Here is the second part of a portion of St. Nikolai Velimirovich’s work entitled, War and the Bible. As I noted in the preface to the first part, “I am already invested in the labor of directly translating the sermons of St. Seraphim (Zvezdenski), On the Divine Liturgy (in which translation I sit with the printed text and work through it in the traditional translation method). But, my, oh my, how vital and pertinent were the words of St. Nikolia! How, it seemed to me, urgently they need to be heard! And so, I settled upon a compromise, one that I am a little loath of, but expediency won the day. I entered paragraphic portions into an online translation program, and then compared the generated English translation to the original, where it seemed clumsy or off a little I modified it. This process gave me the ability to offer the work below in a much shorter time frame than otherwise possible … what I offer below is trustworthy and I believe important given the time.” There is a full English translation available for purchase here. I highly recommend getting and reading it.
Part one of my offering may be found here. The title of blog post and footnotes are my own. All section titles are from the original work.
The words of St. Nikolai are of the uttermost relevance for events unfolding around us today. It is vital to note that he considers war to be the result of sin alone, he comprehends that war takes place in this fallen world. The holy Metropolitan Philaret notes, “True, we have already examined that war is a negative phenomenon. Yet it will exist, sometimes as the sole defense of truth and human rights, or against seizure, brutal invasion, and violence.” The sad reality is that Christians at times must use the mechanism of war to defend themselves and their families from hostile forces, but even still it is understood to be part of this fallen world.
St. Nikolai’s ultimate concern is the cause, the underlying essence of war. Although Christian people defend themselves if needed, ultimately the cause of war is sin. It is therefore clear that there can never be a supposed “holy war.” War is never holy. That is a completely false and unchristian ideology.
All of the machinations of men will not save humanity if it continues on the path of sin and rebellion. We have tumbled off the bed of chastening from the event of covid right to the precipice of war. Sadly, in covidism rarely did even Christians offer a Christian answer to the crisis, rather the secular mantras of salvation were frequently and simply proclaimed in churches. St. Nikolai’s overall prescription of healing from war would apply also as the therapy to be healed from national or global epidemics (contrived or natural). We may well pause to reflect if the remedies have been applied? If not, then may it be that we are standing on the current cliff precisely because we have fallen short in our Christian vocation? St. Nikolai clearly lays the greatest blame for disasters on Christians who turn back on their vocation. If so, the remedy must be applied – Christians must turn from the idols of the age and seek the Lord in repentance.
Ultimately while reading, one cannot help but be reminded of the axiom set forth by St. John Chrysostom – No one can hurt the man who does not hurt himself. Begin the text by St. Nikolai –
THE FULFILLMENT OF PROPHETIC WORDS ABOUT WARS
Allow me, general, to read a few more pages from the Holy Revelation of God… God’s holy prophets clearly saw that God sends war on godless people and entire nations, as He sent pestilence, famine, drought, earthquakes, caterpillar invasion, locusts and other disasters on them who were supposed to reason with the atheists and bring them back to God.
“I struck you with fevers and with jaundice. You multiplied your gardens. The caterpillar devoured your vineyards and your fig groves and your olive grooves, and even so you did not return to Me,’ says the Lord, ‘I sent death to you in the way of Egypt, and I killed your young men by the sword … and even so you did not return to Me,’ says the Lord” (Amos 4:9-10).
All these disasters have already befallen Europe, but she “did not turn to the Lord” and, although she deserved war, she still speaks of peace. “There is no peace for the wicked, says the Lord” (Is. 48:22). So they fight against God with their sins and iniquities, and with them defile the world. “Because the kingdom of the foolish will kill them, and the carelessness of the foolish will destroy them . “
Sodom and Gomorrah did not die from war, but from peace – from a peace without God. “For I have taken my peace from this people, says the Lord” (Jer. 16:5). Why did the Good Lord take peace from the people? For the fact that “Their tongue is a wounding javelin. The words of their mouth are deceitful; he speaks peaceful things to his friend, and he has enmity within himself. Shall I not look at these things.” (Jer. 9:7-8). For their duplicity and hypocrisy , “The human dead will be an example upon the face of the plain of your land, like stubble behind a reaper. And there will be no one to gather it.” (Jer. 9:22).
