We remember today the execution of the Tsar-Martyr Nikolai and his family and attendants, murdered at the hands of the God-fighting Bolsheviks, who would lead Russia into a period of the most intense persecution that the Church, so far, has had to endure in all her history.
It is worth our taking a few minutes to consider the lives, and deaths, of the Tsar-Martyr and those martyred with him, including his immediate family, those who remained with him out of loyalty, and other members of the royal family. Tsar Nikolai II was the absolute monarch of one-sixth of the world, with great power and incredible wealth at his disposal. Considered in one way, of course, he and his family had access to comfort and luxury beyond what almost anyone has ever experienced – and yet, they did not give themselves over to a materialistic way of life. Instead, they allowed themselves to be shaped by the life of the Church. They were faithful in prayers, both by attending the worship services of the Church, and in their own private devotions. They kept the fasts. They gave alms for those in need, and made offerings for the work of the Church. They were not perfect; but they were striving for perfection by living an Orthodox life; and, when the Tsar was forced to abdicate his throne, and he and all his family were forced to endure arrest, and deprivations, and insults, they did not lose themselves in hatred or fighting, but endured their sufferings with humility, patience, and meekness, trusting, as they had always done, that, even as the sovereign of Russia, their lives were subject to the Lord, and they were called to do His will. This humility influenced many of those who were their captors; and even in death, they did not cease to show forth the suffering of Christ.
Apart from the positions they occupied in life and those in which we find ourselves, were the Royal Martyrs of Russia any different from us? The answer, of course, is, “No.” They, like us, were subject to many temptations. They, like us, had hopes and dreams and fears. They, like us, were subject to illness, and the acts of others had consequences for them, as also for us.
So, brothers and sisters, as we keep this day, let us consider whether we, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, are serving God as did the Royal Martyrs of Russia. How do we endure suffering? How do we respond to those who hate us, or wrong us, knowingly or unknowingly? Would anyone say of our lives that we meet adversities and insults with patience, humility, and meekness? Would anyone say of us that, by our labors to live an Orthodox life, we caused them to see Christ in our midst, and so helped transform their life as well as ours? If no one would say these things about us, why is this so? And what must we do to change, so that Christ can be seen in and through us, as He can be seen in the lives and deaths of the Royal Martyrs of Russia?
Holy Royal Martyrs of Russia, pray to God for us!