Today we view Holy Tsar Nicholas II as an angel sent by God to earth on the eve of an apocalyptic storm in Russia and the whole world. He was given to us to serve as an example of an Orthodox Tsar for all times, to show what we have lost in the Orthodox monarchy. Instead of the Anointed of God, Russia received the anointed of Satan. Everything was turned upside down, everything was swept away. All attempts to prevent a collapse failed. Even the liberal V. Nabokov was forced to concede that as soon as the liberals' dream of "complete lawfulness and justice" came to power, the worst, bloodiest iniquity came with it.
The killing of Tsar Nikolai may be the central event in the history of the 20th century. It was planned, as Archimandrite Konstantin Zaitsev wrote, "so that the mystical trembling before Royal authority and the religious conviction that the Anointed Tsar bears Divine grace which cannot be thwarted would be replaced with other notions." Just as, we might add, the monarchy had already disappeared from the rest of the world by this time.
This did not happen in a day, and did not begin during the reign of Tsar Nicholas. The Decembrists' program included a plan to liquidate the dynasty, and the English and French Revolutions had dealt with this matter even earlier. The idea of building an earthly kingdom with the rejection of the Heavenly one gradually took shape over the centuries, and, in perspective, must necessarily be linked to recent apocalyptic events. It is simply clumsy to assert, as some progressive historians do, that all the blame should be laid upon our holy Tsar. As though there had been no nihilists before his reign, as though the faithful servants of Tsar and Fatherland were not subjected to the daily threat from terrorists in the final period of his life, as though St Ignatius Brianchaninov, St Theophan the Recluse and St John of Kronstadt did not foretell the impending monstrous catastrophe for the sins of the Russian people! In fact, all this had begun much earlier.
The Russian Church knows the saintly image of a "passion-bearer": the Church glorifies those who endured suffering.
The holy passion-bearing princes occupy a special place in the Russian heart. They seemed from the outside not to have died for confessing their faith but as victims of political ambitions through a power struggle. But this was suffering for devotion to Christ—it was suffering for Christ! The similarities between their innocent death and the sufferings of the Savior are striking. Just as Christ in Gethsemane, so were the first Russian martyrs, Boris and Gleb, seized through cunning, but they gave no resistance, despite the readiness of their companions to save them. Just as Christ on Golgotha, they prayed for their executioners. Similarly to Christ during His torments before death, they felt the temptation to act according to their own will, and, just as He did, they rejected the tempation. In the consciousness of the young Russian Church, this was bound to the image of the innocent victim of whom Prophet Isaiah spoke: "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." "Gleb's own cook, called Turchin," wrote the chronicler, "slaughtered him like a lamb."
Other such passion-bearers as the princes of Kiev were Prince Igor of Chernigov, Prince Michael of Tver, Tsarevich Dmitry of Uglich, and Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky. In the sufferings and death of these saints there is a great deal which connects them with the fate of the Royal Martyrs. The death of St Igor, killed when he could no longer threaten anyone's power, as he prayed before the icon of the Mother of God, has much in common with the captives of Ekaterinburg. The same sorrow felt by the Royal Martyrs, the same prayers during their final divine service, the same blatant mockery by the unbridled captors and the rabid wrath of the mob were experienced by Holy Princes Igor, Michael and Andrei, and the same stunning horror. One can almost hear the thundering of rifles echoing from the cellar of Ipatiev House. We see the same mockery of the dead bodies and the satanic frenzy with which their memory was erased, even the house where the crime was committed was destroyed.
The "mystery of iniquity" is seen even in the circumstances of the heinous crime of Ekaterinburg. As General Dieterichs noted, the Romanov Dynasty began in Ipatiev Monastery of Kostroma guberniya and ended in Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg. The servants of Beelzebub, who would soon install public toilets on the site of altar tables and razed churches, intentionally chose the place for this crime, which fell on the day of St Andrei Bogoliubsky, the prince who, if not in name, then by essence was the first Russian Tsar.
The enemies understood well that the destruction of "the entire great litany," in the words of Lenin and Trotsky, would mean the violation of the oath of loyalty to the Cross and the Gospel made by the Russian nation at the Council of 1613 to establish all spheres of life, including government and political life, on the basis of Christian principles.
Millions of Orthodox Christians in Russia, having renounced their faith, participated in this crime. Great revolutions, which are but efforts towards the temporary "salvation" of mankind, also, logically, develop as a war not only against the Anointed of God, but against the entire Church, an effort towards emancipation from all that is sacred, and, finally, from truth and justice. Indeed, after the revolution in Russia, the Church was viewed by many as an outdated institution and condemned to disappear.
This is the very meaning of the year 1917. A test for all of civilization is at play here, and that is why all the forces of evil were exerted in resistance to the Orthodox monarchy. Is it a coincidence that specifically communist, Marxist-Leninist ideology, in the end, came down with hatred upon the Anointed of God? This was an extreme expression of the chiliastic false teaching of hope in an earthly kingdom. The second echelon comes now with the rejection of all moral resistance towards attaining earthly pleasure. It will take a long time to recognize that this event of the last century, not only through regicide, but through the murder of children, was the beginning of the destruction and dispersal of millions of Christian families.
Speaking of the holiness of Tsar Nicholas, we often think about his martyric podvig relating, obviously, to his pious life. But we should carefully consider the podvig of his abdication—the podvig of witness. We have often said that his podvig of meek acceptance of God's will was thereby expressed. But it is especially important that this was a podvig towards preserving the purity of the Church's teaching of the Orthodox monarchy. To clarify, let us remember what the Tsar wished to achieve by abdicating. First of all, there were those who sought to turn Russian history onto the path of European democracy, or at least, to a constitutional monarchy. Socialists and bolsheviks were the logical and extreme manifestation of the materialistic concept of history.