Hypocrisy has seized the leaders of the Christian peoples and while talking about peace, they conclude secret treaties against each other. Each such treaty means war. “I will put the wicked to the sword, says the Lord” (Jer. 25:31). Those who were betrayed before are betrayed now.
In their iniquity, Christian peoples have become much worse than non-Christian people, who firmly hold on to their “gods” – idols, while among the Christian peoples not only propaganda is being carried out against the Lord, but a direct “raid” against Him. It was exactly the same with the Jews before them. Their neighbors, the idolaters, were faithful to their idols, and the Jews rejected God and trampled on His law. God punished them but they still remained in their godlessness and persisted in their rebellion. Therefore, the prophet called: “Lord, You flogged them, but they do not feel pain; You crush them, but they do not want to receive instruction; they have made their faces harder than rocks, and do not want to turn back” (Jer. 5:3).
Didn’t God scourge the Christian nations, this new Israel, but they didn’t feel the pain? Didn’t he crush them with pestilence and war, but they didn’t learn anything? When disasters befell them, they cried out to God, and He, forgiving them, sent them peace; and then they sinned again, and He, punishing them, sent them war.
God is not a man so as not to know, and He knows that in trouble a man turns to the Truth; therefore He sends misfortune. In peace and abundance, people become ungodly and selfish; to sober them up, God sends disaster. Hence the proverb: “Until the thunder breaks out, the peasant will not cross himself.” “For the fact that My house is in desolation, while you each are busy with your house. Therefore, the sky does not give you dew, and the earth does not give its produce. And I called drought upon the earth” ( Haggai 1:9-11). And when a small disaster did not help, God sent war. “All sinners from my people will die by the sword, who say: The evil thing shall not approach or come against us” (Amos 9:10).
As they say now in Europe and America: “Such a disaster will not come!” Meanwhile, it has already been called and a feast is being prepared for it, worth billions and billions in gold, all to pay for the war. The roar of military preparations is heard everywhere and along side of it the struggle against Christ is being waged everywhere.
What sins did Israel burden itself with, and how did they bring destruction upon themselves? “Gather together on the mountains of Samaria and look at the great disorder in her and the oppression among her. They do not know how to do justice, says the Lord; by violence and robbery they lay up treasures in their halls. Therefore thus says the Lord God: your land has been laid waste round about; he will bring down your stronghold from you, and your territories will be plundered” (Amos 3:9-11).
GOSPEL AND WAR
No sensible mother would resort to spanking unless absolutely necessary. But when she has exhausted all admonishing means, then she resorts to the help of the rod to correct the child.cf. Proverbs 13:24 She disciplines not out of malice but out of alarmed maternal love, so that her child would not be lost; so that, finally, other children do not go down the wrong path. Have you not watched how, after such a punishment, the child and the mother cry together? The mother cries out of compassion, wishing to comfort the child with her tears. Perhaps you happened to observe another, even more touching picture, when, after the rod, the child is already laughing, and the mother is crying? Oh, holy motherly love! Which of us, already in adulthood, does not bless his mother for punishing him in childhood? And who does not see in the mother’s punishment even more proof of her caring love?
And war is nothing but a rod with which God wants to save His children from final destruction. God’s love is incomparably greater than mother’s love, and, of course, the Lord allows punishment only out of caring love for a person.
The Lord Jesus Christ revealed to people the purpose of their earthly life and clearly showed the way to achieve this goal. Before Him, people did not know the purpose of their lives, nor the path leading to it. There were many great sages on earth who had a more or less clear presentiment of the goal and path of man and pointed them out to people. But they could not prove their words, could not open to people and show them the realm of spiritual reality. And Christ revealed to us that the goal of life is life itself, that is, that immortal life is the goal of this half-life.
The Kingdom of Heaven is the shining city to which we hasten as we pass through our world, through this forest of symbols and signals that points to the shining city. According to the apostle: “For we have no permanent city here, but we are looking for the future one” (Heb. 13:14) – Life in eternal life, in the shining angelic city, in the Kingdom of Heaven – that is the goal. And the way to this goal is the Lord Himself, His example, all His commandments. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33) – this is the basic, main and only reasonable striving of a person. This is the only thing. The rest is secondary, i.e. food and clothing, health, housing, peace and security, knowledge and skill, and everything we need at this moment of our existence on earth – “all this will be added to us” (Matt. 6:33).
