Monday, February 28, 2005

Recollections of Fr. Joseph

Me and and my Godson, Basil Huneycutt, in 2001

Fr. Joseph Huneycutt has posted the above picture, along with some recollections of the time he visited my parish to serve the liturgy (I believe it was for our parish feast day). This was back when I was still a Deacon, and so our parish normally did Reader Services, except on the occassions when we could get a priest to come and serve for us. For those of you who may have wondered why I have so much information about Reader Services on my site, we did Reader Services for the most part, from October 1998 (when our mission began) until January of 2001 (when I was ordained a priest).

Fr. Joseph is of course not the first person to make comparisons between me and ZZ Top.

ZZ Top

There have also been less favorable comparisons.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Visit of the Holy Relics of the Holy New Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara to Russia Concludes

The Holy New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth

Press Conference Held on the Visit of the Holy Relics of SS Elizaveta and Varvara to Russia

The Fund of St Andrew the First-called will soon publish a documentary on the visit to Russia of the holy relics of Holy New Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna and Nun Varvara, as reported by the Fund's President, Alexander Melnik, during a press conference held on February 24 in Moscow.

The Holy New-Martyr Barbara

During the last seven months, an unprecedented procession of the cross traveled through 61 dioceses both in Russia and the countries of the CIS.

"She has not been forgotten; in the hearts of the Russian people, she lives on. While the entire world is moving further from Christ, these New Martyrs are saving the Russian land from this," said Bishop Michael of Boston, who escorted the relics throughout the entire procession.

The Grand Duchess Elizabeth in 1894

Bishop Alexander of Dmitrovsk, Vicar of the His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Alexy, expressed the opinion that "the visit of the relics has done more [for the two parts of the Russian Church—ed.] than any negotiations."

The large reliquary with the right hand of St Elizaveta will return to Jerusalem on February 28, whence it embarked in June of last year to Russia, and then will be taken to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign in New York.

Portions of the relics of the Holy New-Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara have been taken throughout Russia and the other nations once part of the Soviet Union.

A smaller reliquary containing the relics of the saints will be given to Marfo-Mariinsky Convent in Moscow when the monastery is completely restored. "This reliquary itself is a holy item," remarked Bishop Michael. "The reliquary is made of the boards from the coffins in which the honorable relics of the saints were transported from Bolshevist Russia through China and Egypt to the Holy Land. The reliquary holds not only the relics of the holy women, but also earth from Darmstadt, where Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna was born, soil from Gethsemane, where SS Elizaveta and Varvara were interred since 1921, and soil from Alapaevsk, where they were crowned with martyrdom. In addition, the reliquary is adorned with a medallion given to the Grand Duchess by Emperor Nicholas II on the day of her conversion to Orthodoxy."

The large and small reliquaries will be held at Christ the Savior Church, where a midnight service will be held on the last day of their visit, concluding in a Divine Liturgy, during which many clergymen and laity will partake of the Holy Gifts.


St. Mary Magdalene Convent on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem
which contains the relics of the Holy New-Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara

Update: See this article on the the final service in Moscow.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Last Samurai: A Belated Review

I realize that this review comes quite a bit late, but I very rarely go to see a movie in the theatre... and generally strive to not pay a red cent toward a Holywood Movie, unless it is worth supporting (e.g. the Passion).

This movie had great action scenes, and was mostly enjoyable, but the self hating white liberal revisionist history was hard to overlook.

For one thing, we have the usually portrayal of all American soldiers during the period of the Indian Wars having personally participated in the massacre of women and children. One would think that the Indians only sat around singing "cum by ya" and tossing daisies in the way of settlers, and that white settlers just killed them all for the fun of it.

It is certainly true that there were massacres of Indians, but there were also massacres of whites by the Indians. However, it seems that now Indians can only be portrayed as peace-loving, noble, wise, and kind; and the whites who delt with them as only the opposite of those virtues.

But what is worse, in the case of this movie, is that now white America is blamed for the militarization of Japan.

