Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Christian soldier

Do you think that the title of this post poses an anomaly, a paradox, or a contradiction of terms? Didn't our Lord Jesus Christ preach non-violence, and non-resistance to evil?
Doesn't Fr Paul, the proistámenos of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, teach that not even God can conquer evil, that evil can only be transformed?
How then can anyone speak of the Christian soldier?

What about the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers?

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle see his banners go!

At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee;
on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
but the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
we have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail.

The lyric of this hymn is careful to avoid anything that would suggest that our battle is anything but spiritual, but from my reading of the Bible and of the history of the martyrs of Christ, it’s clear to me that there is no way one can draw the line between internal spiritual warfare and the struggles that we face in the “real” world. There is only one arena of spiritual combat, and it takes in all possible worlds, internal and external, psychological and social, by word and deed, in the inner and the outer man.
Yes, as Christians, we too fight a jihád, but with the knowledge that the victory is Christ’s and that He bore the punishment for our transgressions in His flesh, hanging on the Tree.

Today is the feast-day and commemoration of the holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, as well as the last day before the onset of the Orthodox sarakostí (“40 days,” or Lent). It is a fitting reminder that we are to follow Jesus into the wilderness, where He provoked satan to do battle, and where He won the victory in word that He would later seal by His deed, shedding His blood on the Cross.

Why was there no mention of the 40 Martyrs, or of their witness and martyrdom (one word in Greek, μαρτυρια) in church today?
Why wasn’t their icon put out for veneration?

True enough, Fr Paul rattled off their commemoration in pure koiné Greek at the end of the service, but they were never mentioned in a tongue anyone could understand. You’ll hear nothing about battle from this pacifist priest, he spoke only of peacefulness and reflection, and forgiveness… Yes, again asking us to forgive him, “a sinful and unworthy priest.” Well, it is hard, I know, to forgive your enemies and pray for those who deceitfully use you, but… I suppose we must. We forgive you, Fr Paul! God knows you deserve it.

But of the 40 Martyrs, thought by some to be the Thundering Legion, let’s make ourselves aware, and join them in carrying forward the battle, behind Jesus our King, against the world, the flesh, and death itself!

Yes, “blessed are the peacemakers,” especially when they are soldiers, policemen, and others we have commissioned to keep the peace and who, like the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, do not flinch from doing what they know is right, no matter what the cost, even at the cost of their lives.
U.S. soldiers pray in a circle before leaving Camp Victory for their patrol mission on the streets of Baghdad.


Jim Swindle said...

Thank you for the booklet concerning the 40 martyrs. I'd never heard of them. The booklet has given me much to think about.

Anonymous said...

Dear Roman,

One of the things I noted when I was still attending Holy Trinity is that the usual commemoration of the armed forces at the end of liturgy was conspicuously absent when Father Paul said the prayers. As the mother of a former enlisted Marine, it hurts my heart when our warriors are not prayed for during Divine Liturgy.

Father Paul can be a pacifist all day long if he wants, but I'll stand with the warriors every single time. I am the mother of one, as well as the daughter, aunt, niece, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, great-great-granddaughter---back for many, many generations. My DAR application is in the works & not all my patriot ancestors are men! No, my 5th great-grandmother is reckoned as a Patriot of the Revolution for her exploits (if you can call them that) during the Revolutionary War. My 8th gr-grandmother is none other than Anne Hutchinson — a different kind of warrior!

Of course Father Paul means well, but he's wrong to not invoke the holy warriors of Orthodoxy. We are facing an implacable foe. Not only are our fighting men and women daily exposed to the predations of an enemy like no other, but that enemy would turn Holy Trinity Cathedral into a Mosque given the smallest chance. Creeping Shariah is a fact of life in the West & to pretend otherwise is folly. As someone (I've forgotten who) said of political correctness, we're gathering the firewood that will destroy our civilization.

For my part I intend to pray harder, buy more ammo, and never deny the sacrifices of all those generations of warriors who have gone before us.

Kali Sarakosti!