May 6, 2024

Homily on the Name Day of the Most Pious Empress Alexandra Feodorovna - 1904 (St. John of Kronstadt)

Homily on the Name Day of the Most Pious Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

By St. John of Kronstadt

(Delivered on April 23, 1904)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom. 8:35–36; Psalm 43:23).

The Holy Church now commemorates the Great Martyr George the Trophy-Bearer and the Martyr Empress Alexandra, wife of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who lived and suffered for the confession of the faith of Christ at the beginning of the third century after the Nativity of Christ; and today the Church and State celebrate the name day of the Most Pious Empress Alexandra Feodorovna with common prayer.

Saint George was a brave commander of a detachment of Roman troops. The pagan emperor Diocletian at first loved and respected him; but, having learned that George was a Christian, he ordered him to be imprisoned.

And then he was ordered to undergo the wheel. When the Lord healed him of all his wounds, they put iron shoes on him, with nails pointing upward, and had him walk from place to place. After that, they tied him up and buried him in quicklime for three days. Only secret inner prayer and God's help saved him from death. At this time, some sorcerer Athanasios appeared before the king, and brought two bottles with strong poison, and said to the sovereign: "If you want this madman to submit to you in everything, let him drink this drink," pointing to one bottle; "if you want him to die, let him accept this," pointing to the other. George drank both, and justified the words of the Savior: "Those who believe ... if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them" (Mark 16:18). Then Athanasios confessed Christ as God, and was beheaded, as well as George. Empress Alexandra, who saw the suffering of the great martyr and the miracles that happened during his suffering, more than once interceded for him with her husband. But when her petitions were unsuccessful, she resolutely declared that she too was a Christian: then the angry Diocletian ordered her head to be cut off. But God’s providence did not want her to die from the executioner: on the way to the place of execution, she, tired from the journey, asked the guards to allow her to sit down, and in this position she gave up her soul to the Lord with full readiness to taste death from the blow of the sword; the Church rightly calls her a martyr.

A Christian writer of that time, describing the suffering of the martyrs, says in his work:"If I had a hundred lips and an iron chest, even then I could not count all the types of torment that the believers endured; a thousand books would not be enough to describe them. The cruelty reached the point that the mutilated were treated only to torture them again." The firmness of the martyrs was amazing: they joyfully went to their torment, as if they were going to a triumph and a royal feast, because they foresaw and anticipated the eternal life prepared for them by God after short-term suffering. Like the Apostle Paul, the martyrs said: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Such were these cruel times for Christians; so the pagan world armed itself against them and wanted to destroy them completely. But the more they were tortured and exterminated, the more they multiplied, and tens and hundreds of thousands of new Christians appeared in the place of the martyred; this was facilitated by countless amazing miracles during their suffering, and the obvious invincible power of God, which supported them, and the visible appearances to the martyrs of Christ Himself, the omnipotent God, who strengthened them with His all-joyful word and vision and the proximity of the blessed death and eternal blessedness.

With all types of torment, the suffering martyrs experienced in their hearts an extraordinary joy, which was imparted to them by the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Spirit of the Heavenly Father, who dwelt in their hearts and eased their suffering so that it was not they who suffered, but someone else who in them inhabited, i.e. Christ Himself, who suffered for us.

Let's move on to our time. We live in Christian times, when the Christian faith has spread to all parts of the world, although half the world's people still belong to the pagan world. But modern Christians, including many Russians, have become not better, but worse than atheists, in the spirit of denial of the true Faith and Church and a blasphemous attitude towards them (Tolstoy and the Tolstoyans); and at the same time towards Christian prayer and repentance; the covenants of Christ have been trampled upon by many. The crucified Christ commanded us self-denial: "Whoever wants to come after Me," He says, "let him deny himself," from his blind, carnal, corrupt mind, from his insane, deadly passions, "take up his cross and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). And yet many of our compatriots have done and are doing the exact opposite: they have rejected not themselves, not the flesh and the adulterous world, but Christ Himself and the Gospel, the Church of God. They have deified their minds and their flesh, and have elevated the satisfaction of carnal, destructive passions to a dogma of their kind, or, to use the modern language of scientists, to the cult of the flesh and its passions, and for this purpose they have considered permissible all means for the satisfaction of the flesh and the world, such as the embezzlement of government and public funds, or inherited property, the delay and non-payment of money to workers and their suppliers, the non-payment of taken goods taken, or theft of church and private property; killings due to kidnapping; eating and drinking one's own or someone else's property; living at the expense of others, laziness in mental or physical labor, disobedience to parents or students and subordinates to their superiors, in a word: many have turned their backs to God, their backbones, and not their faces, not their hearts, and not their faith, but the most audacious unbelief. They have not engendered in themselves the fear of God, nor reverence for God the Creator, but unbelief and fearlessness, pride and ingratitude, not humility and the awareness of complete dependence on Him and His innumerable blessings to us. Such is the nature of the behavior of our intelligentsia and non-intelligentsia.

And for such a life and for such behavior, the righteous Lord and Judge gives us a terrible lesson – the war boldly imposed on us, and in it the losses of many faithful sons of Russia and our many millions of military vessels. The war is just beginning: and what lies ahead, only God knows; how many victims, how many losses. What is needed for Russia is the immediate repentance of all classes; correction of morals, renunciation of foolish atheism; humility and reverence for God's commandments and their careful fulfillment; a sincere appeal to their holy mother the Church, who gave birth to them and raised them; reverence of children for their parents and for those being brought up by their educators; justice, honesty, temperance, chastity, firmness, and constancy of marriages; mercy and compassion for the downtrodden and the poor. If we behave this way, God willing, then the Lord will easily subdue our enemies under our feet, as in previous years, and glorify our right weapons. Let us not ourselves provoke the righteous wrath of God against us and rely only on the strength and courage of the warriors and the strength of our weapons.

"Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies" (Ps. 60:10). Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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