything. She was filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit more than anyone else; however, She always humbled Herself, shunning all honors. But finally the time arrives for Her glorious dormition. Her Only-begotten and beloved Son appears and takes Her holy soul into His holiest hands.
The dormition occurred… and soon afterwards, several days later, the assembled apostles suddenly saw in the air the Most-blessed Virgin Mary, now already the Queen of Heaven and earth, shining with celestial radiance and surrounded by piously standing and kneeling angels. And She kindly promised the apostles that She would be with them always.
Thus began Her eternal divine glory, which has no equal. No other human being has been so glorified, so elevated, so magnified as the Mother of Christ our God. When we entreat God’s great saints to intercede for us before God, we ask them to pray to God for us, but to Her we appeal as to an omnipotent Queen: “O Holy Theotokos, save us.” And on this great and glorious day of Her feast, the Church speaks of Her thus: “The tomb and death have not been able to hold the Theotokos, Who is constant in supplications, and in intercession an unfailing hope.”
The words “the Theotokos Who is constant in supplications” indicate the fact that Her prayers stream forth continuously – prayers for the world, prayers for us; we know that the Lord affiliated St. John the Theologian, the great Apostle of love, to Her, and through him – all of mankind. Therefore, no matter how sinful we may be or how unworthy, we joyfully say that She is the mother of mankind and the Heavenly Mother of every one of us.
Our celestial Queen and Mother commiserates in Her heart over each one of us, wishes eternal salvation for each one of us, and prays for all of us. Let us not forget that Her divine protection covers us all, and that continuously to the throne of God’s glory rise the prayers of the “Theotokos Who is constant in supplications”… Amen.
ON PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL PARALYSIS
A certain lawyer once came up to Christ and asked: which was the primary commandment in the law of God? The Lord said to him that first and foremost one must love God with one’s whole being, and one must love one’s neighbor, and that this constitutes the foundation of all law. However, having stated these two major commandments on loving God and one’s neighbor, and later adding to this His beatitudes, the Lord did not abolish the basic ten commandments of the Old Testament. The New Testament commandments were an expansion of the original ten commandments; they led to spiritual perfection those who had learned to keep the basic law of God, those who had acquired spiritual discipline.
In a series of Sunday Gospel readings the Church reminds us of the need to keep the principles of the law of God as expressed in the ten commandments, and shows us the consequences of transgressing these commandments. It is very important for us, who live in the modern world, to examine this matter, because it has a direct bearing upon us.
The first two commandments of Moses direct us to worship the one true God, shunning all other gods and idols. In one of the Sunday Gospel readings, in the story of the Gergesenes, we see the transgression of these very commandments. We see how the Gergesenes made an idol for themselves out of wealth and profit, out of the acquisition of material goods, and for the sake of their idol they even committed a sin, by keeping herds of swine which were forbidden by the law. Thus, by falling into sin, they alienated themselves from the true God, and not only alienated themselves, but even rejected Him.
After such a terrible picture, in the subsequent Gospel reading the Church shows us the consequences of sin. There we hear of the paralytic who was healed by the Lord. When Christ healed others – for example, the blind, the crippled, the maimed, – He healed them right away. This is because such physical defects were not specifically designed as a punishment for those people, but could have been given for the glory of God, for the glorification of the Merciful Healer-Christ, as we see in the case of the healing of the man who was born blind. However, when the paralytic was brought over to Christ, the Lord first said to him: “Your sins are forgiven,” and only then did He heal the physical paralysis. The Lord thus clearly indicated that physical paralysis is a direct consequence of sin, i.e. spiritual paralysis, that it is not simply an illness, but a direct consequence of inner paralysis of the soul. Moreover, this particular paralytic was not yet familiar with Christian teaching; thus, his sins occurred on the basis of his having transgressed the ten Old Testament commandments, which led him in turn to such a terrible consequence.
If we look at the world surrounding us today, we see that this entire world is full of both Gergesenes and paralytics. Currently the guiding principle of society is the transgression of the first two commandments. People have rejected the one true God and are worshipping the false gods that are found in Oriental religions, occultism, and even open Satanism, and are also worshipping different idols: be it atheistic science, or so-called progress, or those very same profit and gain and material goods, or living idols in the shape of rock-musicians, actors, and others who are possessed.
At the same time, as a result of such widespread and terrible sinfulness, paralysis has also increased in today’s world in the form of all kinds of horrible illnesses, which strike people most painfully and represent obvious punishment for sin. When the Lord healed the Gospel paralytic, the scribes and the Pharisees berated Him for first offering forgiveness for sins and then healing, not wishing to admit any connection between sin and illness, blindly rejecting sin as the cause of illness. Nowadays we see the same thing: contemporary leaders of society, just like those Pharisees and scribes, do everything in their power to lead people away from an understanding of the tie between terrible sins and terrible illnesses, and thus lead people away from an awareness of their own sinfulness and from repentance before God.
Dear brethren, let us seek salvation from all those horrors in the quiet fold of the Church, which, like a loving Mother, teaches us to live correctly by keeping all God’s commandments, and thus both protects us in this tempestuous life and leads us into eternal life with God the Father. Amen.
(From Metropolitan Vitaly Oustinow’s letters)
As regards prayer, I will begin with reminding you of the words of the holy apostle Paul in his epistle to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in every thing give thanks” (5: 16-18). From ancient times the Holy Fathers of Christ’s Church have persistently knocked at the door of this mystery of constant prayer, because expressions of such importance in the Holy Scriptures do not represent some kind of symbols or abstract ideas, but have always been accepted as commandments, i.e. in a literal sense. “Without ceasing” means just that, neither less nor more. But how can we accomplish that, when we are always working in this busy life of ours: we must constantly think things through, make plans, think of the future, analyze our past, not to mention simply sleeping, eating, watching over everything, observing everything around us. And in the meantime we feel these words over us, and not just words, but the power of God, the commandment to “pray without ceasing,” from which we cannot escape, cannot hide, because it is a strong and unyielding command, though not forced. Yet when we look at the boiling pot which is our head, in which thoughts are constantly seething which we cannot even stop, so much so that even Descartes came to the following incredible conclusion: “I think, therefore – I am,” (i.e. the fact that a person is engaged in constant thinking made Descartes conclude that that is the mightiest proof of our existence), – then where can we insert prayer into all of this, not to mention constant prayer?! However, the Holy Fathers made the amazing discovery that our spiritual force, or simply our heart, possesses a certain independence within us. From such a discovery there is but a single step to having the full attention of the inner eye concentrated upon this spiritual force and making an all-out effort to attract the heart to prayer. There are varying degrees of prayer; however, it is already worthwhile to just drag one’s body to church, and with it one’s soul. Inside the church everything is out-of-the-ordinary: the icons look down upon you, while you look at the icons from which there are people gazing at you, but people unlike those whom you see every day; and the singing is not like anything you know, and the incense has a fragrance which you will not smell anywhere else. In general, everything is quite unusual, but it all invites you somewhere else, to something better, more tranquil, more restful, and the soul unconsciously responds to all of this. Such is one form of prayer. It is but the soul which sees, hears, and smells through the eyes, the ears, and the nose. This is the reason we must go to church, and especially take our children there, since their souls are purer and imbibe everything more deeply. Afterwards you begin to ponder, you listen not to the prayers, but to their meaning, and the meaning almost always constitutes penitential prayer, and so you unconsciously join in. You pass the stages of your life superficially and do not see anything sinful in it, and in such a state you return home. However, the human soul mysteriously imprints within itself various images and thoughts that are deeper than superficial impressions and thus slowly exert influence over both the mind and the heart. Such is another form of prayer.
Nevertheless, all these above-mentioned forms of prayer are only the threshold, the preface to prayer. This preface is necessary. No one begins to write a composition without first studying the alphabet. Similarly in spiritual life everything is orderly and rational. The Lord says to us: “My son, give Me thine heart” (Proverbs 23:26), not the mind, but specifically the heart, because the heart comprises the entirety of the human personality. And so now we face this task of how to pray with the heart. Here we stumble across the first great barrier: we make some kind of effort, and we achieve nothing. We soon realize that we can think of anything, that our thoughts are capable of moving instantaneously wherever we wish, wherever we spent even a single moment of our lives, that our thoughts are subservient to our will. But to feel whatever we want – that is not within our will. Moreover, the Holy Scriptures picturesquely describe to us how “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). These vices prevent our heart from praying; it becomes taken over as though by an alien force, it becomes occupied and it is not within our power to drive out the enemy, i.e. the devil. We must, therefore, appeal to God with the prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10), and only then can the Lord cleanse our heart. For this reason St. John of Kronstadt says in his opus My Life in Christ : “When we pray with our hearts, we witness the miracle of the expulsion of demons.”