It seems that the Japanese were also noble, wise, and kind... at least until they came into contact with the evil Europeans. But history shows that the Japanese were so brutal that even the Nazis were bothered by the level of their brutality. During the course of the Rape of Nanking, Nazis present in Nanking sought to put a stop to the rape and slaughter of civilians.

Aside from all that, the movie has almost no historical basis. And most certainly, the establishment in Japan was not trying to stamp out Bushido (the way of the Samurai).

Furthermore, the Last Samurai repeatedly ripped-off Braveheart... to such an extent that I was expecting during the final battle scene that at some point Tom Cruise was going to shout:

They can take away our lives, but they can never take away our Bushido!

But Braveheart at least was based on real history.

One get's a better sense of Japanese history from watching Samurai Jack...

But the fight scenes were good though.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

From Campus Crusade to Orthodox Priest

Fr. Peter Gillquist

Fr. Peter Gillquist was recently in Texas, and gave a talk about his conversion that was reported on in the North Texas Daily.

You can read more about him here.

You can read a lot more about it by reading this book:

Becoming Orthodox, Fr. Peter Gillquist

This was the second book I read about Orthodoxy, and it helped me a great deal down the road towards entering the Orthodox Church. The story of a group of people who started off with Campus Crusade for Christ, tried to reinvent the early Church, and finally ended up joining the real thing was a facinating story that I heard tell of long before I was interested in Orthodoxy. At first it struck me as simply interesting, in an odd sense.

I got my copy of this book from Fr. Anthony Nelson, whom I met at a pro-life rally. The first time I saw him, with his long robe, long beard, pectoral cross, and skufia, I said to my wife with a chuckle... "Can you imagine me dressed like that?" Little did I know at the time....

Monday, February 21, 2005

Rabbit Proof Myths

In December of 2000 I spoke at an Orthodox youth conference in Western Australia, that was held at a now closed Aboriginee college that is located on the grounds of a Benedictine Monastery in New Norcia. I mentioned this in passing in a talk I recently gave and someone afterward suggested I should see the movie "The Rabbit Proof Fence" in order to find out the real story of how Aboriginees were treated in Australia.

It was a beautiful and well acted movie, but the story of evil white Australians trying to steal Aboriginee children for purely racists reasons caused me to question how accurately the history in this movie was portrayed.

Well, I have found two articles that compare the facts of the movie with the real history.

The first is Rabbit Proof Myths, by Andrew Bolt.

The second is Rabbit-proof fence: “a true story”? by Keith Windschuttle.

Here is how Andrew Bolt's article begins:

The truth of Australia's past is hard enough to face, and untruths and exaggerations now will only divide us. Phillip Noyce claims his new film, Rabbit-Proof Fence, is a true story. The Hollywood director's publicity blurb repeats the boast: ``A true story.'' Even the first spoken words in the hyped film, which opens next week, are: ``This is a true story.'' Wrong. Crucial parts of this ``true story'' about a ``stolen generations'' child called Molly Craig are false or misleading. And shamefully so.

No wonder that when Craig saw Rabbit-Proof Fence at a special screening in her bush settlement last month, she seem surprised. ``That's not my story,'' she said as the credits rolled. No, it isn't. Instead, it is Craig's story told in a way that would help ``prove'' the ``stolen generations'' are no myth -- that thousands of aboriginal children were indeed torn from the arms of loving parents by racist police.

In saying this, I mean no disrespect to Craig. She has had a film (supported by $5.3 million of taxpayers' money) made of an episode of her life in which she showed extraordinary courage, endurance and willpower -- but it's a film which can't be trusted to tell the whole truth. Who could value its praise?

It was 1931 and Molly Craig was just 14, when she and two of her younger cousins -- Daisy, 8, and Gracie, 11 -- were taken from an Aboriginal camp at Jigalong, in Western Australia's north, and sent to the Moore River Native Settlement, 2000km south. There these girls were to live with other ``half-castes'' and to go to school, learning skills to help them to adapt to non-Aboriginal society.
But the girls fled after one night, and in an amazing nine-week epic walked home to Jigalong -- all but Gracie, that is, who was found by police at Wiluna. Craig's feat made the papers but was not written up in full until 1996, when her daughter, Doris Pilkington, who was herself raised at Moore River, wrote the book on which Noyce has based his film.

