Митрополит Антоний Сурожский

The Sunday of the New Martyrs of Russia

February 11, 2001
Theme: Saints and Holiness, Current events   Place: London Parish   Period: 2001-2003   Genre: Sermon

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The martyrs and the saints of a nation are simultaneously the glory of this nation and the glory of God on earth. The martyrs whose memory we keep today, who in the course of the last eighty years have so totally, so sincerely, unmistakably believed in God and given their lives for Him and for their neighbour are the glory of the Church, the glory of the nation that gave them birth; and they are also the shining of love divine in our midst. They are like living candles that shine before the face of God in the name of all of us in the darkness, in the twilight of the world in which we live  – the world which we have created and which we continue to create by not giving ourselves wholeheartedly to all that is true, all that is right, all that is holy.

More than sixty million Russians have died in the last eighty years in camps, in prisons, in the War, in torture chambers. How can we venerate them in words and do nothing to be worthy of them in life?

We are not all called to die, to be tortured, to become physical martyrs; but we are all called to give ourselves, our lives, our love, our hearts, our minds to God and to every one of our neighbours, known or unknown, for whom the Son of God gave His life.

Do we realise that the Father sent His Only-begotten Son to die that we may believe in divine love? Who of us would be prepared to send his own son or daughter unto death for the salvation of others, that their souls may be enlightened, that their courage be stirred up, and that their lives may become worthy of their vocation?

Let us therefore now gather in the middle of the church and sing the glory of those who have been recently canonized, added to the long, long list of martyrs and saints who from the beginning of Christianity have suffered for the sake of love and of faithfulness to God and their neighbour.

These two images unite for me at this instant – I had forgot about them – in the story of one of the young martyrs of the early centuries. Christians had been gathered in the Coliseum to die. And all of a sudden, a group of men and women saw a mother who was running towards the Coliseum holding her child by the had, and they stopped her and said, “We know that you are a Christian. If you go there you will die, and the child too.”

And the mother looked at them and said, “Yes, and I don’t want my child and myself to be deprived of the glory of having believed in our Saviour with all our hearts, with all our lives and with all our death.”

We should reflect on that kind of courage, on that kind of love of God, and on that kind of love of our neighbour, because the two are inseparable. Let us therefore sing the glory of those who are such examples to us; and not only sing, follow in their footsteps – oh, indeed in the small measure which is given us – but with all our heart, with all our courage. Amen.

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