Tag Archives: St. John Chrysostom

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IC66 In Communion 2013

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News IC 64

Patriarch Bartholomew critical of Greek anathemas

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has written to Greece’s Archbishop, deploring anti–ecumenical statements from within the Church. In the letter, he said that “Critical voices about ecumenism, long heard in the bosom of the church of Greece, have hitherto been limited in scope—but what has occurred recently has reached unacceptable levels….Such opinions evoke anguish and sorrow by running counter to the Orthodox ethos. They risk unforeseen consequences for church unity in general, and the unity of our holy Orthodox church in particular.”

In the letter to Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All-Greece, the Patriarch expressed particular concern about ana-themas read by Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus during the liturgy on March 4th, Orthodoxy Sunday, in which he invoked anathemas against the “fallen arch-heretic,” Pope Benedict XVI, “and those in communion with him,” as well as “all heretical offshoots of the Reformation,” “rabbis of Judaism and Islamists,” and “those who preach and teach the panheresy of inter-Christian and inter-religious syncretistic ecumenism.”

“I urge you to reject and act against these unjustified and dangerous state-ments,” said the Patriarch. “They con-tradict the decisions taken jointly by Orthodox churches to participate in bi-lateral and multilateral theological dia-logue with the heterodox.” The letter also affirmed the traditional partnership between the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece as “ecumenical witnesses to Orthodoxy.”

Ecumenical Patriarch addresses Economic Summit

Ecumenical Patriarch addresses Economic Summit“It is an honor once again to address the Eurasian Economic Summit, which is organized annually by the distinguished Marmara Group and this year is considering various aspects of the relationship between economy and dialogue as well as of development and women’s rights in our world. We have been asked to address how sustainability and economy can be promoted through intercultural and interfaith dialogue.

As a young boy, we recall seeing Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, an extraordinary leader of global vision and ecumenical sensitivity. He was a tall man, with piercing eyes and a very long, white beard. Patriarch Athenagoras was known to resolve conflict by inviting the em-battled parties to meet together, inviting and telling them: “Come, let us look one another in the eyes, and let us then see what we have to say to one another.”

This notion of looking at each other honestly in order to understand and cooperate with one another is surely critical to any concept of intercultural and interfaith dialogue. In recent years, we have all been encouraged as we witness constructive and creative chang-es in contemporary Turkish society with regard to openness and inclusion of other faiths and minority communities.

Likewise, the various gatherings initiated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate serve to bring cultures together in order to establish more meaningful communi-cation with one another. The underlying principle behind such dialogue is that all human beings ultimately face the same problems in life. Therefore, dialogue draws people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds out of their isolation, preparing them for a process of mutual respect and coexistence.

Of course, some people have strong—we might say fundamentalist—convictions that they would rather sacri-fice their lives than change their views. Others are unfortunately even willing to take the lives of innocent victims to defend these views. This is why we are obliged to listen more carefully, “look at one another” more deeply “in the eyes.” For, in the final analysis, we are always closer to one another in more ways than we are distant or different from one another. We share with and resemble one another far more as members of the same species than we differ in terms of culture, religion, and background.

We hear it said often that our world is in crisis. Yet, never before have human beings had the opportunity to bring so many positive changes to so many people simply through encounter and dialogue. While it may be true that this is a time of crisis, it must likewise be said that there has never before been greater tolerance for diverse traditions, religious prefer-ences, and cultural peculiarities. We are blessed to experience the fruits of this tolerance and dialogue in today’s Turkey.

This does not mean that religious or cultural differences are insignificant or inconsequential. Accordingly, then, we do not approach dialogue in order to impose our arguments on our opponents. We approach dialogue in a spirit of love, sincerity, and honesty. In this respect, dialogue implies equality, which in turn implies humility. Honesty and humility dispel hostility and arrogance. So we must ask ourselves: Are we prepared to respect others in dialogue? How willing are we to learn and to love? If we are not prepared to learn or willing to change, are we truly engaging in dialogue? Or are we in fact conducting a monologue in our society, culture, and religion?

True dialogue is a gift from God. According to St. John Chrysostom, fourth century Archbishop of Constantinople, God is always in dialogue with human beings. God always speaks through people and cultures, and religions, even through creation itself. This is precisely why dialogue is the most fundamental experience of life. Dialogue promotes knowledge and rejects ignorance; it reveals truth and abolishes prejudice; it cultivates bonds and refuses to narrow horizons. Dialogue enriches; whoever refuses dialogue remains impoverished.

In this regard, we must confess that religious leaders bear a special re-sponsibility not to mislead or provoke in the process of dialogue. Their integrity plays a vital role in the promotion of intercultural and interfaith communi-cation. In the fourteenth century, St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonika, conducted theological dis-cussions with distinguished represent-atives of Islam. In one such conversation, a Muslim leader expressed the wish that the time would come when mutual understanding will characterize the followers of both religions. St. Gregory agreed, emphasizing his hope that this would come sooner rather than later. It is our humble wish that now be that time. Now, more than ever, is the time for intercultural and interfaith dialogue.

We would not be so naïve as to claim that dialogue comes without risk or cost. Approaching another person—whether of another culture or another belief—always comes with uncertainty as to the final result. One is never sure what to expect: Will the other suspect me? Will the other perceive me as imposing my own way of life or ideology? Will I compromise—or even perhaps lose—what belongs uniquely to my tradition? These questions plague us as we approach dialogue. Nonetheless, when one surrenders to the possibility of dialogue, something sacred happens. In the willingness to embrace the other, beyond any fear or prejudice, the reality of something—or Someone—far greater than us takes over. Indeed, then, we recognize how the profit of dialogue far outweighs any peril.

Beloved distinguished friends, we are convinced that, in spite of cultural or religious differences, we are much closer to one another than we ever imagine.”

Dissolving Borders: The Tatars and Russians of Kazan

Dissolving Borders: The Tatars and Russians of KazanIn 2000, while backpacking in Russia from Moscow to Lake Baikal, Alison Shuman took a boat trip on the Volga and stopped briefly at the city of Kazan, 800 km east of Moscow, where the pop-ulation is nearly half Tatar Muslims and half Russian Orthodox. Twelve years later she returned to Kazan to create a photo-documentary that explores religious identity in post-Soviet Russia and the relationship between Muslims and Orthodox in the city.

Kazan is heralded as a place where two very different traditions live together in an atmosphere of mutual under-standing and exchange. Alison’s project will explore the ways in which the Tatar Muslims and Russian Orthodox cultures of Kazan overlap in the public sphere and the daily nuanced exchanges that occur between people that make peaceful coexistence possible.

Alison never forgot how she was struck by the continuity of Kazan’s culture as the city has traveled through time, where Muslim and Orthodox still live peacefully together as neighbors, and religion is practiced undisturbed and in mutual respect. She came back to chronicle a story where people from multiethnic and mixed religious back-grounds have for centuries lived together peacefully to show that the violent alternatives that appear regularly in the media need not be taken as the standard model. Her work will also explore the intricacies of how people negotiate their private, spiritual life with their public, societal life.

In 2006, Alison received a Master’s in Photojournalism, and since then has been working as a freelance photo-grapher in Austin, TX and in New York City, where she is now based. Her travels have so far taken her to 14 countries on four continents.

Alison is currently in Kazan working on her project. Her work is funded by donations from people who believe in the importance of the message she hopes to communicate. A video of her work and more information about the project and how to make a donation can be found at www.alisonshuman.com/dissolvingborders/.

What soldiers do

The video, released in January, of US Marines urinating on dead Taliban depicts just one of several such incidents that have recently seen the light of day and countless others that have not, but it has resulted in the creation of a new training module for troops heading off to war. All NATO soldiers in Afghanistan are now required to learn how to proper-ly handle enemy casualties in a dignified manner and that desecrating dead enemy soldiers is wrong.

While the media show outrage and politicians apologize, military com-manders claim the behavior of these Marines is merely an unprofessional slip from normal standards of conduct and can be corrected with better training.

Lt. Col. Paul Hackett, who teaches the law of war to Marines before they are sent off to Afghanistan, has said that he does not condone the actions of the marines in the video. But he also warned against judging them too harshly, saying: “When you ask young men to go kill people for a living, it takes a whole lot of effort to rein that in.”

Marty Brenner, an anger management specialist who treats combat veterans, said they “have no other way of express-ing their anger at these people…what they’re doing is urinating on them to show, ‘I want the world to see you guys are crap and that’s what you deserve.’ ”

Maynard Sinclair, a Marine veteran of Vietnam, said the outrage shows public naiveté about war. “I did a hell of a lot worse in Vietnam than urinate on dead bodies….We cut left ears off and wore them around our necks to show we were warriors [who] knew how to get revenge.”

