Chapter 5 page 2

State-church Relations

The Political Habits of the World

But viewing the treacherous highways, the manifold battles scattered over the whole earth, the exhibition either bloody or vile, the infamies of lust offered for sale in brothels or enclosed within domestic walls, whose daring is greater in proportion to the secrecy of the sin, the forum perhaps may seem to you to be devoid of all this, that it is free of harassing outrages and is unpolluted by contacts with evil. Turn your sight in that direction. There you will find more things to abhor; from these you will the more turn aside your eyes. Although the laws are engraved on twelve tables, and the statutes are published on bronze set up in public, there is sin in the midst of the laws themselves, there is wickedness in the midst of the statutes, and innocence is not preserved where it is defended. The madness of those who oppose each other rages, and among the togas peace is disrupted and the forum roars madly with law suits. There the spear and the sword and the executioner are close at hand, the claw that tears, the rack that stretches, the fire that burns, for the one body of man more tortures than it has limbs. Who in such cases gives assistance? One’s patron? But he is in collusion and deceives. The judge? But he sells his sentence. He who sits to punish crimes commits them, and in order that the defendant may perish in innocence, the judge becomes guilty. Everywhere transgressions flourish, and in every direction by the multiform nature of sinning the pernicious poison acts through wicked minds. One counterfeits a will, another by a capital fraud gives false testimony; on the one hand children are cheated of their inheritance, on the other strangers are endowed with property; an enemy makes a charge, a calumniator attacks, a witness defames. On both sides the venal impudence of the hired voice proceeds to the falsification of charges, while in the meantime the guilty perish not with the innocent. There is no fear of the laws, of the inquisitor, no dread of the judge; what can be bought is not feared. Now it is a crime for an innocent man to be among the guilty; whoever does not imitate the evil gives offence. The laws have come to terms with sins, and what done in public begins to be allowed. What shame of events can there be here, what integrity, when those to condemn the wicked are absent, and only those to be condemned meet with you.

— To Donatus, by St. Cyprian of Carthago, Chapter 10

The New Realities Brought about by Christianity

He took with him also the priests of God, feeling well assured that now, if ever, he stood in need of the efficacy of prayer, and thinking it right that they should constantly be near and about his person, as most trusty guardians of the soul.

Thus, the nations of the world being everywhere guided in their course as it were by the skill of a single pilot, and acquiescing in the administration of him who governed as the servant of God, the peace of the Roman empire continued undisturbed, and all classes of his subjects enjoyed a life of tranquillity and repose. At the same time the emperor, who was convinced that the prayers of godly men contributed powerfully to the maintenance of the public welfare, felt himself constrained zealously to seek such prayers and not only himself implored the help and favour of God, but charged the prelates of the churches to offer supplications on his behalf.

— Life of St. Constantine the Great, by Eusebius of Csarea, Book 2, Chapter 4; Book 4, Chapter 14

If all without exception, who feel that they are men not in form of body but in power of reason, would lend an ear for a little to His salutary and peaceful rules, and would not, in the pride and arrogance of enlightenment, trust to their own senses rather than to His admonitions, the whole world, having turned the use of steel into more peaceful occupations, would now be living in the most placid tranquillity, and would unite in blessed harmony, maintaining inviolate the sanctity of treaties.

— Against the Gentiles, by Arnobius, Book 1, Chapter 6

Christ not only preached through His own disciples, but also wrought so persuasively on men’s understanding that they learnt to know Him and through Him to worship the Father. While they were yet idolaters, the Greeks and Barbarians were always at war with each other, and were even cruel to their own kith and kin. Nobody could travel by land or sea at all unless he was armed with swords, because of their irreconcilable quarrels with each other. Indeed, the whole course of their life was carried on with the weapons. But since they came over to the school of Christ they have laid aside their murderous cruelty and are war-minded no more. On the contrary, all is peace among them and nothing remains save desire for friendship.

