The Long-Awaited King


The Orthodox Life

God’s Original Plan for Monarchy

God promised to give His people a godly monarchy.
Government by Kings was God’s plan from the beginning.

God is the first to bring up the subject of Israelite kings, and He promises to bless Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah with royal descendants:

I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. (Genesis 17:6)

Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. (Genesis 35:11)

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people. (Genesis 49:10)

In Deuteronomy, God reveals His plan for the behavior of godly kings. God wanted kings who would read Scripture daily, and who…

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“O uncorrupted Virgin, thou Bride of God. . .”


This magnificent icon of the Virgin Theotokos and Christ Child appears above the apse of the Great Church of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia (today preserved as the Ayasofya museum in Istanbul).

The featured prayer is the opening of the long, beautiful Compline supplication to the Theotokos.

Take a minute after reading this prayer to ponder the theological depth of these words in particular: “O undefiled, untainted, uncorrupted, most pure, chaste Virgin, thou Bride of God. . . who. . . hast linked the apostate nature of our race with the heavenly. . .”

95 Years Later: Commemoration of the Romanov Imperial Family, Russia’s Royal New Martyrs


95 Years Later: Commemoration of the Romanov Imperial Family, Russia's Royal New Martyrs

Ninety-five years ago in the remote village of Yekaterinburg, which straddles the Urals between Europe and Asia, one of the most heinous crimes in modern history occurred. In a small basement cellar in the house formerly belonging to a local Russian merchant by the name of Ipatiev, a family and four of their loyal friends were murdered.

The Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg as it looked at the time of the murders.

The Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg as it appeared at the time of the murders.

Early in the hours of July 17, 1918, local Soviet commanders acting under direct orders from Lenin and the senior Bolshevik leaders brutally executed Russian Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and their 5 children, the Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaievich and the Grand Duchesses Olga, Maria, Tatiana and Anastasia. The four loyal servants who had stayed with the Imperial Family til the end shared their fate.

These summary executions, conducted in secret, were not a sudden, spontaneous attack by unrestrained, unprovoked communist citizens who simply despised the Tsar; the murders of the Imperial Family could only be carried out on Lenin’s express orders as an urgent act of utmost political expediency to save the Communist revolution. By mid-July, the pro-Tsarist White Russian army was only days from Yekaterinburg, and Lenin knew that were the Imperial Family to be freed from their jailers, their appeal to millions of Russians could not be underestimated.

Regardless of whether or not Nicholas II would or could have re-assumed the imperial throne, which in 1917 he had abdicated on behalf of not only himself but also his hemophiliac son, the reality is that, in Lenin’s view, the Russian Revolution could not be secure so long as the former Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias lived. Thus, rather than permitting the Emperor and his family to live quietly as private citizens, as the French republicans (initially) did to King Louis XVI in 1791, and the Chinese republicans did to the last Qing boy-emperor Pu Yi in 1911, the Bolshevik leaders resolved that the Emperor, and his entire family, must die as “enemies of the people”.

So it came to be that, without any trial, public or private, nor the liberty to appeal the sentence, the quiet, pious, and unfailingly kind man who had reigned as the last Tsar of Russia was shot in cold blood along with his wife, a beloved granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, and their four beautiful daughters and tragically ill only son.

The Imperial Family in happier times aboard the imperial flagship yacht Standart.

The Imperial Family in happier times aboard the imperial flagship yacht Standart.

The soldiers enlisted to do the deed performed their task with barbarous inefficiency; only the Emperor died immediately when the bullets struck him, while (according to most of the accounts provided by the assassins) the Tsarevich died very soon after. The poor Empress and her daughters, who carried many kilos of precious jewels sewn into their clothing and thus did not perish immediately from the hail of bullets, were bayoneted and shot at point-blank range. The last to die was the maid, Anna Demnova, who apparently survived the hail of bullets as she had fainted. Returning to consciousness, the shocked woman exclaimed aloud “I’m alive! God has saved me!”, drawing the notice of the assassins, who promptly turned on her. By most accounts, she attempted in vain to defend herself using a small pillow.

Remarkably, this spot today is a place of pilgrimage, the old Ipatiev house having been torn down on then local Communist Party leader Boris Yeltsin’s orders in 1977. Today, a beautiful cathedral to their memory stands on the spot where this entire family was massacred along with their most loyal friends who refused to desert them.

Yekaterinburg's Cathedral on the Blood, dedicated to the memory of those New Martyrs - the Imperial Family and their four attendants - who died at the site on July 17, 1918.