BUT Noyce and his scriptwriter didn't stick to the facts Pilkington uncovered. Instead, the story was rewritten and now supports a monstrous falsehood -- that we have a genocidal past that is, as Noyce's publicity material declares, ``more cruel than could ever be imagined''.

Let me show you how they did it -- how they told untruths or only half the truth in their ``true story''.

Read on here.

The Man That Launched A Hundred Kung-Fu Movies

Wong Fei-Hong

"Wong Fei-hung, also known as Huang Fei-hong is one of the most revered folk heroes in Southern Chinese culture. This figure has been immortalized in serialized novels and in over 100 feature films. While little is known about the personal life of Fei-hung, this celebrated kung fu expert, healer, philosopher, and champion of justice has left an indelible mark on Hong Kong cinema and the martial arts world."

Read more about the real hero behind the movies.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Iwo Jima 60th Anniversary

Today is the 60th Anniversary of the begining of the Battle of Iwo Jima, which is a battle that my father played a small a role in aboard the USS Bougainville, which was a Casablanca Class Aircraft Carrier.

The USS Bougainville

Of the 6,800 American who died in that battle, obviously most of them were the brave Marines that stormed the beaches. However, this was also the first battle in which Kamikaze attacks were the primary use of Japanese air power.

At Okinawa, in which the Bougainville also participated, Kamikaze attacks sunk more than 400 ships. So these battles were no picnic for the men supporting the invasion from the sea, either. For example, the USS Bismarck Sea, which was an identical Carrier to the Bougainville was sunk after being struck by two kamikaze planes. 318 sailors went down with her.

The aft end of USS Bismarck Sea CVE-95 explodes, minutes after she was struck by a Kamikaze, 21 February 1945.

My father had very vivid memories of these battles, the kamikazes, and the shot up plans returning to the flight deck. He had hearing problems for the rest of his life due to his maning of anti-aircraft guns during the war.

He also was struck by the devastation he saw when the Bougainville docked in several Chinese ports after the war. He saw people starving in the streets, and people fighting over the trash his ship threw overboard. Girls were being sold on the street to whoever wanted to buy them (not rented as prostitutes, but sold).

While poking around on the net for information, I stumbled across a picture of members of the crew of the Bougainville celebrating the end of the war when they first got the word that the war was over:

Click to enlarge

After the war, my father just worked hard until he retired. He had 7 Children. Never was one to complain, despite the fact that he had to endure many hard breaks during his life. One of his favorite maxims he learned from his father was a beatitude not found in the Bible: "Blessed are they that don't expect much, for they shall not be disappointed." That sort of hard as nails stoic approach to life seems to be in shorter supply these days, in which were are encompassed about by whiners. But we see in the troops in Iraq today that at least some Americans still know how to deal with real trials and difficulties.

My father passed away this past April.

Guss Leon Whiteford
December 3, 1925 - April 2nd, 2004

Update: See this collection of posts and articles on Iwo Jima at Black Five.

See Zell Millers article on what would have happened if contemporary reporters were reporting on the battle of Iwo Jima.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Cultural Diversity: The Old School Approach

The Hindu custom of "Suttee," in which a widow was burned alive... sometime voluntarily, and often not.

In recent times we are often told that all cultures are equal, and that one should not suggest that one culture is superior to another. However, the following story both shows the folly of this view, as well as how those of the old school handled cultural diversity.

In the mid 1800's, when Britain ruled India, they banned the custom of burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands. A delegation of Indians came to Sir Charles James Napier, to complain that this was their ancient custom, and that they should be allowed to practice it.

This was Sir Charles' response:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

For the most part, this custom died out.

Sir Charles James Napier

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

How Christians Began the End of Slavery

Thomas Sowell writes about the Christian origins of the Abolitionist movement.

