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Homily for July 18, 2004 - Royal Martyrs

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  • David Moser
    Romans 15:1-7; Matthew 9:27-35; John 15:17-16:2 There is an oft repeated saying that goes, Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely . On the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 18, 2004
      Romans 15:1-7; Matthew 9:27-35; John 15:17-16:2

      There is an oft repeated saying that goes, "Power corrupts and absolute
      power corrupts absolutely". On the surface this seems to be a truism, and in
      fact, in accord with the fallen nature of man, this is true. However
      yesterday we celebrated the memory of a man for whom this saying was not
      true and who in fact, by the grace and help of God was able to act, not in
      terms of absolute corruption, but in the manner of Christ, showing that it
      is not power that corrupts, but sin and that the grace of God, when allowed
      to work in one's life, overcomes sin and the resulting corruption. This man
      is the Tsar Martyr Nicholas II.

      The Russian Tsar was the absolute ruler of the empire, he was an autocrat,
      holding absolute power over every person, place and thing in his domain. But
      there was one person over whom the Tsar did not have power - in fact this
      person had absolute power over him, and that person is God. The Tsar was
      answerable only to God and yet that one fact counterbalances all the awesome
      worldly power that he possessed. This one fact is also the core of why we
      honor the Tsar-martyr Nicholas as a saint.

      St Nicholas was, from his youth a pious man, he took seriously his
      relationship to God and the calling to which God had brought him. He knew
      that he would become, in his turn, the ruler of the Russian empire and he
      took seriously the fact that when he would be anointed tsar, he would stand
      between all of his people and God, that he would be answerable to God alone
      for the fate of his nation and his people. In the Gospel, we read the
      parable of the master who gave to each of his servants an amount of money to
      guard until his return. To each servant he gave according to that servant's
      ability, to the one 10 talents, to another 5 and to a third one talent. And
      upon his return, from each servant he demanded an accounting. Two of the
      three doubled their investment and were rewarded, but the third did not use
      his talent but hid it in the ground and was punished. At the end of this
      parable, our Lord reminds us that from him to whom much is given - much will
      also be expected. St Nicholas was aware of the immense task before him - he
      was given by God the responsibility for an entire empire and the choice was
      his. He could care for what he was given wisely, or he could squander it and
      waste that which had been entrusted to him. Had he chosen to use the empire
      to satisfy his own passions, to build up his own pride and to enrich himself
      with worldly things - then he would have wasted the fortune entrusted him.
      Instead he chose to nurture his trust, to pour out himself for the benefit
      of his people and his nation. He made sure that he would be able to stand
      before God and offer to Him a return on the talents with which he had been

      St Nicholas received his trust unexpectedly, at an early age, before anyone
      thought that he would be ready with the sudden illness and death of his
      father. Upon ascending the throne as the ruler of one of the most powerful
      nations in the world, he showed his true colors and proposed an
      international organization to insure a peaceful resolution of conflicts
      between nations, thereby circumventing the cause or need for war. This
      initiative was something new an unique on the international scene at that
      time. Now, of course, after two "World Wars" and countless other wars,
      police actions, battles, etc and the rise of the "United Nations" and the
      international court at the Hague, the existence of such a body is taken for
      granted or even disdained - but it was the Tsar-martyr Nicholas in who first
      proposed such an organization. St Nicholas was indeed a man of peace who
      strove not only for the welfare of the Russian people, but for the welfare
      of the whole world.