The holy Church Fathers teach us a very short prayer that is called the Jesus prayer: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” Here are only several words, and there is no place in the mind for too many thoughts. This short prayer should be repeated as often as possible, trying to use our heart, which had been cleansed by God, to enter into the words of this prayer. Thus we gradually teach this prayer to our heart, and it becomes so accustomed to the prayer that it engages in it of its own accord, without the pressure of our will. No matter whether we are sleeping or doing something, the heart engages in this prayer at all times of the day and night. Having thus learned to pray ceaselessly with the heart, we become capable of repeating any prayer with the heart. And when a person prays with his heart, this means the entire person prays to God, and the Lord hears such a person and heeds him. Each one of us has naturally experienced moments when we cry out to the heavens for help, and we receive it, because our entire being turns into this cry of the soul, but the saints do not wish to wait for unexpected vicissitudes to make them turn to God, but instead wish their prayer to always come from the heart, just as the holy apostle Paul teaches us. Such is a brief instruction to you on prayer. When one of the saints was asked – how can one learn to pray, he responded – “Pray, and the prayer itself will teach you everything.”
(From Metropolitan Vitaly Oustinow’s letters)
During His life on earth, our Lord Jesus Christ created His Church and to it alone, not to any people or nation, He promised invincibility and indestructibility to the very end of this earth’s existence. Everything of which you write, all that is happening in Russia and in the entire world, – all is complete vanity. The Saviour’s words are precise and clear: “The gates of hell will never prevail” over the Church He had created. With these words the Lord also indicates to us that the purpose of our entire life on earth is to remain within this Church. For this reason the Church is often likened to a ship sailing upon the turbulent sea of life. Raging waves beat against the ship, striking against its sides, because of which the ship sometimes shudders from such an onslaught, while underwater reefs are ready to destroy the ship and sink it. However, the ship’s Helmsman is the Lord God Himself, which guarantees the Church’s invincibility. But if we pay constant attention to what is happening in the sea of life, we can become terrified, lose our faith, and fall into total despair, not understanding what is what, who goes where, and why. There are tempests there, endless wars, unrest, disturbances, sleepless nights, groundless anxiety, unfounded suspicion of everyone and everything. And from such a spiritual state our body, too, begins to act accordingly: some have high blood pressure, others have increased stomach acidity with all its consequences, including ulcers and even cancer, while still others have diabetes or arthritis, etc. All kinds of things happen to us then, because there is amazing unity in the human nature. If the soul is agitated for any length of time, you are then soon faced with some kind of illness. This does not mean that church-oriented people, the believers, those who are on Christ’s ship, are never sick – not at all! They likewise become ill, but they bear their illnesses without agitation of the soul, without grumbling, with patience, as a result of which they become even more enlightened and filled with wisdom; they accept their illness as their due, they agree with the misfortune visited upon them, always bearing in mind that Christ their Saviour had suffered innocently as no one else, and they therefore follow His path.
Thus, the entire purpose of life on earth is to be within the Church, but the Church is not an organization, not a society, although to some extent it has that appearance on earth in the form of a parish, a church, external rites. The Church represents a new existence, a new life in Christ, which turns a person who has become a member of this Church into a new being, different from those around him, someone alien to the majority. Such a person does not judge those who surround him and do not live as he does. He is like a guardian of God’s mystery, of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which he is terribly fearful of losing, and which he knows he can lose only by committing sin. Sin is every kind of iniquity, everything that is done against the will of God, which the Lord revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures, through the Holy Church Fathers, and through His saints.
In order to enter this divine organism – the Church – one must, first of all, be baptized and become part of its sacramental, mysterious, and prayerful life. But do not think that a true Christian is an inert being, a dreamer. Even though a Christian lives his own spiritual life here, he shares with the entire pagan, disbelieving, and even godless world that is warring against God, all the cares of daily life, and he works honestly, conscientiously, because he works not for the sake of his boss or director, but for the sake of the Lord Himself.
Thus I have described to you the life which Russia had forsaken and to which it must return by means of repentance. No political parties, parliaments, or other efforts can help it. Through whatever door it left, through the same door it must come back.
(Reprinted from “Orthodox Russia,” No. 1 for 2006.)
The cause of suffering is sin
“Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14), – such a commandment was given by the Lord to the healed paralytic. Dear brethren! This commandment of the Lord has a significance of the utmost importance for us. It tells us that we are subjected to illnesses and other tribulations of earthly life for our sins. Whenever God delivers us from illness or tribulation, and then we resume our sinful life, we once again become subjected to misfortunes heavier than the original punishments and lessons that had been sent to us by God.
Sin is the cause of all man’s misfortunes, both in time and in eternity. Sorrows constitute a natural consequence, a natural appurtenance of sin, just as the sufferings arising from physical illnesses constitute an inevitable appurtenance of these illnesses. Sin, in the broad sense of the word, or in other words – mankind’s fall or eternal death, encompasses all people without exception; some sins constitute the sorrowful legacy of entire human societies; finally, each person has his own specific vices, his own particular sins, belonging to him alone. In all these various forms sin serves as the source of all sorrows and misfortunes to which mankind in general is subjected, to which human societies are subjected, to which each person in particular is subjected.
The state of the fall, the state of eternal death with which all of mankind is affected, infected, struck down – is the source of all other human sins, both public and private. Our nature, disrupted by the poison of sin, acquired the ability to sin, acquired the propensity for sin, became subjected to the violence of sin, cannot refrain from engendering sin, cannot do without it in all forms of activity.
Three punishments were passed by God’s justice upon mankind for the sins of all mankind. Two of them have already come to pass; one is still to come. The first punishment was eternal death, to which all mankind was subjected in the person of its forefathers, for disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden. The second punishment was the deluge, for mankind’s having allowed flesh to dominate the spirit, for mankind’s descent to the level of beasts. The last punishment will be the destruction and end of this visible world, for apostasy from the Redeemer, for mankind’s ultimate deviation into communion with the rejected spirits.
Often a specific kind of sin overwhelms entire human societies and draws God’s punishment upon them. Thus the Sodomites were burned by fire that descended from heaven for their criminal satisfaction of the desires of the flesh; thus the Israelites were often subjugated to other peoples for deviating into idolatry; thus stone was not left upon stone in magnificent Jerusalem, built from wondrous stones, while its inhabitants fell from the swords of the Romans for their rejection of the Saviour and for theocide. Sin is contagious: it is hard for a single person to withstand a sin that permeates his entire society.
An example of punishment for sin committed by a person individually and punished by God’s justice also individually can be seen in the lengthy illness of the paralytic who was healed by the Lord.
Having spoken of the sinfulness of all mankind and of the sinfulness of human societies, let us turn our particular attention to individual sinfulness, of which each person has his own. Such an examination is essential for us and quite beneficial. It can have a salvific effect on our activity, turning it away from the path of iniquity and directing it towards the will of God. Enlightened by the law of God, we will learn that God, though infinitely merciful, is absolutely just, and that He will mete out appropriate punishment for sinful life. Such conviction will persuade us to make an all-out effort to free ourselves from the lure of both our own passions and the deprave customs of society, to be delivered from God’s punishments, both temporal and eternal.
The Holy Fathers assert that before mankind’s redemption all people were dominated by sin, and committed sin even against their own will. After mankind’s redemption by the Son of God, those who believe in Christ and have been sanctified by Holy Baptism are no longer forced by sin, but have the freedom to either resist sin or follow its persuasion. Those who subject themselves to sin voluntarily lose their freedom anew and fall under forced domination by sin. Those who, guided by the Word of God, engage in battle with sin and resist it, – achieve full victory over sinfulness in their own time.
Victory over one’s own sinfulness is likewise victory over eternal death. Those who achieve this victory can easily avoid the sins of society. We see this in the holy martyrs: having vanquished sin within themselves, they stood up against public delusion, denounced it, and did not hesitate to seal their witness with their own blood. Whoever is enticed and blinded by his own sins cannot avoid being lured by the sinful mood of society; he will not discern it clearly, he will not comprehend it properly, he will not reject it selflessly, but will belong to it with his heart. The essence of the battle against sin, a battle in which each Christian should be engaged, consists of combating sin, of shunning any ties with it, of overcoming it within one’s soul, mind, and heart, which the body will then follow. “Eternal death – says the venerable Macarius the Great, – is located secretly within the heart: it makes a person dead, even though outwardly he may seem alive. Whoever in the innermost depths of the heart went from death to life, will live forever and will never die. Although the bodies of such persons are parted from their souls for a while, they remain sanctified and will arise again in glory. For this reason the death of saints is called sleep.”