“In Vietnam, when you screwed up, no one back home heard about it,” said Gary Solis, a former Marine prosecutor and judge who teaches law of war at Georgetown University. “The Internet has added a dimension that troops in the past did not have to deal with.”

Yet history has recorded both atroci-ties and sanctions in other ways, often as glorious legend. In the Illiad, Achilles kills Hector and refuses a proper burial, yet he relents after Zeus sends word that Achilles “tempts the wrath of heaven too far” with his desire to “vent his mad vengeance on the sacred dead.”

But an overlooked lesson from Homer is the similarity between Achilles’ exper-ience and that of the modern soldier. Achilles went to war to restore honor and achieve glory but was soon driven by grief and then rage at Patroclus’ death and, ultimately, the need for simple revenge and his enemies’ destruction.

While some judge the Marines in the video as simply doing what normal boys do in war, an inevitable feature of all war, others condemn the men as criminal or barbaric.

But, once the war is over and these men return home, some of them will have their broken psyches and demoral-ized spirits treated in clinics, while others are fed one dollar at a time from car windows stopped at traffic lights, and some—too many—will end up in prison after failing to relearn how to behave in civilized society.

Meanwhile, the military will attempt to teach soldiers that killing is okay if they do it nicely and that anger and hating can stop once the enemy is dead.

Tourism as a peacebuilding tool

Tourism as a peacebuilding toolShira Nesher, an Israeli, stands alongside Fakhira Halloun, a Palestinian, as Nesher tells her story about life in a conflict zone to a group of American university stu-dents who are hanging onto her every word. “My family members are Holocaust survivors…as an Israeli, I grew up in an environment of fear and conflict. When I was 18, I enlisted in the Defense Forces, where I eventually became a military tour guide and an educator.”

When she is finished, Fakhira follows with her own story. “I am a Palestinian Christian with Israeli citizenship. I grew up in a Druze village, as a minority among minorities, with stories of the nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe, in a place where identity limits access and mobility. Now, I devote my life to finding freedom in my native land.”

These two speakers are tour guides with the Middle East Justice and Develop-ment Initiative (MEJDI); they are leading a dual-narrative tour for a student group. It is rare to see Israelis and Palestinians telling competing narratives, yet working together. Though they live side-by-side, Israelis and Palestinians seldom meet.

MEJDI is the brainchild of two Jewish Americans—one of whom is an Orthodox rabbi—and one Palestinian who work together at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolu-tion at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. They believe that peacebuilding activities must use sustain-able business models.

In the past few years, funding for peacebuilding activities has become scarce, and many organizations have struggled to survive. Combining peace-building with a profit-making enterprise provides a self-sustaining business model.

The emotional and physical journey participants take through the narratives of the Holy Land introduces them to many stakeholders on both sides of the conflict. The groups meet with a rabbi who explains the significance of the Western Wall in Judaism. The exploration continues with meeting an imam at the Al-Asqa Mosque. Another day, they visit Ramallah and meet with a high-ranking Palestinian official; they later connect with an Israeli politician in Jerusalem.

A Jewish congregation taking a MEJDI tour requested to spend two nights at a Palestinian refugee camp. Two days later, ethnicity, religion, and background no longer mattered. The congregation and the Palestinians had forged connections that transcended stereotypes. As they parted, tears streamed down the faces of the Palestinians and Jews alike.

On a different tour, a group of Christians, Jews, and Muslims partici-pated in an interfaith trip. The group did not avoid hard questions, and together they experienced some difficult mo-ments. They discussed justice, oppress-ion, and the role of religion in the con-flict. But there were also moments of simply learning about each other’s heri-tage and religion.

The experience of exploring different sides of this thorny conflict is atypical of most tours to the Holy Land. Every year over three million tourists visit Israel and Palestine. Many of the tourists come to see the Holy Land and the holy sites without taking time to meet the people who live there. Their tour guide typically wields an enormous influence on the way they understand the culture, politics and roots of the conflict.

By contrast, the MEJDI guides rely on their personal stories about the conflict, while connecting them back to the larger story of their people. It is not about rehashing the gritty historical details that led up to the present situation, but rather about creating greater understanding. Participants are given time to reflect on the information they learn and interact with the guides and speakers to reconcile their feelings with what they heard.

MEJDI also operates in Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan, and will soon expand to new countries, using the same principle of helping participants experience places through differing narratives.

Tourism has the power to be a positive or negative force for change, with the potential to either entrench preconceptions or facilitate the sharing of stories across cultures. Just last year, almost one billion people traveled to other countries. Imagine what would happen if all these tourists used their travels as an opportunity to foster greater understanding.

Leaders respond to attack on Presbyterian Church

Nearly 500 people, said to be members of a fundamentalist Islamic group, at-tacked the Evangelical Presbyterian Church Bible School in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, burning Bibles and destroying property. The attack has raised fear among Christians in the north where they make up approximately 5% of the population. Christian Leaders around the world have issued statements calling for restraint on all sides as violence in-creases between Sudan and South Sudan.

The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) was about to issue a call to prayer for Sudan when the organ-ization received information detailing the burning and destruction, according to the Rev. Setri Nyomi, general secre-tary. The Rev. James Par Tap, moderator of the Sudan Presbyterian Church,  wrote that before the attacks, Ansaar Alsoona, a fundamentalist Islamic group, had announced “al–jihad” against Christianity.

A number of Muslims apologized to Christians saying the actions did not represent the spirit of Islam. Others joined Christians for prayers in the church compound.

Despite proclamations by Sudanese officials about freedom of religion and protection of minorities by the govern-ment, threats against Christians in and around Khartoum are increasing.

❖ IN COMMUNION / issue 64 / Spring 2012

Orthodox Roots, Bektashi Neighbors: Interview with Metropolitan John of Korca

Metropolitan John of Korca
Metropolitan John of Korca

Reprinted with permission from the journal Road to Emmaus

Your Eminence, one of the most remarkable things about the Albanian Orthodox Church is that you have been able to co-exist peaceably with your Moslem neighbors, which is a paradox for many westerners. The Albanian Orthodox worked hard to provide medical care, food, and housing to both communities during the Kosovo conflict—and that effort continues—but I wonder if there aren’t some other un-seen affinities at work between you, contributing to this balance?

Yes, there are. I think, as Christians, we have a strong dogmatic base for that. We see every human being created as an icon of God, and as the Orthodox Church we have tried to emphasize this to our people. But also there are many other unnoticed affinities, such as family, cultural, and historical ties. For example, respect for St. Cosmas of Aitolia is still very widespread among Albanian Christians and Muslims alike. During St. Cosmas’ life, southern Albania and northwestern Greece were one region—Ottoman ruled Epirus—and the Albanian ruler Ali Pasha, who governed Epirus in the early 19th century, had known the saint personally. He was a Bektashi Moslem, and even now the Bektashi use the prophecies of St. Cosmas, although they call him by another name. We Albanian Orthodox call him Shen Kosma (St. Cosmas). They call him Choban Baba. Choban means “shepherd,” and Baba, “father.”

The Bektashi also revere the saints who lived long ago, like St. Spiridon (whom they call Sari Salltik) and who is enshrined nearby on Corfu. Many saints are commonly venerated in the Orthodox and Bektashi Albanian communities. This feeling for the Christian saints was one of the reasons why the tyrant Ali Pasha ordered a church to be built for St. Cosmas over his relics.

There are many stories in southern Albania about St. Cosmas that have been handed down for centuries. Every village in my region has its story—when he passed by, what he said, that he sent a letter. Many are embellished, but there is still something in them.

Can you tell us any?

Yes. Several years ago I was in an Albanian village where there was a beautiful house that had fallen into ruin. The last male of this house died in 1944, and they still tell the story that when St. Cosmas came to the village he stayed in this house. He was respected, welcomed and given hospitality. In the morning he said, “I hope that your lineage will disappear before a certain time comes.” They said, “Are you cursing us, Father?” “I am blessing you,” he said, “because there will come a time that will be called ‘the time governed by women and young people,’ when it will be better not to be than to be.”

And this is like it is now—I go into most houses and ask the husband something and the wife answers, or the young daughters or sons from a corner. The husband and father often has nothing to say. As it happens, the last male of this family died in 1944. But “a time governed by women and young people” should not be understood only literally, but in the sense that it was used by the Fathers of the Church. For example, the Holy Mother Sarah said to the brothers, “It is I who am a man, you who are women.” With that she wanted to say that true manhood is not only in the differences of sex, but in character.

I also heard a story in Konitsa, Greece, that when St. Cosmas passed by the future home of Albania’s communist dictator, Hoxha, in Gjirokastra, where two centuries later he was born and raised, he said, “An anti-Christ will be born here.”