— On the Incarnation, by St. Athanasius the Great, Chapter 8, 51

Church Defiance Against Unjust State Decisions

I see that you are unusually disturbed, and that you are closely watching me. I wonder what the reason is? Is it that you saw or heard that I had received an imperial order at the hands of the tribunes, to the effect that I was to go hence, whither I would, and that all who wished might follow me? Were you afraid that I should desert the Church and forsake you in fear for my own safety? But you could note the message I sent, that the wish to desert the Church had never entered my mind; for I feared the Lord of the universe more than an earthly emperor; and if force were to drag me from the Church, my body indeed could be driven out, but not my mind. I was ready, if he were to do what royal power is wont to do, to undergo the fate a priest has to bear.

Why, then, are you disturbed? I will never willingly desert you, though if force is used, I cannot meet it. I shall be able to grieve, to weep, to groan; against weapons, soldiers, Goths, my tears are my weapons, for these are a priest’s defence.

I ought not, I cannot resist in any other way; but to fly and forsake the Church is not my way; lest any one should suppose I did so from fear of some heavier punishment. You yourselves know that I am wont to show respect to our emperors, but not to yield to them, to offer myself freely to punishment, and not to fear what is prepared for me.

— Sermon Against Auxentius on the Giving Up of the Basilicas, by St. Ambrosius of Milan

By reason of their greatness, such men are soldiers of Christ armed with the Holy Spirit, champions of faith and towers of the divine city. Such persons who are in the flesh defeat the flesh and have contempt for death; they disdain all fear of tyrants and appear more noble.

–Second Homily Concerning the Forty Martyrs, St. Gregory of Nyssa

To the Emperor Mauricius Augustus: I received the law of my lords, in which the piety of my lords has ordained that it shall not be lawful for any one who is engaged in any public administration to enter on an ecclesiastical office. And this I greatly commended, knowing by most evident proof that one who is in haste to desert a secular condition and enter on an ecclesiastical office is not wishing to relinquish secular affairs, but to change them. But, at its being said in the same law that it should not be lawful for him to become a monk, I was altogether surprised. It is added in the same law that no one who has been marked on the hand (i.e. slaves and soldiers) may become a monk. This ordinance, I confess to my lords, has alarmed me greatly, since by it the way to heaven is dosed against many, and what has been lawful until now is made unlawful. For there are many who are able to live a religious life even in a secular condition: but there are very many who cannot in any wise be saved with God unless they give up all things. But what am I, in speaking thus to my lords, but dust and a worm? Yet still, feeling that this ordinance is against God, who is the Author of all, I cannot keep silence to my lords. For power over all men has been given from heaven to the piety of my lords to this end, that they who aspire to what is good may be helped, and that the way to heaven may be more widely open, so that an earthly kingdom may wait upon the heavenly kingdom. And lo, it is said in plain words that one who has once been marked to serve as an earthly soldier may not, unless he has either completed his service or been rejected for weakness of body, serve as the soldier of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To this, behold, Christ will answer, saying; From a notary I made thee a Count of the bodyguard; from Count of the bodyguard I made thee a Caesar; from a Caesar I made thee Emperor; and not only so, but also a father of emperors. I have committed my priests into thy hand; and dost thou withdraw thy soldiers from my service? Answer thy servant, most pious Lord, I beseech thee; what wilt thou answer to thy Lord when He comes and thus speaks?

It is a very serious consideration, that now at this time any are forbidden to leave the world; a time when the end of the world is drawing nigh.

I indeed, being subject to your command, have caused this law to be transmitted through various parts of the world; and, inasmuch as the law itself is by no means agreeable to Almighty God, lo, I have by this my representation declared this to my most serene lords. On both sides, then, I have discharged my duty, having yielded obedience to the Emperor, and not kept silence as to what I feel in behalf of God.

