The New Martyrs of the Russian Church and the Purity of Orthodoxy, Part 1


If we were to briefly formulate, right now in one sentence, the danger that threatens the purity of Orthodoxy, it would be the loss of the centrality of the Cross in Orthodox theology.

Our salvation is accomplished by the Cross, the purity of faith. The Cross is the source and focus of all Divine mysteries, all dogmas, all love, all blessings. We are saved by Christ’s death upon the Cross. The Cross gives us peace that transcends all understanding, and it is only through the Cross that joy hath come into all the world. Without the Cross, there are no saving Mysteries of the Church, and without the Cross, even prayer would be a completely empty waste of time. The Church without the Cross is ritualism without truth and righteousness, without repentance, without holiness.

Indeed, probably all of us want to receive forgiveness of sins by the Cross of Christ. But we don’t want to accept the Cross as a way of life. What is too often called “being reasonable,” “being realistic,” “standing with both feet firmly on the ground,” is in fact simply an internal lack of desire to accept the Cross.

The Apostle Paul says: God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14)—not in newly built or restored churches, not in the number of newly baptized converts, not in theological institutes and schools, not in social activity. All of this is wonderful, and the Church can’t live without it; but it’s not the main thing.

Missionary, charitable, and educational activity are necessary for the Church. But no one will argue with the fact that Catholics and Protestants have and always will have greater success in this. The subtle temptation to compete with them in external activity can lead us to the loss of that which is most important. And when the most important thing is lost, all is lost.

Again and again we emphasize this point. We certainly don’t want to minimize the importance of the huge daily work that our clergy and laity do, restoring not only ruined churches, but above all, the spiritual foundations of society. We understand that true spiritual rebirth takes place imperceptibly, like the growth of a plant; that humility, prudence, and patience are needed above all. However, these most precious qualities must be integrated in the Cross, without which they quickly turn into their opposites—what we see in the world today. Humility becomes slavish submission to evil, prudence turns into cowardly or cynical thriftiness, and patience shows itself as bleak indifference and the surrender of all positions.

Everything consists in the fact that in all our works, both great and small, the Cross must be present as the constant measure of our life.


Thus, in the Cross is all the fullness of the Christian confession, and it’s no coincidence that the martyrs are depicted with crosses. No other confession but Orthodoxy has such a host of martyrs—which testifies to the truth of it.

Where the Cross of Christ and the crosses of the martyrs are to be found, there evil is completely exposed. And therefore, when evil in the world is revealed in full, the Cross of Christ will appear in the heavens as a herald of the Second victorious Coming of Christ in glory.

Now, when evil is being fully revealed in the world right before our eyes, the true veneration of the martyrs as well as the preservation of the purity of Orthodoxy becomes especially important, especially if we keep in mind the ever-present eschatological perspective, when the confession of the purity of Orthodoxy will inevitably mean readiness to accept martyrdom.

You’d have to be completely blind to not see in world society today the claws of he who was a murderer from the beginning (Jn. 8:44), who can kill our people, our humanity from within ourselves.

What do we always hear? That everything’s okay? And an extraordinary spiritual flourishing? But don’t we feel sorry for children who have nothing to eat, who are exposed to depravity, who swear in front of and with adults! And the youth, who are largely poisoned by vodka, drugs, computer games, social networks; where you can find propaganda of suicide, all kinds of perversion, and terrorism. And many of them are psychologically ill. And some priests only want to celebrate the rites—they don’t withstand the merchants of illusion at all. We don’t need any surveys—everyone can see it with their own eyes.

If we don’t perceive evil with all its destructive power, that means it’s established its dominance over us. This danger has always threatened the Church, but the more that evil grows, the more obvious it becomes. His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark, exclaims the Prophet Isaiah (Is. 56:10). And St. Augustine says: “How dangerous it is for someone to be silent when he has been sent to give a warning.” And St. Gregory the Dialogist reproves such pastors: “They flee from the world, hiding in silence.” They tell us: “Be pious and humble and that will be enough.” But is it possible to kindle a flame without exposing the darkness at the same time? In fact, this is a matter of life and death—eternal life and eternal death.

