That which restraineth the appearance in the world of the 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 others 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 Christian life, of apostasy) such as has not yet been seen.
Tsar Nicholas II.
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 Church, faithful to the end to his Church and his sacred calling.
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 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 the Tsar and his family.
But the ancient Christians profoundly called the days on which martyrs were commemorated, days of birth. And the night of the murder of the Tsar shines in our consciousness as the birth in heaven of the Martyr-Tsar - a sacrifice for the sins of his people.
This view is clarified by a vision seen in 1917 by the great elder, Metropolitan Makary of Moscow:
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.
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.
In August 1927 the newspapers of Belgrade printed an account of how the renowned Russian painter S.F. Kolesnikov was invited to paint the new church in the ancient Serbian Monastery of Saint Naum, which stands on Lake Ochrid. The painter was given complete freedom to create the frescoes adorning the inner dome and walls. While executing this project, the painter decided to paint the faces of fifteen saints, placed in ovals, on the walls of the church. Fourteen of those saints were done quickly, while the fifteenth oval remained empty for a long time, an inexplicable inner feeling impelling Kolesnikov to wait. One evening Kolesnikov came into the church during twilight hours. It was dark below and only the dome was lit by the sharp-edged rays of the setting sun. Everything in the church seemed mystical and unearthly. At that moment the artist saw that the empty oval came alive, and that from it, as from a frame, looked down the sorrowful face of Emperor Nicholas II. Struck by the miraculous vision of the martyred Russian sovereign, the artist stood for some time as if rooted to the spot, feeling benumbed.