The main thing will be given to us, and everything secondary will be provided or given. For a rich man who gave a poor man a mountain of gold, it is a secondary and trifling matter to give him a lift to the mountain and give him food, clothes and servants. And for God, the richest of all the rich, who gives people an immortal and ever-renewing life near Him, it is a trifle and a secondary matter to provide everything they need on their earthly path. Truly, the Lord gives us everything we need, if our eyes are turned to Him, as the eyes of a slave to a mistress. “The soul is more than food” (Lk. 12:23) – said the Savior, and further: “what is the use of a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).
In connection with the war, one could say this: what is the use of a person or a people if he conquers the whole world, and stains his soul with sin and loses it? Whatever the earthly kingdom may be, today it exists and tomorrow it will be gone; only the Kingdom of the King of Heaven will never pass away.
Before Christ, there were people who noticed that the purpose of human life is not found on earth, that it cannot be found either on earth or under the earth, i.e. in death. They knew from experience that there was no living soul who, considering some earthly object as the goal of his life, would not cool down and be disappointed when he reached it. Now it is clear to every true Christian that a person cannot find the ultimate goal of his life either on earth or anywhere else in our material universe. Our goal is outside the whole material world; it is in the realm of spiritual essence and reality, in the Kingdom of God, and not in this world of symbols and signs from that Kingdom. The Lord not only told us this, but also revealed it. He revealed this to us with His whole Being, through the sufferings of His Cross before and after death, and through the entire history of His Church. Would you believe me, General, when I say that to this day He is this goal?
If the Christian people, i.e. the people, to whom the goal of human life is open, by their own sins obscures it from their mind and vision, then they go blind and madness seizes them. Blind and insane, they search for the ultimate goal on earth, worship idols instead of God, coves the kingdom of this earth, and mock Christ. In such a state, Christ seems to him an unnatural “appearance,” for in the eyes of such people only they are “natural.” Christ is not real to them, but they are real! Such people are at war against the truth, against God, and, of course, at war with their neighbors.
To deny Christ is to deny the purpose of life. To be called a Christian, i.e. the highest name in the world, means not only knowing the purpose of life, but also joyfully walking the path that leads to it. True, “the path that leads to eternal life” (Matt. 7:14) is narrow, but it is clearly laid out and by the nineteenth century it has been sufficiently trodden by God’s saints and righteous, so that there is no longer any need to turn either to the right or to the left. Meekness, humility, mercy, love, hope, faith, quiet disposition, abstinence, goodness, fasting, prayer, forgiveness, hunger and thirst for God’s truth, patience and all other virtues that adorned Christ, and all His commandments – all this means the way leading to the highest goal. This is the path: “Whoever serves me, let him follow me” (Jn. 12:26) – said the Guide and, encouragingly, continued: “Whoever follows Me, he will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12). Seeing that His apostles found it difficult to understand this way, He said to them, and to us too: “I am the Way” (Jn. 14:6). In order for a person to walk in the way that is pleasing to the Lord, he must wage the only war that is pleasing to God: a war against himself. Through this war, man is freed from that mire of sin, which obscures his vision of the goal and the path. By this voluntary war, he frees himself from the burden of fleshly and earthly passions. Under the weight of this burden he stumbles and falls, now to the left, then to the right of the path. He who is at war with himself can steadily walk the right path to the true goal. If a person does not fight against himself, then he fights against God and people.
As you can see, in the way and goal, as the Lord revealed them to us and showed them, there is nothing about the war of man against man or people against people. Why, then, is there war among Christians? Because the war nests in the Christians themselves; and it nestles in them because they began to doubt the goal or neglected the path. If you want to avoid war, you cannot separate the goal from the path. To know the true goal, and to go backwards like a cancer in the opposite direction, it means to mock God, worship idols, and deny Christ. Medieval Europe gives us a clear example of how Christian peoples, knowing the purpose of life, can follow false paths leading away from the goal. Therefore, punishment came in the form of internecine wars among Christian peoples or wars with unbelievers.
