Adorned with their Blood
Excerpt from the Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret
Unwavering faithfulness to Christ shines forth especially clearly and victoriously in the struggle of those whom Christian antiquity called “witnesses” (in Greek, martys). This struggle of martyrdom is the struggle of those who gave witness of their faithfulness, devotion, and love for Christ by dying for Him, not sparing their own lives!
We should keep in mind that the holy martyrs, after manfully bearing all the frightful tortures and torments to which the torturers subjected them, went to death as to a feast, not as conquered but as conquerors. The torturers made every effort to compel them to renounce Christ. And only when they saw that all their efforts were without result did they send the faithful witnesses of Christ to death – this was only an act of powerless malice!
Although in the history of the Church of Christ we see examples of martyrdom in all periods of its existence, still, before the Russian Revolution, the struggle of martyrdom had been something primarily of the first centuries of Christianity, when paganism strove by iron and blood to annihilate the Holy Church.
We see something else today. With the appearance and consolidation of communism in Russia, there began a persecution against the faith which is unprecedented in its cruelty and broad scale. As one church writer has defined it, Orthodox Russia is on its Golgotha, and the Russian Church is on the Cross. Of course, as occurred also in antiquity, there have been cases of falling away from the faith. But at the same time, the Russian Church and the Russian people have given a multitude of examples of the courageous bearing of persecution and death for the faith of Christ such as cannot be subjected to any precise measurement, for it is beyond doubt that the cases of martyrdom for all those long years of the existence of Communism in Russia have been more than ever before in the history of mankind. Here one must speak not of hundreds or thousands, but of millions of sufferers for the faith – an unprecedented and earth-shaking phenomenon.
For the whole period of human existence, there has never been such an outpouring of evil, such a senseless and open rebellion against the Creator, as we see today in our much-suffering homeland, enslaved by the Communists. Never in history has evil stepped forth so nakedly and openly as it does there. Never and nowhere has there ascended to heaven such a repulsive, senseless stench of blasphemy against God and against everything holy as in Soviet Russia…But if the enemies of God and the Church, having become like Satan from their malice, have defiled the Russian land by their repulsive blasphemy and fight against God, at the same time this land is being cleansed from this defilement by the sacred blood of the New Martyrs of Russia who have suffered for faith and righteousness.
The Holy Church, in glorifying the New Martyrs, says that it is adorned by their blood as by purple and fine linen – the richest, most splendid and precious garments. The Russian Church now is adorned by this beauty of martyric struggle – the Church that has not recognized the robber “authority” of the God-fighters, has absolutely refused any compact or compromise with it and courageously bears its cross of faith and confession.
The day draws near of the canonization – glorification of the innumerable choir of the martyrs and confessors of faith whom the Russian people have revealed to the world. This will be a day of greatest solemnity for the Orthodox faithful –not only in Russian and the Russian Diaspora but in the whole world also, wherever there are faithful children of the Orthodox Church. And every member of Russian Orthodoxy must realize the whole importance and significance of this solemnity, unprecedented in history, and prepare himself to take a fitting part in it…
Great is the numerous choir of the New Martyrs of Russia. It is headed, first of all, by the sacred names of Patriarch Tikhon, the murdered Metropolitans Vladimir and Benjamin; Metropolitan Vladimir occupies a special place of honor as the first martyr, who laid down the beginning for this glorious choir. At the same time, an entirely special place in the choir of New Martyrs is occupied by the Royal Family, headed by the Tsar-Martyr, Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, who at one time said: “If for the salvation of Russia a victim is needed, I will be this sacrificial victim”… The last Tsar, together with his family, was killed precisely…as Orthodox Tsar – for his Orthodoxy!
Orthodox people! Children of the Russian Church Outside of Russia! We are preparing for a great solemnity – a solemnity not only of the Russian Orthodox Church but of the whole Ecumenical Church as well, because the whole Orthodox Church in all its parts is one and lives by a single spiritual life. May this solemnity of Orthodox Faith and of the beauty of the struggle of martyrdom be not merely a general Church solemnity, but also a personal solemnity for each of us!… May our whole Church, with a single mouth and a single heart, glorify Him from Whom is given every good thing and every perfect gift – God Who is wondrous in His saints!