Yekaterinburg’s Cathedral on the Blood, dedicated to the memory of those New Martyrs – the Imperial Family and their four attendants – who died at the site on July 17, 1918.

In 1981, the Russian Orthodox Church in exile (ROCOR) glorified (canonized) the murdered Imperial Family and their servants as New Martyrs and “passion-bearers” who went to their deaths with great courage and who lived exemplary lives of service and fidelity to the Orthodox Christian faith.

Ten years later, following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church undertook a period of detailed inquiry into the lives of the Imperial Family to discern whether or not they should truly be considered Saints by the universal Russian Church. After nine years of careful review, in 2000 the synod of bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate at last approved the glorification of the Imperial Family and their servants as New Martyrs alongside St Elizabeth the Grand Duchess, Empress Alexandra’s sister, and her attendant nun Varvara (Barbara), who both the Church Abroad and the Church in Russia already universally recognized as Saints. My godmother was present at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow for the glorious services of commemoration and thanksgiving.

For the past two decades, the Russian Orthodox Church has presided over an extraordinary process of rebuilding and revitalization which continues to this day. Embodying the resurrection of faith across Russian society in the wake of the fall of communism are two glorious buildings: the rebuilt Christ the Savior Cathedral, the mother church of Moscow and seat of the Moscow Patriarchate, and the magnificent memorial cathedral in Yekaterinburg raised to the honor of God and His thousands of New Martyrs who died under the Soviet regime. This cathedral, formally dedicated to all saints but most commonly known as the “Cathedral on the Blood”, stands as a testimony to those who died on that very spot in July 1918, in the dark cellar of that fateful merchant house in rural Yekaterinburg. Above all, both cathedrals stand today as a visible sign of Orthodoxy’s triumphant endurance against the forces of Marxist-Leninism.

The Imperial Family always fascinated me growing up, and I read anything I could find on Russian history, art history books on St Petersburg and Moscow, and the First World War. Upon becoming Orthodox, my godmother, who has also had a lifelong interest in Russia, shared with me many fascinating, beautiful stories about the Imperial Family, which she in turn read over the years and heard from Russian friends, as well as one of her mentoring professors in college (who would share these precious stories with her students). My godmother found out many years later that this favorite Russian professor of hers had been at the Imperial Court.

I am deeply blessed to have this invaluable window into history from my godmother’s stories. In a way, I feel as though I have intimately come to know the Imperial Family, these holy passion-bearers, for the truly kind, pious, and extraordinary individuals they were in their earthly life. As laudable Saints in the eternal Church which lives in the heavenly realm, these royal New Martyrs intercede on behalf of all the faithful today who ask their prayers to God. Holy Passion-bearers and Imperial Martyrs, pray to God for us!

Mahatma Gandhi on abortion


Mahatma Gandhi on abortion

This quote appears in Krishna Kripalani’s biography of the celebrated Indian intellectual, spiritual figure, civil rights leader and independence activist, “All Men Are Brothers: The Life and Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi.”

This fascinating article contains additional information and historical notes on leading Indian intellectuals, philosophers and Hindu leaders who have condemned abortion, beginning with the Great Soul himself.

President Obama refers to Wendy Davis’ filibuster as “something special”


“Something special is happening in Austin tonight” – these are the words of one of President Obama’s recent Tweets.

For the President of the United States to write about any place-specific event being “something special”, one might assume that he is either campaigning in a town that is part of a crucial county during an important election, speaking at a memorial service for someone he deeply respects, or reflecting on something which he considers to be of great national importance. The President does not simply throw around endearing, praiseful language such as this without reason; for him to call any event “something special”, he has to see it as important and worthy of praise. Most of all, he has to believe that his response is expected.

Bearing this in mind, I was thus all the more disturbed by the President’s choice [or one of his staffer’s – I don’t know if the President actually writes his own Tweets, though, giving his well-known folksy speaking style, I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually wrote this one] to refer to Texas state senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)’s infamous filibuster as “something special”.

Perhaps naively, given the escalation of the ongoing “culture wars” which show little sign of causing any real engagement between polarizing and opposing worldviews, I never expected that I would see the U.S. head of state single out a state senator’s filibuster against a state bill which would have outlawed abortions at the fifth month of pregnancy (20 weeks). It is truly astonishing for the President to laud Senator Davis’ work as “special”. As jarring as it is to read such a statement coming from the President, ultimately, no one should be surprised, given that this is the man who wished God’s blessing upon Planned Parenthood, that infamous federally-funded political group which, yes, does provide many low-cost and free health services to women, while also serving as the nation’s largest abortion provider (what a sickening word in this context, as if obtaining an abortion were comparable to obtaining a new wireless telephone network or Internet provider!).

