05 July 2008

St. Elizabeth the New Martyr

On July 5, the Church commemorates St. Elizabeth the New Martyr. She was born February 24, 1864 as the daughter of Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom. Elizabeth was raised in the Lutheran confession. When she married Grand Duke Sergei of Russia, she was chrismated into the Orthodox Church.

Of her conversion, she wrote:

"Above all one's conscience must be pure and true... many will -- I know -- scream about (it), yet I feel it brings me nearer to God... You tell me that the outer brilliance of the church charmed me... in that you are mistaken -- nothing in the outer signs attracted me -- no -- the service, the service, the outer signs are only to remind us of the inner things."

Her husband was assassinated in 1905. Elizabeth visited the assassin in jail, assuring him of her forgiveness, and she worked to have his death sentence commuted.

Ridding herself of most of her possessions, she became a nun and founded the Convent of Sts. Mary and Martha. She gave her life in selfless service to the poor. But when the Bolsheviks took over, they were determined to destroy the royal family. Elizabeth was taken to the Ural mountain region where she was martyred on July 5, 1918 (O.S.).

Here is the testimony of one of the murderers:

"At last we arrived at the mine. The shaft was not very deep and, as it turned out, had a ledge on one side that was not covered by water.

First we led grand duchess Elizabeth (Ella) up to the mine. After throwing her down the shaft, we heard her struggling in the water for some time. We pushed the nun lay-sister Varvara

St. Barbara The New Martyr
St. Barbara The New Martyr
down after her. We again heard the splashing of water and then the two women's voices. It became clear that, having dragged herself out of the water, the grand duchess had also pulled her lay-sister out. But, having no other alternative, we had to throw in all the men also.

None of them, it seems, drowned, or choked in the water and after a short time we were able to hear all their voices again.

Then I threw in a grenade. It exploded and everything was quiet. But not for long.

We decided to wait a little to check whether they had perished. After a short while we heard talking and a barely audible groan. I threw another grenade.

And what do you think - from beneath the ground we heard singing! I was seized with horror. They were singing the prayer: 'Lord, save your people!'

We had no more grenades, yet it was impossible to leave the deed unfinished. We decided to fill the shaft with dry brushwood and set it alight. Their hymns still rose up through the thick smoke for some time yet."

When the White army reclaimed the area temporarily, her remains were recovered and eventually were placed in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem, where they remain to this day.

Troparion, Tone 4:

Causing meekness, humility and love to dwell in thy soul,
Thou didst earnestly serve the suffering,
O holy passion-bearer Princess Elizabeth;
Wherefore, with faith thou didst endure sufferings and death for Christ, with the martyr Barbara.
With her pray for all who honor you with love.

Kontakion, Tone 4:

Taking up the Cross of Christ,
Thou didst pass from royal glory to the glory of heaven,
Praying for thine enemies, O holy martyr Princess Elizabeth;
And with the martyr Barbara thou didst find everlasting joy.
Therefore, pray ye in behalf of our souls.


orrologion said...

To me one of the most wonderful facts about St. Elizabeth and her marriage was that she was, in fact, not chrismated when she got married. Actually, the had two wedding ceremonies: one Orthodox and another, private Lutheran ceremony. Never having been 'forced' or 'pressured' into the Orthodox faith, or asked to hypocritically either accept Orthodoxy or deny her Lutheranism out of state duty, she, of her own initiative, asked her husband for someone (else) to teach her about the faith she had had a chance to see in action. Then (after 3 years or so, if I remember correctly), she was chrismated and received in the Orthodox Church.

This fact of her conversion has been of great comfort to his holy-less Orthodox Christian married to one of another, nominal faith.

St. Elizabth, pray to God for us!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I didn't know anything about these holy martyrs and am thrilled to have "met" them through your blog. Thank you!

Donna said...

Fr. Gregory,

This is John's friend Donna. Thank you for posting this, especially the account of one of St. Elizabeth's murderers. I had never read that part before...it's incredibly humbling.

May St. Elizabeth and her companions offer us their strength and courage in prayer!

In Christ,