All the saints without exception, despite having vanquished eternal death and revealed eternal life within themselves while still living on earth, were subjected to many and heavy sorrows and tribulations. Why so? It is characteristic for sinners to draw God’s punishment upon themselves; yet for what reason does God’s staff not spare God’s elect, but strikes them with blows?
According to the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Fathers, this question is resolved in the following manner. Although sinfulness has been vanquished in righteous people, although eternal death has been destroyed by the presence of the Holy Spirit within them, yet they have not been established in immutable goodness for the entire period of their earthly wandering, they have not been deprived of the freedom to choose good or evil. Immutability in goodness is a characteristic of eternal life. Life on earth is – to its very last hour – a battleground of voluntary and involuntary spiritual struggles. But I tame my body and subjugate it, – says the great Paul, – lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should remain unworthy (1 Cor. 9:27). The apostle says this of a body that was sanctified by God’s grace, a body that was not harmed a whit by an echidna’s malignant poison, a body whose vestments produced healing. And such a body was in need of taming and subjugation, in order for its deadened passions not to revive, in order for eternal death not to be resurrected! For as long as a Christian – be he ever a vessel of the Holy Spirit – wanders on earth, eternal death may revive in him, and sinfulness may once again overwhelm both his body and soul.
However, one’s own labors are not enough for God’s servants to tame the fallen man, who continuously aspires to revive his dominance within them: they need help from God. God aids them with His grace and with His fatherly staff of punishment, in accordance with each one’s state of grace. The great Paul was given, – as he testifies, – a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure (2 Cor. 12:7), for the sake of his most rapturous achievement, for the sake of the multitude of divine revelations he had received, for the sake of the numerous spiritual gifts he possessed, for the sake of the multitude of miracles he performed. Our nature is so corrupted by the poison of sin that even the abundance of God’s grace in man may serve as the cause of pride and perdition for such a man. It was neither honors, nor glory, nor strict obedience that met Paul when he preached Christ to the universe, confirming the truth of the preaching with miracles, but a demon of Satan strewed his path with machinations, resistance, humiliation, persecution, tribulations, death. Having learned that all this was being done with God’s tolerance, Paul exclaims: Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecution, in distresses for Christ’s sake (2 Cor. 12:10). Paul found it necessary to tame his body, so that any indulgence shown to it would not give rise to bodily passions. God’s Providence discerned that Paul’s soul should be protected from pride by means of misfortune. Even the purest human nature has something prideful within itself, remarks the venerable Macarius the Great. This is the reason why God’s servants subject themselves to voluntary deprivations and sorrows, and at the same time are subjected to the various misfortunes and temptations allowed by God’s Providence, which through these sorrows assists God’s servants in their spiritual labors and protects their spiritual labors from being corrupted by sin.
The path of earthly life for all the saints was a burdened and thorny path, full of deprivation, surrounded by numerous tribulations. Some of them, – says the apostle, – were tortured, and others had trial of cruel mocking and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; those of whom the world was not worthy wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth (Heb. 11:35-38). The blessed Simeon Metaphrastes remarks in the life of the great martyr Eustace: “It is not pleasing to God that His servants, for whom He had prepared eternal and immutable honor and glory in heaven, be honored and glorified by vain and temporal worship in this fickle and impermanent world.” Why is that? Because there is not a single person who could remain at the pinnacle of worldly grandeur and well-being without harming his soul. Even someone equal in morality to the angels would waver. The fall has instilled in us, in our souls a state of impermanence. The disposition of our spirit cannot but be in accord with our external circumstances and material situation. “My soul cleaveth unto the dust!” (Psalm 119:25), confesses the prophet to God on behalf of every fallen person. – Only Thy hand, Thy most-holy Word, and Thy most-holy Providence raise me from the ground, detach me from it, lead me to salvation by diluting my temporal well-being with sorrows and at the same time comforting me with blessed spiritual comfort, which instills into my heart an aspiration towards heaven. Without such help from God, by my own unfortunate inclination, which I could not have withstood solely on my own, my mind and heart would have become attracted only to material things, and I would have deceived myself terribly, destructively, forgetting about eternity and the blessings that have been prepared for me in it, and I would have forfeited them forever.”
The true servants of God accepted the sorrows to which they were subjected by God’s providence with submission to God, with gratitude and glorification of God. They found their sorrows to be beneficial, needful, necessary for themselves, acknowledged them to be right and good. They united the striving of their wills with the action of God’s will; they were pleased with the chastisement and lessons sent to them from God.
It is with such an inner disposition and such a frame of mind that the saints looked upon the misfortunes that assailed them. The results of such an attitude promoted by humility were spiritual comfort and joy, a revival of the soul through experiencing sensations of the future eternal life. What will we, sinners, say of the sorrows that come upon us? What is, first of all, their original cause? As we have seen, the original cause of human suffering is sin, and every sinner would do well, whenever he is visited by tribulations, to immediately turn his mind’s eye upon his sins, acknowledge his sins, accuse his sins, accuse himself for his sins, and acknowledge tribulation as a righteous punishment from God.
There is another reason for sorrows, and that is – God’s mercy to frail mankind. By allowing sorrows to be visited upon sinners, God encourages them to come to their senses, to stop amid their unbridled amusements, to think of eternity and their relation to it, to think of God and their responsibilities to Him. The sorrows that are visited upon sinners serve as a sign that these sinners have not yet been forgotten or rejected by God, that God still sees in them the ability to repent, to get back on track, and attain salvation.
Ye sinners, who are being punished by God, – be of good cheer! For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receives (Heb. 12:6). So tells us the Holy Writ, thus instructing, comforting, and fortifying us. Accept punishment with an awareness that you deserve punishment; accept punishment with gratitude, glorifying the just and merciful in His justice God; accept punishment with an unbiased examination of the life you have spent, confessing your sins, washing your sins away with the tears of repentance, rectifying your behavior. Often, requiring just minor correction outwardly, it requires great correction internally: correction of frame of mind, direction, motivation, intention. Through your sins you have deviated from the path of righteousness: do not lose it for good by grumbling, by trying to justify yourself before others, by despairing, by blaspheming God. Do not turn the helpful resources that have been provided to you to return to the path of piety, which have been used by the Lord Himself, into the means of your final perdition. Otherwise the Lord will become angry with you. He will turn His face away from you as from strangers, will not send you any sorrows as to those who have been forgotten and rejected, will allow you to waste your earthly life wallowing in your vices, and will command death to reap you in an instant, like chaff which of its own free will has become the property of the fires of hell.
Those who rightly suffer the sorrows sent to them by God become closer to God, dare to approach Him, become His sons. God fills with spiritual blessings the one who endures sorrows with a humble spirit, listens to his tender prayers, and often deflects the rod of punishment. This happened with the paralytic who lay for 38 years at the pool of Bethesda. The paralytic’s illness was a punishment for his sins, which can be seen from the instruction given by the Lord to the healed paralytic: Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
The Lord, Who had instructed the healed paralytic not to fall into the same sins for which he had been punished with illness, gave the same instruction to the fallen woman whose sins He had forgiven. Go, – said the Saviour of the world to the woman who had been condemned to stoning by the supposed upholders of the law – and sin no more (John 8:11). Healing of the soul and healing of the body is performed by the merciful Lord under the same condition. The woman’s sin was mortal; obviously the paralytic’s sin also belonged to the category of mortal sins. Whoever has become bogged down in the abyss of mortal sins requires special help from God, and this help appears openly – in punishment, and covertly – in a summons to repentance. Man is summoned to repentance either by an illness that is sent to him, as in the case of the paralytic, or by persecution from other people, as happened to King David, or in some other manner. No matter in what form God’s punishment appears, it should be accepted with humility, and one should strive immediately to satisfy the divine purpose for which the punishment had been sent: apply to the healing properties of penitence and promise in one’s heart to abstain from the sin for which the Lord’s hand is chastising us. This sin will be properly indicated to us by our conscience. Forgiveness for the sin and deliverance from the sorrow with which we are being chastised for this sin will be granted to us by God only on condition of our rejecting the sin that is harmful to us and iniquitous in the eyes of God.
A return to the sin that had drawn God’s wrath upon us and afterwards had been forgiven by God serves as the cause of the greatest tribulations, primarily eternal tribulations in the other world. For thirty-eight years the paralytic suffered illness for his sin. An insignificant punishment! But the Lord announces a much greater punishment for a return to sin. What can such punishment be, and so much more severe than a protracted illness? – None other than eternal torment in hell, which awaits all non-repentant and incorrigible sinners.