I’ve heard this story many times. It is difficult now to say if all of these stories are true or not, but sometimes it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter in the sense that what people want to emphasize is St. Cosmas’ gift of prophecy, that history is under the control of the Lord, so everything that happened to Albania under Hoxha was foreseen.

There is, of course, the famous story among us of how Ali Pasha was arrested by Kurt Pasha when the Pasha governed Berat. Ali was young then, sixteen or so. St. Cosmas came, and when he entered the prison he said, “Now is coming Ali, Ali Pasha.” He told him that he would become pasha, but that he would go to Istanbul with a red beard, predicting Ali’s death by beheading.

All of these stories were told and retold, and particularly about Ali Pasha because he was the pasha. He was a cruel tyrant, of course, but some of the others who were considered revolutionary “heroes” by the Greeks were just as cruel. I know these stories because on my mother’s side I am from Christian Souli. The family moved from Souli when it was destroyed, and the stories told about these Greek chieftains were no less cruel than those told of Ali Pasha. Those were the times, and that was what it meant to be a leader.

If, as you say, the pashas and even the heroes were cruel, why then was St. Cosmas allowed to preach and function in these areas, with his very Christian messages of love of God and justice to your fellow man?

The Moslem rulers, if they were Albanians, were not necessarily strict Moslems—their positions were motivated by a personal desire for political power, not religious ideology. Also, many of them had mixed allegiances—they still had cousins and friends who were Christians, or koumbari.

In Albania, it was a tradition until recently that many Moslems had Christian koumbari and some Christians had Moslems as koumbari. These are considered sacred ties. Strictly speaking, this wasn’t allowed, of course, but many of these families wanted to maintain these relationships, and sometimes spiritual kinship ties were made for political reasons. Also, as I mentioned earlier, many of the Albanians were Bektashi Moslems and they had traditions in common with Christians.

Weren’t the Bektashis originally Christians themselves who retained elements of their former faith?

Yes, to some degree, but it isn’t quite that simple. The Bektashi originated in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey. In Asia Minor there were always groups of Christian gnostics circulating different traditions, and this heavily influenced the Bektashi. The Bektashi still use the Gospel of St. John and venerate almost all of the Orthodox saints.

Did they arise at the same time in Albania?

No. The Bektashi order isn’t native to Albania, but many Albanians are closer to it than other forms of Islam. When the Turks arrived, becoming Bektashi was one way in which people didn’t have to live under the social pressure or pay the special taxes applied to non-Muslims under the Ottomans, but being Bektashi, they could still keep icons and other traditions. The Bektashi in Albania have been here for centuries, and they are about 15 to 20% of the population.

Albania is now the center of Bektashism, and the head of the Bektashi order is here in Tirana, not in Turkey, because Mustafa Kemal Attaturk exiled the Bektashi from Turkey in the 1930’s. Attaturk himself was Albanian and became president of Turkey at the time of the Young Turk revolution, suppressing the Dervish orders and others as well. The head of the Bektashi order at that time was also Albanian, and he moved here because it was safer to be part of a large Bektashi population far from Istanbul. There were some Bektashis in Crete, but afterwards they joined the Orthodox Church again. There were others in Bulgaria and the Balkans, but most are in Albania now.

How close are they to the Shi’ite and Sunni Moslems?

They are not Shi’ite or Sunni. Their belief is more a combination of Christian influence mixed with the Islamic thought of Rumi and other teachers of Asia Minor. The Bektashi don’t have written doctrine, and rules and belief differ, depending on what an individual has been taught and whose influence he has come under.

Do the Bektashi have associations with Sufism?

Yes, but they are more open to Christianity, and we have outward similarities. For example, they have an ecclesiastical structure, they have monasteries—not just mosques or tekkes—but real monasteries. They also have three levels of church hierarchy: Dervish, which means a helper, a deacon; Baba, which is the “father,” the priest; and then the Gjysh, which can be translated literally as “grandfather,” who has the function of bishop because he can ordain the others. They have something similar to a diocesan structure and the whole area under the Gjysh is called the Gjyshata. They also have a kind of baptism; to baptize they use water mixed with the essence of roses, and a kind of communion service with bread, wine, and cheese. They also have something that is unique in the Moslem world: they have confession, and a prayer is said by the clergy over the sinner asking God for forgiveness. So, there is a strong influence here of Christianity.

Now that Orthodoxy is being revived in Albania, is there an interest among the Bektashi?

In general there is an openness towards Christianity, and mosty towards Orthodoxy, because we have those common elements. When the Bektashi come to an Orthodox church they don’t feel they are in a foreign place. This helps. As I said, we have many of the same saints, although we sometimes use different names for them, and we both circulate the same stories of the saints and their icons. They do use icons.

I understand you are a convert to Orthodoxy. Was your own family Bektashi?

Yes. Although most of my family is back in the Orthodox Church, I still have cousins who are Bektashi. When you speak of people being Bektashi, however, this can be misinterpreted—in Albania you may be referring to a region under their influence, but this doesn’t mean that everyone is a practicing Bektashi. In Bektashism, people only take part in the gatherings if they are initiated. Their baptism is a type of initiation and few besides those who go through it know what happens there, they keep it secret. Perhaps this secrecy is also the influence of the gnostics. The part of Asia Minor where the Bektashi were founded was one of the most renowned in the world for gnosticism, and their use of the Gospel of St. John is another sign of their origins. Most of the gnostics also use the Gospel of St. John.

Some Bektashi claim to have a famous, so-called “secret” doctrine descending from Adam or Seth (the third son of Adam) depending on whom you talk to. This is another common characteristic of gnosticism. All of this was eventually overlaid by an Islamic face. Because they lived in places where Islam had risen to power, they didn’t publicly differentiate themselves from the other Moslems. However, their doctrine is completely different.

How do the Bektashi look at the Lord? Is it a strictly Moslem view?

It depends. Because they don’t have a dogma, interpretations differ. You can read things in Sufi texts by Al-Ghazali or Jelalluddin Rumi, (who were very close in spirit to the Bektashis) that could be scandalous for a Moslem. A modern-day Bektashi could be a scandal for other Moslems in the same way. For example, the Bektashi greet each other on Christmas. They also come to church on Pascha and proclaim, “The Lord is Risen!”

For a Shi’ite or Sunni Moslem this would be impossible, so we can see the Bektashi are more open. In the case of Albania this has been a benefit, because it means that we don’t have a heavy block of Sunni. The Bektashi are also more tolerant, they emphasize that all people are the same. You can easily see the heavy influence of Christianity, particularly if you read the books of Rumi; every third or fourth story will be about a priest.

I remember that in Rumi’s stories, but I thought they were just translating imam into the English “priest.”

No, it really is “priest.”

There are other influences on the Bektashi as well. Some say there is even a Buddhist influence, although I doubt this, because the particular doctrine they are talking about, the transmigration of souls, also appeared in the Balkans and in Asia Minor. Their most known adherent was the famous mathematician Pythagoras. This was not the influence of far off Buddhism, it was a belief that originated in this region and, again, had a gnostic flavor. But certainly not all Bektashi believe in transmigration.

When western people hear “Moslem” they think of what they see on television of Iran and the Middle East, but things here are different. There were not only gnostic influences, but there is a kind of crypto-Christianity among the Albanian Moslems in general. Sometimes they are aware of it and sometimes they are not. But many know that they were Christians before the Turks. For example, the head of the Moslems here, the Kryemyfti—his name is Sabri Kochi. His last name, Kochi, is Albanian for Constantine. Their family names are still often Christian.

So, they might feel closer to Christians than they do to Arab or Indonesian Moslems.

Culturally, yes. Their ethics and psychology are closer. There may be a danger in the future if many students go to study in these Arab countries and are indoctrinated to some degree into more strict forms of Islam, but this outlook doesn’t represent the general view.

The Prophetic Role of the Church

To move on, the Church here is attempting the immense task of reaching out to all of Albanian society, and I believe that you once quoted a sermon by St. John Chrysostom in which he said, “If all of you in this church were Christians, there would be no more pagans in the world.” That was a direct hit to all of us.

Yes. He was right. And others have said the same. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I would have become a Christian if I’d ever met one.” Once a holy man was asked, “Why in the first centuries did Christianity spread so fast, and not now?” He answered, “In the first century, Christianity was preached by Christians.”

If we really understand this we won’t be so quick to see the faults of others. The famous “Mea culpa” is a basic doctrine of Christianity. St. Seraphim said, “If you receive the Holy Spirit, thousands around you will be saved.” We are not saving thousands because we aren’t saving ourselves. This is the essential thing, and it helps people understand humanity in another light, the light that gives love rather than hatred.