— Epistles, by St. Gregory the Great, Book 3, Epistle 65

To Theodorus, Physician: My most serene Lord the Emperor enjoins that it shall be lawful for no one to become a monk who has been engaged in any public employment, or who has been marked in the hand, or enrolled among the soldiers, unless perchance his military service has been completed. This law, as those say who are acquainted with old laws, Julian was the first to promulgate, of whom we all know how opposed he was to God.

Now it seems to me exceedingly hard that he should debar his soldiers from the service of Him who both gave him all and granted him to rule not only over soldiers but even over priests.

— Epistles, by St. Gregory the Great, Book 3, Epistle 66

The rivers of blood of our brothers, shed mercilessly at your orders, cry out to heaven and urge us to speak to you a bitter word of truth.

It is not our business to judge earthly powers; any power that God has tolerated would attract our blessing, if in truth it would be “the servant of God” for the good of its subjects and would be “not a terror to good conduct, but to bad” (Rom. 13:3-4). Yet to you, who use your power to persecute your neighbours, we now express a word of caution: celebrate your anniversary in power by liberating the prisoners, by stopping bloodshed, violence, destruction, the restriction of faith; turn not to destruction, but to the establishment of order and lawfulness, grant the people the desired and well-deserved rest from civil war.

— Letter to the Council of People’s Commissars, 13/26 October 1918, by St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia

Positive Relations

If in order to put an end to public wars, and tumults, and battles, the Priest is exhorted to offer prayers for kings and governors, much more ought private individuals to do it.

— Homily 7 on 1 Tim 2:2-4, by St. John Chrysostom

But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvellous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. … They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives.

— The Epistle to Diognetus, Chapter 5

Thus the forty soldiers under the Roman emperor’s authority served as Christians by obeying their faith and religion.

— Second Letter Concerning the Forty Martyrs, St. Gregory of Nyssa

Let governors be obedient to Caesar; soldiers to those that command them; deacons to the presbyters, as to high-priests; the presbyters, and deacons, and the rest of the clergy, together with all the people, and the soldiers, and the governors, and Caesar [himself], to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as Christ to the Father. And thus unity is preserved throughout.

— The Epistle of St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Philadelphians, Chapter 4

Having cast themselves on the ground, they (the Christian soldiers) prayed not only for me, but also for the whole army as it stood, that they might be delivered from the present thirst and famine. …

Founding upon this, then, let us pardon such as are Christians, lest they pray for and obtain such a weapon against ourselves. And I counsel that no such person be accused on the ground of his being a Christian. But if any one be found laying to the charge of a Christian that he is a Christian, I desire that it be made manifest that he who is accused as a Christian, and acknowledges that he is one, is accused of nothing else than only this, that he is a Christian; but that he who arraigns him be burned alive. And I further desire, that he who is entrusted with the government of the province shall not compel the Christian, who confesses and certifies such a matter, to retract; neither shall he commit him. And I desire that these things be confirmed by a decree of the Senate. And I command this my edict to be published in the Forum of Trajan, in order that it may be read. The prefect Vitrasius Pollio will see that it be transmitted to all the provinces round about, and that no one who wishes to make use of or to possess it be hindered from obtaining a copy from the document I now publish.

— Marcus Aurelius as quoted by Justin Martyr in his First Apology, chapter 6816

Church Neutrality

“In the summer of 1918, leaving Moscow, to which I was never to return, I went to bid farewell to the Patriarch. … I was heading south, to join the Voluntary Army, hoping to encounter all those who were linked with the hope of liberating Russia. I asked the permission of the Holy Patriarch to transmit in his name a blessing, in full secrecy of course, to one of these persons, but the Patriarch told me in the most delicate and at the same time firm way that he considered this impossible, since, remaining in Russia, he would want to avoid any reproach, both on the surface and in essence, of involving the Church in politics.”

