Martyrdom is bearing witness to the Truth of Christ and God's Church to the death, and Christ Himself, the "Faithful Witness" (Rev., I, 5), "to this end was born, and for this cause came into the world, to bear witness unto the truth" (John XVIII, 37), and to give up His life through suffering on the Cross for the redemption of many.
In the words of the Apostle, we have been redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter I, 19). To bear Christian witness is to give glory to God in living and in dying: "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord" (Romans XIV, 8).
The persecution of Christ's Church which arose in Russia in our time was God's will. And once again, as in ancient times, the blood of martyrs was shed in witness to the victory of Christ. Holy Patriarch Tikhon of All Russia, in considering the trials which had been visited upon his flock, courageously called upon them to share with him the cup of martyrdom. "If it becomes necessary to suffer for the sake of Christ, we call upon you, beloved sons and daughters of the Church, we call upon you to suffer together with us. If a redeeming sacrifice is required, the death of the innocent sheep of Christ's flock, I bless the faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ to pain and death for His sake."
It would be impossible to name all the new martyrs of the Russian Church in the twentieth century. Nevertheless we express the hope, that the proposed canonization of these first witnesses to the Truth, who in martyrdom shed their blood for Christ, will form the beginning of a further churchwide process of glorification of the many confessors of the Orthodox faith in our Church.
Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky) of Kiev and Halich was the first bishop to become a hieromartyr in the new era of persecution. With spiritual majesty and evangelical simplicity in his episcopal office he confirmed the remarkable unity of an upright life and a martyr's end, bearing witness to the faith of Christ "unto the death" (Rev. XII, 11). He completed his earthly service to God and the Church on January 25, 1918, in the city of Kiev-the cradle of Christianity in Russia, ascending here to his Golgotha.
Another bishop and inspired man of prayer-Metropolitan Benjamin (Kazansky) of Petrograd and Gdovsk, spiritually nourished his faithful children, while persecution from without and factions from within threatened to shake Christ's Church. Faced with imminent death he said, "I am a faithful son of my people, whom I love and have always loved. I have given my life for them and I am blest in that the common people have repaid me with that same love, placing me in that position which I now hold in the Orthodox Church. I do not know what sentence you will pass upon me - life or death - yet whatever your pronouncement, I will raise my eyes upward with the same reverence, make the sign of the Cross and say, "Glory to Thee, O Lord God, for all things!"
The Archimandrite Sergius and the faithful, Iury Novitsky and John Kovsharov, who were murdered along with Metropolitan Benjamin as his faithful fellow warriors, went to the slaughter along with their bishop.
The Grand Duchess Elizabeth, founder of the Martha-Mariinsky Convent in Moscow, consecrated her pious Christian life to charitable works, helping the poor and the sick. Together with her cell attendant the nun Barbara she received the crown of martyrdom on the feast of St. Sergius of Radonezh, July 5, 1918 o.s.
The Holy Council, having considered their deeds and convinced that their sufferings constitute martyrdom for Christ, unanimously decrees:
Through the intercession and prayers of the glorified new Russian martyrs may the Lord strengthen our faith and that of the flock of the Church, redeemed by His precious Blood, and may the blood of the new martyrs become for the faithful of the Church a seed of faith which will spring forth to life eternal. Amen.
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
Members of the Holy Council of Bishops
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