THE GREATEST VIRTUE AND UKRAINE
The greatest virtue, according to the Word of God, without which salvation is impossible, is: love. This is explicitly preached in many places, but especially in Matthew 24, where the Lord in the parable of the sheep and goats divides all men into two categories, the saved and the damned, according to whether they do or do not have love, and I Corinthians 13, where St. Paul, after identifying the greatest of virtues as faith, hope and love, says that the greatest of them is love. At the present time, all Orthodox Christians have a very great opportunity to be saved – and a no less great danger of being damned – according to how they react to the terrible fate of the Ukrainian people, who are being tormented and killed on a massive scale by a people that claims – at some times – to be the same people, the Russians.
Many people will claim that what I have just said is grossly exaggerated, even mendacious. Their objections may come in many forms, some more serious than others. Let us review a few of them…
Some will say that you cannot love – or fail to love – those whom you do not know. This is superficially true. And yet there must be few Orthodox Christians today who do not know at least a minimum about what is happening in the torture-chamber that is Ukraine today, even if the minds of many have been poisoned by lying propaganda. And, knowing that, they are able to do something to show love for the Ukrainians, if only by offering up a short prayer to God: “O Lord, have mercy on the suffering Ukrainian people.” Such a prayer, small though it is, if offered sincerely for Christ’s sake, is a good deed, and as such is capable of bringing both us and those we pray for closer to salvation.
Unfortunately, there are influential people in the Orthodox lands who consider such a prayer to be, not a good deed, but an evil one. Thus recently a priest in Moscow, changed a prayer for “victory” for the Russian armies in Ukraine into a prayer for “peace”. For this innocuous-seeming change he was deprived of his priesthood…
Others will put forward a more serious objection. They say that the Ukrainians are bad, even corrupters of the pure souls of Russian Christians, so they must be stopped – physically, even killed – not prayed for. Although I have no difficulty in believing that there are bad Ukrainians (what nation does not have its bad apples?), I fail to see how innocent babies should be torn to pieces to save the souls of innocent Russians.
In any case, what Holy Scripture or saint advocates the torture and killing of people in order to prevent or pre-empt their possible seduction of innocents at some time in the future? The Orthodox Church sometimes blesses defensive wars in protection of the Orthodox faith (see St. Alexander Nevsky’s battles against the Roman Catholics, or the wars of Tsars Nicholas I and II against the Roman Catholics and Protestants) but never offensive wars. Spiritual diseases are fought by spiritual means, not physical.
Another objection: the Ukrainians rely on the military might of NATO and the West, which only goes to show their deep spiritual corruption; they are in hock to America with its wokery and transgenderism. This may be true, but it in no way justifies Putin – or our indifference to the Ukrainians’ suffering. It is only necessary to point out who the allies of Russia are: China, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela. This shows that the Russians are in hock to militant atheism (Chinese agents tear down portraits of Jesus Christ in China and imprison Christians) and Islamism (a particular threat when so many RF citizens now are Muslims)… Which, then, is the greater spiritual corruption?
Special mention should be made of the great power China already holds in the West through its control of such important agents as the head of the World Health Organization, the head of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci and many others (especially in the universities). China also controls, or is close to controlling, the ports of Hamburg and Piraeus… This looks very much like the embryonic beginning of a world government, whose head is Xi Jin-Ping. If this hypothesis is correct, then Russia, which is in such deep dependence on China now, can in no way become the defender of the true faith against such a world government, since it is itself already deeply embroiled in it.
In any case, would the Ukrainians have come to rely so heavily on their western neighbours if they had not been so terribly threatened and abused by the Russians? The truth is that for both countries this struggle is an “existential” one, in which they are forced to resort to more powerful non-Orthodox allies in order to survive. Such a situation is regrettably quite common in Orthodox history – for example, Serbian Tsar Stefan Lazarevich at one time served as a vassal in the armies of the Ottoman sultan, and Tsar Nicholas II had western allies in World War I). It is the result of the weakness of Orthodox powers in recent times in comparison to non-Orthodox powers.
Another objection: if the Russians are to blame for the war, so are the Ukrainians, so both sides should be treated as equally guilty. Of course, all men have fallen short of the glory of God, all are guilty to some degree. But “to some degree” does not mean “equally”. After all, when considering a murder case, do we ever consider the murderer morally equal to his victim? No, never. Again, does the beauty of a woman excuse a man for raping her? No, never. In fact, Christianity is very uncompromising on such issues. We are exhorted to forgive and love even our enemies. And the evil of our enemies does not excuse our evil against them.
From its myth-making factory in St. Petersburg the KGB has invented various theories about who really started the war against Ukraine in order to prove that the Ukrainians, in defending themselves against Russian aggression, are the agents of foreign countries. Thus among the accused are: Ukrainian Nazis, the Jews (according to some versions, they incited both the Russians against the Ukrainians and the Ukrainians against the Russians), the Anglo-Saxons, the Chinese. All of this is irrelevant if not outrightly false if we remember the primary fact both chronologically and juridically and spiritually: that Putin, after saying that he was not preparing to invade Ukraine, almost immediately invaded on February 24, 2022, thereby fulfilling a threat that he had hinted at for many years. The only difference is that whereas he succeeded only in poisoning the Ukrainian Prime Minister Yushchenko in 2005 without killing him, in 2022 he succeeded in killing many thousands of innocent men, women and children. He is guilty as charged, and there is no plausible justification he could give for mass murder from a Christian point of view.