— St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, from the memoirs of the Russian émigré Gregory Trubetzkoy

Spiritual Warfare

The Real Enemy

The Saviour has taught men what they could never learn among the idols. It is also no small exposure of the weakness and nothingness of demons and idols, for it was because they knew their own weakness that the demons were always setting men to fight each other, fearing lest, if they ceased from mutual strife, they would turn to attack the demons themselves. For in truth the disciples of Christ, instead of fighting each other, stand arrayed against demons by their habits and virtuous actions, and chase them away and mock at their captain the devil. Even in youth they are chaste, they endure in times of testing and persevere in toils. When they are insulted, they are patient, when robbed they make light of it, and, marvellous to relate, they make light even of death itself, and become martyrs of Christ.

— On the Incarnation, by St. Athanasius the Great, Chapter 8, 52

Therefore, most beloved brethren, the mind stands ready and armed against all the deceitful plots or the open threats of the devil, always as prepared to repulse, as the enemy is always prepared to attack. And since his missiles which steal upon us secretly are more frequent and his casting of them more concealed and clandestine, and to the extent that this is not perceived, this attack is the more effectual and more frequent to our injury, let us also be alert to understand and repel these. Among these is the devil of jealousy and envy. If anyone should look deeply into this, he will discover that nothing should be avoided more by a Christian, nothing provided for more cautiously than that one be not caught by envy and malice, that one, being entangled in the blind snares of a deceitful enemy, when brother by envy turns to hatred of brother, not himself unwittingly perish by his own sword. That we may be able to gather this more fully and perceive it more clearly, let us recur to its source and origin. Let us see from what jealousy begins, both when and how. For more easily will so pernicious an evil be avoided, if both the origin and magnitude of the same is known.

— Jealousy and Envy, by St. Cyprian of Carthago, Chapter 3

For what more fitly or more fully befits our care and solicitude than to prepare the people divinely committed to us and the army established in the heavenly camp with constant exhortations against the weapons and darts of the devil? For he cannot be a soldier fit for war who has not first been trained in the field, nor will he who seeks to obtain the contestant’s crown be crowned in the stadium, unless he first gives thought to the practice and skill of his powers. He is an old adversary and an ancient enemy with whom we wage battle. Almost six thousand years are now being fulfilled since the devil first attacked man. All kinds of tempting and arts and plots for his overthrow has he learned by the very practice of a long time. If he finds a soldier of Christ unprepared, if untrained, if he does not find him vigilant with a solicitous and whole heart, he besets him in ignorance, he deceives him incautious, he entraps him inexperienced. But if anyone guards the precepts of the Lord, and bravely adhering to Christ stands against the devil, he must be conquered, since Christ whom we confess is invincible.

— Exhortation to Martyrhood, to Fortunatus, by St. Cyprian of Carthago, Chapter 2

Demons are distressed at the sight, and they readily acknowledge this fact. By reason of their greatness, such men are soldiers of Christ armed with the Holy Spirit, champions of faith and towers of the divine city. They resist every infliction of torture, fear, threats and foolish, shameful ridicule; they appear to offer their bodies to such outrages, but these are merely shadows. Such persons who are in the flesh defeat the flesh and have contempt for death; they disdain all fear of tyrants and appear more noble. How lovely are those trained in such bodily victories! How wonderful is their training when applied to combat against the devil! They are not armed with swords, shields, helmets nor leg protection; rather, they are armed with the full armour of God which the divine Apostle [Paul], the leader of the Church, illustrates: a shield, breastplate, helmet and sword (Eph 6.11 ff). These weapons are used against the enemy’s forces, but divine grace supports them against the devil’s troop which has the power to inflict death. This troop takes its stand in the tribunal, the place of decisive contest, where blood is shed; here [the devil’s band] makes its threats and fights against those who patiently resist it.