“NOT ABDICATION OF THE TSAR, BUT ABDICATION FROM THE TSAR”
(Lecture given at the International Historical/Theological Conference
at Tsarskoye Selo, 16-17 July 1999)
The book was brought a year ago into the church of the holy Prince Alexander Nevsky, which is in Pskov. Who brought it in – remained unknown. A white cross on the top cover of the book, which was bound in black. For 80 years this book was kept hidden and now, apparently, it was deemed by God to be time for this sacred object to come to light, to be granted to us at this very moment, in order that we may come to realize the reasons for our endless Russian tribulations.
This book of the Old Testament belonged to the last Emperor of the Russian Empire, the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas Aleksandrovich Romanov, and was taken from a coach of the Imperial train in March 1917 at the train station in the city of Pskov, in the tragic days of Russia’s abdication from its Sovereign.
During those days Nicholas II was reading that book, and traces of his pencil are on the pages, while on pages 220 and 237 there are brief handwritten notes, made by the Tsar with the same pencil.
Prior to the appearance of this book, the external circumstances of the Emperor’s so-called abdication were known by the hour and often by the minute; they were interpreted and reinterpreted many times by participants in the event, with some seeking to justify themselves, others boasting of it, and still others claiming for themselves the role of objective chroniclers. Now we have found the most unbiased witness to the events of late February – early March 1917: a spiritual witness to what the Tsar was thinking in those hours, and how he came to his decision to leave the Russian throne. With the same pencil which he used to mark the lines of the Word of God in the Eternal Book, he signed the document that was greeted with mad clapping and insane joy on the part of Russia’s enemies, and was represented by them as the Tsar’s renunciation of Russia, while in reality it was Russia which renounced its Sovereign in those terrible hours. As of March 1917 this document is persistently presented as the Manifesto of Nicholas II’s abdication from the throne. An enormous falsehood in the history of Russia.
Apparently one must begin the countdown of events directly related to the Tsar’s abdication from February 14, 1917, when crowds of people, dissatisfied with the paucity of life in wartime, went out into the streets of St. Petersburg with the slogans “Down with the war!”, “Long live the republic!” On February 17 the strikes infected the large Putilov factory and spread like plague throughout the entire city. The workers ransacked the bread shops and beat up police officers. On February 23 there were already 128,000 people out striking. On February 26 the 4th company of the reserve battalion of the Pavlovsky Guards regiment, propagandized by the revolutionaries, rebelled and opened fire on the militia which tried to put down the disorders. The St. Petersburg garrison began to go over to the side of the crowds… By that time the whole of St. Petersburg was overwhelmed by workers’ demonstrations, demanding the bread that with criminal intent was not being delivered to the city, nor sold in the bread shops. The populace, egged on by a Masonic conspiracy, began to revolt. It was not enough for the Freemasons to have the National Duma in their hands – they aspired to take over all the power in Russia. Their only hindrance was the monarchy, and the Tsar was the obstacle which stood in their path.
Even prior to that time Tsar Nicholas Aleksandrovich could not be reproached for indecisiveness, but in those mutinous days the severity of his orders for the suppression of the traitorous revolt in the capital was truly dictatorial. In the evening of February 25th General Khabalov received the Tsar’s order to immediately put down all the disturbances in the capital – the stirred up populace was engaged in ransacking and looting stores there, beating up and killing police officers. Then the Tsar sent General Ivanov’s corps from Headquarters to assist Khabalov. Believing even this to be insufficient, the Tsar traveled by train to the commander of the Northern Front General Ruzsky, in order to send to St. Petersburg some of the troops brought in from the front. Without delay the Tsar signed a decree on the cessation of the work of the National Duma and the State Council for one month. The activity of the Duma blabbermouths was declared illegal. The Tsar’s intent was to concentrate all the power in his own hands and the hands of his government, supported by the Army that was loyal to the Tsar.
But events developed contrary to the Tsar’s will. His orders were not followed. General Ivanov did not lead his corps into St. Petersburg. Soldiers from the St. Petersburg regiments refused to obey General Khabalov. The Duma resisted the Tsar’s decree, organized an Interim Committee, and then, on the basis of it, an Interim Government… At that moment, were the Tsar to have just 300 soldiers loyal to him, to their oath, and to the law, and capable of fulfilling the Tsar’s iron will, Russia could have been detained at the edge of the abyss that had opened before it: the interim Duma committee could have been disbanded, and the councils of the “leech and flea” deputies (as they were called in those days) could have been executed. But in Pskov, however, the Tsar met not with loyalty to himself and to the oath of fealty on the part of the commander of the Northern Front General Ruzsky, but with… a demand for abdication. Aide-de-camp General Ruzsky (the highest rank of Marshal in the Imperial Army), fulfilling the role he had been assigned by the Interim Committee, suggested to Nicholas II to “surrender to the mercy of the victor.” General of the Imperial Suite Dubenskiy later reminisced: “The phrase ‘you must surrender to the mercy of the victor,’ said by Ruzsky with cynicism and harsh determination, undoubtedly indicated that not only the Duma and St. Petersburg, but also the members of the high command at the front were acting in full accord and had decided to implement a coup-d’etat.”
Not only the betrayal of Ruzsky, who two months later boasted in newspaper interviews of his “services to the revolution,” was so swift, but likewise that of the entire Army command. Here is the testimony of Ruzsky himself: “At about 10:00 in the morning I appeared before the Tsar with a report on my talks. Fearing that he would doubt my words, I invited my chief of staff General Danilov and chief of supplies General Savvich to come with me, in order to support me in my insistent advice to the Tsar to abdicate the throne for the good of Russia and victory over the enemy. By that time I already had the responses of Grand Duke Nikolay Nikolayevich and Generals Alexeyev, Brusilov, and Evert, all of whom unanimously acknowledged the need for abdication.”
“I am surrounded by betrayal, cowardice, and lies,” – wrote the Tsar in his diary.
Some betrayed him deliberately – Alexeyev, Ruzskiy, Brusilov, Kornilov, Danilov, Ivanov; others cowardly submitted to the traitors, though shedding tears of commiseration for the Emperor – his officers of the suite Grabbe, Naryshkin, Apraksin, Mordvinov; still others, forcing the Emperor to abdicate, lied to him that this was being done in favor of the Heir Apparent, while in reality they were striving to overthrow the monarchy in Russia. The ominous figures of the National Duma’s Interim Committee – Rodzianko, Guchkov, Milyukov, Kerensky, Shulgin – represented an ill-assorted and discordant pack of scoundrels and traitors to Russia, united in their malice towards the Russian monarchy.
On March 1, 1917 the Tsar remained alone, practically imprisoned in the train, betrayed and abandoned by his subjects, separated from his family, who waited and prayed for him at Tsarskoye Selo. Being alone, Nikolay Aleksandrovich turns to the counsel and strength of the words of the Holy Scriptures, reads them, underlines chosen passages. The first thing that leaps to the eye from the Tsar’s markings in the Bible is the Emperor’s faith in God’s Providence, his conviction that the Lord is with him: “Fear not, for I am with thee” (Gen. 26:24), “Fear not, I am thy shield” (Gen. 15:1), “For the Lord thy God is a merciful God, He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee” (Deuter. 4:31), “The Lord your God goeth before you, He shall fight for you” (Deuter. 1:30)…
Not a single name in the history of Russia has been so besmirched as the name of the Tsar-Martyr and his holy Family. Mountains of lies must be toppled by anyone attempting to get to the truth about the abdication. But now we have a most truthful witness to the event, its causes and consequences – the words of the Holy Scriptures, underlined by the Emperor in accord with his thoughts, as the basis of his decision, and as confirmation of his foresight. No, this was not indecision or weakness on his part, of which the Emperor was accused so many times by idle unbelievers, nor was it an attempt to escape from applying harsh measures and to submit to fatalistic inevitability, since Orthodoxy denies the inevitability of God’s wrath and allows the possibility of live prayer transmuting God’s punishment of a sinful people. The Tsar takes this live prayer upon himself, because he is God’s Anointed – the one who transmits God’s will to his people and at the same time intercedes before God for his people. Here are the words he had highlighted: “The Lord, before Whom I walk” (Gen. 24:40), “Stand still, and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you” (Num. 9:8), “And what are we, that ye murmur against us? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord” (Exodus 16:7-8).
The Tsar sees the lofty purpose and burden of his service in the following words: “Be thou a mediator from thy people towards God, that thou mayest bring their causes unto God” (Exodus 18:19), “Teach them ordinances and laws, show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (Exodus 18:20). And here he marks in the Bible another condition of his service, whose fulfillment does not depend on him alone: “Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rules of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace” (Exodus 18:21-23).
