Homily for the feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
Every saint of modern times has a predecessor, who with his influence, often hidden, prepared a future harvest. St. Theophanus the Recluse says that the commemoration of a saint means not simply attending divine services to him, but following the spiritual endeavor in which the saint had been engaged.
When we attempt to appreciate the endeavor of St. Nicholas, we think of how many Russian people (and not only those who bear the name of Nicholas) have been sanctified by his holiness, having learned charity and truth from him. Pondering the reason why the Russian Orthodox Church has chosen St. Nicholas as its favorite saint, among all the other saints connected with his life we single out the holy martyr Tsar Nicholas II.
The holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas is amazingly like unto his celestial patron St. Nicholas, wonderworker of Myra in Lycia. We can say of the Tsar that he, too, was “a rule of faith and an icon of meekness” (as it is sung in the troparion to St. Nicholas). St. Nicholas was a Greek saint, but he has become so beloved, so chosen in Russia, that the Russian people perceive him as a saint who belongs to the Russian Church, at the same time remaining a universal saint. Similarly the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas, whose blood was more than half non-Russian, is fully symbolic of Russian Orthodoxy, at the same time being a symbol of Orthodoxy in the whole world.
I would like to say a few words of how the holiness of St. Nicholas is tied in with the holiness of the Tsar-Martyr. Our Tsar was totally unlike other European monarchs, and that form of government which existed in Russia under Emperor Nicholas II was entirely suited to the Russian people. The Tsar was a simplehearted person in the best sense of the word, just as simple-hearted as his subjects, and in this lay their mysterious alliance. In the same manner the simplicity and kindness of St. Nicholas wondrously unite him with the Russian people.
We know that Russia’s destiny is tied in with the veneration of both St. Nicholas the wonderworker and the passion-bearing Tsar. This is why for a long time many people opposed the canonization of the Emperor, saying ironically: “Why, do you miss our Father Tsar?” They were saying this as though those times were not the very best times for Russia. As soon as there was no more Father Tsar in Russia, such misfortune came upon the people! And not only during the first seventy years. A worse time has come for Russia now, when the mass media is spreading godless propaganda just as it did before, only today it is being called “democracy.” Radio channels pretending to be “public” and “Christian” do not cease round-the-clock broadcasting of the same calumny that had surrounded the Emperor during his reign. Our enemies are afraid of Russia becoming unique and are in a hurry to dismember it. They want everything in Russia to be like in Europe, in terms of having Europe engulf Russia.
The murder which took place in 1918 was not only the murder of an Orthodox Tsar, as we know, but the murder of all the members of his family and all the servants who were with the Emperor. In a certain sense this symbolized the destruction of Russia. All who were loyal to the Tsar, all who knew him had to be exterminated, so that no memory would be left in the people.
The family that can truly be called holy was eliminated. The aims behind this murder were varied and far-reaching, but one of the primary goals of the revolution was the obliteration of the Russian family. Trotsky wrote in the ’30s: “Russia is becoming bourgeois again. Once again the cult of the family is being revived.” And now we understand what that meant, and what is meant today, in the new revolution. At that time the major blow was directed at the obliteration of the family which upholds everything. And today the family is once more being obliterated, i.e. the Church is being destroyed at its depth, because each family, if it lives in Christ, represents a small church. The royal family was the supreme model of a Christian family, and for this reason its canonization has given hope that everything else that had been destroyed within the Church will now be restored. Something mysterious is taking place here, and we must hope that through the prayerful intercession of the passion-bearing Tsar Nicholas II and his holy family, the gathering of the Russian people into a single family will begin despite all obstacles, and that the long-suffering Russian people will be able, like the prodigal son, to return to their Heavenly Father.
Let us pray for this to occur and for God’s truth, which is being revealed before our very eyes, to materialize very soon. And the fact that this truth is being revealed to us is a good sign for Russia, no matter how hopeless everything else may appear. It attests to the fact that the Russian people, at least the better part of them, realize that they had a Tsar who is being returned to them as God’s saint and to the entire world – as God’s gift.
We believe that St. Nicholas, the celestial patron of the holy Tsar-Martyr, is interceding for the Russian people, being a defender of the family, children, chastity, and a normal human life. We know that in all common daily needs he hastens to our aid. In a similar manner God has granted the holy Tsar-Martyr the gift to intercede for the people who had been entrusted to him during his reign on earth. We have many witnesses to the miraculous intercession of the passion-bearing Tsar Nicholas II before God for all the people and for our long-suffering Russia.
May the Lord grant that through this celestial intercession our homeland reach a turning point. No manner how much effort is expended to confuse them, the sheep nevertheless always seek a good shepherd, as it is written in the Gospel, and this is why the people flock to St. Nicholas. May our long-suffering people similarly flock to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas. If in the home of every Orthodox believer there were to be an icon of St. Nicholas, and if in the home of every Orthodox believer there were to be an icon of the holy Tsar-Martyr, then this would signal the beginning of great change. And as to the sole Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, may we all flock to Him through the prayers of St. Nicholas, the holy Tsar-Martyr, all the new martyrs and confessors of Russia, and all the saints who are now praying for our Russian Church and for our perishing people. Amen.