Saint Olga

From the Russian Primary Chronicle:

6456-6463 (948-955). Olga went to Greece, and arrived at Tsar'grad. The reigning Emperor was named Constantine, son of Leo. Olga came before him, and when he saw that she was very fair of countenance and wise as well, the Emperor wondered at her intellect. He conversed with her and remarked that she was worthy to reign with him in his city. When Olga heard his words, she replied that she was still a pagan, and that if he desired to baptise her, he should perforn this function himself; otherwise, she was unwilling to accept baptism. The Emperor, with the assistance of the Patriarch, accordingly baptised her.

After her baptism, the Emperor summoned Olga and made known to her that he wished her to become his wife. But she replied, "How can you marry me, after yourself baptizing me and calling me your daughter? For among Christians that is unlawful, as you yourself must know." Then the Emperor said, "Olga, you have outwitted me." He gave her many gifts of gold, silver, silks, and various vases, and dismissed her, still calling her his daughter.

Now Olga dwelt with her son Svyatoslav, and she urged him to be baptized, but he would not listen to her suggestion, though when any man wished to be baptized, he was not hindered, but only mocked. For to the infidels, the Christian faith is foolishness. They do not comprehend it, because they walk in darkness and do not see the glory of God. Their hearts are hardened, and they can niether hear with their ears nor see with their eyes.

Olga remarked oftentimes, "My son, I have learned to know God, and am glad for it. If you know him, you too will rejoice." But he did not heed her exhotation, answering, "How shall I alone accept another faith? My followers will laugh at that." But his mother replied, "If you are converted, all your subjects will perforce follow your example." Svyatoslav did not heed his mother, but followed heathen usages, for he did not know that whoever does not obey his mother shall come to distress.

6477 (969). Svyatoslav announced to his mother and his boyars, "I do not care to remain in Kiev, but should prefer to live in Pereyaslavets on the Danube, since that is the centre of my realm, where all riches are concentrated; gold, silks, wine, and various fruits from Greece, silver and horses from Hungary and Bohemia, and from Rus' furs, wax, honey, and slaves." But Olga made reply, "You behold me in my weakness. Why do you desire to depart from me?" For she was already in precarious health. She thus remonstrated with him and begged him first to bury her and then to go wheresoever he would. Three days later Olga died.

Olga was the precursor of the Christian land, even as the dayspring precedes the sun and as the dawn precedes the day. For she shone like the moon by night, and she was radiant among the infidels like a pearl in the mire, since the people were soiled, and not yet purified of their sin by holy bpatism. But she herself was cleansed by this sacred purification. She put off the sinful garments of the old Adam, and was clad in the new Adam, which is Christ. Thus we say to her, "Rejoice in the Russes' knowledge of God," for we were the first fruits of their reconciliation with Him.

She was the first from Rus to enter the kingdom of God, and the sons of Rus thus praise her as their leader, for since her death she has interceded with God in their behalf.

Copyright H. David Marshak, All Rights Reserved