Christ is Risen!
Right Reverend Archpastors, Beloved Fathers, Brothers and Sisters:
The All-merciful Lord has gathered us during these Paschal days under the vaulted ceilings of the grand St Isaac Cathedral to escort Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, who had headed the Russian Imperial House for over a half a century, upon “the way of all the earth” (Joshua 23:14).
I express my profound condolences and sympathies at this time of great loss to Their Highnesses Leonida Georgievna, Maria Vladimirovna and Georgi Mikhailovich, and all the relatives and friends of the late Grand Duke.
Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich was born on August 17, 1917, in the city of Borgo, Finland. His parents, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and Grand Duchess Viktoria Feodorovna reared their son with devotion and love for God and Russia. Kirill Vladimirovich, who died in 1938 as the Head of the House of Romanovs, prepared in his son a worthy successor, able to manifest the service of his royal ancestors to the benefit of his Homeland.
Vladimir Kirillovich’s entire life was spent outside the borders of Russia, in Germany, Spain and France. But he felt like a wanderer there, for his thoughts and feelings were always directed towards the country he sensed was his Fatherland. He never became a citizen of another country, never became a subject of another nation. The sole raison d’etre for his life was to serve his Homeland in whatever way he could. He considered this his sacred duty for the duration of his often difficult life, performing his mission as he could, as he envisioned it. It was characteristic of him that during World War II, while living in France, Vladimir Kirillovich established contact with German officers who were opposed to the fascist regime, and as a result actively assisted Soviet prisoners of war. In 1944, he was arrested and sent to Germany.
His exile from the Promised Land, which for him was Russia, continued throughout his life. He always acutely felt his inseparable bond with her people. And his faith and patience “inherited the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). God had mercy on him, and when he was literally on the threshold of the other world, Vladimir Kirillovich finally arrived in his native land. By the gracious invitation of the Mayor of St Petersburg, the Grand Duke spent several days in our city and participated in the ceremonious vespers and moleben in St Isaac of Dalmatia Cathedral to mark the return of his historic family to this great city last November.
I cherish the memory of my meetings with the Grand Duke, our discussions and shared prayers at the tomb of St John of Kronstadt in St John’s Monastery in St Petersburg.
The profound faith of the late Vladimir Kirillovich made a powerful impression on me, as did his love for Russia and her people and his desire to help in any way he could.
We know of the loving memories he left as a result of his visiting our city. His dignity, kindness, openness, tact and other lofty human qualities evoked in us trust and sympathy. Let us remember the thoughts he expressed with the media about some of the paths and means by which life may be normalized in the region of our formerly united nation, which is now the Commonwealth of Independent States. Let us remember his efforts after returning from Russia to employ with all of his powers and means to everything that might help our nation, and his difficult trip to the USA —difficult because of his failing health—with the aim of attracting American business circles to help our Homeland, and his premature death while performing this service.
Vladimir Kirillovich was preparing to once again visit his Fatherland in the near future. And he did come. But now he has come forever, in accordance with his expressed desire to be buried in Russia.
Vladimir Kirillovich departed in the Lord during Passion Week. On Great Thursday, we performed the first prayerful commemoration of the late Grand Duke in our Cathedral in Moscow. On that day, the Gospel reading proclaims eternity which opens before us, and the question to all of us: are we prepared to meet eternity? What would his answer be? The Lord, Knower of human hearts, knows the answer, and only He. We know of the deep faith of Vladimir Kirillovich, his submission to Divine Providence, the way he walked before the Lord in fear of God, his devotion to the Holy Church. And we believe that the Master of life and death will forgive the knowing and unknowing sins of His devoted and wise servant, who, as did the Wise Maidens, preserve the oil in their vessels in anticipation of greeting the Son of Man (Matthew 25:4). We believe, too, that he increased the talents given to him by his Creator and will hear the words “enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21). Let us bolster this faith with fervent prayer for him. Let us pray for his good response on the day of the Dread Judgment (Matthew 25:34-40).
And so, today, on Bright Wednesday, we perform the funerary service for the Grand Duke. The first prayer we address to God, the triumphant one, rejoices: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life!” This Paschal song confirms for us the truth of eternal life. We are not bidding farewell to him forever, we part only bodily, we say goodbye temporarily. Our earnest prayer for him provides an indissoluble bond with him in expectation of meeting once again in the Heavenly Abodes. In the words of the Savior, it is prayer that counteracts despair (Luke 18:1), the despair against which Apostle Paul warns us (Ephesians 3:13).
The great hierarch and teacher of the Church, St John Chrysostom, attests to the triumph of Christ the Giver of Life in his sermon on the bright feast day of Pascha: “O death, where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory? Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is Risen—and life reigns. Christ is Risen, and not one dead remains in the tomb, for Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that slept. To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
Let us lift up our fervent prayers to the Lord. May the Lord give succor to the newly-reposed soul of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich in His Heavenly Abodes and grant him to partake of eternal rejoicing in the unending day of the Kingdom of Christ.
Christ is Risen!
St Isaac Cathedral
April 16/29, 1992