I tend to refrain from posting directly about political topics on here for various reasons, the most obvious one being that, as a university student, I have ample opportunity to discuss domestic and international politics with friends, professors and colleagues both offline and on that medium which has become so ubiquitous in most people’s lives today, Facebook. I don’t follow President Obama’s Twitter account, but I came across this image, and it so disturbed me that I decided to print-screen copy and save it as a Paint document in order to showcase this particular Tweet for all the world to see.

This is so far the only time in my life that a Tweet has actually made me sick to my stomach. It is truly sad to see the degree to which President Obama is either enslaved to the demands of what I have taken to calling progressive liberal orthodoxy (of which the cause of safeguarding a woman’s “right to choose” is a core tenet, underlined by the general desire to ‘liberate’ women to be the absolute masters of their own bodies, even if this means opposing bans on partial-birth abortion), or the degree to which he genuinely believes in its creed. I am filled with so many different thoughts, ranging from disgust to shock, but most of all, the horror that I voted for him in 2008. Did I really once believe that this man offered a vision that could somehow unite the country and move the country “forward”? Granted, I am from New York, a liberal state which the President carried with a super-majority in both 2008 and 2012, so it is not as though my vote in 2008 was of any consequence, and of course, one vote makes no difference in a contest decided ultimately by unelected presidential electors, yet it truly amazes me that, only five years ago, I enthusiastically supported this man and his agenda.

Most people in the United States and, I imagine, millions of people across the globe are well-aware of President Obama’s position as one of the most vocal and consistent advocates for “abortion rights” in political history. Even so, it is shocking to read that he considers a female state legislator’s obstructionist filibuster in defense of a woman’s “right” to terminate a developing life inside her at up to 20 weeks as “something special”. Of course, the full Tweet bears examination, and in its concluding hashtag, #StandWithWendy, we can infer why President Obama really sent out this Tweet: he (or his political handlers) feel a deep indebtedness and sense of obligation to be seen to publicly support and encourage all aspects of the progressive feminist movement, of which Planned Parenthood is at the forefront nationwide.

In this short hashtag, inserted to instantly generate positive feedback from the President’s progressive supporters connected to him through Twitter, we can read just how clearly the President and his team of advisers value their connection to the progressive feminist movement. When one considers this, it comes as no surprise that, evidently, President Obama doesn’t consider the tens of thousands of abortions which happen each year in Austin, TX to be “something tragic”, or “something awful” which our society needs to collectively respond to and work to reduce. Instead, he feels a strong sense of obligation to respond to praise Senator Davis’ speech as “something special”.

Perhaps you are wondering why I have been so particularly disturbed by this one tweet, when the President’s position on this issue is well-known. I have written on here previously on the subject of abortion from a Christian existentialist perspective (the logical conclusions that, to be fully “pro-choice”, you must inevitably assert that you do not believe in your own right to exist, for your mother’s right to abort, had she wished to do so, would have trumped this). Yet the audacity of the President’s Tweet, his callous and complete indifference to the terrible reality that even contemplating abortion is an agony for most women, let alone his complete disinterest in pushing for commonsense reforms to fix the nation’s domestic adoption program, struck a chord within me.

This president cannot truly see abortion as a “tragedy”, as he referred to it in one interview during his presidential candidacy in 2008, but he genuinely does not care about reducing abortions. He cares very much about the opinion of that minority of female voters who identify as progressive, but for the silent witness of millions of unborn babies, he cares not at all.

This legislation in Texas also disturbs me on a very personal level: I was born at 5 and a half months, 24 weeks. I weighed 1 and one-half pounds, and could fit in my father’s hand. The best doctors available all assured my parents that my twin brother Sean and I would both die, or be severely physically and mentally handicapped for life. I spent the first months of my life in an incubator in a neo-natal unit. While my brother sadly did not survive, here I am, with no physical or mental disabilities or ‘marks’, save some scars from the tracheotomy and open heart surgery from when I was an infant thought to be dying.

I am, by God’s grace, a living testament that someone who entered this world almost four months early can not only survive, but thrive beyond the best doctors’ expectations. But to President Obama, my very entrance into this world at all is an unexpected outlier, an anomaly that clashes with his worldview: my mother could have had me, but he would be equally fine with her having decided, for any number of reasons, that she just didn’t want to go through with it. To this day, in New York State, a woman can abort her developing baby up to, and past, the point at which I entered this world. This thought alone is alarming. But what is most alarming is that this President, who claims so often to value consensus-building and dialogue, couldn’t be bothered to try to make it easier for women considering abortion to look to the alternatives. Instead, he prefers to Tweet his support for a woman who crusades against the developing lives of those in the womb at the very gestation when I entered the world.