No one, except Byzantium, assimilated so precisely and unconditionally the goals of human life, revealed by the Lord. Yet Byzantium perished; she perished because the Byzantines, who confessed God, insulted Him with their wickedness and trampled on God’s law, the knowledge of which they boasted. They recognized the goal – Christ, but walked the paths of sin. They were overtaken by what is said in the Gospel: “The servant who knew the will of his Lord, and was not ready, and did not do according to His will, will be beaten many stripes. But he who did not know and did things worthy of punishment, the beat will be few stripes” (Lk. 12:47-48). These words explain the bitter punishment of holy Byzantium, since she knew the will of the Lord well, and the less severe punishment of the pagan peoples, who poorly know the will of their Lord. These same words also explain why there are more wars among Christians than among non-Christian peoples. Christians are servants who know the will of their Master, and are often and bitterly punished; but non-Christians, who do not know either the goal or the path, do not know the will of their Master, for which they are less punished. Only these words of Christ can explain why over the past 150 years Europe has waged more wars than the rest of the world. Lord Jesus Christ through His Gospel, taught people how to wage war against one’s self – in order to tame one’s self, improve, humble, ennoble, and even resemble Christ Jesus. For this war, and only for it, Christ gave precise “strategy and tactics.” He miraculously showed people what they should be, so that there would not be a war between them or an attack on each other.
Christ did not say that there would be no war; He only taught what to do to prevent it. He foresaw by His Spirit that not all people would want to listen to Him and that there would be many wars as a result. “You will hear about wars and rumors of war… for nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. 24:6-7). Those who sinned will not be punished by war immediately, but after the long, very long patience of God and forgiveness. When the Lord has exhausted all other means of enlightenment, only then then His Holy Love resort to the last resort – the punishment of His children with the scourge of war. Christ wept when he predicted wars (cf. Lk. 19:41).
Some evil people predict war with vengeful joy. Like an evil stepmother who rejoices in the punishment of her stepson. The true mother weeps, thinking about the punishment of her own child, even a bad one. So Christ, filled with boundless love for people, His children, wept, foreseeing future wars.
Having predicted wars – right up to the last times – Christ also mentioned the reason for them: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise” and “because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12-24). False Christs will point people to the false goals of life; false prophets will falsely predict events; iniquity and cold love will lead people astray. Some will know neither the purpose nor the path of life. Others, knowing the purpose of life, will follow the wrong path due to weakness of character. Still others will know both the goal and the path of life, but they will consciously and maliciously reject both, as the Jewish leaders once consciously and maliciously rejected them when they crucified Christ. All this induces Holy Love; weeping, He permits His children be punished with the scourge of war. From what has been said, it is clear that:
So, the main conclusion is that only in the illumination of Revelation can war be understood and explained. All world literature taken together does not explain war in the way that Revelation does. From all of the above, it is clear that war, like any individual and social phenomenon, depends solely on our relationship to God and God’s law. This applies equally to non-Christians and Christians. The only difference is that for non-Christians, war depends on their attitude towards God and His law, implanted in their conscience and to some extent interpreted by their sages; and among Christians, war depends on their attitude to the One Living God and His law, revealed through Jesus Christ.
Just as typhus is inevitable for someone who drinks water contaminated with typhoid bacilli, so war is inevitable for someone who, having departed from God, feeds on thoughts, feelings and deeds that are objectionable to Him and incurs the infection of war. While people are fighting against God with their thoughts, feelings and deeds, their dreams of peace are in vain. Against the will of the people, war must arise where its seeds are sown … “But there is no peace for the wicked, says the Lord” (Is. 48:22). In our time, much more than ever, they are shouting for peace – and preparing for war … It is hard to believe that such duplicity is not punished by war. Idolatry is disgusting to God. It doesn’t matter if people worship gods or their own creations; both forms of worship are vile in the face of God. Any idolatry, both in our time and in the past, is scourged by God, who sends various severe punishments, of which the most severe and most cruel is war.
The mission of Europe is to live as a Christian and help its brothers, pagan peoples, rise to Christ. Europe itself fell into idolatry. From this discord all the rest flows, and war inevitably follows them (i.e. Europeans).