But there were no such men to be found nearby – fearing God, loving truth, hating covetousness, loyal to their oath. All of them showed themselves to be traitors – from the common servicemen of the St. Petersburg reserve regiments to the commanders-in-chief of the fronts, to the closest relatives, the grand dukes. No one wanted to bear the burden with him. General Ruzsky advised – whom?! his Sovereign! – to “surrender to the mercy of the victor.” What “victor”? A handful of mutinous rabble egged on by the Jews, and its “councils” headed by Tsederbaum, Dan, Axelrod…? The Masonic Interim Committee, whose illegality was acknowledged even by a member of this committee, Milyukov: “I am being asked – who elected all of you? No one elected us, for if we were to wait for popular elections, we would be unable to seize power from the hands of the enemy…”? Which enemy, who is an enemy to the Freemason Milyukov? It is God’s anointed one, the Russian Tsar! General Alexeyev, to whom the Tsar had entrusted the Headquarters and leadership over all military actions, “insistently advises abdication” and obtains the support of similar “recommendations” from all the commanders of the fronts. The Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich sends the Tsar the “plea of a loyal subject,” demanding his abdication, and shamefully hurries to report this in an ingratiating telegram to the Chairman of the Duma Rodzianko: “At this moment, in accord with the opinion of aide-de-camp General Alexeyev, I have presented to the Emperor the plea of a loyal subject – for the sake of Russia’s salvation and to put a triumphant end to the war, to come to the decision that we believe to be our only way out in the existing fatal circumstances. Commander-in-chief of the Caucasian Army, aide-de-camp General Nicholas.”
There were no other people near the Tsar who were loyal to Russia – some died, others had been killed: Pobedonostsev, Stolypin, Trepov, Pleve….Only the traitors were left. Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, arriving at the Duma with a red ribbon on his chest, placed the Naval Guards who had been entrusted to him by the Emperor at the full disposal of the “new government.” The Grand Dukes Alexander Mikhaylovich, Boris Vladimirovich, Serge Mikhaylovich, Dmitry Konstantinovich, Nicholas Konstantinovich, Gabriel Konstantinovich, and Igor Konstantinovich likewise did not delay in swearing an oath to the Interim Government. Even the Tsar’s guard, His Majesty’s personal Convoy, who had remained in St. Petersburg, announced to the National Duma its rejection of the Tsar. An eyewitness described the arrival of the Emperor’s train at Tsarskoye Selo: “There were many members of the Tsar’s retinue traveling with him in the train. When the Tsar came out of the coach, these individuals poured out unto the platform and began to flee in various directions, looking all around them… I well remember how Major General Naryshkin, who was, by the way, a close childhood friend of the Tsar, was running away in precisely such a manner.”
In the lines of the Holy Scriptures, marked by the fine point of the Emperor’s pencil, we can clearly read the search for an answer to the question which tormented Nicholas Aleksandrovich at that time, as to what had happened to his people, who had so quickly betrayed their natural Tsar: “What shall I do unto this people? They be almost ready to stone me” (Exodus 17:4). “Wherefore hast Thou afflicted Thy servant? And wherefore have I not found favour in Thy sight, that Thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that Thou shouldest say unto me: carry them in thy bosom, as a nurse beareth a child?...I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me” (Num. 11:11-14).
The burden of intercession for a traitorous people, a mutinous people, a people who demanded to replace the kingdom with a republic, – was truly an unendurable and futile yoke, but the Tsar does not reject his people. The Tsar’s pencil decisively underlines the following words in the Bible: “Yet now, wilt Thou forgive their sin? And if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written” (Exodus 32:32).
How these lines coincide with the well-known vision of Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow: “Soon I fell asleep again and saw myself standing in the same arch, and behind it with the Saviour stood Tsar Nicholas Aleksandrovich. 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 in place of his people. For a long time the Lord did not agree, but the Tsar importuned Him. 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… 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 are forgiven’.” The Tsar truly said in those days, and it has been recorded in the written testimonies of eyewitnesses: “Perhaps a sacrifice of atonement is needed for the salvation of Russia; I will be that sacrifice, – may God’s will be done!”
The thought of atoning for the sins of the people who had dared destroy the Kingdom does not leave the Tsar even in the Pskov train. In the Holy Scriptures he sees a solution and underlines it: “There is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun…” Then the high priest “made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stayed” (Num. 16:46, 48).
Such is the outcome of Emperor Nicholas Aleksandrovich’s decision “to stand between the dead and the living” – those who were already dead, having rejected God and His anointed one, and those who remained loyal to the Tsar, but procrastinated in idleness or remained unaware of the forthcoming danger. The danger of everyone’s destruction was more real than ever. We, Russians, are bound to the end of our days by the decree issued at the All-Russia Council of 1613, bound by the Russian people’s oath of eternal fealty to the royal Romanov dynasty, an oath sworn by our ancestors for themselves and for us, their descendants. A violation of the council decree by no matter whom – be it the Tsar or the people – leads with fatal inevitability to countless tribulations for the Russian people and their kingdom. This is where the end awaited us, this is when Russia and the Russians were close to perdition.
The desire to “stand between the dead and the living” and to save the Russian people followed the Tsar’s each step at the train station in Pskov with the symbolic name “Dno” (Bottom). The Tsar does not act with confusion, nor with hesitation, nor rushing from side to side as a cornered animal, seeing himself surrounded by the red flags of the revolution. On the contrary, he acts calmly and resolutely, in accordance with the words of the Old Testament. Even his enemies and the apostates noted with amazement during those days that the Tsar was exceptionally calm. He was calm because he knew what he was doing, because he was convinced of the rightness of the duty he was fulfilling, because his each step was confirmed by the Holy Scriptures. For him the most important thing was to leave without having his departure turn into ruin for the people.
Let us reproduce from the memoirs of one of the primary players in the tragedy, General Ruzsky, the sequence of events in the appearance of the document which to this day is being falsely labeled as the Manifesto of Abdication. On March 1, 1917, “at about 3:00 the Tsar invited me in and declared that he had already signed the Act of Abdication, and that he had abdicated in favor of his Son. He then handed over to me a signed telegram of abdication.” Here is its text: “In these troubled times of severe trials for Russia we, not having the strength to lead the Empire out of the great upheaval being experienced by the country in the face of the external enemy, have deemed it to be proper, in view of the wish of the Russian people, to relinquish the reins of power that had been handed to us by God.
For the sake of the dignity of our beloved Russian people and victory over the fierce enemy, we summon God’s blessing upon our Son, in whose favor we abdicate our Throne. Until his majority our Brother, Michael Aleksandrovich, is to be his regent…”
That night the Tsar remembered the holy sacrifice of the Forefather Abraham, who out of love for God did not spare even his only-begotten son. This is seen from the phrases that were underlined by Nicholas Aleksandrovich in the Scriptures: “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there… and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar.” And God said to Abraham: “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me” (Gen. 22: 9, 12).
Let us again turn to Ruzsky’s memoirs: “Back at headquarters I was handed a telegram signed by Guchkov and Shulgin, notifying me that they had left for Pskov at 3:35. After receiving this telegram, I refrained from publicizing the Manifesto of Abdication… I was in my coach when the commissars arrived… When I entered the Tsar’s coach, A.I. Guchkov was giving him a detailed report on the latest events. Nicholas II was particularly thunderstruck by the news that His personal Convoy had gone over to the side of the rebelling troops. This fact so stunned him that he listened to the rest of Guchkov’s report inattentively. To the Tsar’s question as to what he should do, Guchkov replied in a tone brooking no argument: ‘You must abdicate the Throne.’ The Tsar calmly listened to this declaration on the part of the commissar of the executive committee. After a long pause he said: ‘Very well, I have already signed an act of abdication in favor of my Son, but now I have come to the conclusion that my Son’s health is not too strong, and I do not wish to part from him; therefore, I have decided to cede the Throne to Michael Aleksandrovich.’ The commissars did not object. The Tsar went into the coach next door together with Fredericks, composed a new text of abdication, and returned to the coach in which the commissars sat. For ten minutes there was an onerous silence. Finally Fredericks reappeared with the typed act of abdication, which the Tsar signed right on the spot.”
Thus appeared the document which the conspirators named the “Manifesto of Abdication,” and in the March newspapers of 1917 it was published with a false heading – “Manifesto. We, Nicholas the Second by the grace of God…,” as was customary in genuine Imperial Manifestos. In reality it was only a telegram from the Tsar to Headquarters, to staff commander Alexeyev:
“Headquarters. To the Staff Commander.
