The Christian Duty of Serving the Fatherland. The Christian View of War

Moral Theology, Chapter 24     

Chapter 23

On the statement of Righteous Athanasy of Mt. Athos and St. Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril

It is apparent that the Christian patriotism, which was mentioned earlier, demands from each of us that we serve our country as much as we can. This service by man is accomplished, first of all, when he is occupied with certain government or social work. Of course, the value of this service is augmented if it is done unselfishly, independently of any material calculations or considerations. But man, at any rate, serves his country when he participates in its life, working and writing, in the press or during social elections and so forth. Here he must strive to bring his good to the entire society, to all the people and not to observe only his personal or party interests. Then his conscience will be at peace. Even if he does not achieve great social success, he will at least have honestly, in a Christian manner, fulfilled his duty of patriotism as a faithful son of his country.

As the proverb says, “a friend indeed is a friend in need”. In a genuine patriot, the love for his country and his people appears especially strongly during a time of national trials and calamities. Everyone knows how a person feels whose loved ones are seriously ill. He has no time for amusements and pleasures. In his grief and sorrow, he sometimes cannot even eat or drink or refresh himself with rest and sleep. Something similar must appear during national disasters in man if he actually loves his homeland, sincerely, really. If our heart is piled up from top to bottom only with our personal experiences and interests, if with our words we moan and sigh and our deeds stand apart from our words as “separate as the East from the West then”, then this is a poor love for our country!

One of the more luminous and self-defying podvigs in serving our country Is to die for our country, primarily during war. A Christian soldier defending his country and its sanctity clearly fulfills Christ’s commandment, “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.

Of course, war in and of itself is an unconditional evil, an extremely and deeply antithetical to the very basis of Christianity. It is not necessary to mention how comforting it would be if people stopped fighting each other and if peace would become established on earth. But sad reality says something completely different. Only some dreamers far away from reality and narrowly one-sided sectarians can reject war, so to speak, not allowing it to exist in real life.

Undoubtedly, those who point to the commandment, “do not kill”, justly say that war is a breach of this commandment. No one argues against this. However, we see from the Holy Bible that at the time that this commandment was given in the Old Testament, the Israelite nation was at war by God’s command and triumphed over its enemies with His help. We have already cited the commandment from the Old Testament that if a man speaks evil about his parents, he must be put to death; it follows that the commandment “do not kill” was not unconditionally applied to every instance of taking man’s life. This commandment only forbids personal retribution of one person with another by his personal decision and arbitrariness. Here is the text:

When the Lord in the New Testament clarified the deep meaning of this commandment, He indicated that it forbids not only murder, but non-Christian, vain anger in general. But He, the Lord, in a conversation with the Apostles about the last days, told them: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” These words of His about the inevitability of war refute the claims of pacifists that Christianity rejects war outright, not recognizing it at all and refusing to participate in it. Yes, we have already said that war is a negative human phenomenon. However, it has to exist sometimes as the sole means of defending the truth and the holy places and rights of people from capture, invasion and violence. Christian doctrine defends only wars in the name of justice and restoration of order and truth. No wonder we read in the Apocalypse [the Book of Revelation] that there was even a war in heaven (Rev. 12:7), when Holy Archangel Michael and the angels overthrew the traitor, the Devil, from Heaven along with his like-minded associates, the fallen angels…

The life of Monk Athanasius the Athonite contains the following account. The Georgian prince Tornike Eristavi took monastic vows in his monastery, after being an outstanding commander of Greek troops. In a difficult time for the state, during the war with the Persians [probably the Arabs.—Ed.], the Empress Zoe called on Tornike to command the troops. Tornike flatly refused, referring to the fact that he was already a monk. But Monk Athanasius said to him, “We are all children of the same homeland and are obliged to protect it. Our duty is to protect our homeland from enemies through prayer. But if the Supreme Authority deems it necessary to use our hands and chest for the common good, we must obey unquestioningly… If you do not listen to the Empress, then you will be responsible for the blood of your compatriots whom you did not want to save, and for the destruction of the temples of God…” Tornike obeyed, defeated the enemy, and saved his fatherland from danger. And St. Cyril, Equal-to-the-Apostles, in talking with Muslims about war, told them: “We endure our personal grievances liberally: but in society, we protect each other by laying down our lives for our neighbor, so that you do not capture our fellow-subjects and force them to renounce the faith and to commit ungodly deeds…”

Finally, is there any Russian who does not know the example of St. Sergius of Radonezh, who blessed Prince Dmitry Donskoy for battle, prayed for the success of the Russian troops, and commemorated the warriors who died on the battlefield? Of course, by participating in a war, a person can sin and sin greatly. This happens when he invests feelings of personal hatred and revenge, or vanity, pride, and personal aspiration in it. And vice-versa: The less he thinks about himself and the readier he is to lay down his life for others, the closer to a martyr’s crown a Christian warrior is.

