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Homily for 2/6/11 - P37 - New Martyrs of Russia

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  • Fr David Moser
    A little more than a thousand years ago, St Vladimir brought the Orthodox Christian faith to Russia and baptized the Russian nation. From that time on Russia
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2011
      A little more than a thousand years ago, St Vladimir brought the
      Orthodox Christian faith to Russia and baptized the Russian nation. From
      that time on Russia was an Orthodox nation. As the people lived their
      faith, from generation to generation the very culture itself began to be
      converted so that the very ethos of the Russian people became saturated
      with Orthodoxy. From the lowest peasant to the greatest Tsar, the
      Orthodox Christian faith bound them together not only in one nation but
      in the one Body of Christ. The Russian empire became one of the greatest
      nations in the world, a leader in economics, culture, politics,
      learning, and of course in spirituality. As the 20th century dawned, the
      Russian land, under the rule of the God anointed Orthodox Tsar was not
      just a lamp spreading the light of Christ to the world, but it was a
      bonfire, a beacon, which proclaimed the power of Jesus Christ to all men.

      The evil one could not permit this powerful witness to Christ to go
      unchallenged. He could not allow the Christian values and life which
      permeated the Russian life to influence the world unhindered. And so
      those who espoused God-hating atheism wrapped in the ideals of communism
      unleashed revolution on the land of Russia. The God-loving Tsar was
      targeted not only as a political foe, but because he was a Christian
      leader (and Tsar Nicholas II and his family were not just Christians in
      name but were pious and believing Orthodox Christians). The “head” of
      this Christian nation the God-anointed Tsar, was purposefully “cut off”
      by the revolutionaries and martyred bringing this great nation to its
      knees and dimming the light of Christ which shone so brightly from Russia.

      But the light was not extinguished and so the God hating atheists then
      turned upon the Church which was woven into the fabric of Russian life.
      Seeking to destroy the Church and to extinguish the light of Christ,
      there was a wave of martyrdom that swept the Russian land. Any who
      resisted the demands of the atheists and did not renounce their faith
      were suspect. Many were killed and many more were imprisoned. Some fled
      into exile and others were driven “underground”. The blood of the
      martyrs – bishops, priests, deacons, monastics, laymen, men, women, even
      children – watered the soil of the Russian land and it was baptized in
      their blood. For a moment it seemed as though the atheist persecutors
      might succeed. But our Lord Jesus Christ promised that the gates of hell
      would never prevail against His Church. Even though there was severe
      persecution, the Church survived and the light of Christ continued to

      For the next seventy years, the atheist usurpers sought to root the
      Christian life out of the culture and life of the Russian people. When
      they realized they could not eliminate the Church they attempted to
      co-opt it by enslavement and infiltration. The Christian festivals which
      once marked the yearly life of all Russians were suppressed and replaced
      with secular holidays (an obvious example is the suppression of the
      feasts of our Lord’s Nativity and Baptism and replacing them with New
      Years celebrations). The Churches, those visible and seemingly
      everpresent visible reminders of the Russian faith were destroyed or
      defiled. Divine services were prohibited or restricted. Crosses were cut
      down and icons covered over or burnt. Statues and images of the
      God-hating enemies of Russia, Lenin and Stalin and other “heroes” of the
      revolution were erected to replace these destroyed visual reminders of
      the Church. Clergy were killed or imprisoned. Monasteries were closed
      and the monastics scattered. The servants of the devil seemed to stop at
      nothing to eliminate the Christian influence from the culture and life
      of the Russian people.

      This persecution could not last and by the grace of God finally after
      about 70 years the atheistic God-hating Soviet government fell. I
      remember seeing an editorial drawing in those days depicting the Russian
      land laid waste by the hammer and sickle of the atheistic rulers – but
      now sprouting everywhere from the ground, even from the very instruments
      of destruction (the hammer and sickle) were growing new flowers. The
      Orthodox Church resurgent and being watered by the blood of the New
      Martyrs was blooming again amidst the destruction wrought by her fallen
      enemies. Despite 70 years of fury, despite the concerted effort to
      destroy, distort and purge the Church from the life of the people, it
      survived and blooms again. Now some 20 years after the fall of the
      Soviet government, the enemies of the Church are overturned and the
      light of Christ again is beginning to shine from the Russian people.
      Today we remember these New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church
      whose blood once watered the land and now nourishes the re-blooming of
      the Christian faith in the Russian land.

