Orthodox America

 New Martyr Crown-Prince Alexis 

July 4/17

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Long ago, when our grandparents were very young, the Tsar and Tsaritsa of Russia longed for a son[1]. God had already blessed them with four wonderful daughters, but they also very much wanted a son, who would rule Russia after them, in wisdom and piety.

The Tsar and Tsaritsa, Nicholas and Alexandra, were good Orthodox Christians. They loved Christ, and they knew that they should ask God to bless them with a son. They also knew that God "rests in His saints"-that is, God often reveals Himself to man kind through the saints, who have pleased him by the goodness of their lives. The Tsar and the Tsaritsa knew about a holy wonderworker, Seraphim of Sarov, who had not yet been given the title of "saint" by the Church. They asked the bishops to "Glorify" him by giving him the name of "saint" and having icons painted of him. They knew that this would please God, and they hoped that God would also give them a son. The bishops agreed and held a wonderful ceremony in which they Glorified St. Seraphim. The Tsaritsa also went to the miracle-working well of the Saint and bathed in it, asking God for a son. Within a few weeks she learned that she was expecting her fifth child.

The prayers of the Tsar and Tsaritsa were answered: the child that was born on July 30, 1904 (old style) was a boy! The Tsar wrote in his diary: "A great, never- to-be forgotten day, when the mercy and blessing of God has visited us so clearly" They named him Alexis, after the holy 16th century Metropolitan of Moscow, Alexis.

But within a few days, the joy of the Tsar and Tsaritsa was turned to worry. The new Crown Prince seemed to bleed very easily. As he grew older and began to crawl and walk, the bruises on his little body turned to dark swellings under the skin. He was terribly ill. The doctors called the illness hemophilia-a disease for which there is still no cure today. People with this sickness have blood that does not clot properly. If they are not careful, they can bleed to death from very slight injuries. Such people endure frightful. s ufferings for as. long as they live. Often they do not live very long. Many times Alexis was close to death. He was only saved by the prayers of his parents and many others. Here is. What a lady in waiting to the Tsaritsa said about the young Alexis:

"The wholes short. life of the Crown-Prince, the loveliest and most amiable child imaginable, was a succession of agonizing illnesses due to this disease... His large blue eyes gazed at us with unspeakable sad- ness while the doctors tried to help him with every means known to science."

When he was well, Alexis enjoyed life. He liked to play, and also liked music (he learned how to play the balalaika well); he also liked anything to do with nature, and he loved pets, lust like other boys and girls of his age.

But when he was 13 a terrible revolution took place in Russia and he and his whole family were arrested by wicked men who took them far away and kept them imprisoned in a house. The guards were cruel men, stealing things from Alexis's sisters, drawing bad pictures on the walls, and even stealing Alexis's icons! During this whole time the boy was also very sick, yet he was always cheerful and kind to everyone, living a pure life, filled with prayers to God and with smiles even for the guards.

During the night of July 4-5, 1918 (old style), Alexis and his family were taken to the basement of their house and shot. Alexis did not die immediately. When the executioners saw that he was still alive, one of them kicked Alexis with his heavy boot and then fired two gunshots into his ear. At that instant his pure soul flew into the hands of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, along with the souls of his parents and sisters.

Having suffered so much, so patiently, all through his life, the little Crown Prince of Russia died bravely. Now he lives for- ever in Heaven, where he prays for all of us today and is the special patron saint of children.

Holy Child-Martyr Alexis, pray to God for us!

[1] The words Tsar and Tsaritsa refer to the rulers of Russia. In English we some times use the titles "Emperor" and "Empress". An Emperor is more than just a king. A king rules over only one country, while an Emperor rules over many kingdoms or nations.