THE BEGINNING OF THE END,
AND THE END OF THE BEGINNING
St. Stephen then turned towards the entrance of the Cathedral and stretching out his arms began to sing Alleluia. As he crossed the threshold he stopped singing and suddenly the most beautiful singing was heard from within the cathedral. It was the Cherubic Hymn from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, but no earthly composer could have written such a beautiful musical setting. As the procession entered the great Cathedral they were hit by great waves of sound, and what the cats, the dogs, and the humans saw before them took their breath away.
Before them was the great golden iconostasis, together with the icons which adorned the front of the chapels on either side of the sanctuary, but that was not what impressed the mortals and animals. On what should have been the bare white walls of the Cathedral there were moving icons with the lives of the martyrs being played out upon them. They depicted the stories of the martyrs of both the East and the West. The Pope in awe said, “Yes John Paul was right; the true ecumenism is the ecumenism of the martyrs.” Pointing upwards he said to the Patriarch “Can you see the early Christian martyrs up in the dome?" "I think that looks like St. Felicity and Perpetua.” replied the Patriarch. “Over the chapel of the Royal Martyrs I can see St. Philip, Patriarch of Moscow and St. Maximilian Kolbe.” exclaimed Archbishop Hilarion. The scenes kept changing, and an endless succession of martyrs appeared moving all over the walls, some in the form of moving icons, and others moving in a very naturalistic and real fashion. There were thousands upon thousands of them, many well known, and others known only by their clothing. All were carrying the palms of martyrdom. How many martyrs there were from the Soviet Gulags and the Nazi Concentration camps would be hard to imagine. They were certainly in their hundreds of thousands, if not in their millions.
Amid all these moving tableaux the early morning sun, which was flooding among them from the windows in streams of gold, suddenly became red as blood, and from these streams of red light came more martyrs, countless in number. So many from China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan, from the Philipines, and Africa, and many from Europe, especially from Spain, France, England and Wales. These hovered above the ground at a height of about nine or ten feet, and then even more martyrs emerged from the blood red light. The music and singing became more intense and more beautiful, so that the humans and animals were almost in ecstasy. The martyrs began to form into ascending spirals that rose to the ceiling of the cathedral, all the time singing exultantly and joyfully:
We give thanks to thee, Lord God
Almighty, who art and who wast,
That thou hast taken thy great power
And begun to reign.
The nations raged, but thy wrath came,
And the time for the dead to be judged,
For rewarding thy servants,
The prophets and saints,
And those who fear your name, both small and great,
And for destroying the destroyers of the earth. (Apocalypse 11: 17-18)
After this glorious hymn from the Apocalypse had come to an end, there descended from the ceiling of the cathedral a great army of angels, some as small as one’s little finger, others of great size. On and on the singing of other hymns soared into, what seemed, infinity. Suddenly from beautiful great golden censers, that some very large angels were swinging, billowed out marvellous clouds of incense of exquisite colours not known on Earth.
Shafts of golden light were still able to pierce through the beams of red light, and the heavily perfumed rainbow clouds of incense. The Cathedral was now so full of angels and martyr saints, that it was impossible to see any walls at all. The predominant colours were gold, red, green,and lapis lazuli blue. The three professors were transfixed, King Abdullah was aghast, Binyamin astounded, and President Putin lost in some mystical reverie. The Patriarch, Pope and bishops looked upon this vision of glory through tear filled eyes. The cats and dogs were absolutely mesmerized by the scene; their eyes almost on stalks. As the music was reaching an almost unbearable climax, there was a flash of light, and behold the Blessed Virgin Mary, dressed in red with a deep blue veil over her head. The angels and martyrs made a path for her, as she gently floated down to speak to the mortals and the cats. They were in front of the saints who had accompanied them on the most recent part of their journey. The singing had stopped and there was silence, profound and deep as the deepest ocean. In this silence Mary looked with great compassion at the little company before her. Then she raised her hands to Heaven and with that gesture of prayer the huge company of angels and saints burst into song as they began the great Orthodox hymn “O Pure Virgin”.
Refrain: Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
O Virgin pure, immaculate/ O Lady Theotokos
O Virgin Mother, Queen of all/ and fleece which is all dewy
More radiant than the rays of sun/ and higher than the heavens
Delight of virgin choruses/ superior to Angels.
