Royal Martyrs of Russia
Today we commemorate the holy Royal Martyrs of Russia: Tsar Nicholas, Tsaritsa Alexandra, Crown Prince Alexis, and the Grand Duchesses Ogla, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. I would like to share with you the words of this holy family and of some holy ones who were close to them. These words leave little doubt as to the nobility and deeply suffering Christian souls of these great saints and martyrs.
In 1905, over a decade before the terrible events would unfold, St. John of Kronstadt, spoke these prophetic words:
We have a Tsar of righteous and pious life. God has sent a heavy cross of sufferings to him as to His chosen one and beloved child, as the seer of the destinies of God said: ‘Whom I love, those I reproach and punish’ (Rev. 3.19). If there is no repentance in the Russian people, the end of the world is near. God will remove from it the pious Tsar and send a whip in the person of impure, cruel, self-called rulers, who will drench the whole land in blood and tears.
Nicholas himself made a similar observation about his fate when he said to one of his prime ministers:
I have a premonition. I have the certainty that I am destined for terrible trials, but I will not receive a reward for them in this world… Perhaps there must be a victim in expiation in order to save Russia. I will be this victim. May God’s will be done!
According to Anna A. Vyrubova, the Empress’ closest confidante, best friend and lady-in-waiting, a Russian holy woman by the name of Maria blessed the Empress in December 1916 when she visited her cell and foretold her eventual martyrdom:
In December of 1916, Her Majesty traveled from an emotional rest to Novgorod for a day, with two Grand Duchesses and a small suite. She visited field hospitals and monasteries and attended the Liturgy at the St. Sophia Cathedral. Before her departure the Tsaritsa visited the Yurievsky and Desyatina Monasteries.
In the latter she visited Eldress Maria Mikhailovna in her tiny cell, where the aged woman had lain for many years in heavy chains on an iron bed. When the Tsaritsa entered, the Eldress held her withered hand out to her and said, “Here comes the martyr, Tsaritsa Alexandra!” She embraced her and blessed her. In a few days the Eldress reposed.
It is also said that when the Royal couple visited the Divyevo convent they were hosted by the holy woman Parasceva. There, she foretold them of the sufferings they would endure on behalf of Holy Russia. They left there and headed back to their palace as if to their martyrdom.
During the fateful year of 1917, the Empress wrote in her diary the following words: “In order to climb the great heavenly staircase of love, we must ourselves become a stone, a stair which others will climb.”
These statements show a clear foreknowledge and an acceptance of their fate.
Even the children showed forth a remarkable understanding. At the time of their confinement following the Tsar’s abdication, Grand Duchess Olga, wrote the following to the outside world beyond their prison walls:
Father asks the following message to be given to all those who have remained faithful to him, and to those on whom they may have an influence, that they should not take revenge for him, since he has forgiven everyone and prays for everyone, that they should not take revenge for themselves, and should remember that the evil which is now in the world shall grow even stronger, but that it is not evil that will conquer evil, but only love. . .
Let me conclude these reflections on the words of the Royal Martyrs with a poem by the Grand Duchess Olga written very shortly before their martyrdom. The Princess’ poem demonstrates her clearsighted understanding and expectation of their fate. And she does precisely what we must all do as Christians… she unites herself to Christ and clings to His example and to His love and victory over all kinds of evil. She writes:
Grant us Thy patience, Lord,
In these our woeful days,
The mob’s wrath to endure,
The torturer’s ire;
Thy unction to forgive
Our neighbors’ persecution
And mild, like Thee, to bear
A bloodstained Cross.
And when the mob prevails
And foes come to despoil us,
To suffer humbly shame,
O Savior aid us!
And when the hour comes
To pass the last dread gate,
Breathe strength in us to pray,
Father forgive them!
These are the words and reflections of profoundly Christian souls. A Royal Family who saw their reign as being servants of God, His Church, and His people. And who saw their suffering and expected martyrdom as a willing sacrifice for their God, their Church, and their country.
By their holy prayers, may we be ennobled and encouraged to stand firm in our faith and to have such hearts of mercy and compassion.
O Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!