This is a topic I've been meaning to post on. Jesse Jackson has of late been pontificating about the difference between "progressive" Christianity and "conservative" Christianity, and attempted to suggest that conservative Christians defended slavery, while the liberals opposed it... that conservatives don't care about feeding the poor, while liberals do, etc. The reality is that he is imposing an anachronistic distinction upon the past. It was only in the early 1900's that a serious divergence began to manifest itself between those advocating a "Social Gospel" and those just advocating the Gospel. And it was only after this that we began to see the beginings of what is commonly known as "liberal" Christianity.

Abolitionists, such as Charles Finney, were not liberals who denied the virgin birth, or the bodily resurrection of Christ in favor of the "Social Gospel".

Charles Finney

William Wilberforce became a fervent Christian, before he became a fervent abolitionists, and dedicated his life to ended it in the British Empire (which finally happened one month after his death).

William Wilberforce

The Salvation Army was not founded by liberals who denied the deity of Christ, but by people who earnestly believed in the need for people to be transformed spiritualy by the Gospel.

It was not a denial of the teachings of the Orthodox Church that inspired Tsar Alexander II to abolish serfdom in Russia (before Lincoln freed a single slave in America), but his embrace of those teachings that led him to do this.

Tsar Alexander II

In the end, it is only the power of sincere Faith in God that has historically led to people voluntarily giving up power over the weak, and choosing mercy and justice over selfish interest. This requires a change in heart, and a mushy Christianity has historically failed to inspire people to even go to Church, much less to do anything really hard.

See also:

Stump the Priest: What about Slavery in the Bible?

Uncle Tom was no "Uncle Tom"

Monday, February 07, 2005

Beslan Massacre Mastermind... traumatized by what happened

Basayev... traumatized, but says he will do it again

One has to wonder at the nonsense that is reported with a straight face these days by members of the mainstream media. Consider the following from the Times Online, written by a certain Nick Sturdee.

“THE Chechen rebel leader who masterminded the Beslan school siege last autumn plans more such operations, despite his apparent remorse over the deaths of more than 330 people — half of them children — in the North Ossetia attack. In his first interview since that bloodbath, Shamil Basayev says that he is in a state of shock over what happened, but blames the Russians for precipitating the bloody end of the siege.”

So Basayev has “apparent remorse” and is so traumatized by what happened that he is “in a state of shock”, but it is all the Russians fault for how it ended? Let’s consider how the Beslan massacre progressed:

“Other survivors told how screaming teenage girls were dragged into rooms adjoining the gymnasium where they were being held and raped by their Chechen captors who chillingly made a video film of their appalling exploits. They said children were forced to drink their own urine and eat the petals off the flowers they had brought their teachers after nearly three days without food or water in the stifling hot gym.

… “One of them is a child, just 18 months old, with many knife wounds," …The Chechen terrorists - including two so-called "Black Widows" - had been meticulously planning the hostage-taking for months.High explosives and ammunition had been smuggled into the building during the summer by rebels disguised as workmen. A shocking account of the siege has come from Indira Dzetskelova, the mother of 12-year-old Dzerase who was guarded by two women suicide bombers during the siege. She said: "On the first day they shot a man before my daughter's eyes. They frightened the kids by saying that water in the tap was poisoned. "The famished children had to eat rose petals from bouquets which they specially bought for their teachers to mark the first day of term. Parents who were also captured had to feed their kids with all the window plants. "After they ate all the petals, my daughter said that she started to nibble the rose plants.

"She told me that several 15-year-old girls were raped by terrorists. She heard their terrible cries and screams when those monsters took them away."

…"I saw kids and women falling to the ground. And I saw that vermin's face. I saw his smile as he killed my friends."

…"All the kids were crying, 'Please don't shoot! Please don't kill us'. But the rebels did not listen to us.

"Then I saw an open window and just jumped out. My little sister Lena was left inside there." And sobbing, she added: "I don't know if she's alive. She was only ten."

One girl was so thirsty that when she had the opportunity to run to safety, she ran instead to a water fountain. She was shot in the back as she tried to take a drink.

What brave warriors... at least brave in the face of starving thirsty little girls, and unarmed civilians.

Mind you, Basayev is so traumatized remorseful that he has been in shock, but Nick Sturdee goes on to tell us that Basayev also says: “We are planning more Beslan-type operations in the future because we are forced to do so.”

