January 12th, 2020

SERMON ON ST TATIANA

A HOMILY ON THE VIRGIN MARTYR TATIANA THE ROMAN

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ!

Today is St. Tatiana's Day! This is a very important day in Russia, or at least it will be in 13 days when they celebrate it! Every Russian knows that St. Tatiana's day is associated with study, students, and higher education. And why is that? The answer is that the Imperial Moscow University (now called Moscow State University) was founded by decree of the Empress Elizabeth on St. Tatiana’s Day in 1755. In addition, the university’s chapel is dedicated to St Tatiana the Martyr, and was consecrated in 1837 by St. Philaret of Moscow. But does St. Tatiana herself have anything to do with education or learning? Let’s find out!

The Holy Virgin Martyr Tatiana was born into an important Roman family, and her father was elected “Consul” three times. The consuls were the chairmen of the Senate, which served as a board of advisers, and exercised the highest juridical power in the Roman Empire. Her father was also, secretly, a Christian who taught his daughter to love God and to be devoted to the Church. (Aha! Here is something about education. Tatiana's father took the time to teach his daughter everything she needed to know for salvation!) When she reached young womanhood, Tatiana decided not to marry and to remain a virgin, consecrating herself solely to Christ. Disdaining earthly riches, she sought instead the imperishable riches of Heaven. She served God in fasting and prayer, tending the sick and helping the needy. Because of her angelic life, St Tatiana was found worthy to be made a deaconess. In this capacity, she prepared women for baptism. (This, too, is more about education! St Tatiana instructed the women catechumens and prepared them for holy illumination.)
At that time Rome was ruled by the sixteen-year-old Alexander Severus (222-235), the successor of the wicked Antonius Elagabalus. The latter was so wicked, that he was killed by his own Praetorian Guard and his body thrown into the Tiber River. Although Alexander had been taught by his mother to respect Christ, he did not have true faith in Him. He continued to worship the lifeless idols. In his courtyard there were statues of Christ, Abraham, and Moses, standing alongside statues of the so-called “gods” Apollo, Orpheus, and others. Alexander did not persecute Christians himself, but his guardians and “handlers” did, and with great ferocity. Since Alexander was so young, the administration of the government was in the hands of regents, and especially the judge Ulpianus. He hated Christians, and in the Emperor’s name, issued decrees commanding all Christians to worship the Roman “gods,” or face severe punishment and even death. As a result of this St. Tatiana was arrested, and taken by the pagans to the temple of Apollo in an attempt to force her to offer sacrifice to the idol. She refused to do so, praying instead to the one true God. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, and the idol fell and was smashed to pieces. Part of the temple collapsed and the demon inhabiting the idol fled from that place with a loud wail, which was heard by those present.

After the temple had been destroyed, St Tatiana was taken to a place of torture, where they beat her face and tore at her eyes with iron hooks. The holy Virgin Martyr bravely endured everything, praying for her tormentors that the Lord would open their spiritual eyes. The Lord heard the prayer of His servant, and the executioners saw four angels standing around the saint and deflecting the blows of her tormentors. A voice was heard from heaven speaking to the holy virgin. Then eight of those men believed in Christ and fell on their knees before St Tatiana, begging her and the Lord Jesus to forgive them for causing her to suffer these torments. The judge was filled with rage, and so he ordered the executioners to be seized and put to death themselves because they had confessed their faith in Christ. All eight of them were baptized in their own blood, and the Church venerates them as martyrs as well.

The next day St Tatiana was brought before the wicked judge Ulpianus. Once again, Ulpianus attempted to persuade her to sacrifice to the pagan “gods,” and so he ordered that she be stripped of her clothing. They began to beat her, and slash her body with razors. St Tatiana raised her eyes to Heaven and prayed during her suffering. Blood and milk flowed from her wounds, and a wondrous fragrance filled the air. Then she was stretched out on the ground and beaten for so long that the servants had to be replaced several times. The torturers became exhausted and said that an invisible power was beating them as if with iron rods. Indeed, the angels warded off the blows directed at her and turned them upon the tormentors, causing nine of them to fall dead. St Tatiana spoke boldly to the judge and his servants, saying that their “gods” were nothing but breathless idols, while she was the servant of the only true God. (Here again, we see education! St. Tatiana confessed not only her faith in Christ, but the truths of the Christian Gospel as well to her tormentors!) Then they threw the saint into prison, where she prayed all night and sang praises to the Lord. She beheld a heavenly light, and an angel appeared and joined her in singing hymns of praise.

As a new day began, they took St Tatiana to the tribunal once more. The torturers were astonished to see that after enduring such terrible torments she appeared to be completely healthy and even more radiant and beautiful than before. They began to urge her to offer sacrifice to the goddess Diana. The saint pretended to agree with their suggestion, and they brought her to the heathen temple. As soon as she entered, the demon who lived inside the idol sensed her presence and cried out: “This is grievous to me, this is grievous to me! Where can I run to flee from Thy Spirit, O God of Heaven? Fire pursues me from every corner of this temple!” St Tatiana made the Sign of the Cross on herself and began to pray. Suddenly, there was a crash of deafening thunder, followed by flashes of lightning. Fire from Heaven burned the temple down to the ground along with its idol and its servitors.

Once again, the martyr was fiercely tortured. She was hung up and scraped with iron claws, and her breasts were cut off. That night, an angel appeared to her in prison and healed her wounds as before. On the following day, they took St Tatiana to an outdoor venue in Rome where they loosed a ravenous lion upon her. The beast did not harm the saint. According to her “Life” she embraced the affectionate beast, and the lion, in turn, meekly licked her feet.

Many other attempts were made to kill the holy martyr of Christ, but none was successful. The wicked judge finally condemned the valiant sufferer to be beheaded with a sword. The year was 225 A.D. Her father was deprived of his titles and estates, and was also executed with her, because he had raised her to love Christ. Therefore, St Tatiana and her father were both crowned by the Lord Jesus Christ with the incorruptible crowns of martyrdom. To Him be all glory, honor, and worship forever. Amen.