The Holy New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth

Abbess Elizabeth was arrested on the third day of Easter 1918 and taken from her Convent in Moscow into exile, confinement and death. Writing from the train which was taking her to Alapayevsk and martyrdom, she sent two letters in Russian to comfort her orphaned nuns. These last letters are translated below from the originals printed in 'Materials for the Life of the Holy Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth' (Moscow, 1996).

Letter One:

Bless, Lord.

May the Resurrection of Christ comfort and strengthen you all. At 6 o'clock we went past Rostov, in the evening Trinity St Sergius. May St Sergius, St Dimitri and St Euphrosyne of Polotsk guard us all with you, my dears.

Travelling is easy. There is snow everywhere. I cannot forget yesterday, all the dear sweet faces. O Lord, what suffering there was in them, Oh, how my heart ached. With every minute you became dearer to me, how can I leave you, how can I console you, how can I strengthen you? Remember everything I told you, my dears. Always be not only my children, but obedient disciples. Keep together and be like one soul - everything for God - and say like St John Chrysostom: 'Glory to God for everything'. I will live in the hope of being with you again soon and I want to find you all together. Apart from the Gospels, read the Epistles of the Apostles together.

Older sisters, unite your sisters. Ask Bishop Tikhon to take the 'chickens' under his wing. Set up a room for him in my middle room. My cell will be for confession and the big room will be a reception room. If there are no delays, it will take five days to get there. Catherine will return to you as soon as she can and will tell you how we got on.

Very sweet guardian-angels have been given to us. We sleep badly because of our thoughts. Thank you for the food, we'll get more on the way. I am trying to pray to St Sergius. I have a Bible with me, we shall read, pray and hope.

For the love of God, do not lose heart. The Mother of God knows why Her Heavenly Son has sent us this trial on the day of His feast.

'O Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief'.

'The Providence of God is unsearchable'.

Letter Two:

My dear little children. Glory to God that you have all taken communion: you have all stood before the Saviour like one soul. I believe that the Saviour has been with you all on this earth and that at the Last Judgement this prayer will rise again before the face of God, as mercy for one another and for me.

I cannot express how I have been touched and overjoyed to the depths of my soul by your letters. You all without exception wrote to me that you will strive to live as I often spoke to you. Oh, how you will now perfect yourselves for salvation, I can already see good beginning, only do not be downcast and do not weaken in your good intentions, and the Lord, Who has separated us for a time, will strengthen you spiritually. Pray for me, a sinner, that I may be worthy to return to my little children and be perfected for you and that we may all think how to prepare ourselves for eternal life. You remember that I often feared that you might find too much strength for life in my support, and I used to say to you: 'You must hold on more to God'. The Lord says: 'My Son, give Me your heart and your eyes that they may regard My ways'. Then you can be sure that if you give God your heart, that is, yourself, you give Him everything.

Now we are suffering the same thing, involuntarily, but only with Him do we find the consolation to bear our common cross of separation.

The Lord found that it was time for us to carry His cross, let us strive to be worthy of that joy. I thought that, being so weak, we had not grown up enough to carry a heavy cross.

'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, as it was pleasing to the Lord, so it hath been'. What an example St Job gives us with his humble submission and patience in his sorrows. It was for this that the Lord afterwards gave him joy.

How many examples of such sorrow there are among the holy fathers and in holy convents. Prepare for the joy of being together again, we will be patient, humble. Let us not murmur, let us be thankful for everything.

At the moment I am reading the wonderful book of St John of Tobolsk. Here is what he writes: 'The Merciful God preserves and gives wisdom and peace to each of those who surrenders his heart to His Holy Will, and with the same words He supports and strengthens the heart so that we do not transgress the Will of God, inspiring us secretly: you are always with Me, you are in My mind and memory, you will obey My will without hesitation. I am always with you, I watch over you with love and keep you, so that you will not lose My grace, mercy and gifts of grace. All that is Mine - is yours: My heaven, the Angels, and even more My Only-Begotten Son'.

I am Thine, I Myself am Thine, and will be Thine, as I promised to faithful Abraham: 'I am thy shield; My reward is eternally great unto the ages of ages' (Genesis 1,15).

'My Lord, Thou art mine, truly mine…I hear Thee and I will obey Thy words with all my heart'. Say these words every day, and you will feel light, light in your hearts.

'But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint' (Prophet Isaiah).

'O Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief'.

My little children, let us love not in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth' (Epistles).

May the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ be with you and my love in Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Your elder intercessor to God and loving mother in Christ,

Mother Elizabeth.


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