Pascha is a time of miracles. Pascha itself is the most important miracle in the history of mankind. Schema-Hieromonk Valentin (Gurevich), father-confessor of Donskoy Monastery in Moscow, speaks about the New Martyrs (who were killed but rose from the dead with Christ and have been raising their descendants and the life in modern Russia from the dead from generation to generation) and the spirit of Pascha with which the life of the Church of Christ is filled.
The Lord said, If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be (Jn. 12:26).
Therefore, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Mt. 16:24).
In essence, this is the path towards Pascha and the salvation of every soul; this is precisely what makes it Godlike. One of the manifestations of “becoming like God”, Who said before His Ascension, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Mt. 28:20), is that the souls of some righteous people, even after their death, like the Lord, help the faithful in difficult circumstances.
It should be noted that today’s “post-Christian” mentality is prone to disbelieve in miracles (the authenticity of which has never been questioned by Church people), whereas it is easy to believe psychics and sorcerers of all sorts. Many members of the Church, especially intellectuals, are under the influence of this mentality nowadays as well. Yet miraculous events associated with apparitions of the souls of departed people still occur in our days, thus testifying to the truth of the Resurrection in which all Christians participate both in this life (when the soul is relieved of the burden of its sins in the sacrament of confession and thus revived) and in eternity (when the living soul appears to others after the body’s death).
I can give two examples of miracles of this kind. It was some years ago, when the relics of the Holy Patriarch Tikhon (Belavin) were uncovered. Miracles occurred very often for some time after his canonization. People were healed from their diseases. St. Tikhon especially “specializes” in healing cancer. I would keep watch by his relics, and lots of people would come and thank the saint both for themselves and for their relatives.
Once a cultured and intelligent woman, most probably a teacher, came up to me. And she said to me, “My husband and I did not plan a visit to your monastery. But as we were driving past it we decided to stop and drop in at your bookshop. And it was there that I saw an image of the elder who had appeared to me in a dream and said that he would heal me. I am seriously ill and registered with a cancer clinic. Your bookstore assistant told us to go to the large cathedral and take some oil blessed on St. Tikhon’s relics.”
Another time a lady approached me and asked, “Is it true that Patriarch Tikhon’s relics are kept here?” I answered, “Surely! They are here.” She was dumbfounded and explained to me that she and her two sisters had had the same dream on the same night: Their mother appeared to them and told them to go to Donskoy Monastery together; she said that Patriarch Tikhon had just been canonized and his relics enshrined, and that they should go to the monastery, venerate the relics and pray before them to make peace with each other. “We had fallen out with each other long ago and have not been on speaking terms ever since. We used to live together near Donskoy Monastery, and now we live in different districts of the capital. And since I live in the flat where we used to live together before the quarrel, near the monastery, my sisters have sent me here to find out if the relics of Patriarch Tikhon are really at the monastery. Now that you have confirmed this information, three of us can come here and pray together,” she related.
The Baptism of Russia (Rus’) by the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir was not accompanied by the martyrdom for Christ of a host of Christians, as was the case in other lands. But our land produced its passion-bearers—for example, Sts. Boris and Gleb. They were related to St. Alexander Nevsky and were quick to help him in the Battle of the Neva.
Today our country is at war. But it is a spiritual warfare rather than the usual war with the use of weapons on battlefields (when it comes to a confrontation with an external enemy or an internecine war). Though the latter is taking place as well. The fact is that the main foe of mankind over the seventy years of the godless Communist regime and the present post-Soviet “permissive society” has succeeded in his struggle for the hearts of many of our fellow-countrymen from all the social strata. As a result the hearts of many people partly or entirely belong to demons.
The essence of the current situation in society seems desperate. Such problems as the unheard-of moral decline, ubiquitous corruption, the paralyzed judicial system, the invincible drug trade, and the demographic crisis seem insuperable. Today we are absolutely convinced that all human efforts to overcome these adversities prove to be fruitless.
However, we shouldn’t despair. Unlike the time of St. Alexander Nevsky we have multitudes of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia who are ready to help their people at any moment.