Hopefully, someone will prevent Mr. Basayev from being further traumatized by another Belsan.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Blessed Xenia

I ran across an article in the Russian press which took note of the fact that today is also the commemoration of Blessed Xenia of Petersburg.

You can read a more detailed account of her life here. This is a briefer account that was published in Orthodox America:

We know almost nothing about the early years of Blessed Xenia's life. She was happily married to a colonel who was a court singer in St. Petersburg, Russia's capital city at that time, and we can assume that her' own family was among the well-to-do. She was only 26 years old when her husband suddenly died at a drinking party. Xenia loved her husband very much and his unexpected death came as a great shock, It completely changed her way of looking at life. Knowing that her husband had not prepared himself for death and that he had died without the prayers of the Church, she began to be very concerned about the eternal state of his soul. It was as though she were given new eyes; she thought no more about parties, about having fun with friends; she gave away her possessions to the poor. In fact, she broke all ties with the world--to such an extent that even her relatives thought she must be crazy. Xenia dressed in her husband's clothes and insisted on being called by her husband's name, Andrew, as if to say that she had died, not he. And indeed, she died to the world in order to be closer to God.

At night she would go into a field outside the city and stand for hours in prayer, even in the snow. Or she would secretly help in the building of the Smolensk cemetery church carrying to the top bricks which would be waiting for the workmen in the morning. Often. as she walked the streets in the city's poorer neighborhoods, people made fun of her, children would throw dirt at her and laugh. The blessed one only prayed for their souls, bearing patiently their taunts for the sake of Christ.

Blessed Xenia would help build Churches at night time, while everyone else was sleeping

Gradually, however, people began to see that behind her seemingly odd behavior was someone who was very special in the eyes of God. They noticed that when she would hold a crying baby in her arms, the baby would at once quiet down and remain calm and content for the rest of the day. Those stores which she entered would have good business that day. People began to realize that her often strange words held a deeper meaning, sometimes warning them of approaching disasters, or of what was to happen in their life. Once, for example, she went to visit her friends the Golubevs as they were preparing to sit down for a cup of coffee. "Oh my beauty," she said to the daughter, "here you are making coffee, while your husband is burying his wife at Ochta. Run quickly!" The young girl and her mother were most puzzled by these words, but knowing Xenia' s gift of being able to see the future, they obeyed at once. There they came upon the funeral procession of the wife of a young doctor who was so overcome by grief that he fainted.

The Golubevs brought him back to his senses, became acquainted, and a year later the daughter became his wife, just as the blessed one had foretold.

Another time some merchants were selling some particularly delicious honey out of a barrel. People had already begun to buy it at a high price when suddenly Blessed Xenia appeared. "Don't take it, don't take it," she cried. "This honey can't be eaten; it stinks of a corpse." She leaned with all her strength against the barrel which overturned on the sidewalk, spilling the honey to the merchants' great dismay. To everyone's horror, there at the bottom of the barrel was a huge dead rat. Even those who had already bought some of the honey had to throw it out.

St. Xenia lived in this way for for years after the death of her husband. Exactly when she died is not known, but it was probably in the last years of the 18th century. She was buried in the Smolensk cemetery, not far from the church which she had helped to build. Later a chapel was built over her grave, and to this very day many people come there to pray to St. Xenia who, even after death continues to work many miracles, helping people out of all kinds of misfortunes. Through her prayers, people have been healed of serious illnesses; she is especially quick in helping to find jobs or places to live. Just this year a woman in England was looking for a place to live near the church where she had recently been received into the Orthodox Faith, so as to be able to attend the daily services. She and her priest prayed to St. Xenia and within a few days she had an apartment in the house next door to the Parish House! Wondrous is God in His saints.

May we learn from the example of Blessed Xenia how important it is for us not to be attached to the things of the world, but to keep our minds and hearts turned towards heaven, our true home, that we too, like St. Xenia, may, after our earthly wandering, “come to dwell in the Father's house.”