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)
Parish Life, September 2023
St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington, DC


Jake9/7/2023 10:54 pm
Herman: Here is another one for you: (Note in the video that Zelensky and the Nazi leader are speaking Russian and not Ukrainian.) It even makes one feel sorry for Zelensky.
Jake9/7/2023 9:34 pm
Herman: Then it's totally baffling why you accuse anyone who doesn't affirm your skewed take of this war as a Kremlin mouthpiece. You say you don't need to read any English language articles like the ones I cited, but more precisely, you just don't want to. And you have also been brainwashed into assuming that any journalist who has written for RT (because none of the English language mainstream media is willing to publish their articles) is somehow lying. Again, when this is all over and the evidence comes out, you will see that there are Nazis active in Ukraine, that they are very bad, and have committed atrocities and war crimes. Nobody is saying that all Ukrainians are that way--to the contrary, the majority of Ukrainians are victims of these Nazis. And don't forget, in this proxy war between NATO and Russia, Russian soldiers are also dying, many of them. But what about NATO soldiers? Are you willing to send your sons or sons-in-law to fight and die or be maimed so that Russia can be weakened or destroyed? Russia has sent their men, in fact their men are volunteering, which shows that they are serious, that they are defending themselves. Think about these things. And pray for an end to this war, before it comes to your own doorstep.
Herman9/7/2023 7:46 pm
Jake: I am a long-standing member of ROCOR and I speak the Russian language. I don't need to listen to western reporters in Donbass (many of whom are connected the RT propaganda network), I am able to watch Russian media and I have many Russian and Ukrainian friends and acquiantances. I don't watch CNN. I am no supporter of Zelensky, or NATO, or the Kremlin. I will repeat again for the last time - I support the Ukrainian people who are defending their country against invasion. They are fulfilling their Christian duty to their nation, and are obligated to protect their Church, families, and people. You should be praying for their salvation, rather than calling them such things as "nazis" which is ludicrous.
Jake9/7/2023 5:07 pm
And I suggest you also watch this "Kremlin propaganda" from an American marine:
Jake9/7/2023 4:04 pm
Herman: Look, it takes two to have a war. And what you call Kremlin propaganda is only propaganda in your eyes. But you will see, if you are not so blind in the future, that your US State Dept. propaganda is nothing but lies. What do you really know about Ukraine? Or Russia? Obviously very little. Because you get all your information from outlets like CNN. Why not read some American sources, like this: ? Or take a look at the American, British, or German reporters who are actually in Donbas, and not at the feeding end in the US of Kiev's propaganda, who can't report the whole truth because they'll loose their jobs? It's your type of attitude that is causing all the trouble--that wonderful American exceptionalism. Certainly exceptional--exceptionally stupid and arrogant. And remember: this is not a war between Russia and Ukraine. It is a war between Russia and NATO, with the poor Ukrainians as proxies. They are the ones paying for your "American exceptionalism". Like I said, wake up!
Herman9/7/2023 12:55 pm
Jake: the amount of Kremlin propaganda you have digested is astounding, especially for a non-Russian. The fact remains, if Russia had respected Ukraine's borders in 2014, and not sent FSB and military to Donbass, none of this would be occuring right now. Despite what Moscow thinks, Ukraine is an independent country, and regardless of the Maidan events, Russia had no justification in invading the country and occupying for nine years now. To return to my original point - the Ukrainians are fulfilling their Christian duty to serve their country and defend their nation. Listen to the words of Metropolitan Onuphry, a great and holy man, and a consistent defender of his Church, people, and country. The Russians are not defending anyone - they are on the offense, and hundreds of thousands have apparently now been killed thanks to this senseless invasion. You blame the Ukrainians for not rolling over and refusing to defend their country? Where would be the Christian honor in that?
Jake9/7/2023 11:30 am
Herman: You are the psychotic one. You don't even care to study the history of this conflict. In 2014, a Western-sponsored and Western (mainly US neocons) controlled revolution took place called the Maidan, in Kiev. More and more information is coming out that proves this--including the intentional killing of protesters by US-hired snipers. The genocide against their own people began. Then, the Kiev regime bans the use of the Russian language, spoken as the only language by two-thirds of the population. Then, those in Odessa--a Russian city--protest, and the protesters are burned alive in the Union building. Then the attacks on Donbas, for not agreeing with the new politics. This is genocide, now obviously a genocide against the Russian population. The numbers you stated are not even complete. The city of Donetsk alone lost hundreds of peaceful civilians, including children--not in crossfire, but because the Ukrainian side was intentionally firing upon them, relentlessly, for days at a time. The Nazis have been torturing not just captive fighters, but also civilians--women, priests, monks. This is all documented, and when it all comes out, the hangman's noose will be waiting for