Most of the experience I’ve had of Christian fanatics is that they have a problem with belief themselves. They doubt and they try to repress every doubt that arises around them. Some of the most rigid Orthodox I’ve met, particularly from ex-Communist countries, are those who were previously members of the secret police, etc., because they cannot live without hatred.

Their identity, unfortunately, is a negative identity because it is built from this hatred. They say, “I am against this and that.” They don’t say what Christianity really is. They want an enemy they can point to. I’m not saying this to judge them, but it is a tragedy.

Perhaps this happens on every level of humanity, but here it is obvious. There are few people who can solve this puzzle and say, “I am.” Only if you participate in the true “I AM” can you say, “I am.” Instead, it is usually “I am not…” Only the Lord has the right to say, “I AM,” but everyone who joins Him takes on this identity.

That is something we’ve also seen in Russia and Serbia with the upsurge of extreme nationalists. These people often use Orthodoxy as a banner, but there is no Christian spirit behind it and it is frightening because simple people become confused and think, well, “I really should support this group because they are “Orthodox.”

Yes, but this abuse has always gone on. These people prey on the religious feelings of others because they know how much power religion has and they want to use it for their own benefit. For example, in Yugoslavia—Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia—most of the people living in these areas are atheists, and the so-called “religious war” simply doesn’t exist. I have coined a phrase, “a religious war of atheists,” because all the people involved in these wars are atheists. I know them personally. They are human beings, of course, but religion is something they use, not what they believe. It is very hard to escape from that.

The Orthodox Church in Albania has spoken out clearly against the misuse of religion. I believe one of the strongest voices is that of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, whose motto has been, “the oil of religion must never be used to ignite conflicts but to soothe hearts and heal wounds.”

In Kosovo, the western press bought into appearances. It was always the Orthodox Serbs versus the Moslem Albanians.

It’s easier to think like that. To try to figure out the real reasons is too complex and confusing. They wanted a quick explanation.

Do you believe Kosovo was a war over culture and territory rather than religion?

It was an ethnic war. When, for example, either side destroyed mosques or churches it was not because of religion. They were an ethnic symbol.

Like the decades of violence in Northern Ireland, and how obvious it seems that these aren’t devout Catholics and Protestants fighting over religion.

Yes. Do you know the joke… someone asks an Irishman, “Are you Catholic or Protestant?” The Irishman answers, “I am an atheist.” “OK, but atheist Catholic or atheist Protestant?”

This is why the prophetic role of the Church is so important. The prophetic role, as the Lord Himself said, means that we are all on the cross. There is a very costly phrase in scripture, that I often quote: “Thus saith the Lord.” In general, people don’t want to hear this. They want to feel that they are “better,” so they follow false prophets and kill the real ones. If we would always speak the Lord’s words, “Thus saith the Lord,” we would be in trouble, but because we don’t like trouble, because we avoid the cross, we don’t say it. We say what other people want to hear. This has been one of the main problems of the Church. We need to fulfill that prophetic role of the Church and speak on behalf of the Lord, to repeat His words.

One of the things that first woke me up to the resurrection of the Albanian Church was when, during the Kosovo conflict, feeling was running high in the West against the Orthodox Serbs oppressing the Moslem Kosovars. But then, little bits of coverage started slipping out about the Orthodox Church in Albania taking in hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Moslem refugees. It blew the preconceptions apart. Albania may be the first country in the modern world where the Orthodox Church has reached out not only to their own poor and unfortunate, but to their “enemies.”

What advice would you give to Orthodox converts about Christian life? In the West we tend to convert eagerly and read the early church fathers, or lives of saints like St. Seraphim, but often our Orthodoxy is a private affair and doesn’t touch our neighbors, our city or our country, at least not as I see the Albanian Church affecting things here.

First, as Christians, we shouldn’t have enemies, because having enemies and being a Christian at the same time is impossible.

Secondly, I joke many times (and this is a joke) that reading about St. Seraphim causes more damage than help. I say this because modern Orthodox often have a false St. Seraphim—which is a reflection of the fact that each of us creates a kind of pseudo-Orthodox self which really has nothing to do with us. For example, a prayer rope in one hand and a girlfriend holding the other, while we talk about St. Seraphim of Sarov. There is nothing in common with St. Seraphim here.

People don’t begin to understand St. Seraphim, they see only his glorification. They want to read about him being surrounded by light, but they don’t stop to think about what it meant to pray a thousand days and nights on a rock. This is a kind of false identification. We identify ourselves with something that doesn’t exist and then we judge others from this lofty viewpoint, forgetting that we are worse than them. We don’t try to save ourselves.

The famous Rabbi Zusya used to say, “God will not judge me because I was not Moses, He will judge me because I was not Zusya.” These people will not be judged because they are not St. Seraphim of Sarov. They will be judged because they were not real.

Everyone is looking for a place where they can feel secure, but this is only in the other world. The Monastery of Chora, in Constantinople, was dedicated to one of the names of Christ, “The Land of the Living.” This land exists, but it is not the pseudo-land of spirituality that we create in our imaginations.

You have been quoted as saying, “The Church doesn’t exist to make individuals, but to make persons. An individual is in a state of separation.” Later, when you were asked about the Church’s motive in offering English classes to young Albanians, you replied, “It’s not that we manipulate others into belief through our projects. We are trying to help young people see certain possibilities and certain paths. Our task is to guard their freedom so they can choose their own path.” Those two ideas seem to work together. Freedom and the individual.

Yes, and this is why we need unity—because we are different. Artificial systems of unity—communism, socialism, fascism—destroy the person. They attempt to make people the same, and use force to make them act the same. But now in the affluent West there is something even more dangerous than this. It is a kind of uniformity from inside oneself. People volunteer to be uniform. Often, before you even ask a person from one of these countries their opinion, you already know what he will answer. The same remarks, the same attitudes and complaints. This destroys the personality.

When we talk about personhood we mean an individual in relation to others, never in isolation. You can’t be a Christian alone. Onos Christianos, nomos Christianos, is a famous phrase. Between the community and the individual, only freedom and love can keep a balance. As Aristide Briant, the French politician, said about the famous classical painting in the Louvre of the embodied graces of Gratitude and Goodness embracing, “The poor things, they meet so rarely.” Freedom and love are the same.

But in critiquing modern life, I don’t want to go to extremes like Kierkegaard who said, “The last Christian died on the Cross.” The Lord says we must walk the narrow path, and this is not so easy. IC

❖ IN COMMUNION / issue 63 / Winter 2012

Advice on Peacemaking from the Saints

St. John Chrysostom:

Do you wish to honor the Body of the Savior? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honor it in church with silk vestments while outside it is naked and numb with cold. He who said, “This is my body,” and made it so by his word, is the same that said, “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food. As you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.” Honor him then by sharing your property with the poor. For what God needs is not golden chalices but golden souls.

–St. John Chrysostom / “On the Gospel of St. Matthew”, 50, iii (PG 58, 508)

If you are a Christian, no earthly city is yours. Of our City ‘the Builder and Maker is God.’ Though we may gain possession of the whole world, we are withal but strangers and sojourners in it all. We are enrolled in heaven: our citizenship is there! Let us not, after the manner of little children, despise things that are great, and admire those which are little! Not our city’s greatness, but virtue of soul is our ornament and defense. If you suppose dignity to belong to a city, think how many persons must partake in this dignity, who are whoremongers, effeminate, depraved and full of ten thousand evil things, and at last despise such honor! But that City above is not of this kind; for it is impossible that he can be a partaker of it, who has not exhibited every virtue.

— St John Chrysostom, Homily 17 on the Commissioners

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?

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

Just as maniacs, who never enjoy tranquility, so also he who is resentful and retains an enemy will never have the enjoyment of any peace; incessantly raging and daily increasing the tempest of his thoughts calling to mind his words and acts, and detesting the very name of him who has aggrieved him. Do you but mention his enemy, he becomes furious at once, and sustains much inward anguish; and should he chance to get only a bare sight of him, he fears and trembles, as if encountering the worst evils, Indeed, if he perceives any of his relations, if but his garment, or his dwelling, or street, he is tormented by the sight of them. For as in the case of those who are beloved, their faces, their garments, their sandals, their houses, or streets, excite us, the instant we behold them; so also should we observe a servant, or friend, or house, or street, or any thing else belonging to those We hate and hold our enemies, we are stung by all these things; and the strokes we endure from the sight of each one of them are frequent and continual. What is the need then of sustaining such a siege, such torment and such punishment? For if hell did not threaten the resentful, yet for the very torment resulting from the thing itself we ought to forgive the offences of those who have aggrieved us. But when deathless punishments remain behind, what can be more senseless than the man, who both here and there brings punishment upon himself, while he thinks to be revenged upon his enemy!

