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SUNDAY OF THE PRODIGAL SON AND THE NEW MARTYRS OF RUSSIA

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    SUNDAY OF THE PRODIGAL SON AND THE NEW MARTYRS OF RUSSIA This year, dear brethren, the Church commemorates a wondrous union of two events: the Sunday of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2004
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      SUNDAY OF THE PRODIGAL SON AND THE NEW MARTYRS OF RUSSIA



      This year, dear brethren, the Church commemorates a wondrous union of two
      events: the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, when the Church instructs us in the
      second step of preparation for the Great Lent ? repentance, and the feast
      of the Holy Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.


      From ancient times the Russian Church was renowned for its multitude of
      saints. These saints came from all wakes of life: there were princes and
      common folk, monks and laymen, men and women, old and young; and thus,
      being a slice of the entire population, they represented the Russian people
      before the throne of God. Only one facet was lacking to this glorious
      assembly: there were very few martyrs.



      The Prodigal Son But then terrible times came upon the Russian people. For
      their sins of apostasy and regicide, the Lord allowed them to fall into the
      hands of the ungodly. And these servants of Satan initiated a persecution
      of the faith more terrible, more ferocious than in the first centuries of
      Christianity. It was then that the assembly of Russian saints became
      adorned with the shining crown of martyrdom. As it is said in the troparion
      to the new martyrs, they became the wondrous flowers in the Russian
      spiritual field, blooming in the cruel years of persecution. And once again
      they represented the entire people: from the Tsar ? the anointed of the
      Lord ? and his family to simple peasants, from archbishops and theologians
      to village priests and humble monastics. And all of them ? men, women and
      children ? were people just like us, dear brethren, close to us in time and
      even the progenitors of some of us. But their sacrifice and their suffering
      adorned the Russian Church, while their martyrdom, their steadfast faith,
      their ardent love for God even to the point of death, ? became a shining
      example of salvation for Christians all over the world, for all those who
      still want to and can be saved.

      The prodigal son, however, at first ran away from salvation. As long as he
      lived with his Father, he had all that he needed. The only thing that he
      lacked was faith ? faith in that this life which he had would lead him to
      salvation. So he turned away from the true life and went far away into the
      realm of sin and despair. And it was only after experiencing grief,
      hardship and suffering that he finally came to himself, came to an
      awareness of what he had lost,. And then, through humility and through
      repentance he set out on the long and hard journey of return to his Father,
      return to bliss, to salvation, to true life. And what happened? His return
      journey turned out not to be long at all, because the Father himself
      hurried out to meet him, hurried out to shorten and ease the way back,
      hurried out to embrace his lost son.


      We, too, are like the prodigal son, dear brethren, we lack faith in God's
      providence, we estrange ourselves from God through our sins. Let us look at
      the two wondrous examples which the Church offers us simultaneously. Here
      is the prodigal son, poor, ragged, starving, hurrying back to his kind
      Father. And here are the new martyrs and confessors, firm in their faith
      and in their suffering, hurrying to purify with their blood the garments of
      their souls, in order to enjoy eternal bliss in the celestial abode of the
      Heavenly Father.


      Dear brethren, let us hurry back to God, our Merciful Father. Like the
      Father who came out halfway to meet his lost son, so the Lord came out to
      us ? lost men, came down to earth and became a man in order to save all of
      us.


      Let us hurry to church, in order to receive salvation through the Holy
      Mysteries, through union with God Himself. Let us repent wholeheartedly and
      sigh to the Lord in the words of the prodigal son: "Father, accept us as
      Thy hired servants."


      Lord, have mercy upon us, sinners! Amen.


      Father Rostislav Sheniloff
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