Yes, the vigilance of the heart, constant prayer, fasting, the word of God, and, above all, the Most Pure Body and Blood of God are the life of the Church. But is this really given to us as communion with the Cross of Christ and His Resurrection? Or does it just create a kind of spiritual comfort for us, as St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) wrote about it? This is a question of the Church’s survival



And here I would like to touch upon another important topic, included in the title of the article—the glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church. As we relate to their glorification, so we relate to the Cross, so thus we truly profess the purity of Orthodoxy. By the way, while glorifying the Martyrs and Confessors, we should recall that confessors are those who are ready to stand for the truth of Orthodoxy even unto death, and martyrs are those whom the Lord vouchsafed to realize this.

We can’t but confess that we don’t perceive the canonization of the New Martyrs to the depth required by the truth of God. Their memory is still not celebrated with fitting solemnity, although the host of New Martyrs are indisputably one of the most significant phenomena in the life of our Church. This is evidenced by the fact that there is still no service in some churches on the day of the murder of the Tsar—the Martyr and Passion-bearer Nicholas II—or that he’s glorified simply as one of hundreds of thousands of innocently murdered Orthodox Christians, passing over the most important point in his feat with silence. How else will we be able to realize what happened to our Russia, to our Church in the twentieth century and what is happening in the world today—that is, how else will we be able to come to true repentance?

The word of God tells us that Sodom can be pardoned for the sake of ten righteous people, and Jerusalem for the sake of one. Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it, the Lord says through the Prophet before the destruction of Jerusalem (Jer. 5:1). This is why God is looking with such impatience for true intercessors for the people. From one glorified saint, others are always born. It’s rare in Church history that there would be one saint separate from the others. Most stars shine in large and small constellations. Around every founder is a crown of holy disciples: St. Sergius and his holy disciples, Sts. Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves and their innumerable spiritual descendants, the whole constellation of Optina Elders from St. Leo and Ambrose to the confessors Sts. Nikon and Nektary; or the holy Right-Believing Alexander Nevsky and his descendants St. Daniel of Moscow and St. Dmitry Donskoy.

And, finally, the brightest constellation—the holy Martyr and Passion-bearer Tsar Nicholas, the holy Confessor Patriarch Tikhon, and the whole host of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church.


The lack of a proper reaction to the satanic evil in the world today and to the labor of the New Martyrs are phenomena of the same order. “Know your times,” says St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov). We must clearly realize that we are no longer living “in the period of transition from socialism to communism,” but in the period of transition from atheism to satanism.

The rapid growth of occultism and satanism today is seen throughout the whole world. As before, a new world is being built without God, only this time the devil openly takes the place of God. The enemy’s calculation in this war is simple: The old generation will die out, and the new one will have to be remade, creating a break, a gap between generations, so people would know nothing but materialism, atheism, and satanism, and would have no choice at a time when people will tell them they’re freer than ever.

In America, according to official data, tens of thousands are involved in witchcraft. We remember how in Moscow in the 1990s, every mailbox received the “Center Plus” newspaper for free, with a circulation of 3.5 million copies. I saw one issue, where the front page had a Paschal greeting, and the rest of the pages were filled with ads about the “services” of prostitutes and homosexuals, curses against your love rival, and “guaranteed love spells,” mixed in with the ordinary ads. And what’s happening today? According to the latest information from the Ekso Publishing House, in Moscow, by the end of 2021, the sale of esoteric literature, books about fortune telling, spiritual practices, mindfulness and positive thinking increased by more than 50% (the growth was 13% in 2020, for example). Meanwhile, the demand for religious books fell by 30%.