— St John Chrysostom, Homily 20

In the past the emperors were faithless persecutors; presently their piety reaches up to heaven. When passing the threshold of the church they lay off their crowns and sign their foreheads with the Cross of Christ. Outside are the weapons, inside the Mysteries; outside the shields, while in here the sacred acts are performed.

— St John Chrysostom, Homily on the Pentecost, CPG 4343

As it is not to be imagined that the fornicator and the blasphemer can partake of the sacred Table, so it is impossible that he who has an enemy, and bears malice, can enjoy the holy Communion. I forewarn, and testify, and proclaim this with a voice that all may hear! ‘Let no one who hath an enemy draw near the sacred Table, or receive the Lord’s Body! Let no one who draws near have an enemy! Do you have an enemy? Draw not near! Do you wish to draw near? Be reconciled, and then draw near, and touch the Holy Thing!’

— St John Chrysostom, Homily 20

We are commanded to have only one enemy, the devil. With him never be reconciled! But with a brother, never be at enmity in thy heart.

— St John Chrysostom, Homily 20

Praying against one’s personal enemies is a transgression of law.

— St John Chrysostom, Homily against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren

Prayer for our enemies is the very highest summit of self-control.

— St John Chrysostom, Homily 18 on the Gospel of St Matthew

Many, throwing themselves prostrate, and striking the ground with their forehead, and pouring forth hot tears, and groaning bitterly from the heart and stretching out their hands, and displaying much earnestness, employ this warmth and forwardness against their own salvation. For it is not on behalf of their own sins that they beseech God; nor are they asking forgiveness of the offences committed by them; but they are exerting this earnestness against their enemies, doing just the same thing as if one, after whetting his sword, were not to use the weapon against his enemies, but to thrust it through his own throat. So these also use their prayers not for the remission of their own sins, but about revenge on their enemies; which is to thrust the sword against themselves.

— St John Chrysostom, Homily against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren

How great punishment must they deserve, who, far from themselves forgiving, do even entreat God for vengeance on their enemies, and as it were diametrically transgress this law; and this while He is doing and contriving all, to hinder our being at variance one with another? For since love is the root of all that is good, He, removing from all sides whatever mars it, brings us together, and cements us to each other.

— St John Chrysostom, Homily 19 on St Matthew: On the Lord’s Prayer

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. For foreign war will not be able to hurt us greatly. What, I pray, though it slaughters and cuts us off? It injures not the soul. Neither will the second have power to harm us against our will; for though others be at war with us, we may be peaceable ourselves. For so says the Prophet, ‘For my love they are my adversaries, but I give myself unto prayer’ (Ps. 109:4); and again, ‘I was at peace with them that hate peace’; and, ‘I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.’ (Ps. 120:6, 7, LXX) But 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.

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

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.

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

To conquer enemies does not render kings so illustrious, as to conquer wrath and anger. For, in the former case, the success is due to arms and soldiers; but here the trophy is simply your own, and you have no one to divide the glory of your moral wisdom. You have overcome barbarian war, overcome also Imperial wrath!

— St John Chrysostom, Homily 6 (on the attempts to quiet the wrath of the Emperor)

St. Basil the Great:

Nothing is so characteristically Christian as being a peacemaker.

— St Basil the Great, Letter 114

I cannot persuade myself that without love to others, and without, as far as rests with me, peaceableness towards all, I can be called a worthy servant of Jesus Christ.

— St Basil the Great, Letter 203,2

I have learnt to know one who proves that even in a soldier’s life it is possible to preserve the perfection of love to God, and that we must mark a Christian not by the style of his dress, but by the disposition of his soul.

— St Basil the Great, Letter 106 (to a soldier)

St. Gregory of Nyssa:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Who are these? Those who imitate the Divine love of others, who show forth in their own life the characteristic of the Divine energy. The Lord and Giver of good things completely annihilates anything that is without affinity and foreign to goodness. This work He ordains also for you, namely to cast out hatred and abolish war, to exterminate envy and banish strife, to take away hypocrisy and extinguish from within resentment of injuries smoldering in the heart. Instead, you ought to introduce whatever is contrary to the things that have been removed. For as light follows the departure of darkness, thus also these evil things are replaced by the fruits of the Spirit: by charity, joy, peace, benignity, magnanimity, all the good things enumerated by the Apostle (Gal 5:22). How then should the dispenser of the Divine gifts not be blessed, since he imitates the gifts of God and models his own good deeds on the Divine generosity?

But perhaps the beatitude does not only regard the good of others. I think that man is called a peacemaker par excellence who pacifies perfectly the discord between flesh and spirit in himself and the war that is inherent in nature, so that the law of the body no longer wars against the law of the mind but is subjected to the higher rule and becomes a servant of the Divine ordinance.

— St. Gregory of Nyssa / The Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes, Ancient Christian Writers series, Newman Press

When our hearts are reluctant we often have to compel ourselves to pray for our enemies, to pour out prayer for those who are against us. Would that our hearts were filled with love! How frequently we offer a prayer for our enemies, but do it because we are commanded to, not out of love for them. We ask the gift of life for them even while we are afraid that our prayer may be heard. The judge of our soul considers our hearts rather than our words. Those who do not pray for their enemies out of love are not asking anything for their benefit.

Jesus, our advocate, has composed a prayer for our case. And our advocate is also our judge. He has inserted a condition in the prayer that reads: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Sometimes we say these words without carrying them out. Thus our words bind us more tightly.

— St. Gregory the Great, “Be Friends of God”

What are we to do then, my friends? We must bestow our love on our brothers and sisters. We must not allow any malice at all to remain in our hearts. May almighty God have regard for our love of our neighbor, so that He may pardon our iniquities! Remember what He taught us: Forgive, and you will be forgiven. People are in debt to us, and us to them. Let us forgive them their debts, so that what we owe may be forgiven.

— St Gregory the Great, Homily

How do we count the fruits of earthly blessings? If we … add to our account those who have fared well in combat through inflicting defeats in battle and other recorded deeds, these examples do not suit our objective. A Christian is ashamed at anything contrary to the faith and rejoices at praise coming from persons who love Christ much like those in the shadow of a notable person exult in his victories. Let us be silent about this world’s glories despite their numerous accounts.

— St Gregory of Nyssa, The first Homily concerning the forty Martyrs (Part One)

Someone who has defiled himself with murder — be it involuntarily — is considered impure through his impure deeds and the canon considers such a person unworthy of the grace of priesthood.

— St Gregory of Nyssa, Canonical Epistle to St Letoius of Melitene.

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 or leg protection; rather, they are armed with the full armor 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.

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

All things belong to God. All are our brothers and sisters. Among us it is best that all inherit equal portions.

— St. Gregory of Nyssa

St. Maximus the Confessor:

“But I say to you,” the Lord says, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you.” Why did he command these things? So that he might free you from hatred, sadness, anger and grudges, and might grant you the greatest possession of all, perfect love, which is impossible to possess except by the one who loves all equally in imitation of God.

— St. Maximus the Confessor

St. Ambrose of Milan:

The peace which removes the enticements of the passion and calms the perturbations of the spirit is loftier than that which puts down the invasion of barbarians. For it is a greater thing to resist the enemy inside you than the one far off.

— St. Ambrose of Milan, On Jacob 2,6,29

Why 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 defense.

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….

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.

— St Ambrose of Milan, Sermon Against Auxentius, On the Giving up of the Basilicas [In the year 385 the Arian bishop Auxentius used an Imperial decree ordering that the basilicas of Milan be handed over to the Arians. St Ambrose led the people in protest over this decree. Challenging his opponents to a discussion in the church, he said their weapons did not frighten him.]

Some ask whether, in case of a shipwreck, a wise man ought to take away a plank from an ignorant sailor. Although it seems better for the common good that a wise man rather than a fool should escape from shipwreck, yet I do not think that a Christian, a just and a wise man, ought to save his own life by the death of another; just as when he meets with an armed robber he cannot return his blows, lest in defending his life he should stain his love toward his neighbor. The verdict on this is plain and clear in the books of the Gospel. ‘Put up thy sword, for every one that taketh the sword shall perish with the sword’ (Mt 26,52). What robber is more hateful than the persecutor who came to kill Christ? But Christ would not be defended from the wounds of the persecutor, for He willed to heal all by His wounds.

— St Ambrose of Milan, Duties of the Clergy 3,4,27

St. John Climacus:

Remembrance of wrongs is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sin, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer… You will know that you have completely freed yourself of this rot, not when you pray for he person who has offended you, not when you exchange presents with him, not when you invite him to your table, but only when, on hearing that he has fallen into bodily or spiritual misfortune, you suffer and weep for him as for yourself.

