Rose Sermon undated
For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one...
(II Thes. 3:8)
That which restraineth the appearance in the world of Antichrist, the man of lawlessness and anarchy, the last and most powerful enemy of Christ and His Church, is - in the teaching of St. John Chrysostom and other Fathers of the Church - lawful authority, as represented and symbolized by the Roman Empire. This idea was incarnated supremely in the Christian Empire: first in Byzantium, when Constantinople was the Second Rome, and then in the Orthodox Russian Empire, when Moscow was the Third Rome. In 1917 the "Constantinian Age" came to an end, the Orthodox Empire was overthrown - and the world, beginning with Moscow, has been thrown into an age of lawlessness and atheism (and in Church life, of apostasy) such as has not yet been seen.
Tsar Nicholas II was the last representative of this ideal of lawful Christian authority, and the age of lawlessness began appropriately with his murder. For Orthodox Christians, however, the new age begins with a martyr: a witness to the Orthodox Faith, faithful to the end to his Church and his sacred calling.
July 4 (17), 1968, was the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas (following shortly upon the 100th anniversary of his birth), together with the entire Imperial Family, who were barbarously slaughtered by the lawless Bolshevik power in the basement of a house in Ekaterinburg in Siberia. To commemorate this anniversary the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia made an important decision, which is set forth in their Epistle that follows:
Job the Much-suffering, on the day of whose commemoration the Tsar was born, said in his grievous suffering, concerning the day of his conception, as is written in his book: As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year (Job 3:6).
Terrible was the night of the murder of our Tsar.
But the ancient Christians profoundly and graphically called the days on which martyrs were commemorated, days of birth. And the night of the murder of our Tsar shines in our consciousness as the birth in the Russian heaven of the Martyr-Tsar.
One archpastor, who had profoundly suffered the dark horror of our disjointed times, has exclaimed: "Russian people, where is the grave of your Tsar?" And we stand paralyzed as if above a world-wide abyss that has swallowed up the last traces of the Tsar... Somewhere in the Urals have gone into the earth specks of dust from the body and clothing which the executioners and their servants cut, covered with acid, and burned... Sacred specks of dust, already scarcely material...
"And there was no mercy..."
And not only was there no mercy, there was even no funeral. The Church's prayer of absolution was not read over them, before whom for already half a century we feel the guilt of our entire people.
Bowing before these animate sacrifices, rational whole burnt offerings, knowing God and known by God (Oktoechos, Tone 4, Wed. vespers), before the Martyr-Tsar and those killed with him, the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, in awareness of its archpastoral duty, decrees that there be performed the funeral of the Imperial Martyrs and all Orthodox Christians killed by the atheist power who have been deprived of a church funeral.
This great day of the funeral of the Tsar-Martyr and all commemorated with him, who have been deprived until now of a church funeral, will be July 4 (17), 1968, the 50th anniversary of the crime. And may the hearts of all believing Russian people be lit before God, like candles, with one soul in repentant prayer for their passion-bearers. Amen.
This funeral service was accordingly performed in the evening of July 4 (17), 1968 in all cathedral churches of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, and it was received warmly by the Russian faithful, who after half a century have not lost their great love for their Tsar-Martyr and see in him a victim and sacrifice for their own sins. This view is clarified by a vision seen in 1917 by Metropolitan Makary of Moscow, who was in truth as one of the ancients:
THE DREAM OF METROPOLITAN MAKARY
I saw a field. The Saviour was walking along a path. I went after Him, affirming, "Lord, I am following You!" And He, turning to me, replied: "Follow Me!" Finally we approached an immense arch adorned with stars. At the threshold of the arch the Saviour turned to me and said again: "Follow Me!" And He went into a wondrous garden, and I remained at the threshold and awoke.
Soon I fell asleep again and saw myself standing in the same arch, and behind it with the Saviour stood Tsar Nicholas. The Saviour said to the Tsar: "You see in My hands two cups: one which is bitter for your people, and the other sweet for you."
