Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Poem for our Age of Martyrdom

"Grant us Thy patience, Lord, in these, our woeful days..."

Let us, with such words and examples from the Holy Royal Passion-bearers, encourage ourselves for the trials ahead, when we too shall face the call to be faithful to the end, to be confessors and martyrs for Christ, and to forgive our enemies.

In the urgent and prophetic words of Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church in America,
"The way of the Church is the way of sacrifice and martyrdom… We are here, in North America, called to be apostles and martyrs for Christ…"

Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana,
in nurses garb. Both served with their
mother, Empress Alexandra, in field
hospitals, tending wounded soldiers
during World War I.
Grant us Thy patience, Lord,
In these our woeful days,
The mob’s wrath to endure,
The torturer’s ire;
Thy unction to forgive
Our neighbors’ persecution
And mild, like Thee, to bear
A bloodstained Cross.
And when the mob prevails
And foes come to despoil us,
To suffer humbly shame,
O Savior aid us!
And when the hour comes
To pass the last dread gate,
Breathe strength in us to pray,
Father forgive them! 

~ Poem by Royal Passion-bearer, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, written shortly before the martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

From Orthodox writer Ryan Hunter:
Reading [this] poem... beautifully composed by the Grand Duchess Olga, its meaning is unmistakable: by the time that she wrote these words, it is certain that the Imperial Family expected to be martyred. 
The Princess’ poem here is both hymn and dirge, a psalm of praise and one of sorrow and fear, but above all, a canticle of deep faith and a discernment of God’s will in all things. True of saints’ writings, we see that the centrality of the Princess’ poem is not her dwelling on her own anguish or horror at the thought of a potentially agonizing death, or lamentation at the thought of her earthly life cut short so abruptly, but a profound trust in God’s providence that His purpose guides all things and that, ultimately, He would work good out of evil...
+ + +

Three days before their martyrdom, in the very house in which they were imprisoned, there took place the last church service of their suffering lives. As the officiating priest, Fr. John Storozhev related, "'It appeared to me that the Emperor, and all his daughters too, were very tired. During such a service it is customary to read a prayer for the deceased... As soon as we started to sing, we heard the Imperial Family behind us drop to their knees (as is done during funeral services). Thus they prepared themselves, without suspecting it, for their own death — in accepting the funeral viaticum. Contrary to their custom none of the family sang during the service, and upon leaving the house the clergymen expressed the opinion that they ‘appeared different’ — as if something had happened to them." (Polsky, The New Martyrs of Russia, p. 122, Source)
 + + +
... I do not know how many months or weeks before her death the Grand Duchess wrote this haunting poem, but I come away thinking that it is truly astonishing—and almost unheard of today—for a young woman my age to be so accepting of a possibly imminent death or any manner of torture. 
So long as the Imperial Family, with God’s aid, continued to endure and persevere in faith, withstanding all evil and, above all, forgiving “our neighbors’ persecution”, the Grand Duchess prays, above all, to receive strength to “pass the last dread gate” into eternal life. 
... Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us that He may save our souls!

Excerpted from:

by Ryan Hunter, Pravoslavie, November 7, 2015