Happy feast of the Meeting of our Lord to those who follow the old calendar!
Last week, my inbox was flooded by stories of the recent canonization of Alexander Schmorell, a young medical student involved in the White Rose resistance against the National Socialists. The Nazis beheaded Alexander along with his Weiße Rose associates Hans and Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Willi Graf, and Professor Kurt Huber after a series of political trials.
Alexander was killed on July 13 (new style), A.D. 1943 at Stadelheim Prison in Munich.
The Church Abroad has an article about the newly glorified Alexander that posts Alexander’s farewell letter to his father and stepmother (his mother died when he was a toddler) written before his execution:
My dear father and mother,
And so, it is not to be, Divine will has me complete my earthly life today, and to enter another, which shall never end and where we will all once again meet. May this meeting be your consolation and your hope. For you this blow, unfortunately, is heavier than for me, because I will go there knowing that I served my profound conviction and the truth. For all this I face the approaching hour of my death with a peaceful conscience. Remember the millions of young people who departed from this life on the battlefield—I now share their fate. Pass on my most heartfelt greetings to my dear friends! Especially to Natasha, Erich, our nanny, Aunt Tonya, Maria, Alyonushka and Andrei. Only a few more hours, and I will be in a better life, with my mother, and I will not forget you, I will pray to God for your consolation and peace. And I will wait for you. One thing I especially place into the memory of your hearts: Do not forget God!!!
Prof. Huber goes with me, and asked that I pass on his sincere good wishes.
The article also reproduces one of Alexander’s letters to his sister that reveals how this remarkable young man interpreted his persecution:
Dearest, dearest Natasha!
You have probably read the letters which I wrote to our parents, so you can probably have a good idea of my situation. You would probably be surprised if I wrote that with every passing day I am becoming calmer, even happy and joyful, that my mood is basically better than it was when I was free! Why is this? I want to tell you about this now: this whole terrible ‘crisis’ was inevitable to put me on the correct path, and for this reason it is not a crisis at all. I rejoice over this and thank God that this was given to me, to comprehend the hand of the Lord and through this to emerge onto the correct path. What did I know before about faith, about real, profound faith, about the truth, the final and sole truth, about God? Very little! But now I have matured to the point that even in my predicament, I am merry, calm and filled with hope, what will be will be. I hope that you also experienced this process of maturing and that you and I together, after the deep pain of separation, will come to the state of mind where you thank the Lord for everything. This misfortune was necessary to open my eyes, and not only mine, but the eyes of us all, all of us who have befallen this fate—including our family. One must hope that you too properly understand the way the hand of the Lord is pointing.
Give everyone my heartfelt greetings, and to you, a special greeting from your Shurik.”
You may read Alexander’s other letters from prison, as well.
RIA Novosti notes that Alexander is the first saint to be glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church since the restoration of communion between the Moscow Patriarchare and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Indeed, the canonization appears to have been mainly a R.O.C.O.R. affair; Archbishop Mark of Berlin officiated the canonization in Munich’s Cathedral of Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. Jim Forest recounts the canonization festivities on his site. Forest also has gallery of the event’s photographs on Flickr, which includes several new icons.
Forest really is the Mathew Brady of Western Orthodoxy.
Forest also provides English translations of the new hymns.
Today a light adorns our glorious city,
Having within it your holy relics, O Holy Martyr Alexander;
For which sake pray to Christ God
That He deliver us from all tribulations,
For gathered together in love we celebrate your radiant memory
Imitating your bravery,
Standing against the godless powers and enemies.
From your mother you did inherit the love of Christ,
And through the love of your care-giver you were nourished in the fear of God, O all-glorious one,
To Whom you did give thyself, O all-honorable Alexander,
And you diligently pray with the angels.
Entreat on behalf of all who honor your memory a forgiveness of their sins.
I wish to congratulate the faithful of Bavaria, and I now have an additional requisite stop when I return to the beautiful city of Munich. I recently made pilgrimage to the tomb of that other illustrious German saint of the Russian Church, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, when I visited the Convent of Mary Magdalene in the Garden of Gethsemane a few months ago. May Saints Elizabeth and Alexander pray for us and for the Russian and German lands and their people.