those anti-humans. Then, NATO arms the Ukraine Nazi regime to the teeth, trains the ultra-nationalist soldiers, and amasses them at the border of Donbas. And the Russians are just supposed to sit back and watch? Let's see what you say if we switch Ukraine for Mexico. Wake up--Nazism doesn't stay contained, it spreads--unless the Russians come in and put them down, again. You also forget, that there were two agreements in Minsk to stop the conflict from 2014 to 2022--and the Ukraine did not honor them. Then, only a month and a half into the conflict after the Russian invasion, both sides signed an agreement, both making concessions, which would have stopped the war. But Kiev threw it in the garbage, and assasinated their own diplomat. The US and GB ran over to Kiev and told them to keep fighting. A a half a millian dead Ukrainain soldiers later, and they are still sending them weapons. Ukrainian men are now resisting mobilization, but the Kiev regime is roping them in and sending them to a sure death. And you blame the Russians? This is nothing other than a sophisticated genocide of Slavs, perpetrated by NATO and its payees in Kiev. Wake up!
Herman9/7/2023 4:48 am
Jake: Ukraine did not conduct a genocide against anyone. The estimated numbers of those killed in war in Donbass 2014-2022 are about 15,000 - that is, 5,000 Ukrainian military, 6-7,000 Russian military and mercenaries, and 3-4,000 civilians. That's 3-4,000 civilians (Ukrainian citizens) killed by both Russian and Ukrainian military in 8 years. In the last year, how many Ukrainian civilians have died as a result of the Russian invasion? Approximately twice that number. Who is then in reality conducting a genocide against who? If the Russian military and FSB had not moved into Ukraine in 2014 to attempt to annex Donetsk and Luhansk regions, none of those deaths would have happened. The Ukrainian military moved in to protect the territorial integrity of their country. It's almost as if you think the Ukrainian government would just allow, with no protest or fight at all, a neighboring country to simply invade and take territory from them. Why should any nation tolerate such a thing? Ukraine fought back, and you blame them. This is very odd, and perhaps even psychotic, to blame the victim and call them such childish epithets as "nazis" while they are the ones experiencing a full-scale invasion of their country. Ukraine never invaded Russia, never attempted to annex their territory, and had no plans to do so. The Christian response is not to roll over and allow Russia to conquer their nation. The Christian response is summed up here, as Met Philaret explains: "A Christian soldier defending his country and its sanctity clearly fulfills Christ’s commandment, “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”." Ukrainian soldiers are defending and protecting their own country, while Russian soldiers are invading and attacking and occupying someone else's country.
Dionysius Redington9/7/2023 3:20 am
It is possible to justify traditional soldier-on-soldier combat as the heroic or even martyric defence of the defenceless and weak. While such combat still occurs, literally today, the overall trend of the last three centuries has been toward the use of weapons that are intended chiefly to kill precisely those non-combatants whom traditional just wars are supposed to protect. It is difficult for me to imagine any Christian justification for random shelling, air raids, or the use (or even stockpiling) of nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction by either side in any war. --Dionysius Redington
Jake9/6/2023 11:34 pm
These commenters are out to lunch. Becaues, 1) This is part of a series on Moral Theology, which was written by Met. Philaret Voznesensky, who died in 1985. This means that this was written perhaps before you guys were born, and obviously before this war could even have been imagined. and 2) I suppose you think it's okay for the Ukrainian Nazis to conduct a genocide against the Russians, and the Russians are just supposed to be "peacemakers" and die. I suggest you all go to Donbas and talk to those people, whom the Nazis in Ukraine have been killing for nine years.
Alex9/6/2023 11:06 pm
“it has to exist sometimes as the sole means of defending the truth and the holy places and rights of people from capture, invasion and violence.” Truth without love is nothing.
Herman9/6/2023 10:06 pm
Wise words from the holy Metropolitan Philaret. May God save and protect the Ukrainian Christians who are serving their country by defending their homeland against invasion from a foreign army.
Noah Jefferson9/6/2023 8:59 pm
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." - Matthew 5:9 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." - Matthew 23:23 "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?... I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." - Psalm 82:1-2,6-7 No amount of faux piety can justify the defense and promotion of Russia's genocide against Ukraine, and its twisting of the Russian Church into the embodiment of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor to do so. In fact, it makes it worse. The Russian state Church venerates the relics of its martyrs, but as Christ said to the Pharisees, "ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers." An institution that turns the Christian faith into a justification for genocide has betrayed the Gospel and is actively serving the god of this world, the Devil. Lord have mercy on the peacemakers, the priests and laity in Russia who oppose the war and are silenced or worse. Great is their reward in Heaven.
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