What could be said in the “swashbuckling nineties” about the moral state of society, where the most respectable newspapers had right next to business information, in a completely calm tone as if it were a normal everyday occurrence, messages about the creation of a new theater where the art consisted entirely in actors having sex on stage with all kinds of perversions, with all willing audience members being immediately invited to go up on stage and join in? And we still hear about such scandalous shows in some modern theaters from time to time.

We are witness to the wildest barbarism, where they’re trying to replace our entire culture with magic and depravity. For instance, what kind of music do most young people prefer to listen to today? Not just emptiness, vulgarity, and tastelessness, but sometimes even the most outright satanism. They tell us: “Your children are just listening to music,” as if they can eat spiritual food consisting of drugs, murder, violence, suicide, and satanism without destroying their immortal souls!

In the notorious 1990s, you could see books on magic and witchcraft with illustrations, including descriptions of human sacrifice, ritual suicide, and sadomasochism, in book stalls. And now you can find all of this online. Occasionally there are reports in the press about ritual murders with refined torture and mutilation. “Say, ‘I love the devil,’” some Satanists demanded from a boy whom they tortured for four hours. In the end, they burned him alive. As he was dying, he screamed: “I love my mama.” They’ll say: “Well, that’s a rare occurrence.” Lies. Destructive work is always going on, and is on the rise.

As Stalin cynically said: “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.”

Have we ever thought about the fact that, in our country, according to official statistics, there are about half a million homeless children and the number of child suicides is growing? When the epidemic of child crime becomes more and more threatening, do we still understand that our children are our future? One preacher said:

“There is a deaf and dumb demon who must be expelled from every one of us. With what kind of exorcism must he be driven out? We will be responsible for all the words we say.”

And it should be added: “For all those whom these words could save from death, and death eternal.” Tell me, who could stop the children who jumped out of windows, who threw themselves under the wheels of a car? Who can save millions of children from learning depravity, which has already been introduced in European schools and which they’re increasingly trying to impose upon us?

Incidentally, the official sixth-grade Russian civics textbook for a twelve-year-old child from the end of the last century instilled in them that going off to a monastery is a form of insanity, and monastic brotherhoods were equated with a den of thieves. And what kind of attitude towards Orthodoxy is being formed now? In “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” [“Independent Paper”], a famous writer gives a lengthy interview in which he declares Christianity a great disaster for Russia. At the same time, the author isn’t an atheist—he believes that every person is potentially equal to God. This was not the case in Soviet times.

The Word of God doesn’t allow us to tolerate evil. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil (Prov. 8:13). It’s a great sin to be neutral towards evil: He that is not with Me is against Me, says Christ (Lk. 11:23). He leaves no place for neutrality.

Some truths are difficult to say from fear of being misunderstood, but more often from fear of persecution, today, as two thousand years ago, for fear of the Jews (Jn. 7:13, 20:19). But, passing over the truth in silence, it’s impossible to proclaim the good news of salvation without tempting someone. Whoever preaches in such a way so as not to hurt anyone won’t be able to comfort or inspire anyone.

Where are those who dare to call sin by its name, rather than some pseudonym? Let all the priests stand up and say, as our Patriarch called for at one time: “Black is black, and white is white,” and the people will turn to them. Finally, there are those who don’t lie, and that means those who love us. It’s impossible to love while preaching vague values and passing them off as truth. Every distortion of the truth is the destruction of love. Finally, let us all remember these words of the primate of our Church: “If we remain silent, we’ll simply be destroyed.”

The preacher of truth must always remain faithful to the truth, even at the cost of personal rejection and suffering, to transmit it to others. Let us not be afraid to speak the truth to anyone—all the New Martyrs and Confessors are calling us today. Only truth and righteousness will save us. Only the truth allows us to live with heads held high.

Every time we feel a lack of strength to speak the truth, let us remember our holy Confessors of the truth! May they overcome our timidity towards the truth and help us speak it, without fearing anyone or being ashamed.

Part 2

Archpriest Alexander Shargunov
Translation by Jesse Dominick


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