Much brighter than the firmament/ and purer than the sun's light
More holy than the multitude/ of all the heav'nly armies.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
O Ever Virgin Mary/ of all the world, the Lady
O bride all pure, immaculate/ O Lady Panagia
O Mary bride and Queen of all/ our cause of jubilation
Majestic maiden, Queen of all/ O our most holy Mother
More hon'rable than Cherubim/ beyond compare more glorious
than immaterial Seraphim/ and greater than angelic thrones.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Rejoice, O song of Cherubim/ Rejoice, O hymn of angels
Rejoice, O ode of Seraphim/ the joy of the archangels
Rejoice, O peace and happiness/ the harbour of salvation
O sacred chamber of the Word/ flow'r of incorruption
Rejoice, delightful paradise/ of blessed life eternal
Rejoice, O wood and tree of life/ the fount of immortality.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
I supplicate you, Lady/ now do I call upon you
And I beseech you, Queen of all/ I beg of you your favour
Majestic maiden, spotless one/ O Lady Panagia
I call upon you fervently/ O sacred, hallowed temple
Assist me and deliver me/ protect me from the enemy
And make me an inheritor/ of blessed life eternal.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
As the final words of the hymn dissolved into the incense laden cathedral, the Angels folded their wings, and those not playing musical instruments, joined their hands in prayer as did all the martyrs. After a few moments of silence, Our Lady held out her hands in welcome to the cats.
“My dear little cats; you are most welcome. You have spoken well and courageously regarding the Faith. You have shown yourselves wiser than many of the sons of men, who sadly are drunk with knowledge and strangers to The Truth, who is my Son. The last part of your journey will require courage, for you will see things that you cannot stop, but be of good cheer for my Son has won the Battle, though at times it seems that all is lost”.
Then turning to Pope Francis with a look of incomparable sweetness she said:
"My Beloved son, Francis, your love for me has touched me greatly, and you brought me great joy by consecrating your Pontificate to me under my title of “Our Lady of Fatima”. The battle that you are fighting is against principalities and powers, and your weapon is The Cross of My Son. Cling to the Cross, never let your eyes stray from the Cross. Like John the Beloved Disciple, you must stand with me, The Mother of Sorrows at the foot of the Cross, and I will steer the great ark of The Church into the harbour of Peace. Remember cling, cling to The Cross."
Looking with the greatest tenderness at Kirill Patriarch of Moscow Our Lady said:
“Do all you can to help your brother Francis. The Church of Rome is suffering from so many divisions, so much strife, so many heresies, hidden, and obvious, but you and all Orthodox Christians, in maintaining the ancient traditions, must help your sister in the West, who looks as though she is about to expire. She is not, but strive not only for Truth, but Unity. Remain firm and be a fountain of charity from which your sister, the Latin Church may be drink deeply from.”
Finally turning to President Putin, Binyamin Netanyahu, and King Abdullah in a look of great solemnity and overwhelming love she said:
“Know this that my Son Jesus is both Messiah, and God. Sons of Isaac and Ishmael this is The Truth, and that is why I appeared at Zeitoun in Egypt in 1968 to draw the sons of Israel, and the sons of Mohammed, and the brothers and sisters of My Son under my protecting veil. Come to me and stay close to me, and I will give you peace. To my Son of Russia I say; be a courageous champion of my Son in these the darkest of days since he came to this Earth all those many years ago. Know that I am your mother, and will not abandon you.”
Having been very solemn as she delivered her last words to Vladimir, Binyamin, and King Abdullah, Our Lady's expression lightened and she smiled a perfectly beautiful smile, and continued,
“For the final part of this journey, you will have three guides, for the saints who have accompanied you, though they will be with you, will not always make their presence felt. Their time of guiding you is coming to an end. At the end of the journey you will be re-united with them, but their work, for the most part, has been done.”
The doors of the Cathedral which had closed behind the company after they had entered, slowly opened, The Cathedral was plunged into darkness, all the angels, the martyrs and the saints, who had been with the cats and the humans, were gone in the blink of an eye. Standing in the doorway were St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, and St. Mary Magdalene, but beyond the entrance of the Cathedral was not the city of Yekaterinburg, but the most wonderful looking garden that the cats and the humans had ever seen.
“Goodness gracious me!” exclaimed Lizzie, “I think we will need all the goodness and graciousness that comes our way!” said Molly.