Monday, February 11, 2013

Quinquagesima; Russian Martyrs

For the first time in a few weeks I was back at my actual parish church for Sunday Mass (OF) – after all, I was rostered on to read (yes, I do; and serve; and sing).  I find I missed my excellent parish priest's birthday, and the surprise birthday party thrown for him by the parish!

While in the modern calendar it was the 5th Sunday per annum, I certainly think of it as Quinquagesima, since after all it falls nearly fifty (in fact, 49) days before Easter. Ash Wednesday approaches...

Meanwhile, my friend the sub-deacon at the Russian Catholic parish in Melbourne informs me that they kept the Synaxis of the New Martyrs of Russia on Sunday (the last before the first of their pre-Lenten Sundays, the Sunday of Zacchæus, which would be "Nonagesima" in Western terms, since Julian Easter falls very late this year, on the 5th of May) – quite rightly, since, as he texted me, "the greater part of [the] Russian Catholic Church was slaughtered in the godless persecution" carried out by the Soviet Communists, to say nothing of the countless Orthodox slain, from the Tsar down to the humblest peasant. May their memory be eternal! And may such martyrs pray for us.

I subjoin some texts from the Divine Liturgy (Troparia sung during the Beatitudes and at the Little Entrance; Kontakion; and the Prokeimenon, Epistle, Alleluia and Gospel of the Saints):

Remember, O Lord, the dreadful torments which the new passion-bearers suffered for Thee, who have now sprouted forth from our race; and accept their entreaties for our salvation.
O righteous Judge, Thou hast opened the kingdom of heaven unto the confessors of the Church of Russia. Hearken, O Lord, unto their righteousness, and give ear unto their supplication for the salvation of our souls.
O most divine Trinity, return us from our captivity! We know that sin hath increased in our land more than ever before; yet grace also hath shone forth in the struggle of the new saints, who also entreat Thee, O thrice-holy God, for the salvation of our souls.
Gather the dispersed; raise up the faint-hearted; call them that have renounced the holy Faith and convert them, O gracious and all-pure Virgin Mary, entreating Christ the Saviour, with the holy new martyrs and confessors, for the forgiveness and salvation of our souls. 
O ye holy hierarchs, royal passion-bearers and pastors, monks and laymen, men, women and children, ye countless new-martyrs, confessors, blossoms of the spiritual meadow of Russia, who blossomed forth wondrously in time of grievous persecutions bearing good fruit for Christ in your endurance: Entreat Him, as the One that planted you, that He deliver His people from godless and evil men, and that the Church of Russia be made steadfast through your blood and suffering, unto the salvation of our souls. 
O ye new passion-bearers of Russia, who have with your confession finished the course of this earth, receiving boldness through your sufferings: Beseech Christ Who strengthened you, that we also, whenever the hour of trial find us may receive the gift of courage from God. For ye are a witness to us who venerate your struggle, that neither tribulation, prison, nor death can separate us from the love of God. 

Prokeimenon (Ps 43:23a)

For Thy sake, O Lord, we are slain all the day long. 

Epistle (Romans 8:28-39)

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Alleluia Verse (Ps 33:17)

The righteous cried, and the Lord heard them, and He delivered them out of all their tribulations.

Gospel (Luke 21:12-19)

They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.


Bear said...

Your defence of the Tsars, particularly the last one, is vexing. This is the man who personally order the destruction of many Byzantine Catholic churches, in Ukraine and elsewhere; condoned the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1905; had a brutal secret police service, the Okhrana, terrorise the country. The only time that the Communists came to being as bad was during Stalin's time (and yes, most of his secret police were in service with the Tsar...)

I could write a list of crimes that the nobility of Russian committed against the lower classes - and since they make up the bulk of the "martyrs" it is difficult to determine whether they were killed "in odium Christi" or because they were not very nice.

Joshua said...

I don't think I defended the Tsars, nor Tsarist absolutism; instead, what said I? - to quote, I completed the sentence with the words "to say nothing of the countless Orthodox slain, from the Tsar down to the humblest peasant. May their memory be eternal!" I think we should pray piously for the dead, especially those done to death bloodily...

The Tsar, his wife and children (the latter presumably guiltless), many nobles, many bourgeois, many peasants - many were slain or suffered; and among that great number, many were executed or tortured or degraded or sent to labour camps on account of their adherence to their religion. That is a fair statement, and it is the latter cause to which I refer in general.

Why precisely a given person was slain - rough justice for their previous authoritarian cruelty when in power? clas-hatred? mere opportunism? hatred of Christ? filling up of one of Stalin's quotas? - is not for me to say.

I am certainly NOT in favour of secret police, of any variety.

Certainly I am horrified to hear of all Tsarist crimes; after all, the Tsarist regime was responsible for all manner of pogroms, exiles to Siberia and more. I do not accept the fantasy that everything was just dandy in Tsarist Russia - far from it; Catholics, especially those of Eastern Rite, and of course the Poles, know otherwise - but I do assert quite confidently that the "cure" (Soviet Communism) was worse than the disease.

Moreover, it is laughable to claim that "The only time that the Communists came to being as bad was during Stalin's time" - on the contrary, Stalin was far worse than any Tsar (except perhaps for Ivan the Terrible, though even he killed far fewer), and indeed slew more than Hitler! I would argue that one lived more securely under the last Tsar than under Lenin. As for the later Soviets, they were dictators all, just as the Tsar was an autocrat: at least the latter was a Christian, though I am well aware that the Tsarist State was a cruel one. Of course, life for the proletariat improved during Communism, but it is easy to argue that that would have happened in any case, if Russia had gradually moved in a more democratic direction, as it was in the years before 1917. The Russian Empire was certainly more just - even given all its many crimes, even given the downtrodden peasantry - than the Soviet Union (in which state the peasants were even subjected to genocide).

Isn't it a bit quaint to claim that the Tsars were worse than the Communists? I mean, really! Look up the statistics of how many were killed, to say nothing of the anti-religious persecutions conducted by the latter.

Consider the Holodomor, the planned death-by-starvation of millions of Ukrainians: it wasn't Tsarist Russia but the Soviet Union that did that.

Historical revisionism that exonerates Communism is vile.