Conversely, there is no possible justification from a Christian point of view for not showing compassion on the Ukrainians in their terrible sufferings.
In defending or sympathizing with a certain man or group we do not have to insist that they are sinless saints. We may even agree that the Ukrainians are probably suffering in part in order to atone for the sins they themselves committed when they were part of the Soviet Union. But their repentance began even before the beginning of this war: they renounced Soviet communism, and legally banned all Soviet (and Nazi) symbolica at a time when such symbolica were (and are) proliferating like mushrooms in Russia. Unfortunately, neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians have yet returned to the True Orthodox Church except in small minorities, being still mired – together – in the heresy of ecumenism. But this does not mean that we cannot make a clear moral distinction between the murderous evil of the Russians, who are clearly at the absolute nadir of their spiritual history, and the courageous refusal to submit to this evil of the Ukrainians. Indeed, if the Ukrainians are now suffering for their sins under communism (and in the immediate post-communist period, when the greedy oligarchs were still the dominant power), it makes one shudder to think what punishment awaits the Russians, who have massively multiplied their sins of the communist period during the Putin era. Moreover, this leads to the thought that we should have compassion also on those hundreds of thousands of Russians who secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) abhor the works of Putin and his siloviki. For the bounds of compassion and mercy should be identical with the bounds of sin and evil; as we hope God will have mercy on our sins, so we must have mercy on all our fellow sinners.
But this should not obscure from us the fact that sin is sin and does not cease to be sin when we have compassion on the sinner. The sins of the Russians are horrific, and do not cease to be horrific because we may have some pity on some of their practitioners. What makes the sins of the Russians even more horrific is the fact that – unlike the sins of their allies, the Communist Chinese and North Koreans and Iranians and Venezuelans – they are committed by self-confessed Orthodox Christians and urged on by KGB agents-in-cassocks like “Patriarch” Cyril Gundiaev of Moscow (Agent Mikhailov). By calling this utterly evil war “sacred”, by urging the mass killing of fellow Orthodox Christians, and by persuading Russian Christians that it is their duty to follow a pseudo-authority that was cursed and anathematized by a large Church Council as long ago as 1918, Gundiaev and his fellow traitor-hierarchs give a terrible image of Orthodox Christianity to the non-Orthodox, bringing the name of Orthodoxy into disrepute. This sin is in no way diminished by the fact that some Slavic and non-Slavic churches, to their great shame, have supported the Moscow Patriarchate. No wonder that, according to the tradition of the Valaam elders passed down by Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, in the church council that will take place after the world war, hardly any of the hierarchs of the MP will remain in their sees…
We can make our own small contribution to this long-desired Triumph of Orthodoxy – not of Ukrainianism over Russianism, which would merely be the triumph of one nationalism over another, but of good over evil, of truth over falsehood – by showing compassion on those oppressed and persecuted by evil in Ukraine. And we can demonstrate such love and compassion not only materially, but also spiritually. That is, we can sympathise with and support them in their struggle, confirming that their enemies must indeed be denounced and defeated in their evil lies and genocidal terror. And that in defending themselves against this evil they are following the command of the last canonical Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Tikhon, which forbids us – under threat of anathema – from submitting in any way to the power of those “outcasts of the human race”, the Bolsheviks.
Let us consider, finally, the argument that when the Russians invaded Ukraine, the Ukrainians should have surrendered to them, thereby saving many lives on both sides. In answer to this argument, I would affirm that it is highly unlikely that such an act would have saved lives, and even if it saved some lives it would certainly have destroyed many souls, who would have fallen into the nets of the collective Antichrist. For the first act of the Russians after the surrender would undoubtedly have been to turn the whole of Ukraine into a prison camp, a vast Gulag, in which so-called “Nazis” (i.e., opponents of the greatest Nazi, V.V. Putin) would have been tortured and tormented until they accepted the evil doctrine of Putinism, or “the Russian world”, which several Orthodox theologians have already rightly described as a heresy. Indeed, all the heresies – and they are many – of the contemporary Russian Federation would be strengthened, and the resistance to them weakened, not only in “the Russian world” but throughout the world. Foreseeing this, as we have seen, the Holy Spirit inspired Patriarch Tikhon and the Local Council of the Russian Church in 1918 to forbid the slightest compromise, spiritual or material, with Bolshevism (of which Putinism is clearly the successor). Indeed, how can it be morally justified to stop a man from protecting his wife and children against a fate worse than death? Moreover, to stop him would not be in accordance with the word of God, which says, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5.8 And again: “greater love hath no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15.13).
April 28 / May 10, 2023.