Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
While jovial Soviet diplomats and their guests toasted the 60th anniversary of the Russian Revolution Monday night another group of Russians in Washington marked the victory of the Bolsheviks in a different way - by praying for the souls of their victims.
About 200 persons braved the rain last night to join in a solemn requiem service at St. Nicholas' Russian Orthodox Church, 3500 Massachusetts Ave. NW. The service was in memory of the victims of religious persecution in the Soviet Union during the alst 60 years.
"Martys" is what the very Rev. John Meyendorff, a leading theologian of the Orthodox church, called them.
"The Christian church had martyrs not just in the first century," declared Father Meyendorf, who teaches at the church's seminary in Tuckahoe, N.T., "but many of those who died in the Russian Revolution 60 years ago were martyrs for Christ."
As is the custom in Orthodox churches, the worshipers stood through the hour-long service in the elegant little church that was built by refugees to this country from the Russian Revolution. The service itself was low-key, steeped in the ancient traditions and liturgy.
"Man is endowed with the image of God; without this man is an animal," said Father Meyendorff. "Let the politicians do their work but let us affirm the wrongdoings of that ideological system of the second greatest power in the world which proclaims that desecration of Heaven."
As Father Meyendorff, who spoke extemporaneously in English, finished, the liturgy began. Ten priests, including visitors from Greek, Romanian adn Serbian Orthodox Churches, garbed in simple, shroud-like vestments of gold brocade, clustered around three sides of the commemorative table placed in front of a large cross in the center of the sanctuary.
On the table lay one full-brown white rose - symbol of fallen martyrs - and about a dozen tall, slim candles. As they entered the sanctuary earlier, each worshiper had purchased for a quarter a similar candle, nearly a foot long and poked through a paper cup to catch the drip. The candles were lighted as the liturgy began, with lights passed from one worshiper to the next until all were aglow.
The liturgy flowed from Russian to English to Slavic - the ancient language of the Russian church - and back to Russian church - and back to Russian again. Interwoven with the chants and prayers of the priests was the hauntingly beautiful choir, unaccompanied, of course, whose very harmonies could carry one to heaven.
Without prayer book or hymnal, the faithful followed the priests in whatever langueage was used: now standing, now kneeling on the black and white marble floor, now crossing themselves, and all the while keeping a wary eye on the flickering flame of their own as well as their neighbor's candle.
While St. Nicholas' Church was built by Russian emigres, it is largely their Americanized children who worship there now - about 200 "duespaying members," a lay leader of the congregation said. In the socializing before and after the service, English was heard more commonly than Russian. The accents were as likely to be California as Kiev.
The congregation was a cross-section of all ages: there were young families as well as white-haired grande dames.
Not all those present were Russian. "I'm not Russian," confided Carol Brosnan, who said she works for the National Endowment for the Humanities. "But I'm a friend of the Russian people. I don't celebrate the revolution, but every year I always remember this way."
And while State Department types were knocking off the vodka at the official Steve celebrations downtown, the Voice of America was tapping the whole service to be beamed to the Soviet people.
Compared to an anti-Soviet rally of, say, the Jewish Defense League, the event at St. Nicholas Church Monday was fairly fame. But there was a long-range view expressed which looked beyond the Bolshevik Revolution.
"There are many who believe," said Father Meyendorff, "that the calling of us in the West is to struggle against the enemies of religion. But we are not here to struggle: We say the truth and the truth shall make us free . . ." In the long run, he said. "The Orthodox faith will survive; we shall triumph."