The Chapel in which Blessed Xenia is buried. A popular place of pilgrimage in St. Petersburg, Russia

Saturday, February 05, 2005

How an Orthodox Monk Saved the Life of the Young King Hussein

2005.02.04 HNA:
An Orthodox Christian Monk saved the life of a Muslim Prince

In 1951 Father Theodosios Makkos saved the life of Prince Hussein who later became king of Jordan. Father Theodosios was born in Smyrna, Asia Minor, present day Turkey, on July 11, 1913. He became an orphan at an early age and was reared by his grandmother and aunt. He had a burning desire to become a monk and serve the Church in the Holy Land. He came to Palestine in 1928 and remained there until his death, 1991 at the age of 78 years old. He served the Church of Jerusalem with great devotion at various places and positions for 63 years. His last 50 years he was the spiritual father and resident priest at the monastery for women, Saints Mary and
Martha, sisters of Lazarus in Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem.

While in Palestine he befriended King Abdullah. In July 1951 the king made a pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Omar at Jerusalem with his grandson Prince Hussein. The prince was a very young man at that time. While in Jerusalem King Abdullah was assassinated. Father Theodosios was present, accompanying the king. He immediately took the young prince under his cassock (Rasson) and brought him to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The prince was hidden there. Fr. Theodosios reported the Patriarch about the tragedy of the assassination of King Abdullah and was greatly concerned for the safety and life of the young prince. The Patriarch, before the rebels cut off the phones, placed a call to the Jordanian authorities that the young prince is alive and hidden in a safe place in the Orthodox Patriarchate. The Jordanian government sent appropriate officials to the Patriarchate and took the young prince under the protection of Jordan. For that reason King Hussein always was indebted to the Elder Theodosios for saving his life. He visited often the simple monk Theodosios in his monastery in Bethany. When later the prince became king he continued to have close relations and visit him at the monastery and Fr. Theodosios had an easy access to the king's palace. Fr. Theodosios was able to enter the palace at any time. He helped numerous people through his good word to the king. The king requested the Patriarch to elevate him to the Episcopate.

Elder Theodosios was elected by the synod three times to be elevated but he refused the honor. He chose to remain a simple monk to serve the nuns at the monastery of Martha and Mary. He was well known throughout the region for his love and charity for all people without regard of religion or race. He loved all people without distinction and dedicated to charity and the service of justice. When I was in Jerusalem for the month of January 1986 on a mission of study and dialogue with Jews and Muslims I had the honor to meet Fr. Theodosios. I visited him in the monastery and he told me the story. He also told me that whenever the king greeted him as a sign of respect the king opened his palm for him to kiss, whereas the other people kissed the back of his hand. This is a remarkable story of friendship of a simple monk and a king, a Greek Orthodox Christian and the other a Muslim. Father Theodosios dedicated his entire life to protect the shrines and people who live in Palestine that he loved so much. Especially he was honored for saving the life of the future king from certain death. This is a great example for all people to follow, that is, to love all and protect the life of all regardless of religious affiliation, nationality or race. All people are people of God created in His image.

I was blessed to have known the Blessed Elder Theodosios. All must emulate his example of love and respect for the other.

Rev. Dr. Protopresbyter Professor George C. Papademetriou, Hellenic
College/ Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology

"It was total cruelty."

Bolsheviks turned priests into columns of ice (December 1995)
MOSCOW (Reuter) - A Russian presidential commission has announced that 200,000 clergy were systematically murdered under Soviet rule in a horrific cycle of crucifixions, scalpings and "bestial tortures." Commission chairman Alexander Yakovlev, presenting the report at a news conference, seemed unconcerned that it might deter electors from voting communist or nationalist in parliamentary elections on December 17.

"If it has an influence, I will be very satisfied," he said.

The report by the Commission for the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Political Repression also found that another 500,000 religious figures suffered persecution in the decades after Vladimir lenin's Bolsheviks seized power.

"documents relate how clergymen, monks, nuns were crucified on royal gates and shot in the basements of the Cheka (secret police), scalped, strangled, drowned and submitted to other bestial tortures," he said.

...I was especially shocked by accounts of priest turned into columns of ice in winter...But that's not all, there were crucifixions...It was total cruelty.

He said hundreds of people were shot for not giving up church property, and only a fraction of the proceeds were spent on the poor as the authorities had promised.