The Tsar fell to his knees and for a long time begged the Lord to allow him to drink the bitter cup together with his people. The Lord did not agree for a long time, but the Tsar begged importunately. Then the Saviour drew out of the bitter cup a large glowing coal and laid it in the palm of the Tsar's hand. The Tsar began to move the coal from hand to hand and at the same time his body began to grow light, until it had become completely bright, like some radiant spirit.
At this I again woke up.
Falling asleep yet again, I saw an immense field covered with flowers. In the middle of the field stood the Tsar, surrounded by a multitude of people, and with his hands he was distributing manna to them. An invisible voice said at this moment: "The Tsar has taken the guilt of the Russian people upon himself, and the Russian people is forgiven."
The significance of the Tsar is first and foremost, of course, to the Russian people. But his position as Orthodox Tsar, that which restrains the appearance of Antichrist, and especially as Orthodox Martyr, gives him a meaning and importance for all Orthodox believers. Significantly, the question of his canonization (which still has not been accomplished owing to the disordered times and the continued reign of lawlessness in Russia) was first raised not by Russians, but by Serbians.
The Serbian people loved the Russian Tsar with all their heart. On March 30, 1930, there was published in the Serbian newspapers a telegram stating that the Orthodox inhabitants of the city of Leskovats in Serbia had appealed to the Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church with a request to raise the question of the canonization of the late Russian Emperor Nicholas II, who was not only a most humane and pure-hearted Ruler of the Russian people, but who also died with the glory of a martyr's death.
Already in 1925 there had appeared in the Serbian press an account of what happened to an elderly Serbian lady who had lost two sons in the war and whose third son, who had disappeared without a trace, she considered also to have been killed. Once, after praying fervently for all who had been killed in the war, the poor mother fell asleep and saw in a dream the Emperor Nicholas II, who told her that her son was alive and was in Russia, where he had fought together with his two dead brothers. "You will not die" - said the Russian Tsar - "until you see your son." Soon after this dream, the old woman received news that her son was alive, and within a few months after this she joyfully embraced him alive and well when he returned from Russia.
On August 11, 1927, in the newspapers of Belgrade there appeared a notice under the headline, "Face of Emperor Nicholas II in the Monastery of St. Naum on Lake Ochrid." It read as follows:
"The Russian painter S. F. Kolesnikov was invited to paint the new church in the ancient Serbian Monastery of St. Naum, being given complete creative freedom in adorning the interior of the dome and walls. While completing this, the artist thought of painting on the walls of the church the faces of 15 saints, to be placed in 15 ovals. Fourteen faces were painted immediately, but the place for the 15th long remained empty, since some kind of inexplicable feeling compelled Kolesnikov to wait for a while. Once at dusk he entered the church. Below, it was dark, and only the dome was cut through with the rays of the setting sun. As Kolesnikov himself related later, at this moment there was an enchanting play of light and shadows in the church, and all around seemed unearthly and singular. At this moment the artist saw that the empty oval which he left unfinished had become animated and from it, as from a frame, looked down the sorrowful face of Emperor Nicholas II. Struck hy the miraculous apparition of the martyred Russian Tsar, the artist stood for some time as if rooted to the spot, seized by a kind of paralysis. Then, as he himself describes, under the influence of a prayerful impulse, he leaned a ladder against the oval, and without marking with charcoal the outline of the wondrous face, with brushes alone he made the layout. He could not sleep the whole night and, hardly had the first daylight appeared than he went to the church and in the first morning rays of the sun was already sitting high on the ladder, working with such a fever as he had never known. As he himself writes: 'I painted without a photograph. In the past I several times saw the late Emperor close up, while giving him explanations at exhibitions. His image imprinted itself in my memory.'"
The very phenomenon of the Tsar-Martyr is a source of inspiration to Orthodox Christians. But this is only part of the Orthodox significance of Nicholas II. His personal piety and Christian character, and his active role as Tsar in promoting a veritable Orthodox renaissance, make him the last and one of the greatest representatives of the tradition of Orthodox monarchy, with whose collapse (as we are witnesses) the reign of lawlessness has indeed entered the world!
The story of Nicholas II - Orthodox Tsar has yet to be told to the world, at least in the English language.