— Second Homily concerning the Forty Martyrs, by St. Gregory of Nyssa

Inner War

There are three very grievous kinds of war. The one is public, when our soldiers are attacked by foreign armies: The second is, when even in time of peace, we are at war with one another: The third is, when the individual is at war with himself, which is the worst of all. From the third, we cannot escape without danger. For when the body is at variance with the soul, and raises up evil desires, and arms against it sensual pleasures, or the bad passions of anger, and envy; we cannot attain the promised blessings, till this war is brought to an end; whoever does not still this tumult, must fall pierced by wounds that will bring that death that is in hell. We have daily need therefore of care and great anxiety, that this war may not be stirred up within us, or that, if stirred up, it may not last, but be quelled and laid asleep.

For what advantage is it, that the world enjoys profound peace, if thou art at war with thyself? This then is the peace we should keep. If we have it, nothing from without will be able to harm us. And to this end the public peace contributes no little: whence it is said, “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.” But if any one is disturbed when there is quiet, he is a miserable creature. Seest thou that He speaks of this peace which I call the third (inner, ed.) kind? Therefore when he has said, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life,” he does not stop there, but adds “in all godliness and honesty.” But we cannot live in godliness and honesty, unless that peace be established. For when curious reasonings disturb our faith, what peace is there? or when spirits of uncleanness, what peace is there?

— Homily 7 on 1 Tim 2:2-4, by St. John Chrysostom

The evil is much lighter and the danger less, when the limbs are wounded by a sword. The cure is easy where the wound is manifest, and when a remedy comes to its assistance what is seen is quickly brought to health. The wounds of jealousy are concealed and hidden, nor do they admit the remedy of a healing cure, which have concealed themselves with blind pain within the lurking places of the conscience. Whoever of you are envious and malignant, you are seen as you are, crafty, pernicious, and hostile to those whom you hate. You are the enemy of no one’s well-being more than of your own. Whoever he is whom you persecute with jealousy, will be able to escape and avoid you. You cannot escape yourself. Wherever you are, your adversary is with you; the enemy is always in your heart; destruction is shut up within; you are tied and bound with an inescapable chain of links; you are captive with jealousy as your master; and no solaces come to your relief. It is a persevering evil to persecute a man who belongs to the grace of God; it is a calamity without a remedy to hate one who is happy.

— Jealousy and Envy, by St. Cyprian of Carthago, Chapter 9

The greatest and most perfect thing a man may desire to attain is to come near to God and dwell in union with Him.

…In order to succeed in this, you must constantly oppose all evil in yourself and urge yourself towards good. In other words, you must ceaselessly fight against yourself and against everything that panders to your own wills, that incites and supports them. So prepare yourself for this struggle and this warfare and know that the crown — attainment of your desired aim crown — is given to one except to the valiant among warriors and wrestlers.

But if this is the hardest of all wars crown — since in fighting against ourselves it is in ourselves that we meet opposition crown — victory in it is the most glorious of all; and, what is the main thing, it is most pleasing to God.

…Finally, after learning what constitutes Christian perfection and that to achieve it you must wage a constant cruel war with yourself, if you really desire to be victorious in this unseen warfare and be rewarded with a crown, you must plant in your heart the following four dispositions and spiritual activities, as it were arming yourself with invisible weapons, the most trustworthy and unconquerable of all, namely: a) never rely on yourself in anything; b) always bear in your heart a perfect and all-daring trust in God alone; c) strive without ceasing; and d) remain constantly in prayer.

— Unseen Warfare, as edited by St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by St. Theophan the Recluse, Crestwood 1987, p. 77-81

The Good Fight

You have desired, my very dear Fortunatus, that I bring together from the sacred Scripture exhortations with which I might animate the soldiers of Christ for the spiritual and heavenly struggle. I have felt obliged to obey your so compelling wish, so that, in so far as our mediocrity is able, prepared with the aid of divine inspiration, certain arms, as it were, and defences might be brought forth from the Lord’s precepts for the brethren who are about to fight. For it is a minor matter that we arouse the people of God with the trumpet call of our voice, unless we confirm by divine reading the faith of believers and their courage dedicated and devoted to God.