— St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

St. Athanasius the Great:

Where the Savior is named, there every demon is driven out. Again, who has ever so rid men of their natural passions that fornicators become chaste and murderers no longer wield the sword and those who formerly were craven cowards boldly play the man? In a word, what persuaded the barbarians and heathen folk in every place to drop their madness and give heed to peace, save the faith of Christ and the sign of the cross? What other things have given men such certain faith in immortality as have the cross of Christ and the resurrection of His body?

— St Athanasius the Great, On the Incarnation, Chapter 8, 50

Christ is not only preached through His own disciples, but also wrought so persuasively on men’s understanding that, laying aside their savage habits and forsaking the worship of their ancestral gods, 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, as men moved with real compunction 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.

Who, then, is He Who has done these things and has united in peace those who hated each other, save the beloved Son of the Father, the common Savior of all, Jesus Christ, Who by His own love underwent all things for our salvation? Even from the beginning, moreover, this peace that He was to administer was foretold, for Scripture says, ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles, and nation shall not take sword against nation, neither shall they learn any more to wage war.’ Nor is this by any means incredible.

The barbarians of the present day are naturally savage in their habits, and as long as they sacrifice to their idols they rage furiously against each other and cannot bear to be a single hour without weapons. But when they hear the teaching of Christ, forthwith they turn from fighting to farming, and instead of arming themselves with swords extend their hands in prayer. In a word, instead of fighting each other, they take up arms against the devil and the demons, and overcome them by their self-command and integrity of soul.

— St Athanasius the Great, On the Incarnation, Chapters 8, 51 and 52

The Savior 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, marvelous to relate, they make light even of death itself, and become martyrs of Christ.

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

St. Cyprian of Carthage:

As long as this body remains common with the rest, its corporal condition must also be common, and it is not granted the members of the human race to be separated from one another, unless there is withdrawal from this life. Meanwhile, we, good and evil, are contained within our house. Whatever comes within the house we endure with equal fate, until, when our temporal earthly period has been fulfilled, we are distributed among the homes of eternal death or immortality. So then we are not comparable and equal with you, because, while we are still in this world and in this flesh, we incur equally with you the annoyances of the world and of the flesh. For since all that punishes is in the sense of pain, it is manifest that he is not a participant in your punishment whom you see does not suffer pain with you.

— St. Cyprian of Carthage, To Demetrian, Chapter 19 [In this treatise, written during the plague that ravaged Carthage in 252 AD, St Cyprian responds to the accusation that the Christians are responsible for the epidemic]

Abel, peaceable and just, while he was sacrificing to God innocently, taught others also, when they offer a gift at the altar, to come with fear of God, with simple heart, with the law of justice, with the peace of concord. Worthily did he, since he was such in God’s sacrifice, himself later become a sacrifice to God, so that being the first to manifest martyrdom he initiated the Lord’s passion by his blood, who had both the justice and peace of the Lord. Finally, such are crowned by the Lord; such on the day of judgment will be vindicated with the Lord. But the discordant and the dissident and he who has not peace with his brethren, according as the blessed Apostle and the Holy Scripture testify, not even if he be slain for His name, shall be able to escape the crime of fraternal dissension, because, as it is written: Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and a murderer does not arrive at the kingdom of heaven nor does he live with God. He cannot be with Christ, who preferred to be an imitator of Judas rather than of Christ. What a sin that is which cannot be washed away by the baptism of blood; what a crime that is which cannot be expiated by martyrdom!

— St Cyprian of Carthage, On the Lord’s Prayer, Chapter 24

You have many things to ponder. Ponder paradise, where Cain, who destroyed his brother through jealousy, does not return. Ponder the kingdom of heaven to which the Lord admits only those of one heart and mind. Ponder the fact that only those can be called the sons of God who are peace-makers, who, united by divine birth and law, correspond to the likeness of God the Father and Christ. Ponder that we are under God’s eyes, that we are running the course of our conversation, and life with God Himself looking on and judging, that then finally we can arrive at the point of succeeding in seeing Him, if we delight Him as He now observes us by our actions, if we show ourselves worthy of His grace and indulgence, if we, who are to please Him forever in heaven, please Him first in this world.

— St Cyprian of Carthage, Jealousy and Envy, Chapter 18

Hence [from the days of Cain and Abel] finally begin the first hatreds of the new brotherhood; hence the abominable parricides, when the unjust Cain is jealous of the just Abel, when the evil persecutes the good out of jealousy and envy… He was unjustly oppressed who had been the first to show justice; he endured hatred who did not know how to hate; he was slain impiously who while dying did not fight back. What other than the stimulus of jealousy provoked Saul the king also to hate David, to desire to kill that innocent, merciful man, patient with a gentle mildness, by often repeated persecutions? Because, when Goliath had been killed and so great an enemy had been slain by divine assistance and condescension, the admiring people burst forth into approbation unto praise of David, Saul through envy conceived the furies of hatred and persecution.

— St Cyprian of Carthage, Jealousy and Envy, Chapter 5

No one of us fights back when he is apprehended, nor do our people avenge themselves against your unjust violence though numerous and plentiful. Our certainty of the vengeance which is to come makes us patient. The harmless give way to the harmful; the innocent acquiesce in the punishments and tortures certain and confident that whatever we suffer will not remain unavenged, and that the greater is the injury of the persecution, the more just and serious will be the vengeance for the persecution. Long ago divine Scripture laid down and said: ‘Vengeance is mine, I shall repay, says the Lord,’ and let the Holy Spirit again warn us saying: ‘Say not: I will avenge myself on my enemy, but wait in the Lord so that He may aid you.’ Thus it is clear and manifest that not through us but for us do all these things happen which come down from the anger of God.

— St Cyprian of Carthage, To Demetrian, Chapter 17

From the sacrament of the cross you receive both food and drink; let the wood, which availed at Mara in a figure for sweetening the taste, avail you in truth for soothing the softened breast, and you will not labor for the remedy for increasing the health. Cure yourself at the source from which you had been wounded. Love those whom you hated before; esteem those whom you envied with unjust disparagements. Imitate the good, if you can follow them; if you cannot follow them, surely rejoice with them and congratulate your betters Your debts will be forgiven you, when you yourself shall forgive. Your sacrifices will be accepted, when you shall come to God as a peacemaker.

— St Cyprian of Carthage, Jealousy and Envy, Chapter 17

For a little consider that you are being transported to the loftiest peak of a high mountain, that from this you are viewing the appearance of things that lie below you and with your eyes directed in different directions you yourself free from earthly contacts gaze upon the turmoils of the world. Presently you also will have pity on the world, and taking account of yourself and with more gratitude to God you will rejoice with greater joy that you have escaped from it. Observe the roads blocked by robbers, the seas beset by pirates, wars spread everywhere with the bloody horrors of camps.

— St Cyprian of Carthage, To Donatus, Chapter 6

The world is going mad in mutual bloodshed. And murder, which is considered a crime when people commit it singly, is transformed into a virtue when they do it en masse. The offenders acquire impunity by increasing their ravaging.

— St Cyprian of Carthage

The world is soaked with mutual blood. When individuals commit homicide, it is a crime; it is called a virtue when it is done in the name of the state. Impunity is acquired for crimes not by reason of innocence but by the magnitude of the cruelty.

— St Cyprian of Carthage, To Donatus, chapter 6

Man is killed for the pleasure of man, and to be able to kill is a skill, is an employment, is an art. Crime is not only committed but is taught. What can be called more inhuman, what more repulsive? It is a training that one may be able to kill, and that he kills is a glory. What is this, I ask you, of what nature is it, where those offer themselves to wild beasts, whom no one has condemned, in the prime of life, of a rather beautiful appearance, in costly garments? While still alive they adorn themselves for a voluntary death, wretched they even glory in their wicked deeds. They fight with beasts not because they are convicts but because they are mad. Fathers look upon their own sons; a brother is in the arena and his sister near by, and, although the more elaborate preparation of the exhibition increases the price of the spectacle, oh shame! the mother also pays this price that she may be present at her own sorrows. And at such impious and terrible spectacles they do not realize that with their eyes they are parricides.

— St Cyprian of Carthage, To Donatus, chapter 7 [The letter concerns gladiator games.]

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.

— St Cyprian of Carthage, Jealousy and Envy, 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 the incautious, he entraps the 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.

— St Cyprian of Carthage, Exhortation to Martyrhood, to Fortunatus, Chapter 2

St. Euphemia:

Both the Emperor’s commands and yours [person in authority] must be obeyed if they are not contrary to the God of heaven. If they are, they must not only not be obeyed; they must be resisted.

