Orthodox America

  Remember the Martyrs

I -- am the LIGHT, but you do not see Me.
I -- am the WAY, but you do not follow Me.
I -- am the TRUTH, but you do not believe in Me.
I -- am the LIFE, but you do not seek Me.
I -- am the TEACHER, but you do not listen to Me.
I -- am the LORD, but you do not submit to Me.
I -- am your GOD, but you do not pray to Me.
I -- am your best FRIEND,  but you do not love Me.
 If you are unhappy do not blame Me.

 (This Poem was received-from the USSR) 

    As we approach the second anniversary of the canonization of Russia' s New Martyrs, we would do well to refresh our minds and hearts with the remembrance of their heroic exploit. Glory be to God, their blood was not shed in vain and still bears the fruit of a true confession as we see below in this sermon delivered two years ago by Fr. Deacon Vladimir Rusak, who even now is suffering its consequences.

     It is not the first year, nor the first time this year that we stand before the cross which reminds us of that great and unique Cross of Golgotha on which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified and died. The greatest act was performed on that Cross-justification of man, of all people, before the eyes of God, that is, Redemption.. ˇ

     At this point I would like to say a few simple words about something that, unfortunately, comes so seldom to our minds. My dear friends, along with the greatest act of our salvation, the most heinous crime of man was perpetrated on the Cross of Golgotha. That Cross witnessed the most vivid and complete manifestation of our human injustice... From the Cross of Golgotha man's injustice and lies spread like turbid torrents over the earth. From that moment on, the world became divided into those who believed in Christ and those who did not believe in Him. The sword of division, brought into the world by Christ, turned both of its edges towards Christians. Their blood began to flow, and it flowed for almost three centuries. Christians were most cruelly persecuted simply for their belief in the crucified Christ. Thousands and tens of thousands of martyrs' names fill the days of our Church calendar. The Church, however, cannot be destroyed by the sword. She cannot be destroyed at all. The martyrs became a firm foundation of the magnificent edifice of the Church.

      Then came different times. The churches built in caves were replaced by luxurious, palatial churches; simple adornments were replaced by decorations worked in precious metals and stones; persecutions gave way to honor and glory. Strange as it may seem, however, from that time on the Church lost her most precious feature--her spiritual beauty and attractiveness. To be more precise, her spiritual quality became difficult to discern behind all the external splendor. As one teacher of the Church of that time said, the Church--the Bride of Christ--was courted, not for her qualities of heart, but for her rich external adornments.

     The same fate befell the Russian Church. It was founded on the relics of the holy martyrs Boris, Gleb, and Igor, but then it too, succumbed to external splendor which made its inner virtues hard to see.

      Over nine centuries she enjoyed a comfortable existence. Obviously, the sacrifice of the three martyrs was not sufficient for the Church to remain a community of souls following the path of salvation; it became instead a department of the state apparatus. It is not by chance, therefore, that our Revolution took place when it did. Strange as it may seem, it rendered a service to the Church... It picked up from the waste yard that very sword which St. Constantine the Great had discarded as no longer useful. The Revolution picked it up, cleaned and sharpened it, and with all its might thrust it at the Church once more. The blood of martyrs flowed again. There were thousands of them: bishops, priests, laymen...our fathers and Grandfathers .... No monuments were erected for them, where we could take flowers, along with our heartfelt compassion. Many of them have no graves at all: some met their death on river beds, some in old mineshafts, others were burned.

     They fulfilled their mission, however, by dying a martyr's death. They showed us what a Christian should be like in our circumstances. Moreover, their spiritual strength has revived and fortified the Body of the Church and demonstrated also the limitations of the atheistic powers.

      As Christians we cannot escape the cup which is prepared for us as the children of God. Neither can we discard the cross we took up along with the name of Christ. Are 'we' better than Christ Who shed His Blood on the Cross? Would we dare to think that; owing to our Clever manipulations, we could remain Christians and also please our atheistic masters, live in comfort and obey Christ’s commandments at the same time?

     Are we perhaps better than the Apostles, nearly all of whom died in martyrdom and whose life was not at all Sweet and pleasant? Were they not worthy of a better lot in this life? Row, then, can we expect to live in all comfort and without any sorrows and sufferings now, and still hope to be allotted a snug spot in the future life?

      No, and once again no! The Cross of Christ is always heavy, and His path is always thorny. No Christian can escape this lot.

     It is a pure heart that Christ expects from us. How can it be pure, if it simultaneously

    harbors both love for Christ and benevolence ˇ towards His enemies and persecutors? A pure man cannot be two-faced.

       Of course, atheism is still enormously powerful. For example, your grandson cannot do anything when the little cross he wears is torn from around his neck at school; your believing son and daughter cannot appeal for justice to anyone when their marks are deliberately lowered, or when they are even expelled from university or institute; your relatives are frequently not allowed to work where they would like, only because they are believers. We could go on; the power of atheism manifests itself in ever so many ways, although it is no longer the kind of obsession which our Church experienced in the '20's and '30's, or at the end of the '50's and the beginning of the '60's. Now we can walk out of the church without fearing that a "Black Maria'' [secret police car] might be waiting outside to collect us; we may hope to be able to come to church next time. The blood of our martyrs was not shed in vain.

    However, in order to make the martyrs' blood also the means of our salvation, we must remember the sacrifice made b your grandfathers and fathers who paid with their lives to preserve the greatest treasure we have--the Orthodox Faith.

    We cannot exist without the bond with our ancestors. Our fathers and grandfathers are the founts that nurture our souls with living water. It may well be that the sacrificial exploit of our New Russian Martyrs saves us from the wrath of God. After all, there exists an opinion that one righteous man may save his descendents unto the seventh generation.

    The death of our New Martyrs has shown us what our own faith should be. We are obliged to imitate them in their faith, or, at the very least, to remember them,

     If, on leaving the church today, in the light of the immeasurable suffering of Christ the Saviour, you will recall the blood, if not the names, of our New Martyrs who gave their lives in order that Christ’s suffering should not have been fruitless, then they suffered not in vain, and I will be happy to think that neither did I tire you with my words in vain. 

Remember them...who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversationˇ 

Deacon Fr. Vladimir Rusak