Those words alone must be set down which God speaks, by which Christ exhorts His servants to martyrdom. The divine precepts themselves must be supplied as arms for those who fight. Let those be the incitements of the military trumpet; let those be the clarion call for those who fight. By those let the ears be made erect; by these let the minds be made ready; by these also let the powers of mind and body be strengthened for the endurance of every suffering. Let us only, who with the Lord’s permission gave the first baptism to believers, prepare each one for another baptism also, urging and teaching that this baptism is greater in grace, more sublime in power, more precious in honour, a baptism in which the angels baptise, a baptism in which God and His Christ exult, a baptism after which no one sins again, a baptism which brings to completion the increases of our faith, a baptism which immediately joins us with God as we withdraw from the world. In the baptism of water is received the remission of sins; in that of blood the crown of virtues. This thing is to be embraced and longed for and sought after with all entreaties of our prayers, so that we who were servants of God may also be His friends.

— Exhortation to Martyrdom, to Fortunatus, by St. Cyprian of Carthago17, Chapters 1 and 4

Do you, whom already the heavenly warfare has designated for the spiritual camp, only keep uncorrupted and chastened in religious virtues. See that you observe either constant prayer or reading. Speak now with God; let God now speak with you. Let Him instruct in His precepts; let Him dispose you in them. Whom He shall make rich, no one will make poor. There can be no want, when once the celestial food has filled the breast.

— To Donatus, by St. Cyprian of Carthago, Chapter 15

These adversaries who want us to renounce our faith in the Lord or to suffer death are resisted by strong men who remain faithful unto death. Although they threaten them with fire, cast them into pits and inflict other torments, they have one voice and holy confession which Christ hears. Resistance against this torment of the enemy’s appalling insults troubles his heart and is like a stone in David’s hand slung at the enemy’s helmet (1 Sam 17.49+). We behead the enemy when as noble soldiers we cast, as it were, our confession in Christ. But the [martyrs’] account continues and leaves these matters behind while jumping over any obstacle. It boldly advances to matters which are unutterable and mentions them as if they were visible because a bold confession in Christ is encouragement and praise from above. The citizens of the heavenly city honour their success which brings joy to the entire assembly of heaven. This is the marvel which the angels behold among men and which these spectators of our lives saw in that conflict between the devil and men. How different is this marvel compared to that first struggle when the serpent vanquished Adam (Gen 3.1+)! One person did not sustain this evil attack which sought to do harm through a sound pretext; rather, everyone was affected by this assault and fell. However, all these conflicts of the enemy were reduced to nothing and were ineffective. [The devil] offered hope but they spurned it; he terrorised them but they scorned it; he threatened them with fear but they overcame it. Their one fear was to be separated from Christ, for to be with Christ was their only value since everything else seemed like laughter, shadows, nonsense and fanciful dreams.

Now is the time. These are the days of struggle. We are at the threshold of the Paschal feast and the mystery of the holy Forty Days. These days are a time of propitiation and closely resemble the saints’ crowns.

— Second Homily concerning the Forty Martyrs, by St. Gregory of Nyssa

The adversary looks with evil intent upon [the martyrs’] good deeds and struggles. He sees sound bodies adorned with restraint, the armed chorus leading them in battle array to God, a beautiful sight to behold. Their spirits are exultant; they are quick footed, powerful, trained, and in every circumstance they triumph by reason of the soul’s virtue which is visible through their physical splendour. He [the adversary] jealously follows them as he wanders throughout the world. Not only does he see one sincere man, but the divine assembly of all those who are true, just and reverent. He first attempts to persuade the army’s leader to worship idols. If he fails by not slaying those who worship Christ’s name, the barbarians are not victorious.

