On 6 December, the children of the Russian Orthodox Church commemorate the Holy Right-believing Prince Alexander Nevsky. In his life, he accomplished multiple outstanding feats. We laud his deserts as a military leader, battlefield commander, diplomat and politician. Yet the basis of his brilliant statesmanship was the great Christian virtues of humility, integrity and self-denial, and their exercise made his whole life a great Christian exploit.
With integrity and self-denial, he built military and political alliances essential for his country’s survival. He joined forces with the Mongol Khan to repel the crusaders from the West and won the support of the proud people of Novgorod, who were highly critical of him at the beginning.
With humility and a strong sense of purpose, he endured severe trials and made hard political choices for the long-term survival of his country and faith. The people of Novgorod rebelled against the Mongol Khan and killed the Khan's tax collectors. The Khan demanded revenge, and Russia was too weak to resist his armies. So Alexander Nevsky punished the killers of the tax collectors. What did it make him seem in the eyes of the people of Novgorod? A traitor? A self-interested ruler clinging on to power?
His life shows us the meaning of what it is to serve God. It means to be pure at heart, pray to know and follow His will, and look towards eternity. He became an instrument of the Divine providence, even when he made unpopular choices.
In today’s gospel reading, the Lord tells us to bear one another’s burdens, and so we will fulfil the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). Saint Alexander Nevsky bore his country's burdens; he took them close to his heart and worked hard to relieve them.
He died while visiting the Khan of the Golden Horde. His death was so unexpected and premature that many believed that he had been poisoned. Yet the people appreciated the wisdom of his choices and glorified his name.
For his piety, integrity and loyalty, the Lord endowed him with the gifts of wisdom and good statesmanship. He used his talent with great love for his country and people. Today, he is still one of the most beloved saints of the Russian people who invoke his name in their prayers.
Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
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