Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Holy Passion Bearers Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei

Holy Romanov Passion Bearers (Feast Day - July 17)

Saint Nicholas, the last Russian Tsar, was born in 1868. As a child, he was very religious, guileless and free from malice.

Nicholas II was crowned as Tsar in 1894, following the death of his father Tsar Alexander. He began his reign with lofty hopes for peace, urging other nations to reduce the size of their armies, and to seek the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The Peace Conference at the Hague in 1899 laid the groundwork for the League of Nations and the United Nations.

He married Princess Alice of Hesse, who converted to Orthodoxy from Protestantism and took the name Alexandra. Their children were Olga (1895), Tatiana (1897), Maria (1899), Anastasia (1901), and Alexis (1904).

The glorification of Saint Seraphim of Sarov took place on July 19, 1903, and Tsar Nicholas attended the ceremonies at Sarov with his family. At that time he was given a letter written by Saint Seraphim more than seventy years before, which seemed to disturb him. Although the Sovereign never revealed the letter’s contents, it is believed that it was a prophecy of the bloodshed that would engulf Russia in less than fifteen years.

Saint Nicholas was executed by the Bolsheviks at Ekaterinburg on July 4/17, 1918 along with his family and servants. The prisoners were awakened late at night and ordered to get dressed for travel. They went down to the cellar of the home in which they were being held, waiting for the word to leave. The Tsar sat on a chair in the middle of the room holding his son Alexis in his lap, while his wife and daughters stood around them.

The executioners entered the room and read out the order for their execution. Saints Nicholas and Alexandra died under the hail of bullets, but the children did not die right away. They were stabbed and clubbed with the butts of rifles. Their bodies were taken to an abandoned mine, cut into pieces, then piled in front of the mine. Sulphur and gasoline were poured on the bloody mound and set on fire. When the fire went out two days later, whatever remained of the bodies was thrown into the mine and grenades were tossed into it. Then the ground was plowed so that no trace of the disposal of the bodies remained.


The Moscow Patriarchate ultimately canonized the family as passion bearers: people who face death with resignation, in a Christ-like manner, as distinguished from martyrs, the latter killed explicitly for their faith. Despite their official designation as "passion-bearers" by the August 2000 Council, they are nevertheless spoken of as "martyrs" in Church publications, icons, and in popular veneration by the people.

The bodies of Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, and three of their daughters were finally interred at Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg on 17 July 1998, eighty years after they were murdered. The bodies of Alexei and one of his sisters were at the time missing. On 23 August 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced the discovery of two burned, partial skeletons at a bonfire site at Ganina Yama near Yekaterinburg that appeared to match the site described in assassin Yakov Yurovsky's memoirs. The archaeologists said the bones are from a boy who was roughly between the ages of ten and thirteen years at the time of his death and of a young woman who was roughly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three years old. Anastasia was seventeen years, one month old at the time of the assassination, while her sister Maria was nineteen years, one month old and her brother Alexei was two weeks shy of his fourteenth birthday. Anastasia's elder sisters Olga and Tatiana were twenty-two and twenty-one years old at the time of the assassination. Along with the remains of the two bodies, archaeologists found "shards of a container of sulfuric acid, nails, metal strips from a wooden box, and bullets of various caliber."

Preliminary testing indicated a "high degree of probability" that the remains belong to the Tsarevich Alexei and to one of his sisters, Russian forensic scientists announced on 22 January 2008. The Yekaterinburg region's chief forensic expert Nikolai Nevolin indicated the results would be compared against those obtained by foreign experts. On April 30, 2008, Russian forensic scientists announced that DNA testing proves that the remains belong to the Tsarevich Alexei and to one of his sisters. With this result, all of the Tsar's family are accounted for.


Apolytikion in the First Tone
Most noble and sublime was your life and death, O Sovereigns; wise Nicholas and blest Alexandra, we praise you, acclaiming your piety, meekness, faith, and humility, whereby you attained to crowns of glory in Christ our God, with your five renowned and godly children of blessed fame. O passion-bearers decked in purple, intercede for us.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Royalty and martyrdom were joined together, O blessed ones, in your death for righteousness and right belief, O wise Sovereigns, Nicholas and Alexandra, with your five children. Hence, Christ our God counted you worthy of thrones in Heaven; and with twofold crowns of glory, you reign forever, adorned with grace divine.


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