St. Elizabeth Fyodorovna, Grand Duchess of Moscow
Feast Day: July 5
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, our Lord Jesus Christ says that whenever we help poor and sick people, and those in prison, we are really helping Jesus Himself: “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25.40).
Saint Elizabeth devoted her entire life to serving God and helping other people. She was born into a German royal family, and became the Grand Duchess of Moscow in Russia when she married the Grand Duke Sergius. She joined the Holy Orthodox Church after her marriage because she sensed the truth of the Orthodox faith. It gave her great peace and joy to worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Russian Orthodox Church.
Tragically, her husband the Grand Duke was murdered by an assassin in the year 1905. Grand Duchess Elizabeth was quite sad, but God gave her the strength of and love of Jesus during this difficult time. It was our Lord Jesus who taught, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5.44). Showing this love, she visited her husband’s killer in prison.
“Who are you?” he asked upon meeting her.
“I am his widow,” she replied, “why did you kill him?”
“I did not want to kill you,” he said. “I saw him several times before when I had the bomb with me, but you were with him and I could not bring myself to touch him.”
“You did not understand that by killing him you were killing me,” she said. Elizabeth gave him a copy of the Gospel, and urged him to beg God for forgiveness of his horrible sin. Elizabeth later would say, “My attempt was unsuccessful, but, who knows, perhaps at the last minute he will understand his sin and repent.”
After her husband’s death, Grand Duchess Elizabeth became a nun. She sold her jewelry and expensive possessions, and devoted her life completely to prayer and serving the poor. With the money she made from selling all of her things, she started a mission in Moscow called the Martha and Mary Home. She and a group of nuns fed the poor and helped orphans for many years. They also opened a hospital and did many other good works of charity.
In 1917, a radical Communist government seized control of Russia. The Soviets, as they were called, were extremely cruel and violent, and hated the Royal Family and the Orthodox Church. Elizabeth, along with other nuns and members of the Royal Family were exiled, moved to a forest, and shoved into an abandoned mineshaft. But even as St. Elizabeth and her companions sat in the mineshaft, hurt and dying, they could be heard singing hymns from the Church: “We who mystically represent the Cherubim, and sing to the life-giving Trinity the thrice holy hymn, let us now lay aside all earthly care.” They died on July 5, 1918.
After her death. St. Elizabeth’s body was found and moved to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem, a church which St. Elizabeth and her husband helped to build.
St. Elizabeth teaches us how to follow the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in helping the poor and forgiving everyone who hurts us or does wrong to us. May her prayers be with us always.
Troparion - Tone 4
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.
By Dn. Andrew and Sh. Patricia Kishler
Copyright © Sibling Revelries 2010