Thoughts on the Feast of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia
Many saints have shone forth in our land. Each city keeps the memory of the glorious deeds of its ascetics. Berdyansk, associated with several names of new martyrs, who suffered for Christ during the Soviet persecution, is one of them.
The Weapon of Choice
Some information was preserved about their life, heroic deeds and their last days. I would like to share today some particularly remarkable episodes from the life of the Hieromartyr Mikhail Bogoslovsky.
In the 1930s, almost all churches in Berdyansk were either closed or captured by the renovationists. Father Mikhail served in the Church of the Intercession, the last functioning church remaining in the city, where he was selflessly supporting its rector, Archpriest Victor Kiranov.
At the end of the 1930s the authorities decided to close this temple, undermining the last stronghold of the believers. Father Mikhail, along with other priests, including the rector, defended their church, but they were soon arrested and imprisoned.
Father Mikhail was severely tortured in prison. During interrogations, the priest did not stop praying, overshadowing himself, from time to time, with the sign of the cross. The investigator was furious every time he saw the priest cross himself; he waved a revolver in front of his face, demanding that he should stop doing it.
Fr Mikhail’s reply to that was, “You have your own weapon, and I have mine”.
The Glory of Humility
In 1939, the priest was sentenced to five years in a prison camp, located in the Novosibirsk region.
Fr Mikhail fell seriously ill while still in prison. In the camp his illness worsened, and he developed acute pains.
To make things worse, he had to face yet another challenge. One of the prisoners chose him as his victim and began to abuse him, pulling the hairs out of his head, eyebrows and eyelashes when no one could see.
One of the guards, horrified by the priest’s disfigured face, tried to find out what had happened. But Father Mikhail refused to betray his tormentor.
The prisoner who had assaulted the priest was so struck by his meekness and humility that he fell on his knees in front of him and with tears asked for forgiveness.
The Martyr’s Crown
Father Mikhail died in 1940, while still in the camp.
Archpriest Victor Kiranov, a witness to the saint’s feat and the last days of his life, wrote to his relatives, “I am alive and well by the great mercy of God and the intercession of His saints, including our Venerable Father Michael. The life of the latter was such that if faith is not vain – which is most certainly true – then, similarly to all the saints, he is, without doubt, standing at the Throne of the Most High in all the glory of his remarkable life”.
The Winning Rule
Like many other confessors and new martyrs, the Hieromartyr Mikhail Bogoslovsky, embodied with both his life and his feat the words that the Apostle Paul commanded us: “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good”.
This is the incorrupt rule of a true winner, whose victory is in Christ.
Sometimes, when faced with insults or humiliation, we succumb to anger and desire to take revenge on the enemy. This is when we are defeated by evil. However, if despite all the temptations and difficulties we continue to do good, rather than evil, then we become truly victorious.
We should make this our rule as well. Let us not take an eye for an eye, answering with an insult to an insult and with slander to slander.
If we win by doing evil, we lose in Christ and play into the hands of the spirits of darkness.
Defeating an enemy’s anger and hatred is possible only by doing good to him.
And may this be our only weapon.