Pascha, the Feast of Feasts!


Pascha, the Feast of Feasts!

“Enjoy ye all the feast of faith; receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.”
(From the Paschal Sermon of St John Chrysostom, read at Paschal Matins)

Orthodox Easter, called Pascha (The Greek term for the Hebrew ‘Pesach’, meaning Passover) is the Feast of Feasts, since it is by far the most liturgically and theologically important Orthodox celebration of the year. For all Christians, the Lord’s Resurrection is the most sacred of days, but among Eastern Christians the feast is observed with a special solemnity and then great rejoicing.

In part, our rejoicing is due to the fact that Pascha is also uniquely a culinary delight for us. While many Protestants and Roman Catholics may choose to fast, prolonged periods of fasting are no longer the norm in the praxis, or normative and guiding practice, in these Western Christian traditions. All Orthodox Christians in good medical health are expected to adhere to an ancient fasting discipline throughout the year, handed down for centuries in the inner discipline of the Church. This includes abstaining from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays in remembrance of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas and His crucifixion, although following the Lord’s Resurrection we do not fast at all for a set period, and so the Paschal season for us is one of spiritual, and literal, feasting and rejoicing!

This is because Orthodox Christians keep an especially rigorous fast during the lengthy ascetic period of Great Lent, the 47 days preceding Pascha. During this time, we abstain from all meat, fish, olive oil and dairy products as a means to help us grow spiritually. We essentially go vegan for this time period. Not intended to serve as legalistic rules, the fasting guidelines for each person will differ slightly depending on the advice of one’s spiritual mentor, but among those Orthodox Christians who are not in grave or terminal illness or pregnancy (under these conditions any fasting is strictly forbidden) generally most observant Orthodox Christians will follow the fasting guidelines closely. Thus, Pascha is doubly joyous for us because our strict fasting gives way to a culinary feast without any restrictions in diet!

In the Russian tradition, decorated kulich – tall, cylindrical loaves of sweet bread baked with raisins and poppy seeds – are rich in taste and theological symbolism. Marked with ‘XB’, the Cyrillic initials for ‘Christ is Risen’, along with Orthodox crosses, their very decoration and height call to mind the Resurrection.

Made with the rich dairy from which we abstain during Great Lent, these are baked during Holy Week and blessed and consumed immediately after the midnight Paschal liturgy. They are cut horizontally, and paskha (a rich, sweet cream formed into a pyramid, made with cottage and ricotta cheese) spread on them.

I took the above image around 5am this morning in the parish hall after the Paschal Divine Liturgy at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist, the parish I attend here in Washington.

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!


Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

“Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”

“Хрїстосъ воскресе изъ мертвыхъ,
Смертїю смерть поправъ,
И сѹщымъ во гробѣхъ
животъ даровавъ!”

“Χριστὸς ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν, θανάτῳ θάνατον πατήσας, καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι, ζωὴν χαρισάμενος!”

May these words resound in our ears today and throughout the blessed Paschal season!

Christ is Risen! Христосъ воскресе! Χριστός Ανέστη! Hristos a înviat! Христос васкрсе! ქრისტე აღსდგა! المسيح قام! ¡Cristo ha resucitado! Christus resurrexit!

On my apartment balcony after I returned home from the midnight Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy at St John's! Christ is Risen!

On my apartment balcony after I returned home from the midnight Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy at St John’s! Christ is Risen!

May all celebrating the Lord’s resurrection have a joyful and holy Pascha!

St Dimitri of Rostov on Prayer


St Dimitri of Rostov on Prayer

Our Father among the Saints Dimitri of Rostov (Димитрий Ростовский, also known as Dmitri, Dimitry or the Latinized ‘Demetrius’) was a great 17th century Orthodox hierarch, preacher, author and ascetic. He was born near Kiev in the year 1651, and reposed in the year 1709. Among his many luminous works of instruction, he was known especially for his translation and publication of The Lives of the Saints. He foresaw his own death three days in advance, and died while at prayer. Dimitri was a great light of the Russian Church and of Orthodoxy in general. The saint had heavenly visions during his life. He served the Lord zealously and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven. St. Dimitri also composed a service to the Nine Martyrs of Cyzicus, in which he wrote “through the intercession of these saints, abundant grace was given to dispel fevers and trembling sicknesses.” St. Dimitri’s life is celebrated on October 28, but on September 21 the Church commemorates the finding of his miracle-working relics in 1752.