Although these are still little known facts, there are cases of miraculous help from heaven in hopeless situations related to the above-mentioned negative phenomena. It should be stressed that many of them happened to blood relatives of the New Martyrs who got into trouble and felt a clear and striking intervention “from above” in their situations. Many stories are similar to that famous one when in the Soviet era the Holy Hierarch Philaret of Moscow (who had died in 1867) appeared to his relative Vladimir Petrovich Sedov in a vision and told him to clean up his (the metropolitan’s) mother’s gravestone. The saint also added that Vladimir shouldn’t fear to face persecutions as “it has already been decided in heaven.1”
The triumph of good manifests itself not only in miracles with these people in trouble but also in the improvement of the social situation in their immediate surroundings. The changes that can create a healthier atmosphere in a region or even the whole country are occurring—that is not only a hope, but also the fulfilment of the Russian Pascha. And we can become spiritual (not only natural) sons, daughters and other kinsmen of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia through praying to them and venerating them.
The podvig [spiritual labor in Russian] of passion-bearing, performed by Sts. Boris and Gleb and other saints who preferred to die rather than to renounce Christ and His commandments, is folly to most people, seemingly devoid of any foundation and value. For example, one politician said that he couldn’t understand the motivation of Boris and Gleb, who “were just waiting passively for their martyrdom.” For here we see the fulfilment of the words of Christ: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it (Lk. 9:24). Though Sts. Boris and Gleb were physically dead, spiritually they were more alive than ever and helped their relation St. Alexander Nevsky in an extremely difficult situation when the enemy was numerically superior.
Is it a coincidence that prominent archpriests such as Valerian Krechetov, Dimitry Smirnov, Vladimir Vorobiev, Sergy Pravdolyubov, Alexander Ilyashenko and others, direct descendants of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia both canonized and uncanonized, are winning many battles aimed at making our society morally and spiritually healthy again despite the enemy’s numerical superiority?
Therefore, the podvig of martyrdom has more than direct spiritual significance; it enables an ascetic to achieve the main goal of his life—that is, to enter Paradise and spend eternity with the Heavenly Father. The examples of real participation and help that members of the Church Triumphant give to their kinsmen and fellow-citizens living in the world under difficult circumstances, to their earthly fatherland, to the whole world and humanity, are solid evidence that it is not a futile thing to prefer death and suffering for Christ and the commandments of the Gospel.
Recently the historian Felix Razumovsky spoke at the Donskoy Club about the specifics of the twentieth-century discord in Russia: “As discord grows, all the elements, or institutions of Russian life, can be destroyed very quickly. The Russian village, the Russian commissioned officers as a class, and the Russian educated class… In a word, everything can be destroyed. All of this can be gone within a few months never to return.
“Where is the Russian Zemstvo (elective district council in pre-revolutionary Russia) now? We still don’t have it. There are no self-government institutions at all… This is because there aren’t the right people… Any law could be passed and any decision could be made if we had suitable people… And we did have all of this. But it is disappearing and being destroyed…
“But not only will the Church survive, it will also blossom in thousands of wonderful lives of the New Martyrs and Confessors. In essence, the Church is our only ‘national capital’ of modern times. We have the New Martyrs and Confessors that followed after Christ to the end and thus preserved the Church and with it at least some idea of Russia. And, indeed, today we barely have anything except for the Church. And not long ago, on February 8 (2018) when the New Martyrs were commemorated, I deliberately turned on TV to see if any programs would be dedicated to them. And no TV channel made mention of any of the New Martyrs! How is it that they ignore the New Martyrs? After all, they are our ‘cloud of witnesses’. These people, their podvig and holiness are our main achievement of the twentieth century.
“Today there is discord and a crisis in our country as well. If we look closely, we will find that we are making no progress in our country. We are unable to succeed in anything and have only failures. In the present circumstances it seems that we’ve got to do something special. The country has a lot of money, it is rich in natural resources and can boast of a host of well-educated people… We have plenty of everything but are absolutely unable to break the deadlock. It is a strange situation indeed. It is a crisis. Incapable and incompetent people are a characteristic feature of the Russian world in the time of troubles.
“Even in our life in the Church we don’t pay due attention to the New Martyrs, to say nothing of the nation’s life where there is no room for the New Martyrs. The words ‘new martyrs’ are not mentioned in the new unified textbook on Russian history which is in active preparation.
“Alexander Isaevich Solzhenitsyn used to say that we lost the twentieth century. It was his opinion. The nation lost so many people, so much strength, so much energy, and nearly lost its national culture, while other countries were making progress… We cannot agree with this statement… We cannot agree with these words at least because we had Patriarch Tikhon in that century.” Patriarch Tikhon who was at the head of a great assembly of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. They are the banner and guarantee of the Resurrection of Russia! Whether or not we are to take this banner in our hands depends on us.