On March 15, 2017, the 100th anniversary of the miraculous discovery of the “Sovereign” [Derzhavnaya] Icon of the Mother of God, His Grace Bishop Tikhon of Egorievsk, Prior of Sretentsky Monastery in Moscow, Russia, celebrated the first Liturgy of Pre-Sanctified Gifts at the Cathedral of the Resurrection and the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
In the words Vladyka Tikhon, when they began construction on the cathedral, they hoped to perform the first divine service in it on the day of the 100th anniversary of the tragic events of the the 20th-century’s “Time of Troubles” in Russia. On March 2, 1917 (March 15 according to the New Calendar), traitors forced Tsar Nicholas II the Passion-bearer to abdicate the throne. A century later “we understand this historic event, we make sense of the path we have traveled since, with the glorification of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Christ the Savior,” he said.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia blessed the consecration of this new church to be performed on the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, May 25, 2017. That day will also mark the 10th anniversary of the restoration of full brotherly unity within the Russian Orthodox Church, since it was on the Ascension that the Act of Canonical Communion was signed with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
The Patriarch of Russia also gave his blessing to celebrate the first Liturgy on March 15, 2017, on the church portico of the new cathedral on a special structure under the open sky.
In accordance with tradition of Sretensky Monastery, the Liturgy of Pre-Sanctified Gifts is celebrated at 6 pm. After the service, Vladyka Tikhon said the following:
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:
We all know how special this day is. It is the day that the Queen of Heaven, through the sign of Her “Sovereign” Icon, providentially assumed the scepter of power in our Fatherland, Russia, which had figuratively fallen out of the hand of the last member of the 300-year-old dynasty, Holy Passion-Bearer Nicholas.
When we began to build this church, we prayed that the Lord would bless us to complete it in time for this day, the hundredth anniversary of probably the most tragic events in the history of our Fatherland, the beginning of the tribulations which by the mercy of God our people finally overcame, those sufferings which did not ultimately destroy the nation, the troubles which brought the descendants of so many who had once rejected God ultimately to Christ, to the triumph of His Resurrection.
This church is dedicated to the All-Victorious Resurrection of Christ and in honor of the devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Holy New Martyrs and Confessors. The Lord fulfilled our heartfelt desire. So today, the very anniversary so important to us because it leads to our understanding of the path our country and her people took, we heed the lessons we glean from it, and we grasp the following lesson: Everything is in the hands of God. The Lord can cast us down to Hell, and the Lord can raise us up.
This is what happened with our Fatherland, which was cast down into Hades and once again brought back to the Resurrection of Christ, to the rebirth of life in God for many millions of our compatriots.
Sometimes Divine lessons are difficult to bear. What God teaches us is that dishonor, cowardice and faithlessness of mankind are only temporarily tolerated by God, but that the moment can come when even the most careless people and their descendants are forced to suffer bitter--but ultimately saving--tribulation.
Today we remember the Holy New Martyrs, yet we don't know how many unknown sufferers there were who had at one time been apostates from the Church and from faith, but whose sufferings and the martyr’s path returned them to Christ, maybe in only the final moments of their lives. They returned to Him and realized the goal of their very existence, unification with God, joining with Christ.
This occurred just as it had with the Thief on the cross in Golgotha. Crucified and in the final moments of life, he spoke only a few words from the depths of his heart: “Remember me, o Lord, in Thy Kingdom.” He had performed no great spiritual feats, he led no long life of piety. He had only committed the sins of apostasy, betrayal, cowardice and deceit, as Tsar Nicholas Alexandrovich himself said. So it is likely that many of our compatriots could have likewise said: We are guilty of betrayal, of cowardice and deceit, in relation to the Church, to the Lord, to the historical path of Orthodox Russia, a path we knew and yet rejected.
There are also practical lessons for us all. We celebrate the Glory of the Holy New Martyrs, who were denounced and rejected by this world, mocked and tormented by their contemporaries. Our memory of them is like an earthly icon of their life in the Kingdom of Heaven, a mere faint reflection of the glory they enjoy in Heaven. They were few in number, but it was they who chose the right path, they chose the way of Truth and Life, the way of Christ. All around them they heard shouts of “Abandon Him, leave Him behind and you will live free!” But they responded: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
This is a great spiritual lesson, but also a practical one. This lesson comes not from the Holy Fathers nor great ascetics, but from contemporaries who witnessed the events of 1917. One such eyewitness was not an Orthodox Christian, maybe not Christian at all, the French Ambassador to Petrograd, Maurice Paleologue, who said: “It is remarkable, I don’t know of a more inspiring people than the Russians.”
Those who welcomed the overthrow of the Tsar, confident in their efforts, shouted “Hurrah,” (an earthly form of “Hosannah!”), convincing themselves and everyone around them that finally, everything would change, that all the best and brightest would come forth, that joy and justice would finally reign. Only a few months later, these very same people cried tears of blood, because this nation which they helped turn over to “the most best and worthy of people” was now collapsing. By the summer of 1917, Russia was virtually no more, those who thirsted madly for power, who with smug defiance boldly believed that they knew best, this is what they did to their nation.
It turned out that leading a sovereign Russian nation proved very, very difficult. The nation collapsed and fell into the hands of the forerunner of the Antichrist. Who betrayed Russia and turned Russia and her people over to the forces of evil? Those confessed endless love for Russia. But one could say that they did not lie. All those who participated in the disgraceful betrayal—soldiers, aristocrats, thinkers, intelligentsia, the common people, shouted in the streets: We are doing this for Russia’s sake! We are prepared to die for her! And in fact many went on to prove their love, even unto death in the ranks of the White Movement.
In the end, it was these people who had limitless love for Russia who had betrayed her, turning her over to the man who said: “But as for me, dear sirs, I spit on Russia.” These were the words of a man whose remains lie even today in Red Square. This is what those who had such great love for their Fatherland did, who at the time were called the best and brightest of the nation.
This lesson must remain impressed in our minds and our hearts. We cannot ever let something like this happen again. Now, thank God, preconditions for such an event do not exist. But in the blink of an eye, everything can change, if the members of the Church of Christ prove to be nothing but imposters. Then the Spirit of God will abandon them.
Today, on this wonderful, splendid evening of the Feast of the Lord, let us pray that the Lord does not lead us into temptation, that He deprives us of all wickedness, that He preserves us a small flock of His Church. In this wonderful new church we all prayed for, built in honor of the New Martyrs, will host the Liturgy of the Lord for many years. Let us pray that the Divine Supper will be celebrated here by your children and your children’s children!
On behalf of my brethren, I wish to thank you all for today’s prayers. I thank the monks of our monastery for their efforts in building and adorning this church. I acknowledge all the buildings, architects, wonderful artists and engineers for their work. I thank every one of you who through your efforts and your prayers have made today such a remarkable divine service here.
It is hardly an accident of fate that the first divine service here in Sretensky Monastery, on the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple in 1994, was also held outside (we remember it well). And the first service at this new cathedral is by an act of Providence likewise being held outside, under the open skies--in the great temple of the world God created in which we all live.
I wish to thank you all, to thank the choir, and all the seminarians, and again, all the parishioners. May God give you all aid and strength in faith, and the Intercession of the Queen of Heaven. Amen.