In the days of the great struggle against the external enemy, who for almost three years has been striving to enslave our Homeland, the Lord God deemed it necessary to send Russia a new and severe trial. The incipient internal uprising of the populace threatens to impact disastrously upon the further progression of the relentless war. The fate of Russia, the honor of our heroic army, the good of the people, the entire future of our precious Fatherland demand the bringing of the war to a victorious end at all cost. The cruel enemy is engaging in a last-ditch effort, and the hour is near when our valiant army, together with our honorable allies, will be able to crush the enemy totally. In these decisive days in the life of Russia, WE have deemed it OUR duty to facilitate for OUR people a close unity and alliance of all popular forces for the quickest attainment of victory, and, in agreement with the National Duma, WE have deemed it proper to abdicate the Throne of the Russian State and relinquish the reins of Supreme Power. Not wishing to part from OUR beloved Son, We pass OUR legacy to OUR Brother, the Grand Duke Michael Aleksandrovich, and bless His mounting upon the Throne of Russia. We exhort OUR Brother to rule over state affairs in full and inviolable unity with the representatives of the people in legislative institutions, on the principles that will be established by them, swearing to it with an inviolable oath. In the name of OUR ardently beloved Homeland, WE summon all loyal sons of the Fatherland to fulfill their holy duty to it by obeying the Tsar in the difficult moment of universal trials, and to help Him, together with the representatives of the people, establish the Russian State upon a path of victory, prosperity, and glory. May the Lord God help Russia.
Was this document a Manifesto of the Tsar’s abdication of the Throne? No, it was not. First of all, because this document was deliberately composed by the Tsar in violation of the law. Nicholas Aleksandrovich could not, had no right to hand over the monarchic power to his brother in the presence of a living heir. The fact that such an abdication was unlawful was already apparent at that time to all those who surrounded the Tsar, both the intentional traitors and their cowardly fellow-travelers. There is no provision at all in the law of succession for the abdication of a Tsar. In accordance with other laws of the Russian Empire, a guardian – and the Tsar had precisely that status in regard to his son – could not renounce an heir’s rights on behalf of that heir before the latter had attained his majority. Staff Colonel Mordvinov writes in his memoirs about the obvious illegality of passing on the power to Michael Aleksandrovich: “They are in doubt whether the Tsar has the right to hand the Throne over to Michael Aleksandrovich, bypassing the Heir Apparent, and they are checking the fundamental laws. I already know in advance that logically it is hardly likely that they would contradict the general laws, according to which a guardian cannot renounce any of his protégé’s rights, which means that until Alexis Nikolayevich attains his majority, the Tsar cannot hand the Throne over, neither to Michael Aleksandrovich, nor to anyone else. We swore an oath of fealty to the Sovereign and to his legal Heir, and as long as Alexis Nikolayevich is alive, there is only one legal Heir.”
The Tsar’s telegram to Headquarters, falsely called the “Manifesto of Abdication,” was the Sovereign’s last appeal to the Army. This telegram made it clear to every honest and loyal officer that the Tsar was being constrained, that this was a coup-d’etat. This is precisely why the Tsar chose the format of a telegram to Headquarters, knowing that it would be immediately dispatched to the troops by the triumphant traitor-generals, but among the troops there were still commanders and soldiers who remained loyal to the Tsar, to their oath, to their fealty sworn on the cross.
It was precisely in such a manner – as a summons to action, to saving the Throne and Russia – that this telegram was understood by the commander of the 3rd Cavalry Corps, Lieutenant General Theodore Arturovich Keller. Gathering together representatives from each company and squadron of the units that had been entrusted to him, he said: “I have received a telegram about the Tsar’s abdication and about some kind of interim government. I, your old commander, who has shared with you deprivations, and sorrows, and joys, do not believe that at this moment in time our Sovereign Emperor could have voluntarily abandoned the Army and Russia. Here is the telegram that I have sent to the Tsar: ‘The 3rd Cavalry Corps does not believe that You, Tsar, have voluntarily abdicated the Throne. Command us, Tsar, and we will come and defend You’.” “Hurrah! Hurrah! – shouted the dragoons, the Cossacks, the hussars. – Let us all support Him! We will not allow the Emperor to be harmed!” Their enthusiasm was overwhelming. Everyone wanted to hurry to the rescue of the imprisoned Tsar. But Lieutenant General Keller was immediately relieved by Headquarters of his command of the corps.
Another honorable officer – the chief of staff of the detached Cavalry Guards Corps, Colonel A.G. Vikenen – sent a telegram to the Tsar on behalf of his then absent commander, Aide-de-camp General Khan-Nakhichevansky, which he had the right to do in extraordinary circumstances: “We have heard news of major events. I humbly ask Your Majesty to accept the boundless loyalty of the Cavalry Guards Corps and its readiness to die for its beloved Monarch. Aide-de-camp General Khan-Nakhichevansky.” When Vikenen reported this telegram to the Khan upon his return, the latter became so enraged that Vikenen understood everything, went to his quarters after finishing his report, and shot himself.
Thus, on March 2, 1917, the Tsar did not abdicate the Throne. First of all, he had no right to such an abdication, since it was a violation of the Conciliary decree of 1613 and of the law of succession. Secondly, the Tsar, though actually imprisoned by the conspirators in Pskov, by virtue of his royal service had no right to meekly submit to their force. And so to this end he composes an intentionally unlawful document and sends it out as a telegram to his entire army, giving his people and the troops and their commanders who swore fealty to him a last chance not to forswear their oath, and tries to prevent his people from breaking their oath, from violating the Conciliary oath of 1613. Nicholas Aleksandrovich deliberately composes the telegram in such a format, since Headquarters chief of staff, the traitor-general Alexeyev, would not have dispatched any other kind of telegram to the Army. This was the only document in the history of the Russian State which the Tsar signed with a pencil. With this same pencil he underlined in those difficult hours the following sacred lines: “Ye are risen up in your fathers’ stead, ye progeny of sinful men” (Num. 32:14); “Every imagination and thought of their hearts was continually only evil” (Gen. 6:5).
Tsar Nicholas Aleksandrovich’s last appeal to his Army on March 2, 1917 went unheard.
On March 3rd Grand Duke Michael Aleksandrovich sits down with the self-styled Interim Committee to discuss the conditions of his “abdication.” Having no legal rights to the Throne whatsoever, nor to the making of such decisions, he signs a “manifesto” composed for him by the Freemasons Nabokov, Milyukov, Guchkov, Kerensky: “Inspired by a single thought with all the people – that the good of our Homeland is above all – I have firmly resolved to accept supreme power only if such is the will of our great people, who should establish by means of universal voting and through their representatives in the constituent assembly, the form of rule and the new laws of the Russian State. Therefore, calling upon God’s blessing, I ask all citizens of the Russian nation to submit to the Interim Government that has been formed at the initiative of the National Duma and which is vested with full powers, until the time when the constituent assembly, convened in the quickest possible time on the basis of universal, direct, equal, and secret voting, by its decision concerning the form of rule expresses the will of the people.”
That same day the Tsar wrote in his diary: “It appears that Misha has abdicated. His manifesto has a four-tailed ending for electing a constituent assembly in six months. God knows who advised him to sign such an abomination.”
Truly “one should not follow the majority, in order not to do evil.” In these words of the Holy Scriptures, underlined by the Tsar, he saw a warning concerning the danger of not following God, but the majority, since the latter engenders evil and perverts justice.
The universal, direct, equal, and secret voting, which the Tsar calls “a four-tailed ending” in his diary, is a real “following of the majority,” which the Tsar strived to avoid. From the days of his youth he remembered the sad experience of his grandfather, Emperor Alexander II, who had tried to grant “the Constitution and elections” to his people. The noblemen, headed by Loris-Melikov, talked Alexander II into signing an Act on Russia’s stepping onto the Western European constitutional path, assuring the Emperor that this was the only way out for Russia’s salvation. The Act was signed in the morning of March 1, 1881. Then the Emperor rode out to the Armory, intending to quickly return to the palace and hand the signed Act over to the noblemen, led by Loris-Melikov. But the Lord decreed otherwise. On the way back from the Armory to the palace, the Tsar fell at the hands of a vile Socialist assassin.
Upon mounting the Throne, on the very first day of his reign Tsar Alexander III tore up Loris-Melikov’s constitutional act. In one of his last talks with his son, the then Heir Apparent Nicholas, Alexander III touched upon the martyric death of his late father and on his error in going against the Conciliary decree.
“Yet now, wilt Thou forgive their sin? And if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written…”
In the evening of March 3rd, after receiving the news of Michael Aleksandrovich’s “abdication,” the Emperor arrived at Headquarters in Mogilev and gave General Alexeyev a new telegram
“To the chairman of the National Duma. St. Petersburg.