— First Homily concerning the Forty Martyrs, by St. Gregory of Nyssa

To the Emperor Mauricius Augustus: There are many who are able to live a religious life even in a secular condition: but there are very many who cannot in any wise be saved with God unless they give up all things. … And lo, it is said in plain words (in the law, ed.) that one who has once been marked to serve as an earthly soldier may not, unless he has either completed his service or been rejected for weakness of body, serve as the soldier of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a very serious consideration, that now at this time any are forbidden to leave the world; a time when the end of the world is drawing nigh.

— Epistles, by St. Gregory the Great, Book 3, Epistle 65

I do not ordain these things as an apostle: for “who am I, or what is my father’s house,” that I should pretend to be equal in honour to them? But as your “fellow-soldier,” I hold the position of one who [simply] admonishes you.

— The Epistle of St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Philadelphians, Chapter 4

If the soldiers enrolled by you, and who have taken the military oath, prefer their allegiance to their own life, and parents, and country, and all kindred, though you can offer them nothing incorruptible, it were verily ridiculous if we, who earnestly long for incorruption, should not endure all things, in order to obtain what we desire from Him who is able to grant it.

— First Apology, by St. Justin Martyr, Chapter 39

endnotes for chapter 5:

1 In this treaty, written approximately during the plague that ravaged Carthago in 252 AD, St. Cyprian answers the accusation of the pagans, that the Christians are responsible for the epidemic, by stating that it is, on the contrary, the crimes and persecutions of the latter that have brought it about. He underscores the attitude that Christians should take during persecution.

2 The feast of the Forty Martyrs of Sebastea (9 March) is one of the principal and most ancient feasts of the Orthodox Church. The following homily by St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394) shows that already in the IVth century, it was a major feast. The 40 Martyrs were soldiers of several nationalities of the twelfth Roman “Thunder-Struck” Legion serving in Armenia. When in 320 AD, the Emperor Licinius commanded all Christians in the East to repudiate their faith, the soldiers refused. They were then stripped naked, driven into a frozen pond and held there until the following day. The following morning, the few still alive were killed and all the bodies burnt in a furnace. Some ashes were, however, retrieved, and St. Gregory pronounced this sermon near Ibora, the place were the relics were held at the time.

3 This letter is supposed to have been written in a.d.592-3; it complains of a law issued in the previous year, prohibiting civil servants and soldiers to become monks. The epistle, which follows, to the Emperor’s physician on the same subject, shows how much St. Gregory had it at heart. Some five years later it appears from a letter to divers metropolitans, dated December, a.d. 597 (8.5), that an amicable agreement had meanwhile been come to, both the Emperor and the Pope having made some concessions. Cf. also the end of Ep. 24 in Book 10.

4 Lactantius was the tutor of the son of St. Constantine the Great. He lived approximately from 260 to 339 AD.

5 In 858, in Cherson (on the Crimea), St. Methodius (“the Philosopher”) enters into debate with the Judaic teachers of the Khazar people. The discussion gives a precious testimony to the “ethnic self-understanding” of the Byzantine Empire.

6 St. Ignatios of Antioch (20 December), also known as the Theoforos, or God-Bearer, is one of the earliest martyrs of the Christian Church. The second or third bishop of Antioch, St. Ignatius was sentenced to death around 107 AD and escorted to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts. On the way, he wrote seven letters: to the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, Smyrna and to St. Polycarp of Smyrna. The letter to the Philadelphians was written from Lystra in Asia Minor.

7 This letter refers to actions in the parts of Russia that had been reconquered from the Red Army by the White armies during the civil war.

8 Written by an anonymous author in the late second-early third century (although the Tradition has long attributed it to St. Justin Martyr), the epistle to Diognetus is one of the oldest witnesses of the self-understanding of the early Church. Diognetus, a pagan, has enquired about the religion and customs of the Christians, and is particularly instructive concerning their understanding of the place of Christians in their homelands and the world.

9 Arnobius of Sicca (260-303), one of the Apologetic Fathers, lived in Numidia between the IIIrd and IVth centuries. His “Against the Gentiles” refutes the accusations of the pagans, that the Christians are the cause of all mishap on earth.