...He said that of the 48,000 churches in Russia before the 1917 revolution, only 7000 remained by 1969... "It's a tragic story which has not provoked repentance and which has not been properly heard," said Mr. Yakovlev.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Day They Began Killing Christians

Lifting his arms to heaven, Metropolitan Vladimir prayed aloud:
"O Lord, forgive my sins, voluntary and involuntary, and accept my spirit in peace."
Then he blessed the murderers with both hands and said:
"My God bless and forgive you."
In the silent night four shots were heard, then two more, then more...

The Hieromartyr Vladimir of Kiev, February 7th, 1918 n.s.

On this coming Sunday, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, who were slain by the Communists. The reason why this particular Sunday was chosen, was because this is the nearest Sunday to the day upon which the first Martyr of the Communist Yoke was slain (January 25th on the Old Calendar, February 7th on the civil calendar).

It is perhaps not a coincidence that this martyr was Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, who bore the name of St. Vladimir the Great, who enlightened the Russian land with the Christian faith; and who was the Metropolitan of Kiev, the mother city of Russia which saw the baptism of Rus' in 988 a.d. This was the begining of a new baptism of Rus', and through the faith and prayers of the New Martyrs we are now begining to see a rebirth of Orthodox Christianity in Russia.

It is especially moving to read about the reaction of the faithful, who all their lives had read about the martyrs of the past, but who for the first time saw one in the flesh. This would be only the first of millions slain by the Communists for refusing to bow the knee to the state, rather than to God.

Here is the account of his murder at the hands of the Communists:

Artillery shells began to fall on the Kiev Caves Lavra on January 15 and continued for several days. However, the metropolitan continued with his religious duties, displaying great calm, and on January 23 celebrated his last Divine Liturgy with the brotherhood of the Lavra. On the evening of January 23 the Bolsheviks broke into the Lavra, committing unparalleled acts of sacrilege and looting, mocking and whipping the monks and killing the officers and other military personnel who were there. In spite of all the commotion, the metropolitan served an akathist to the Dormition of the Mother of God in the great church of the Lavra, which proved to be his last service on earth. Then he and Bishop Theodore of Priluki moved to the altar of the lower church, which was dedicated to St. Michael, first metropolitan of Kiev.

The night of January 25 was full of alarm. Four armed men and a woman, dressed as a Red Cross nurse, broke into the quarters of the superior, made a thorough search and took everything of value. In the middle of the night, three of them went out "for reconnaissance" and robbed the treasurer and the provost. Later, three armed Reds searched the metropolitan's rooms and, being unable to find any valuables, carried away a golden medal from the safe.

At half past six in the evening, the doorbell rang loudly three times. Five men, dressed in soldiers' uniforms and led by a sailor, entered the house and asked for "Vladimir, the Metropolitan". They were directed downstairs to the cell of the archpastor. The metropolitan came out to meet them, and was taken into the bedroom where they remained for twenty minutes behind locked doors. There Metropolitan Vladimir was tortured and choked with the chain of his cross, insulted and ordered to give them money. Later, the attendants found on the floor of the room pieces of a broken chain, a silk cord, a tiny case with holy relics and a small icon which the metropolitan always wore around his neck.

When the metropolitan came out twenty minutes later, surrounded by his torturers, he was wearing his cassock, a panagia and a white klobuk on his head. On the front steps he was approached by his old cell-attendant, Philip, who asked for a blessing. The sailor pushed him aside, shouting:

"Stop showing respect to these bloodsuckers. Enough of that!"

The metropolitan went up to Philip, blessed and kissed him, and, shaking his hand, said:

"Goodbye, Philip."

Then he wiped away his tears. Philip later reported that when they parted the metropolitan was calm and solemn, as if leaving for church to celebrate the Holy Liturgy.

This old, humble and innocent servant of God went to his death without any sign of weakness or fear. As he was led out of the monastery he crossed himself and softly chanted a prayer.

An eyewitness relates that Metropolitan Vladimir was driven from the gates of the monastery to the place of execution. On his way from the car to a small clearing by the fortified wall, he asked:

"Is it here that you want to shoot me?"

