Here (Matthew 4:25-5:12a) the Lord has gathered His disciples as He does on many occasion and the rest are compelled to follow Him by His wisdom and countless miracles. For it is time to amass an army for Spiritual Warfare against the passions of a fallen world. He leads them to where He delivers the Sermon on the Mount.
Notice how this does not become a performative affair in the center of the city. This remote location comes with the program – the priority is development of souls and bodies firm in the Faith and its necessary Works.
The Holy Church was always against any kind of revolutions or forceful overturning of power. Instead, She supported civil evolution.
These enlightening words are from the recent archpastoral Appeal of His Eminence, Peter, Archbishop of Chicago and Mid-America in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia to his flock of converts and emigre families of the diocesan diaspora.
Vladyka cites as the best and most immediate example of this in what should be well-known, especially to Orthodox Christians: the response of the faithful from the outset to persecution. In times of persecution, such as the one against the early Church by the rulers of the pagan Roman Empire, or the one against the Russian Church by the godless Communists, the faithful traditionally does not react other than to confess the Faith and pray for the persecutors.
By such peaceful response, Vladyka writes:
[The Church], without any riots, changed the course of the pagan Roman Empire, having completely regenerated it.
As Christians, we are to endure the murderous passions of others against us and love them despite the sinfulness. We love the sinner but hate the sin. We are not to riot or engage in protest. (On a timely side-note: Did not Dr. King, Jr. at his most authentic command that a member of the Beloved Community set the peaceful Christian example of love on the spot as he was bludgeoned by the club-wielding policeman in the street procession?)
We are to support the authorities in power who provide solace for the Church to operate. And in so doing, the Holy Church, when full reception of Her Holy Mysteries by the community occurs, such regeneration Vladyka cites naturally follows.
Regeneration of the entire ground of morality in the souls of the formerly impassioned tyrants, for all true morality can only be founded in the one, true Church, and thereby regeneration of the temporal community as a whole can result. Although, we could advance that we do not intend to limit this to the world.
For the world cannot contain the wonders of the human heart; it must be allowed to open beyond the horizon of this day, and beyond this life, to the afterlife. Human weakness in the face of the passions, in the face of the challenge of all that one holds dear in this life, warrants absolute charity as a foundational claim for the possibility of change.
We must hold in abeyance ultimate judgement for the sake of the necessary transformation of each unto wholeness, through repentance, and the humbling reception of the Holy Mysteries. Humility, after of our Lord’s absolute and perfect example, proves absolutely key for redemption. So also is redemption of course necessary for salvation.
And the Victory of our Lord over death and evil rests on his willing suffering of the worst scourging and deaths imaginable, which “Passionless Passion” and Resurrection redeems all who turn to Him, no matter how depraved. The Holy Martyrs wear the crown of victory in their endurance of all manner of suffering and death for their faith.
But, for those who struggle, as we are told by our father among the saints, John of Shanghai and San Francisco (whose acolyte, driver, and cell attendant was Vladyka Peter):
What is important is not victory or the position of a victor, but rather the labor of striving towards God and devotion to Him.
Striving, struggling, or psychologically speaking, conation, if you will, constitutes a sort of regenerative, spiritual intensionality, i.e. from bare consciousness of things to full awareness in heart of one’s absolute dependence upon God for absolutely everything. Even the saint – and especially the saint, it could be said – struggles at each moment towards God. Indeed St. John, as is well-known, asks his spiritual children to whom he wondrously appears, to pray for him.
And given that fear diminishes along this journey the closer one is to God, we know that it is by the Grace of God we may say with the saint of such orientation of constant willing to struggle quoting our Lord, “but fear not, for I have overcome the world.”
Recently someone posted on their blog how the plight of the Serbs is not to gain equal footing with all others, but just to be their own true, “oppressed” people: to be Serbian, to have their own Holy Land of ancient (Kosovo and Metohija). To them, to be Serbian is inextricably intertwined with being orthodox.
The author attests to generations of inconceivable struggle to claim their “moral superiority of the oppressed,” not to overcome, to get their just desserts, reparations, and the like. In short, it’s a battle in the heart to remain the best Slaves of the Lord that they truly have been from the beginning! But the post-Tito generation in large part turns a deaf ear!
This blog piece came just after the Feast of the Serbian King Lazar which was shared the day of the Resurrection (Sunday) with Met. Jonah of Moscow. The author points to King Lazar’s choice the night before an invasion of Ottoman troops (the Battle of Kosovo) in 1389 given by the angel to choose between an earthly kingdom or the Heavenly Kingdom.
He won sainthood for the Serbs through temporal struggle and loss on the battlefield. He won as a Right-Believing King grounded on the only source of morality for the world—the Holy Orthodox Church.
What of all of this about Victory Day (днем победы) in Russia?
This victory was under Stalin and the detestable godless communists, of course, but countless clergy are those decorated with its honors. After losing nearly 30 million soldiers to the four-year battle from the Nazi invasion of Russia, is it really the Victory that is important?
Or is it the defeat of National Socialism and antisemitic fascism that is important. One cannot help sympathize with the Russians against the absolutely absurd revisionist platform brazenly to “cross out” this defeat. But then one wonders, as all things happen by the Grace of God, has the Church been allowed to prevail by the stoic struggle for its own sake, for Matushka Russiya, of Marshall/General Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, who all but sealed the struggle around the time of the feast of his and our heavenly patron Trophy-bearer and Wonderworker George?
Perhaps then also the Church sustained in its mission and divine right to struggle and aid Her flock to strive toward God through the godless terror through those hastily nay facilely oft-cursed like Met. Sergius (Strogorodsky) concomitantly with the oft-loathed-as-schism and exilic Synod out of Karlovsty?
If you were going out to the haven of the forest in Soviet times to celebrate the Liturgy, would you have braved the journey in your vestments, or would you have worn a cloak over the bedazzling raiment? This is not a thought experiment. Persecuted at every turn with the absolute idolatry of the comfortable life against any struggle as we are if we breathe today, this will sooner than we know become quite personal… unless we do not allow our living prayers along with those of the Church to be stamped out.
+ Saint John, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Wonderworker († 1966)
+Holy Apostle Jude, the Brother of the Lord († c. 80)
Martyr Zosimus the Soldier at Antioch, in Pisidia († c. 100)
Venerable Paisius the Great (5th C)
St. John the Solitary of Jerusalem (6th C)
Vnerable Xeno of Egypt
Venerable Barlaam of Shenkursk († 1462)
Holy Myrrh-bearer Mary of James
+ Holy Hierarch Job, Patriarch of Moscow