— St. Euphemia, d. July 11, 303

Desert Fathers:

I have heard that there were two old men who dwelt together for many years, and who never quarreled, and that one said to the other, “let us also pick a quarrel with each other, even as other men do.” Then his companion answered and said unto him, “I know not how a quarrel cometh,” and the other old man answered and said unto him, “Behold, I will set a brick in the midst, and will say, ‘This is mine,’ and do thou say, ‘It is not thine, but mine’; and from this quarrelling will ensue.” And they placed a brick in the midst, and one of then said, “This is mine,” and his companion answered and said after him, “This is not so, for it is mine”; and straightaway the other replied and said unto him, “If this be so, and the brick be thine, take it and go.” Thus they were not able to make a quarrel.

— Sayings of the Desert Fathers

St. Justin Martyr:

[The demons] struggle to have you as their slaves and servants, and . . . they get hold of all who do not struggle to their utmost for their own salvation — as we do who, after being persuaded by the Word, renounced them and now follow the only unbegotten God through his Son. Those who once rejoiced in fornication now delight in self-control alone; those who made use of magic arts have dedicated themselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who once took most pleasure in the means of increasing our wealth and property now bring what we have into a common fund and share with everyone in need; we who hated and killed one another and would not associate with men of different tribes because of [their different] customs, now after the manifestation of Christ live together and pray for our enemies and try to persuade those who unjustly hate us, so that they, living according to the fair commands of Christ, may share with us the good hope of receiving the same things . . . The teachings of Christ were short and concise, for he was no philosopher, but his word was the power of God.

— St Justin Martyr: First Apology 14 (Rome ca 150)

When the Spirit of prophecy speaks as predicting things that are to come to pass, He speaks in this way: ‘For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ And that it did so come to pass, we can convince you. For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God; and we who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ. For that saying, ‘The tongue has sworn but the mind is unsworn,’ might be imitated by us in this matter. But 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.

— St Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 39

We who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each throughout the whole earth changed our weapons of war — our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage — and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified; and sitting each under his vine, i.e., each man possessing his own married wife. For you are aware that the prophetic word says, ‘And his wife shall be like a fruitful vine.’ Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world.

— St Justin Martyr, Dialogue, Chapter 110

St Ignatius of Antioch:

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.

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

St. Martin of Tours:

I am a soldier of Christ. To fight is not permissible for me.

— St. Martin of Tours [while still an army officer, explaining his unwillingness to take part in battle]

St. Maximillian:

My army is the army of God, and I cannot fight for this world…. You can cut off my head, but I will not be a soldier of this world, for I am a soldier of Christ.

— St. Maximillian, Martyr, executed for refusing military service(d. 295)

St. Theodore Studite:

You detach yourself from the cross to which you have crucified yourself alongside the Savior if you go and hit your brother.

— St. Theodore Studite, Small Catechism

St. Isaac the Syrian:

Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.
Be crucified, but do not crucify others.
Be slandered, but do not slander others.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.
Suffer with the sick.
Be afflicted with sinners.
Exult with those who repent.
Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.
Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.
Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.
Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.
And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place, do not destroy their character.

What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God.


It is not virtue either to be the enemy of the bad or the defender of the good, because virtue cannot be subject to uncertain chances.

What are the interests of our country, but the inconveniences of another state or nation? — that is, to extend the boundaries which are violently taken from others, to increase the power of the state, to improve the revenues, — all which things are not virtues, but the overthrowing of virtues: for, in the first place, the union of human society is taken away, innocence is taken away, the abstaining from the property of another is taken away; lastly, justice itself is taken away, which is unable to bear the tearing asunder of the human race, and wherever arms have glittered, must be banished and exterminated from thence.

How can a man be just who injures, hates, despoils and puts to death? Yet they who strive to be serviceable to their country do all these things: for they are ignorant of what this being serviceable is, who think nothing useful, nothing advantageous, but that which can be held by the hand; and this alone cannot be held, because it may be snatched away.

— Lactantius, the Divine Institutes, Book 6, Chapter 6 [Lactantius was the tutor of the son of St Constantine the Great. He lived approximately from 260 to 339 AD.]

This saying of Cicero is true: ‘But they who say that regard is to be had to citizens, but that it is not to be had to foreigners, these destroy the common society of the human race.’

— Lactantius, the Divine Institutes, Book 6, Chapter 6

God, in prohibiting killing, discountances not only brigandage, which is contrary to human law, but also that which men regard as legal. Thus participation in war will not be legitimate to a just man; his “military service” is justice itself.

— Lactantius, Divinae Institutiones, VI, xx

Dionysius the Areopagite:

Let us praise with reverent hymns of peace the Divine Peace, which is the Source of all mutual attraction. For this Quality it is that unites all things together and begets and produces the harmonies and agreements of all things. And hence it is that all things long for it, and that it draws their manifold separate parts into the unity of the whole and unites the battling elements of the world into concordant fellowship….

Let us, then, describe that Peace — inasmuch as it transcends all things — as ‘Unspeakable,’ ‘Unknowable’; and, so far as it is possible for man, let us examine those cases where it is amenable to our intuitions and language through being manifested in created things. The first thing to say is this: God is the Fount of Very Peace and of all Peace, both in general and in particular, and that He joins all things together in an unity without confusion.

— Dionysius the Areopagite, On the Divine Names, Chapter 11, 1-2

There is no need to tell how the loving-kindness of Christ comes bathed in Peace. Therefore we must learn to cease from strife, whether against ourselves or against one another, or against the angels, and instead to labor together even with the angels for the accomplishment of God’s Will, in accordance with the Providential Purpose of Jesus Who works all things in all and makes Peace, unutterable and foreordained from Eternity, and reconciles us to Himself, and, in Himself, to the Father. Concerning these supernatural gifts enough has been said with confirmation drawn from the holy testimony of the Scriptures.

— Dionysius the Areopagite, On the Divine Names, Chapter 11,5

Clement of Alexandria:

This is the proclamation of righteousness: to those that obey, glad tidings; to those that disobey, judgment. The loud trumpet, when sounded, collects the soldiers, and proclaims war. And shall not Christ, breathing a strain of peace to the ends of the earth, gather together His own soldiers, the soldiers of peace? Well, by His blood, and by the word, He has gathered the bloodless host of peace, and assigned to them the kingdom of heaven. The trumpet of Christ is His Gospel. He hath blown it, and we have heard. ‘Let us array ourselves in the armor of peace, putting on the breastplate of righteousness, and taking the shield of faith, and binding our brows with the helmet, of salvation; and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,’ let us sharpen. So the apostle in the spirit of peace commands. These are our invulnerable weapons: armed with these, let us face the evil one; ‘the fiery darts of the evil one’ let us quench with the sword-points dipped in water, baptized by the Word, returning grateful thanks for the benefits we have received, and honoring God through the Divine Word.

— Clement of Alexandria, Exhortations to the Heathens, 11

If a loud trumpet summons soldiers to war, shall not Christ with a strain of peace issued to the ends of the earth gather up his soldiers of peace? By his own blood and by his word he has assembled an army which sheds no blood in order to give them the Kingdom of Heaven. The trumpet of Christ is his Gospel. He has sounded it and we have heard it. Let us then put on the armor of peace.

— Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus XI, 116

In peace, not in war, we are trained.

— Clement of Alexandria, Paedogogus 1,12

If you enroll as one of God’s people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver. And what are His laws? You shall not kill, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. To him that strikes you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also.

— Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus, 10

Athenagoras of Athens:

What, then, are these teachings in which we are reared? ‘I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven, who makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust . . . Who [of the pagan philosophers] have so purified their own hearts as to love their enemies instead of hating them; instead of upbraiding those who first insult them (which is certainly more usual), to bless them; and to pray for those who plot against them? . . . With us, on the contrary, you will find unlettered people, tradesmen and old women, who, though unable to express in words the advantages of our teaching, demonstrate by acts the value of their principles. For they do not rehearse speeches, but evidence good deeds. When struck, they do not strike back; when robbed, they do not sue; to those who ask, they give, and they love their neighbors as themselves … We cannot endure to see a man being put to death even justly…. We see little difference between watching a man being put to death and killing him. So we have given up [gladiatorial] spectacles…. What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God?…. But we are altogether consistent in our conduct…

— Athenagoras of Athens: Legatio 11, 34-35 (Athens, 175)

Evagrius the Solitary:

Whoever loves true prayer and yet becomes angry or resentful is his own enemy. He is like a man who wants so see clearly and yet inflicts damage on his own eyes.

— Evagrius the Solitary, Treatise on Prayer, 64


We, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His laws that evil ought not to be requited with evil, that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another. An ungrateful world is now for a long period enjoying a benefit from Christ, inasmuch as by His means the rage of savage ferocity has been softened, and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow-creature.

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


Christ, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier.