We know that many of the period's destroyers of Russia acted in the name of improving her. Among them were people honest in their own way, intelligent people who sought "how to reorganize Russia." But it was, as Scripture says, "wisdom… earthly, sensual, devilish." The stone cast away by the builders was Christ and the Anointed of Christ.
Divine anointing means that the earthly power of the Sovereign has Divine power as its source. The rejection of Orthodox monarchy was rejection of Divine authority. This was rejection of an earthly power which was called upon to direct the general flow of life towards spiritual and moral goals, to create conditions which would maximize the conditions for the salvation of many, a power which is "not of this world," but serves the world in this higher sense. Of course, "all things work together for good to them that love God," and the Church of Christ brings salvation under any external conditions. But the totalitarian regime, and especially democracy create an atmosphere in which, as we see, the average person cannot survive.
The preference for another type of government which ensures earthly greatness, life according to one's own—not Divine—will, life according to one's passions (which is called "freedom") cannot but lead to rebellion against authority given by God, against the Anointed of God. They wished to demonstrate that all power belongs to them, regardless of any Divinity, and that the grace and truth of the Anointed of God are needed only to adorn that which belongs to them. This would mean that any iniquity committed by this power would be in accordance with the direct blessing of God. This is Satan's plot—to desecrate grace, to mix the truth with untruth, to render meaningless and merely ornamental the Anointing of Christ. A "superficial image" would be created which, in the words of St Theophan the Recluse, would conceal "the mystery of iniquity." If God is shut out, then the Orthodox monarchy, in the end, becomes merely a decoration of a new world order which will turn into the reign of the Antichrist. As long as human history continues, the enemy will never abandon this conspiracy.
The Tsar did not abandon the purity of the Divine anointment, he did not sell Divine birthright for the proverbial "pot of lentils": earthly power. The meaning of the Tsar's abdication was the preservation of the idea of Christian government, and that is why therein lies the hope for the salvation of Russia, through the separation of those who are loyal to the Divinely-granted principles of life from those who are untrue, through the cleansing which subsequently occurred. As before the Revolution, and so today, the prime danger is in "external appearances." Many believe in God, believe in His Providence, they strive to establish the Orthodox monarchy, but in their hearts they rely on temporal powers: upon the "horses and chariots." Let everything be as a glorious symbol: the cross, the tri-color flag, the two-headed eagle, yet we will establish everything ourselves, according to our own earthly concepts. But the martyric blood of the Tsar denounces the apostates, both then and now.
One can make all sorts of historical, philosophical or political analyses, but the spiritual viewpoint is always most important. We know of the prophecies of many of our saints, who understood that no special external government measures, no repressions, not the most finely-tuned policies can change the course of events if the Russian people do not repent. The truly humble mind of Holy Tsar Nicholas was able to see that this repentance would be purchased with a dear price. In this light, all other explanations disappear like smoke.
All punishment is medicine, and the harsher the disease, the bitterer is the cure. Today we fear most of all the loss of Russia's independence, naturally. But let us not confuse the symptom and the cause: all of the most horrific, the most devastating external invasions—Khan Baty, Napoleon or Hitler—were nothing compared to the legions of devils possessing the people themselves.
The abdication of the Tsar reflected all the main events in sacred history, which always contain the self-same mystery. What were the reasons for the Egyptian enslavement, and the Babylonian captivity of God's chosen people, if not to direct all hope to the one God? What was the meaning of the Roman occupation of Israel during the earthly life of the Savior? The same as that of the October revolution of 1917, with its lure of earthly contentment without God.
That is the point, that the desire to preserve the Orthodox monarchy at any cost is no different from the godlessness revealed in its violent destruction. This was the same attempt to find a firm foundation without God—such a foundation will always be, in the words of the prophet, a "staff of reed," "when they took hold of thee by thy hand, thou didst break, and rend all their shoulder: and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand" (Ezekiel 29:7).
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As Bishop Nicholas (Velimirovich) said in 1932, "Russians in our day have repeated the Battle of Kosovo. If Tsar Nicholas had adhered to the earthly kingdom, the kingdom of earthly motives and petty revenge, he in all likelihood would even today sit upon his throne in St Petersburg. But he adhered to the Kingdom of Heaven, to the Kingdom of heavenly martyrs and values of the Gospel, and for this he lost his own life, and that of his children, and of millions of his brothers. Another Lazar, another Kosovo!"
Through his podvig of passion-bearing, the Tsar shamed, first of all, democracy, "the great lie of our day," as KP Pobedonostsev said, when all is decided by majority vote, and, ultimately, by those who cry out the loudest: "Not this man but Barrabas," not Christ but the Antichrist. Secondly, he exposed the proponents of a constitutional monarchy in their compromise with untruth, no lesser a danger in our day.
We had great monarchs: Peter I, Catherine the Great, Nicholas I, Alexander III, when Russian reached its culmination through great victories and bountiful regimes. But Tsar-Martyr Nicholas bore witness to true Orthodox sovereignty, a rule based on Christian principles.
The main spiritual understanding of today's events—the culmination of the last century—is the more and more successful efforts of the enemy, aimed at the "salt losing its savor" so that the loftiest values of mankind be turned into hollow, pretty words. If the repentance of mankind is possible (and not simply talk of repentance), it is only thanks to one's devotion to Christ's grace and truth, which the Royal Martyrs and all the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia manifested.
The same light is seen in the prophetic words of the Tsar, related by his daughter, that the evil in the world now (that is, the 1917 revolution) will become stronger (that is, what is happening today), but that evil would not prevail, but love, and in the prayers of the sister of the Tsarina for the Russian people: "forgive them, o Lord, for they know not what they do." Only thanks to this devotion, to this light, is there hope in this dark world, which will not be extinguished.