Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Sin of War - Our Only Enemy Is Death

By Protopresbyter Fr. Thomas Bambinis

The Sin of War

War is a great temptation for the consciences of the faithful. It extinguishes love. They identify it with selfishness, at best they subjugate it to national selfishness. Of course, the battles that take place in defensive wars are not only inevitable, they are also just, but even in these just wars, all the darkness of people is easily manifested, as well as, of course, all of the brilliant greatness of those who struggle on behalf of the just, the sacred and the freedom of their people with selflessness and self-denial, without obvious hatred for the aggressors.

Consent to the temptation of war is a strong opponent of the worship of God. Characteristic is the observation of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, who when referencing the Prophet David, writes: "In Scripture we see that God did not want David to build Him a temple or dwelling-place, who was involved in battles and riots throughout most of the course of his life, instead it was to be done by his son Solomon, because in accordance with his name, he remained a peaceful king, and went to battle with no one" (Unseen Warfare, Section 2, Chapter 13).

The temptation of war is particularly sharp in the consciences of the liturgists, Priests and Hierarchs, when the "kings" of their homeland (as in our day in Russia) attempt a vicious attack. These liturgists in the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil, which the Orthodox celebrate on all the Sundays of Lent, after the consecration of the Holy Gifts, pray for their "kings": "Remember, Lord, our most pious and most faithful kings, whom you ordained to rule on earth. Crown them with a weapon of truth, a weapon of favor, overshadow their heads in the day of war, strengthen their arm, raise up their right, strengthen their kingdom, subdue all the barbarian nations who want wars; grant them deep and inalienable peace; speak to their hearts good things on behalf of your Church and all your people, that we may lead our lives in calmness and stillness and silence, in all piety and modesty." Which "kings" are they referring to? Theirs are destroying peace, they "want wars". With what "crushed" conscience do they utter this prayer for their "kings"? It is obvious that the torment of war has ecclesiological dimensions.

Our Only Enemy Is Death

Saint Sophrony the Hagiorite has recorded autobiographically about wars. He writes: "I was somehow taken by the feeling of the universe's sufferings. My experience from the First World War and the Russian Revolution that followed contributed to this. I lived for years in a suffocating atmosphere of fratricidal hatred, first because of the World War and then because of the civil war. Since then it has been better for me to hear about the perhaps thousands of victims of earthquakes, floods, epidemics and other disasters and catastrophes, which usually provoke the sympathy of all, than for wars, which almost without exception entice everyone to moral involvement in the killings. There is no greater sin than war" (We Shall See Him As He Is, p. 146).

Wars are more horrible and disgusting than the most terrible natural disasters. Wars "almost without exception entice everyone to moral involvement in the killings." They nurture hatred. Natural disasters breed sympathy and solidarity.

For Saint Sophrony, "Our only war, which we have chosen, is the holy struggle towards that which is common for all men, the enemy of all mankind: death" (see 1 Corinthians 10:26). In essence, man has no other enemy. We fight for the resurrection, our personal one and that of every other fellow human being” (We Shall See Him As He Is, p. 133).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.