      This is not just a day of historical memory for the Russian people, but
      it is a day of rejoicing for all of us in the Orthodox Church regardless
      of nationality. The New Martyrs are not just the heritage of the Russian
      people, but they belong to the whole Church. Just as the martyrs of old,
      Greeks and Arabs and Persians and Romans and others who suffered and
      died for Christ belong to us, so also these new martyrs are for all of
      us a new treasure.

      The years of imprisonment for the Russian Church under the control and
      thumb of the Godless Soviets resulted in a nation that remembered its
      heritage but only dimly. Some of the Christian customs and
      characteristics survived intact, but many more were distorted, dimmed
      and detached from their roots. Where once it was simple to identify the
      Russian culture with Orthodoxy, now it is difficult. No longer can it be
      assumed that Russian customs are rooted in Christianity for now some of
      the atheistic replacements still survive. Does this mean that all that
      is Russian from the Soviet years is useless and of no value? Certainly
      not, however, it does mean that we must be discerning in what is
      worthwhile and what needs to be discarded. The Soviet culture was a
      consciously secular culture which sought to displace the Christian
      culture of Russia. It is necessary to restore those truly Christian
      practices and to either discard or “convert” and “baptize” the Soviet
      culture that remains.

      For those of us in the west who have lived in a mixed culture for
      generations this process is familiar for we have had to approach our own
      culture with similar discernment. Some things that are woven into the
      fabric of our society are worthwhile and either contain or can be filled
      with Christian virtue. Other things are inconstant with Christianity and
      must be rejected. Like the Russian people we Orthodox Christians who
      live in non-Orthodox lands must also be discerning about our culture for
      we cannot assume that everything American or British or German or French
      or Mexican and so on is “Christian” in its essence and worth keeping.

      Our common example and help in this task is the witness of the New
      Martyrs of Russia. Their steadfast confession of faith and their
      uncompromising attachment to Christ is the standard that we adopt for
      ourselves in this non-Christian world. We are attacked from all sides
      and enticed to give up our faith, to make compromises, to hide Christ
      and so obtain worldly goods and pleasures. We too are confronted by
      traditions and customs that are not compatible with the Christian life.
      We too live in a world that seeks to extinguish the light of Christ. The
      New Martyrs are our strength, they are our guides and our example in
      this struggle. Their prayers are not only the strength of the resurgent
      Russian people, but they intercede for all of us who are faced with
      attacks on the life of Christ.

      I recall a conversation with another priest about the time of the fall
      of the Soviet Union. He commented that in listening to the speech of M.
      Gorbachev conceding the fall of the Soviet government he heard clearly
      the message to the west: “We have won, we surrender.” And indeed this is
      true. The anti-Christian, atheistic world view, values, and way of life
      that was violently imposed upon Russia has managed to seep much more
      subtly into the life of the secular cultures of the world, consistently
      marginalizing the Christian life, values and witness that was present
      and installing a culture that ignores and minimalizes belief in God and
      the influence of God upon the world. And as a result that same struggle
      that was faced by the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia has come to
      us. Perhaps not so violently, but it is ours all the same. And we are
      bolstered and strengthened in our struggle by their prayers. We are
      encouraged by their example and we follow their path of uncompromising
      belief and faith in Jesus Christ.

      The light of Christ illumines all men – and the New Martyrs and
      Confessors of Russia gave their lives for that light. Now it is our
      turn. We face the same struggle on a different field of battle, and they
      are with us, praying for us, encouraging us, and waiting for us that we
      may enter into our reward, that is the Kingdom of God, together. The New
      Martyrs are our heritage – their example is our example, their strength
      is our strength, their struggle is our struggle, their life is our life.
      Holy New Martyrs of Russia pray to God for us!

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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