10 A protege of the Empress Justinia, the Arian bishop Auxentius used an Imperial decree in 385 ordering that the basilicas of Milan be handed over to the Arians. St. Ambrosius of Milan leads the people in protest over this decree. Challenging his opponents to a discussion in the church, he says that he is not terrified at their weapons.

11 Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (265-340 AD) was a contemporary of St. Constantine the Great and witnessed many of the events described in the Life of the Emperor. Having witnessed the last persecutions of the Church, he welcomes the reign of St. Constantine as a gift of God and the beginning of a new era.

12 Reference to the treaty of Brest-Litowsk between the Bolsheviks and the German government (3 March 1918), which abandoned large parts of Tsarist Russia and ended the Russian participation in the First World War.

13 Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic of Ochrid ( 1956) is regarded by many as a saint of the Serbian Orthodox Church yet to be canonised. He is best known for The Prologue from Ochrid, a four-volume work on the lives of the saints. Little by little his writings are being translated into English.

14 In this Treatise, written around 176-177 AD, the Apologetic father Athenagoras of Athens claims that the resurrection is necessary, since neither the body nor the soul can separately bear the judgement over the sins committed during life.

16 Justin Martyr attributes the letter to Marcus Aurelius; the event described is verified in other historical records, though they do not give credit to the role of prayer by Christians.

17 The Exhortation to Martyrdom is probably the last work of St. Cyprian of Carthago (Bishop from 249 to 258), written during the persecutions of Valerian in 257-258. It is a compilation of biblical texts, aimed to inspire the persecuted Church in Northern Africa.

marginal quotation from chapter 5:

St. Boris refused to fight his brother Svyatopolk for the throne. His decision was in no way strategic; it made no sense in the eyes of the world. He was resigning his chances as a Grand Prince: more than that, he was putting his life in danger. For “I believe my brother is obsessed by worldly cares,” he says in the Tale of his life, “and thinks of killing me.” It was true enough; Svyatopolk had already despatched men of Vyshgorod with orders to kill him. Yet Boris was well aware of what his course of action ought to be. “If he attempts to kill me” continues the Tale “I shall be a martyr to my Lord, since I shall not resist…. For the Apostle says: ‘If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar'”.

— Fr. Sergi Hackel, 1994

If, after all, we were losing this war, after having begged God to grant us victory in name of His Justice, what would there remain to be said? One out of two things: either our cause was not the just cause, or God is unjust… Yes, He is unjust, if you please, because He is greater than justice, because His justice is not our justice, because His ways are not our Ways. Because in face of His justice, which one day will immerse the foundations of the universe, our poor justice is nothing else than injustice… We should have prayed for victory bearing in mind this formidable justice, in the face of which we are always unjust, with tears and great contrition: we should have invoked not Justice, which is beyond our measure, which we could not have endured, but infinite mercy, which has made the Son of God descend from heavens.

— Vladimir Lossky, 1998

Violence calls for more violence. Thus a vicious circle is created which has the innocent and the weak as its victims. We pray God that peace and justice may once more reign in the Balkans”

— Archibishop Anastasios of Albania

The beast in the given case clearly indicates the state, not just in the sense of the state’s organisation of legal order, which assists mankind on its ways (about which the Apostle speaks, when he says “there is no authority, except from God”, Rom. 13:1), but totalitarian statehood, attempting to become the sole determining and all-fulfilling principle of human life. Such a state that falsely exaggerates its own importance, constitutes by the very same not just a pagan principle, but a demonic one, the earthly face of Satan or the multitude of his faces. Such a state as an earthly kingdom affronts the Kingdom of Christ, wages war against it, and by the force of things constitutes — consciously or unconsciously — an anti-Christian force, a tool of the “prince of this world,” his kingdom, and the heads of such states become his masks.

— Fr. Sergi Boulgakov, 1944

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For the Peace From Above — Table of Contents