There is no sacrifice that I would not make for the true good and salvation of our beloved Mother Russia. To this end I am ready to abdicate in favor of my Son, in order that he stay with us until his majority, under the regency of my brother, Grand Duke Michael Aleksandrovich. Nicholas.”
Here it is, this very document, never made public at that time, but it exists and attests to the fact that the Royal Monarchy remains unrevoked in Russia to this very day. The traitor Alexeyev did not send the telegram, “in order not to agitate the minds,” and did not show it to anyone, but carried it around in his wallet. Only in May of 1917, as he was leaving the supreme command of the Army, from which he had been dismissed by the Interim Government, he passed on this extraordinarily significant document to General Denikin, but even the latter, in view of his democratic convictions, did not pay due attention to the great words of the Tsar.
Thus, everything was finished. The arrested Sovereign was taken by train from Mogilev to Tsarskoye Selo, where General Kornilov had already arrived on assignment from the Interim Government to imprison the Tsar’s Family. And at that fatal hour it apparently did not come to anyone’s mind in Russia that the Tsar could be dismissed only together with the Lord, Whose grace rested upon him. But God is not to be mocked, and avenges Himself upon the disobedient people for the expulsion of His Anointed One. The Tsar was the only one to remember it, and he sorrowfully marked in the Holy Scriptures the prophetic words about Russia’s forthcoming punishment: “But if ye will not harken unto Me, and will not do all these commandments, and if ye shall despise My statutes, or if your soul abhor My judgments, so that ye will not do all My commandments, but that ye break My covenant, I also will do this unto you. I will appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart… And ye shall be slain by your enemies… I will punish you sevenfold more for your sins, and I will break the pride of your power. And your strength shall be spent in vain. And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of My covenant. I will break the staff of your bread, and ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcasses upon the carcasses of your idols, and My soul shall abhor you. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries into desolation. And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste… And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts…” (Lev. 26:14-36). “For it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee” (Exodus 34:10).
This entire prophecy soon came to pass. Defeat from the enemies in the First World war and during the years of the Civil War, the horror and burning of the typhoid epidemics and the plagues, widespread famine and cannibalism in the more starving provinces, the vengeful sword of repression and dispossession, the overthrow of the ideals of first the February democracy and then October Bolshevism, the desecration of churches, the escheated towns and villages, the Russian emigration scattered all over the world, and for those who remained in Russia – deep-rooted and eternal fear, all the way up to today’s submission to the enemy…
It seems that everything in the prophecy has befallen us and has been sorrowfully fulfilled according to the following words underlined by the Tsar: “Then their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another: ‘What is this that God hath done unto us’?” (Gen. 42:28). But so far these words have not been heard in our society, and yet, according to the Holy Scriptures, our entire future fate depends on the moment when we say: “What is this that God hath done unto us?” “We saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us” (Gen. 42:21).
Of all those who were disloyal to the Tsar, who betrayed him, ran away in fear, kept silent, stayed away – all drank the cup of God’s retribution to the full. Already by 1918 there was no General Alexeyev, nor General Ruzsky, nor General Kornilov: cast off at first by the Interim Government, then by the Bolsheviks, they tried to organize a white resistance – but all in vain. As the Tsar underlined: “It shall not prosper. Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies… Ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the Lord, therefore the Lord will not be with you” (Num. 14:41-43).
General Ruzsky was hacked down by Red soldiers in Krasnodar; General Kornilov died a horrible death; General Alexeyev died of an illness, according to his comrades-in-arms, “tormented by pangs of conscience for his Judas’ sin.” The guchkovs and the kerenskys, after celebrating for eight brief months their victory over the monarchy, were exiled abroad and died in dishonor, while our land, having been given over into the hands of foreign enemies, remains in their hands to this day.
It anything could change our lot, it would be a realization of our collective guilt before the Tsar, our penitent prayer to God with a plea for forgiveness, our ardent desire to restore the kingdom in Russia. This is what the Tsar prayed to God for in those terrible March days of 1917: “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers unto the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of Thy mercy” (Num. 14:18-19).
(Reprinted from “The Russian Herald,” № 32-33, 1999.)
LIVES OF THE SAINTS
On July 13th (June 30th by the old calendar), the day following the feast of the holy and glorious apostles Peter and Paul, the Church commemorates the Synaxis of the holy Twelve Apostles.
The commemoration of the twelve closest disciples of Christ was established in ancient times; already in the 4th century Emperor Constantine the Great built a church in Constantinople in honor of the holy twelve apostles. In his commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew, blessed Theophylact writes the following concerning the election of the 12 apostles: “Christ chose twelve disciples according to the number of the twelve tribes of Israel. Having given them power, He sent them forth, even though there were few of them, since in general there are few who tread the narrow path. He gave them the power to work miracles, so that they, astounding everyone with their miracles, would have attentive listeners of their discourses.”
St. John Chrysostome writes the following about the apostles: “The apostles shone brighter than the stars themselves, and there would be no mistake in calling them the luminaries of the universe, – luminaries not only while they lived, but even now that they are dead. The grace of the holy men did not vanish with their death, did not weaken with their departure. The apostles were fishermen, being mortal they did die, but their nets continue working even up to this day, as is attested to by the multitude of people receiving salvation daily. They were vineyard tenders and, after their death, the vineyards continue to flourish with green leaves and an abundance of fruit. They were vineyard tenders, and fishermen, and pillars, and physicians, and warriors, and teachers. Pillars – because they supported the roof of faith; safe havens – because they calmed the waves of iniquity; helmsmen – because they steered the entire world on its path from earth to heaven; shepherds – because they chased away the wolves and saved the sheep; vineyard tenders – because they tore out the chaff and sowed the seeds of piety; physicians – because they healed our spiritual wounds.”
The names of the 12 apostles are as follows: Peter and Andrew, James and John the sons of Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Jude the brother of James, Simon Zelotes, and Matthias. Matthias was chosen as the twelfth by the other apostles, to replace Judas the Iscariot.
On July 1st (June 18th by the old calendar) the Church celebrates the feast of the Bogolyubskaya icon of the Mother of God.
The Bogolyubskaya icon of the Mother of God was painted in memory of the miraculous vision of the Mother of God sent to the holy righteous Prince Andrew Bogolyubsky (died in 1174, commemorated on July 4th) in 1155, as he was moving from the city of Vyshgorod to the Suzdal lands, carrying with him the ancient miraculous icon now known as the Vladimir Mother of God. Seven miles from the city of Vladimir, downstream along the Klyazma River, the horses drawing the holy icon suddenly stopped. The horses were changed, but the new ones did not budge either. Then Prince Andrew ordered a moleben to be served and earnestly prayed himself, at first before the miraculous icon together with all the people, and afterwards, retiring into solitude, in his camp tent. As he fell asleep, there appeared to him the Holy Theotokos with a scroll in Her left hand. She commanded him to place Her icon in the city of Vladimir, and to build a church and found a monastery on the site of this vision. The new church was built in honor of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos, while the monastery was called the Bogolyubsky monastery. On orders of Prince Andrew, an icon called the Bogolyubskaya Mother of God was also painted. The icon painters depicted the Mother of God exactly as She had appeared to the holy prince: standing up, with a scroll in Her left hand, and the right hand raised in prayer. An annual celebration of the feast of this icon was established on June 18th, on the day of the Theotokos’ miraculous appearance.
The Bogolyubskaya icon – one of the most ancient in Russia – gained fame by working numerous miracles. The faithful appealed to the intercession of the Mother of God and Her holy icon especially during plague epidemics. In 1771, as a result of praying before the holy Bogolyubskaya icon, the city of Vladimir and its environs were miraculously delivered from the plague.
THE HOLY SHROUD OF CHRIST
The imprint on the Shroud of Turin is of the Body of Christ
After establishing the authenticity of the Shroud, i.e. after rejecting the theory of the Shroud of Turin being counterfeit, the world of science was next faced with the task of deciding to whom this Shroud belonged.
For a long time, from the very first appearances of the Shroud, this question of huge universal importance greatly worried those for whom Christ was and is a hindrance of the greatest magnitude. For this reason all the research and printed oeuvres that were in favor of the Shroud were at great length and systematically subjected to attacks, criticism, and even mockery. Such an attitude on the part of a well-known group of people sharpened the attention of the scientific world to an even greater degree. Its task became worthy of special attention. A number of scientists undertook to resolve it by means of an unbiased method known to science, on the basis of which historic personalities are established (identification).
