What does the true love start with? It starts with the first encounter, the first glance and with detecting personal traits in each other. Then comes heart conviction that the two, he and she, are destined to become one. The Royal martyrs once had a similar encounter that, as it would later turn out, was pivotal to their whole life.
THE ROYAL MARTYRS
Lessons on Family Life
The more days, weeks, months and years elapsed, the more the heir to the Russian throne and the princess of the House of Hesse grew in their adoration and mutual attachment. Their love and determination were fully tested by time. Nowadays, the young tend to dive into romances as swiftly as end them; feelings that are fast to ripen don’t usually last long. An instant fire soon dies out if there’s no one to add fuel. By keeping up a long-lasting correspondence during the period of matchmaking, the Royal spouses learned the composition of their souls, became spiritually related, got used to discerning the lightest shades of feelings, confiding their doubts, concerns and confessions to each other.
Unfortunately, a majority of those who are in love are utterly stingy with any verbal expression of their feelings, often substituting it with a crude sensuality, or even worse, brutish lust... At the same time, if a man lacks gallantry and knightly chivalry, and a woman doesn’t possess strictness of virtue and beauty of speech, it leads to the spouses’ burnout, estrangement and alienation. It's very upsetting to see spouses who have nothing to talk about, with all their conversations locked within a standard set of exclamations and gestures.
People of culture and intelligence have always considered that preserving honor and virginity before marriage is the major key to happy matrimony. The ineffable and never-ending joy of being together, faithfulness (even in thoughts), good, honorable children are God's gifts to the couple for keeping the seventh commandment. At the same time, dissipated adolescence and countless carnal falls proceeding marriage extract a cost of illnesses, both physical and spiritual. Unhealthy dreams and storms of filthy thoughts, rapid changes in emotional state, a tendency for despondency, suspicion, doubts, eagerness to own the one you love and pathological jealousy... This is not a full list of spiritual diseases that those who failed to preserve premarital chastity have.
As for Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra Feodorovna, they were the paragon of matrimonial virtue, just as were their parents. The tsarina’s diary entries about love and marriage are still thought to be the best ever published notes about family life. The Royal martyrs stepped upon the white path of marriage with the blessing of their reigning parents. The vows of mutual fidelity they had made in front of the altar were inscribed on their hearts in gold letters till the last moment of their life. Divine grace came upon the bride and the groom, binding their hearts and souls to an inseparable unity. In the mystery of the church wedding ceremony, it was Christ Who designated Nicholas and Alexandra to serve Him in order to anoint them to serve Russia later. The emperor and his wife had always been the Church’s obedient children: they kept fasts and revered the virtue of childbearing, giving all their strength to raise the children in mutual love.
Modern Orthodox couples, who don’t have enough determination to perform their wedding ceremony in the Church—considering it too heavy a responsibility—and, at the same time, finding it acceptable to prefer carnal desires, usually turn their relationship into a cold-blooded, malicious plan. It’s their own life they’ve sacrificed.
Any artificial way of avoiding childbearing is health ravaging. Preventing pregnancy, a woman is under the risk of getting an either physical or mental condition. Abortion is legalized murder, the most cruel of all evils. Spouses reluctant to become parents and feeling strong attraction to each other yield to uncontrollable desires, which push them to indecency and unfaithfulness that destroys their marriage. In family life, the spouses who follow the Church canons and their own conscience are undoubtedly bloodless martyrs; this is symbolized by the wedding crown with the cross on top of it. God’s assistance in childrearing is tangible for those Christians who—living in harmony and peace—always find strength for life in the Church sacraments. Wholly devoting himself to Russia, Nicholas II permanently needed enormous strength, the unbearable tension continued for at least twenty years. The last two years were his physical and spiritual ascent to martyrdom.
For the holy tsar, the family was a quiet, peaceful harbor and shelter, a true small Church, a source of comfort, pleasure and replenishment of spiritual reserves always receding in his day-and-night labor. The Royal Martyrs manifested their eternal, triumphant unity in Christ even in the last minutes of their earthly life, in the basement of the Ipatiev House. In that tragic night, the seven martyrs stood before the King of kings, stained with the blood of love.
Knowing the podvig of Russia’s last emperor, may God help every Orthodox family to keep the candle of their faith and loyalty burning till the end. In the modern age of betrayal and cheating, the spouses’ faith and mutual love, combined with their zeal to live by the Church traditions and devoting themselves to bringing up their children, is a true way of salvation equal to the confession of faith in Christ.
Dear families, let us turn to the Royal Martyrs’ prayerful intercession, and they will never shatter our hopes and faith.
by Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov
Translation by Maria Litzman