Yesterday, I received a link to “Pasha’s Lullaby” from Ella’s Song by Kurt Sander. Ella’s Song is about Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova, a saint famous for her charitable work in Russia. Elizabeth was the last tsarina’s sister, and Elizabeth’s husband was the last tsar’s uncle; Nicholas and Alexandra met at Elizabeth’s wedding to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. Communists killed all of them—Sergei in A.D. 1905 and the others in A.D. 1918.
The message included the following quotation from the composer’s note’s:
The lullaby is a literary genre which plays a fascinating role in the culture of the Russian people. Often, the infant “listener” is actually symbolic of much larger idea, namely a culture or people in a given time or circumstance.
This movement, titled “Pasha’s Lullaby,” is named after one particular orphan, Paraskeva “Pasha” Korina, whom St. Elizabeth knew from her days as abbess at the convent of Martha and Mary. It was not uncommon for a mother housed at the convent ward to die from consumption or some other disease. So moved were these women by the love that St. Elizabeth showed to them that they would entrust their children to the care of the “Great Mother.” It was an annual custom for St. Elizabeth to bring two or three young orphans to the convent for Christmas to celebrate the feast with a small group of people. When she asked the girls what they would like for Christmas, one little orphan named Pasha pointed to the small bell at the top of the tree. Without pause, the Grand Duchess carried a ladder from the closet and climbed up to the top and brought down a little bell for the girl.
Today, Russian lullabies are still sung to babies according to traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. The lullaby in this particular song cycle serves two functions: first, it conveys on a surface level the depth of love and compassion St. Elizabeth had for the orphans who were placed in her care. Second, it speaks to the coming tragedy of Holy Russia amidst the persecution by the Communists. St. Elizabeth seemed to know that the days ahead would be tragic for all.
Emulating the Lord’s self-abasement on the earth,
You gave up royal mansions to serve the poor and disdained,
Overflowing with compassion for the suffering.
And taking up a martyr’s cross,
In your meekness
You perfected the Savior’s image within yourself,
Therefore, with Barbara, entreat Him to save us all, O wise Elizabeth.
In the midst of worldliness,
Your mournful heart dwelt in Heaven;
In barbaric godlessness,
Your valiant soul was not troubled;
You longed to meet your Bridegroom as a confessor,
And He found you worthy of your martyric purpose.
O Elizabeth, with Barbara,
Your brave companion,
Pray to your Bridegroom for us.