— Tertullian, de Idololatria 19

We [the Christians] started yesterday and already we have filled the world and everything that belongs to you — the cities, apartment houses, fortresses, towns, market places, the camps themselves, your tribes, town councils, the imperial palace, the Senate, the Forum. The only thing we have left to you are the temples. We can count your armies; there is a greater number of Christians in one province! What kind of war would we, who willingly submit to the sword, not be ready or eager for despite our inferior numbers if it were not for the fact that according to our doctrine it is more permissible to be killed than to kill.

— Tertullian, Apology, 37:4

The question is now whether a member of the faithful can become a soldier and whether a soldier can be admitted to the Faith even if he is a member of the rank and file who are not required to offer sacrifice or decide capital cases. There can be no compatibility between an oath made to God and one made to man, between the standard of Christ and that of the devil, between the camp of light and the camp of darkness. The soul cannot be beholden to two masters, God and Caesar. Moses, to be sure, carried a rod; Aaron wore a military belt and had a breast plate. If one wants to play around with the topic, Jesus (Joshua), son of Nun led an army and the Jewish nation went to war. But how will a Christian do so? Indeed how will he serve in the army even during peacetime without the sword that Jesus Christ has taken away? Even if soldiers came to John and got advice on how they ought to act, even if the centurion became a believer, the Lord, by taking away Peter’s sword, disarmed every soldier thereafter. We are not allowed to wear any uniform that symbolizes a sinful act.

— Tertullian, On Idolatry, 19:1-3

Before treating the matter of a military crown I think we must first ask whether military service is appropriate for Christians at all. What is the point in talking about incidental matters when the assumptions which they rest on are wrong from the start? Do we think that one can rightfully superimpose a human oath on one made to God? And that a man can answer to a second lord once he has acknowledged Christ? And that he can abjure father, mother and all his neighbors when the Law prescribes that they be honored and loved next to God and that the Gospel holds them in the same high esteem, valuing only Christ above them? Is it right to make a profession to the sword when the Lord has proclaimed that the man who use it will perish by it?

Will a son of peace who should not even go to court take part in battle? Will a man who does not avenge wrongs done to himself have any part in chains, prisons, tortures and punishments? Will he perform guard duty for anyone other than Christ, or will he do so on the Lord’s day when he is not doing it for Christ Himself? Will he stand guard at the temples which he has forsworn? Will he go to a banquet at places where the apostle disapproves of it? At night will he protect those (demons) that he has exorcised during the day, leaning and resting on the spear that pierces the side of Christ? Will he carry the standards that rival Christ’s? Will he ask the commander for a password when he has already received one from God?

— Tertullian, On the Crown, 11:1-5

“Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and the prison, and torture and the punishment [of execution], who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs?”

— Tertullian, De Corona [Concerning the Crown], 11

We pray without ceasing for all emperors, for their prolonged life, for protection of the imperial palace, for brave armies, a loyal Senate, an upright citizenry, a peaceful world and for everything that the emperor desires as a man and as a Caesar

— Tertullian, Apology, 30:4


It is well known that Jesus was born in the reign of Augustus, who, one might say, brought the mass of mankind under a single sovereignty. The existence of many kingdoms would have hindered the spread of Jesus’ teachings over the whole world because everywhere men would have been forced to serve in the army and go to war on behalf of their country How could this peaceful teaching, which prohibits a man from avenging himself even against his enemies, have gained sway if the whole world situation at the time of Jesus had not been made more peaceful.

— Origen, Against Celsus, 2:30

Celsus urges us ‘to help the king with all our might, and to labor with him in the maintenance of justice, to fight for him; and if he requires it, to fight under him, or lead an army along with him.’ To this our answer is, that we do, when occasion requires, give help to kings, and that, so to say, a divine help, ‘putting on the whole armor of God’ (Eph. vi. 11). And this we do in obedience to the injunction of the apostle, ‘I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; ‘(1 Tim. ii. 1, 2.) and the more any one excels in piety, the more effective help does he render to kings, even more than is given by soldiers, who go forth to fight and slay as many of the enemy as they can. And to those enemies of our faith who require us to bear arms for the commonwealth, and to slay men, we can reply: ‘Do not those who are priests at certain shrines, and those who attend on certain gods, as you account them, keep their hands free from blood, that they may with hands unstained and free from human blood offer the appointed sacrifices to your gods; and even when war is upon you, you never enlist the priests in the army. If that, then, is a laudable custom, how much more so, that while others are engaged in battle, these too should engage as the priests and ministers of God, keeping their hands pure, and wrestling in prayers to God on behalf of those who are fighting in a righteous cause, and for the king who reigns righteously, that whatever is opposed to those who act righteously may be destroyed!’ And as we by our prayers vanquish all demons who stir up war, and lead to the violation of oaths, and disturb the peace, we in this way are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs, when along with righteous prayers we join self-denying exercises and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures, and not to be led away by them. And none fight better for the king than we do. We do not indeed fight under him, although he require it; but we fight on his behalf, forming a special army — an army of piety — by offering our prayers to God.

— Origen, Against Celsus, Book 8, Chapter 73 [Celsus, a pagan, had written a critique of Christians]

Celsus would have us to lead armies in defense of our country, let him know that we do this too, and that not for the purpose of being seen by men, or of vainglory. For ‘in secret,’ and in our own hearts, there are prayers which ascend as from priests in behalf of our fellow-citizens. And Christians are benefactors of their country more than others. For they train up citizens, and inculcate piety to the Supreme Being; and they promote those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy, to a divine and heavenly city, to whom it may be said, ‘Thou hast been faithful in the smallest city, come into a great one’ (Luke xix. 17).

— Origen, Against Celsus, Book 8, Chapter 74.

St. Vladimir of Kiev:

Above all things: forget not the poor, but support them to the extent of your means. Give to the orphan, protect the widow, and permit the mighty to destroy no man. Take not the life of the just or the unjust, nor permit him to be killed. Destroy no Christian soul, even though he be guilty of murder.

— St. Vladimir of Kiev, Equal-to-the-Apostles, in his Testament to his children, The Primary Chronicle, written by St. Nestor of the Kiev Caves, 1096 AD

Saint Seraphim of Sarov:

God is fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. And so, if we feel in our hearts coldness, which is from the devil — for the devil is cold — then let us call upon the Lord and He will come and warm our hearts with perfect love not only for Him but for our neighbor as well.

— Saint Seraphim of Sarov

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.

— St Seraphim of Sarov

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk:

Forgiveness is better than revenge.

— St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

St. Silouan the Athonite:

The soul cannot know peace unless she prays for her enemies. The soul that has learned of God’s grace to pray, feels love and compassion for every created thing, and in particular for mankind, for whom the Lord suffered on the Cross, and His soul was heavy for every one of us.

— St. Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938

I beseech you, put this to the test. When a man affronts you or brings dishonor on your head, or takes what is yours, or persecutes the Church, pray to the Lord, saying: “O Lord, we are all Thy creatures. Have pity on Thy servants and turn their hearts to repentance,” and you will be aware of grace in your soul. To begin with, constrain your heart to love enemies, and the Lord, seeing your good will, will help you in all things, and experience itself will show you the way. But the man who thinks with malice of his enemies has not God’s love within him, and does not know God.

— St. Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938

Patriarch Pavle of Serbia:

If we live as people of God, there will be room for all nations in the Balkans and in the world. If we liken ourselves to Cain who killed his brother Abel, then the entire earth will be too small even for two people. The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to be always children of God and love one another. We should remember the words of St. Paul: “If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.”

— Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church

St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris:

The bodies of fellow human beings must be treated with greater care than our own. Christian love teaches us to give our brethren not only spiritual gifts, but material gifts as well. Even our last shirt, our last piece of bread must be given to them. Personal almsgiving and the most wide-ranging social work are equally justifiable and necessary. The way to God lies through love of other people and there is no other way. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked if I was successful in my ascetic exercises or how many prostrations I made in the course of my prayers. I shall be asked, did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners: that is all I shall be asked.

— St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris

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A letter from an anonymous Christian disciple to Diognetus, 2nd century AD:

The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus (Greek: Πρὸς Διόγνητον Ἐπιστολή) is probably the earliest example of Christian apologetics, writings defending Christianity from its accusers. The Greek writer and recipient are not otherwise known, but the language and other textual evidence dates the work to the late 2nd century; some assume an even earlier date and count it among the Apostolic Fathers. “Mathetes” is not a proper name; it simply means “a disciple.” The writer may be a Johannine Christian, although the name “Jesus” and the expression the “Christ” are not present in the text. The author prefers, rather, to refer to the “son” as “the Word.”
extract from the Wikipedia entry:

“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.”

— http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20010522_diogneto_en.html

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updated 16 July 2012 / JF