      During the reign of St Nicholas, a very significant event occurred in
      Russia - that is the glorification of St Seraphim of Sarov. This
      glorification in the summer of 1903 was like "Pascha in the summer" and had
      significance for all Russia and for the Tsar-martyr personally as well. Duri
      ng his lifetime, St Seraphim prophesied, "the Tsar of glorifies me, him will
      I also glorify." signifying the nature of the person of the Tsar-martyr. St
      Seraphim personally prepared the Tsar-martyr to fulfill his place in the
      Church and in the Russian land by his prayers before God and in two ways
      that are very visible. At the end of his life, St Seraphim entrusted a
      letter to his faithful disciple Nicholas I Motovilov which was sealed with
      instructions to give it, unopened, to the 4th Tsar to visit Diveeyvo after
      his death. The letter was passed on until finally Elena Ivanovna, Motovilov'
      s wife and the only surviving person from that era, handed the letter to
      Tsar Nicholas II at the glorification of the saint. No one knows the
      contents of the letter, but after reading this personal note from beyond the
      grave, the Tsar-martyr was visibly shaken. While returning from the
      celebrations at Sarov, the Emperor Nicholas and Empress Alexandra paid a
      visit to the famous Paraskeva of Sarov who lived in the Diveeyvo convent.
      The holy one admitted the Royal party to her cell, but then everyone but the
      Tsar and Tasritsa to leave and she invited the Emperor then to sit. But
      there were no chairs in the cell and the Tsar and Tsaritsa sat on the floor.
      They spoke for hours and again the Tsar appeared pale and shaken as he left
      her cell. Only later did the Abbess, Mother Alexandra, learn from the cell
      attendant that Paraskeva Ivanovna had foretold to them their martyrdom, the
      destruction of Russia, and the devastation of the Church. If there was ever
      any doubt about the character of Nicholas II, this event removes it. Knowing
      and believing the prophecy of his own doom and the devastation of Russia,
      the Tsar-martyr did not flee Russia and go into hiding to avoid the will of
      God, rather he remained with his people, refusing to flee, refusing to hide,
      refusing to avoid the suffering that awaited him, for he knew also that it
      was his duty, the will of God, that he endure these things for the benefit
      of the Russian land. The Emperor willingly and voluntarily poured out his
      own life for his people and in so doing entered the ranks of the Holy
      Passion-bearer alongside the pious sons of St Vladimir, Boris and Gleb who
      chose to be murdered by their brother rather than to plunge the Russian
      people into a civil war. Tsar Nicholas II made the same choice, to sacrifice
      his own life rather than to plunge his nation and his people into a civil
      war by his own hand. Certainly, we know that civil war did come - but that
      was not at the hand of the Tsar-martyr, but rather by the hand of his
      enemies, the God-hating Bolsheviks.

      Again when the revolutionaries seized Russia and all was in turmoil, the
      Tsar-martyr chose to remain with his people rather than to escape abroad
      even though he knew that such an action would mean suffering and death.
      Rather than flee the country, rather than turn his loyal regiments on the
      revolutionaries in Moscow, the Tsar returned from the front of his own will
      and there was isolated from every friend, every ally, even his family and
      surrounded instead by enemies and traitors. It was demanded of him that he
      abdicate and give up his authority (but not his responsibility before God,
      for this was given him by God alone and could not be taken away) to rule. In
      response he wrote, "I am ready to give up both my throne and my life if I
      should become a hindrance to the happiness of the homeland." "There is no
      sacrifice that I would not make for the real benefit of Russia and her
      salvation. Wherefore, I am prepared to abdicate the throne." And finally, at
      the last moment before he signed the abdication, he asked again of those to
      whom he would be entrusting the rule of the Russian people, "Are you sure
      that this will be to Russia's benefit?" All that he did, all that he
      suffered, all that he voluntarily gave up - he did not for his own benefit,
      but for the benefit of the Russian people.

      The great and all powerful autocrat of the Russian empire - easily the most
      powerful single person in the world at that time - relinquished all that he
      had, even his own life, for the welfare of the nation and the people that
      God had given to him. And just as we heard in the Gospel today how the
      enemies of our Lord twisted even his good deeds to an evil report saying "He
      casts out demons by the prince of demons" and again hearing if they condemn
      the master, then how will they not condemn the servant - the enemies of the
      Tsar-martyr and their allies, even up to the present day strive to cast the
      struggle of the Tsar in its worst light and to attack even the character of
      this courageous and holy servant of God who poured out himself for his

      In the epistle today, the Apostle Paul wrote "We then who are strong ought
      ... not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his
      good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself, but as
      it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.'" Are
      not these words fulfilled today in the life of the Tsar-martyr Nicholas and
      in the lives of his family who lived not for their own good, but for the
      good of their people. May God grant unto us also today the strength to live
      such a life as the Tsar-martyr Nicholas, to lay down our own lives for our
      friends and even for our enemies. Let us live not to "please ourselves." but
      let us live to the benefit and edification and salvation of our neighbor.
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