First of all they studied the type of body that was imprinted upon the Turin Shroud. The result was as follows: the body belonged to an ideally classical and exceptionally symmetrical build. The body was analyzed according to the anthropological method by the specialists L. Gelda, a doctor from the University of Rome, and G. Judica-Cordiglia, a doctor of forensic medicine from Milan. Both professors came to the conclusion that the body being analyzed possessed not only exceptional symmetry, but nobility of beauty. The overall length of the body was 181 centimeters. In accordance with classical proportion, the head constitutes one-eighth of the entire length of the body, i.e. 22⅝ centimeters. In the opinion of the above-mentioned scientists, the pure classicism of such a body was unknown to the artists of the Middle Ages, which again excludes the possibility of the Turin Shroud having been falsified artistically. At a 1931 congress in Turin this truth was proclaimed by foremost specialists in the history of art and by directors of the Turin museums.
In order to identify the historical personality that had made an imprint on the Shroud of Turin, scientists analyzed the entire imprinted body – both front and back. Here is the official protocol of this analysis:
“A small beard and moustache. The right eye is closed, the left is slightly open. There is a drop of blood over the left eyebrow. The nose is Semitic. The eyes are placed close to the bridge of the nose. The nose is broken by a blow from the left side, apparently made with a stick; the left cheek is heavily swollen. The skin is broken on the left side, above the cheekbone, and this side of the face is not swollen. The lower lip has been imprinted clearly. The mouth is wonderfully expressive and imparts an expression of deep sorrow to the entire face, but sorrow without anger. The chin is vividly delineated, especially on the left side. On the right side there is a bloodstain or a deep wound. In view of the fact that this person had suffered greatly, the contraction of the tissues after death took place unequally, and the face is thus asymmetrical. Aside from the above-mentioned injuries and wounds, there are many other traces of blows and maiming on the head and face.
There are brown stains on the temples and forehead – clots of coagulated drops of blood. They are formed in the shape of a crown. The stream of blood over the left eyebrow is somewhat elongated: it ran from a wound and then coagulated on the skin. Such a stream always takes the form of an indentation, because coagulating drops of red blood join together on the outside, while inside the drops there remains the serum. The serum evaporates more quickly and, as it evaporates, the surface of the drops bends inward in the middle. It is precisely such drops that have been imprinted with ideal accuracy on the Shroud, being darkly colored along the edges and lighter in the middle. This is significant, because not a single artist has ever depicted this natural construction of a drop of coagulated blood so truthfully. This stream of blood had dried long before death, at least 12 hours prior to it, judging by the form and coloring of its imprint (Christ’s flagellation took place about 24 hours before His death).
On the chest (on the left side of the Shroud, consequently on the right side of the body) there is a bloodstain from a wound between the ribs; another elongated stain, having the appearance of a stream of blood, joins the stain from the wound. The direction of the stream in regard to the entire body is from top to bottom along the body when it was in a standing position. The coagulated stream of blood is naturally bent outward and is similar to a spear wound. If an artist were to depict such a wound using blood, even then it would not have left such correct traces on the cloth as there are on the Shroud, and here is why: fresh blood saturates the material, leaving a serrated edge along the boundaries of its spreading, while on the Shroud the edges are absolutely even, since the blood in the wound and at the side had coagulated long before the cloth touched it.
On the left hand there is a wound and a large blood clot in the area of the wrist. Of the right hand only the fingertips are seen. Both wrists are dark, as they had been abundantly washed with blood from piercing wounds. Streams of blood run from the wrists down to the elbows. The nails had been driven in not in the middle of the palms, but higher up, between the bones of the wrists.
The wounds on the feet are similar. Their delineation is very clear, for the blood had had time to coagulate. In one place the edges of the bloody imprint are serrated, but the bloodstain in this place is lighter. Apparently the wound had been disturbed later on, and the threads of the cloth had become saturated.
There are special wounds along the entire spine and lower back. These wounds are located near one another. Each such wound is of the same size and appearance, 3 centimeters long. These wounds are black in the center, but brown at the edges. There was copious bleeding from these wounds, of which there were 18, covering the spine and the lower back, since these wounds were irritated for a long time by friction from clothing. These wounds were made by a Roman whip called the “flagrum”; such whips were discovered at the ruins of Herculaneum. The “flagrum” was made up of several thongs with metallic tips. The size of the tips corresponded to the size of the wounds. These tips cut deeply into the body, producing elongated wounds. The flogging was done from the right side upwards and from the right side downwards, with the hand of the flogger making a circle around his immobile shoulder.
A wide band is seen on the right shoulder, like an abrasion from carrying something very heavy with sharp edges.”
Turning to the testimony of the wounds and contusions being analyzed on the Shroud of Turin, scientists compared them with the wounds and injuries documented in the Gospel, as well as with all the circumstances surrounding Jesus Christ’s trial by Sanhedrin and Pilate, and found a full and detailed similarity and coincidence with all that was discovered on the Shroud.
“The wounds all over the body were from flogging. The flogging was done by Roman soldiers at the insistence of the crowd and left its traces on the Shroud. The crown of thorns also left an imprint. The face maimed by blows was the work of the servants of the Judean high priest Caiaphas. The wide bruise on the shoulder was Christ’s path to Golgotha with His Cross. The wounds on the hands and feet were His crucifixion. The deep spear wound between His ribs was from the soldier who wished to confirm whether the executed Christ was alive or dead. The uninjured kneecaps – so unusual in such a form of execution. And at the same time such majestic clarity and tranquility in the face – a face unique in the world in its anthropological characteristics. Furthermore – the epoch, established by a series of material documents; events that took place among the Jewish people, also confirmed by documents; death on the cross; the circumstances of entombment under a burial shroud for not more than two-three days, – all of this, carefully analyzed and investigated, provides a strong foundation for asserting that the shroud belonged to only one historical personality – Jesus Christ.
The expression on Christ’s wonderfully symmetrical face remains majestically calm and indescribably beautiful even in death, despite all the injuries and maiming. The wrists of the hand were placed together one over the other in the middle of the body, with only four fingers of the right hand and only the fingertips of the left hand being seen. The thumb is not seen because, according to specialists, the wounding of the wrist with a nail resulted in damage to the nerve, due to which the motor musculature of this finger was paralyzed, and it curled up under the palm of the hand.”
Everything described herein primarily represents scientific materials that often have nothing in common with the Christian Church, but unwillingly lead an unbiased person to acknowledge the shroud of Turin as the Holy Shroud of Christ that has miraculously survived up to our time. The world, hostile to Christianity, is free not only to not accept the obvious proofs of scientists and historians, as well as the Evangelists, but also to continue its opposition in the form of new questions and formal arguments. However, this cannot change our attitude, since during the past 50 years we have been able to become convinced that all the endless arguments against the authenticity of the Holy Shroud are not so much aimed at the physical Shroud itself, as at setting people against the Christian Church and its sacred objects in general.
Thus we are contemporaries of a fresh discovery by Orthodox people of the Christians’ greatest sacred object.
The sufferings of Christ the Saviour as a Man on earth were the highest point of His divine teaching. The sufferings were not only physical, but even more so mental. We usually have a very sketchy understanding of the Saviour’s physical suffering, and we have become used to the image of the crucified Christ, having lost the aspiration to transport ourselves in thought and feeling to the genuine tragedy on the Golgotha.
The force of Christ’s redemption of men is equal to the force of His suffering at their hands. Only the divine meekness of the Son of God could vanquish all the horror of the human soul’s fall in the presence of those inhuman torments which the Saviour voluntarily took upon Himself. And if we will not comprehend the strength of His suffering, if we will not feel at least a hundredth part of their reality, then we will never be together with Christ despite all our other manifestations of faith.
The lacerated Body of Christ lies before us, and with every drop of its holy Blood it says to us, who are wallowing in sin, with meek reproof: “For what did I suffer?”
This reproof comes to us from the Holy Shroud, which has miraculously survived up to our sorrowful days in witness of Christ’s suffering and glorious Resurrection.
May our souls also be resurrected, and may they turn to the Lord God in time to avoid perdition.
The earthly visage of our Saviour, reconstructed from the Shroud of Turin.
SUBMISSION TO GOD’S WILL
He who fully gave his heart
And soul unto God’s will,
Has found forever in himself
The peace of inner still.
He realized that the greatest Mind
Rules over our world,
And nothing in the entire universe
Has been forgotten by Him.
That even the smallest blade of grass
Which in the prairie grows,
Not of itself, but with God’s might
Does sprout and gently flower.
And everywhere he hears a voice –
The voice of the Creator,
That without God not even a hair
Will fall from His creation.
Translated by Natalia Sheniloff