The frivolous question of how the God of mercy and love allows such horrors as war can be answered with another serious question: how can people to whom God has clearly revealed His will and His law, without shame and repentance, incessantly offend God and trample on His law? “The Lord God is compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and abundant in mercy and true” (Ex. 34:6). People have already deserved the coming war. Without God’s mercy and love, the war would have begun long ago. Truly, were it not for God’s merciful love, the sword—for the sins of Christians—would never have been sheathed. The current relative peace, this respite, was given to us not for the mind and culture of people, but for God’s mercy and love; and also for the fear of God and the prayers of pious and kind people, which are present in every people of Europe and America.
Can these nations be saved? Of course they can. The only question is whether they will accept this salvation. “Does the Ethiopian change his skin and the leopard change his striped spots? So you too, accustomed to evil, can you do good?” – God’s prophet once asked the Israelites before the death of this people (Jer. 13:23). Anything is possible if people want it. European peoples could change their spirit, correct their thoughts, tame their aspirations for things of no true value, and go toward the good goal for the One Who said: “I am the Way.” Maybe if they want to. But will they? It is a difference of but one step from falling into the abyss to salvation from it and safety. One step. Will people be willing to step back just one step from the terrible abyss they are standing on? God is waiting for an answer to this question; waiting like a father, loving and caring. Even if daily they gave God a negative answer, God waits in His mercy and love; waiting to hear a kind answer from some people in order to avert the catastrophe.
A lot of words are now being spent on disarmament. But how can a people, burdened – “armed” with sin – be disarmed? Sin inspires fear, fear forges weapons; thus, through fear, sin prepares for war. Oh, if it wasn’t for that damnable fear! But fear will remain as long as there is sin. Willy-nilly, sinners must arm themselves. If people were freed from sin, who would then be afraid, who would forge weapons, who would prepare for war? Nobody.
The purpose of the world! Why don’t they talk about that? They don’t speak about it before God or before people? After all, this is a very important topic! In the name of what do people strive for peace, General? Ask them and they will be confused. Having recovered from their embarrassment, some will answer: for the sake of culture; others: for the sake of economic progress; third: to preserve works of human art; fourth: for the State; fifth: for the sake of ensuring personal existence, etc. – Nonsense! Modern rants about disarmament and peace sound like a counterfeit coin. People do not know the goal of the world they are seeking. And those who now most of all insist on peace need it for more convenient and unhindered worship of their idols. Where does such a world lead?
Why do the rulers of Europe and America insist on peace? For the sake of the fear of God and His glory, or in order to more calmly reap the fruits of their injustice? If the latter is true—and it seems to be true—then it is not surprising that instead of peace, war will be sent to them. When the Lord of the World was born, the choirs of angels sang over Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” The glorification of God, therefore, must come first, and is a necessary condition for true peace and goodwill among men. If people aspired to the world for the glory of God, then they would undoubtedly receive it and this world would forever remain with them.
But have you ever heard from any of those who insist on peace that they vowed to use the world for the glory of God and for self-correction? Such a vow is absolutely necessary for true and lasting peace. Let the peacemakers of today define the purpose of the world precisely, confessing it loudly so that heaven and earth can hear, and then we will witness how war will move away from us.
Blessed is the ruler who, knowing the Truth, will in time call his people to repentance before the Living God. Blessed is the people who in time will cast off the weapons of their sins against God. No evil will come close to him. Unarmed, he will live in safety, as the Almighty God will protect him with His invincible right hand. Even though he did not have a single sword, his enemies will be powerless before him and will not cross the borders of his land; The Lord of Hosts will not allow them to do so. And if the enemies cross its borders, they will dig their own grave…
Blessed is the people who, freed from sin, are the first to be freed from armament. Such a people will take on a great mission in the world. They will be a light to all nations. The Lord God will glorify them with unprecedented glory and bless them forever.
About the author
Husband, father, and Priest.
Schooling: Kharkov State University (Ukraine); Brownsville School of Ministry; St. Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary (M.Div.).
Author and illustrator of St. Patrick, Enlightener of the Irish Lands (Conciliar Press, out of print) and illustrator of The Life of St. Brigid (authored by Jane G. Meyer).
Proprietor and writer at the Inkless Pen Blog, at which, based on the foundation of the teachings of Orthodox Christianity, a wide variety of topics are addressed. Fr. Zechariah has translated some works by St. Dimitry of Rostov and New Hieromartyr Seraphim (Zvesdensky), these translations are also available on his blog.
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