One of the murderers answered:

"Why not? Do you expect us to stand on ceremony with you?"

When the metropolitan asked for permission to pray before he was shot, the reply was:

"Be quick about it!"

Lifting his arms to heaven, Metropolitan Vladimir prayed aloud:

"O Lord, forgive my sins, voluntary and involuntary, and accept my spirit in peace."

Then he blessed the murderers with both hands and said:

"My God bless and forgive you."

In the silent night four shots were heard, then two more, then more...

"They are shooting the metropolitan," said one of the monks at the Lavra.

"There are too many shots for one murder," replied another.

At the sound of the shots, some fifteen sailors with revolvers and lanterns ran into the yard of the monastery. One of them asked:

"Did they take the metropolitan away?"

"They led him out of the gates," replied the monks timidly.

The sailors ran out, and in about twenty minutes returned.

"Yes, we have found him," they said, "and we'll take every one of you out in the same way."

There is another account of the metropolitan's death. Archimandrite Nicanor Troitsky recalls that when he was a boy his mother hurried with him to the Lavra, where a ring of soldiers were holding a crowd back from the scene of the execution. He recalls that the metropolitan was given a series of questions, and each time he gave an (unsatisfactory) answer a bayonet was thrust into his body until he became a fountain of blood. After the execution the crowd burst through the cordon of soldiers. Then Fr. Nicanor's mother told him to put his fingers into the blood of the martyred metropolitan, make the sign of the cross with them on his forehead, and remember that he had witnessed the death of a true martyr, to whose confession he must remain faithful for the rest of his life...

The silence was not broken again that night. The monastery slept, and no one seemed to realize that only a thousand feet from the northern gates of the Lavra, in a pool of blood, lay the shattered body of the holy metropolitan.

At sunrise, some women pilgrims appeared at the Lavra gates, and the monks learned from them where the mutilated body of the metropolitan was to be found. The brotherhood decided to bring the body into the monastery, for which permission from the communist authorities was obtained. At nine o'clock, Archimandrite Anthimus, accompanied by four medical orderlies, went to the scene of the murder.

The metropolitan was lying on his back covered with an overcoat. Missing were his panagia, his klobuk and cross, galoshes, boots, socks, gold watch and chain. The autopsy showed that he had been shot with exploding bullets and stabbed in several places with cold, sharp weapons. His hands were frozen in the position of blessing.

After serving a litiya at the spot where the metropolitan had died, they laid the body on the stretcher and, at about eleven o'clock in the morning, they brought it into the church of St. Michael, where the murdered metropolitan had spent the last few hours of his life. As Archimandrite Anthimus was lifting the body, he was surrounded by about ten armed men who started to mock and insult the remains.

"You want to bury him! But he deserves to be thrown into the ditch! You intend to make holy relics of him, that's why you are picking him up!" they shouted.

As the mournful procession was making its way to the Lavra, pious women who were passing by wept and prayed, saying:

"The sufferer and holy martyr, may God's Kingdom be his!"

"A heavenly kingdom! His place is in hell, at the very bottom of it," replied the fanatics.

After the metropolitan's body had been photographed and dressed in the proper vestments, the deputy abbot of the Lavra, Archimandrite Clement, and the senior brethren of the monastery served a panikhida. On January 27, Metropolitan Platon of Tbilisi, who was representing the Russian Patriarchate at the Ukrainian Council, served a panikhida for the metropolitan in Kiev. On January 29, the body was transferred to the Great Church of the Kiev Caves Lavra, and after the burial service it was buried in the church of the Elevation of the Cross in the Near Caves.

On February 15/28, 1918, a session of the Russian Church Council meeting in Moscow was dedicated to the memory of the murdered metropolitan.

Metropolitan Vladimir was the hierarch who bore the brunt of the first revolutionary assault on the Russian Church. It was therefore fitting that he should become her first hierarchical new martyr. And on April 5/18 the Russian Council decreed that the Sunday nearest the date of his martyrdom, January 25 / February 7, should become the date of the annual commemoration of all the holy new martyrs and confessors of Russia.