John Mark Reynolds, 2005.
Michael was the younger son. His brother was given the family business since that was the way things were done. The oldest would run the firm while the rest were to contribute. In the early twentieth-century that was already a very old-fashioned notion, but Michael benefited in terms of prestige and wealth from the business. He could have left the firm, but he chose to stay.
Michael was in many ways better suited to management than his quieter older brother. However, he could not seem to settle down. He moved from one in inappropriate love to another finally falling in love, deeply in love, with a married woman. In that era, such a deed could only alienate him from the rest of his family. His older brother was deeply hurt. Given the health of his own son, the eldest brother had to count on his younger brother to manage the family firm after his own death, but now his brother had created a scandal. His own wife did not feel she could tolerate a woman in the family who had two previous husbands.
Eventually the time came when the firm began to falter. The older brother had a wife who frequently interfered in the running of the business. She was a disaster with not even a vague notion of the modernization needed. Tough words needed to be spoken and as the officer most likely to assume control, Michael was sent to deliver the bad news. His older brother could not hear him, however. Michael had given up his moral authority when he had chosen “love” over duty. Now Michael was asking his brother to hurt the woman he passionately loved and do his duty. He was not heard for he lacked the standing to make his case. The family was ruined.
And so it is in our lives when we choose great passion apart from our duty. Love is not enough or better love that defies our duty and hurts others we love cannot be great love. Even if it is a passion that never leaves, that burns an entire lifetime more brightly with the years as did that of Michael and his wife, it is not enough. Real love lays down love itself for others. It refuses to place the satisfaction of itself over the needs of others.
Michael failed in his duty, his love, for his family. No matter how great the passion he felt there was no justification for such selfishness. He wanted the benefits of a conventional life, the life of duty, with the liabilities of duties hard call. Grand Duke Michael weakened the House of Romanov when he pursued his Natasha. It left his brother Tsar Nicholas II with one less support for the throne. It left the Tsar with one less respected voice of moderation and no example of the sacrifice of great love for the good of the many. Michael got the wife he wanted, but the end was misery and death. It always is. We are not heirs to great Empires. Nothing seems to ride on our choices. Passion calls and it seem easier to answer it, to seize the immediate happiness of love, than to do our duty. We just want happiness and do not care about the misery we create. What difference does it make? No dynasty hangs on our deeds.
God help us, but we are all of us sons and daughters of Almighty God. We are brothers and sisters to King Jesus. Though the eternal Kingdom can never fall, we can weaken it in our own day and time. God have mercy on us. We seize for love and miss the greatest love of all. We do not allow the pain of denial to purge our souls and make us ready for a higher love. Like greedy children, we cannot believe that what would follow denial could be better than the bright bauble of the passion we so desire.Someone reading this might be at a cross roads. Duty seems hard and dry. Passion seems exciting and enlivening. Sacrifice, the cross of virtue, seems a pain that will never end. Do not get off that cross! Dare to do your duty! Do not fail as a mother or a father.
The man who works daily and trades grand adventure for homely affection will find what he has lost. The woman who trades career for hearth will find what she has lost. Great good deeds will be done, are always done, by the sacrifice of what seems greater to pursue what seems less but is right. Michael got Natasha but helped lose Russia and his entire family. May we never do the same in our own time. May we follow the hard path of duty and so find the greatest love of all. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.