The South underwent a crucifixion - rape, murder, starvation, homelessness, church desecration, and other terrors and oppressions - during the War of Northern Aggression and afterward during the so-called Reconstruction. But unlike Christ, she did not remain on her cross. When she was mocked and scorned by the scribes and Pharisees of the North, when she was told to save herself by coming down from her cross, many of her people did so, fleeing torment and hardship in exchange for the worldly comforts that friendship with their enemies could gain for them.
A few have remained steadfast, transfixed on the cross the Lord gave the Southern people to bear - the persecution of Northern radicals and their fellow travelers. But too many over the years, especially in these latter days, have denied it. They think they will experience greater joy in life by renouncing hardship and struggle. Truly, they will not. Our Lord Christ Himself and His holy disciples over the last 2,000 years bear continual witness that the life of sacrifice and self-denial is most blessed.
St Justin Popovich said it this way:
‘The fifth ascetic virtue is the God-human virtue of patience and humility: Which is to say, to endure ill-use, not to render evil for evil, to forgive in total compassion all assault, slander, and hurt. This is what it is to be of Christ: to feel yourself perpetually crucified to the world, persecuted by it, violated and spat upon. The world will not tolerate Christ-bearing men just as it would not tolerate Christ. Martyrdom is the state in which a Christian brings forth fruit. . . . For the Orthodox, martyrdom is purification’ (‘The Inward Mission of Our Church’, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, 3rd ed., A. Gerostergios et al., trans., Belmont, Ma.: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 2005, p. 28, emphasis added).
And one of the righteous Christian elders and confessors of
who suffered greatly during the atheistic rule of the Communists in that country, Justin Pârvu, said of his time in the torture chamber prisons, Romania
‘I . . . was more joyful than I had been when I was free in the world. . . . our spiritual life deepened much more during imprisonment. Those were extraordinary and unique days of sacrifice and renunciation. It was painful to see a man dying before your eyes. This was real suffering. . . . Those were days of light and joy, and life was abundant in those moments’ (Simona Irime, ‘A Life of Sacrificial Love: The Life and Teachings of Elder Justin Pârvu, Part II’, The Orthodox Word, 49.6 (2013), p. 262).
The New South of money and machines and technology and ease and greed and pleasure, smiled upon by Christ-hating
New England and Western European elites, is wasting away more and more each day, though she may think the opposite. Until the Southern people complete their martyrdom, their crucifixion, their rejection of all the evil bound up in the selfish and childish ‘American Dream’ and the murderous American Empire, they will never know the glorious, unfathomable, transfigured life of the Resurrection. They will never know the fulness of life or the unique work the Almighty Father has in store for them as a new creation.
She must follow Elder Justin’s ensample: ‘We joyfully suffered this martyrdom, enduring every injustice, so that through the offering of our patient endurance we would atone for our sins and the sins of our nation’ (Simona Irime, ‘A Life of Sacrificial Love: The Life and Teachings of Elder Justin Pârvu, Part I’, The Orthodox Word, 49.5 (2013), p. 231).
And as in so much else,
, too, is a light for her path - tradition-loving, humble, Christian Russia. Ivan Ilyin wrote a letter on these subjects that every Southerner ought to read. Here below is its beginning (introduced and translated by Mark Hackard): Russia
Even in the darkness of revolutionary terror and enslavement, White Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954) believed in the sacred mission of his people, one to be achieved through suffering and repentance, spiritual strength and discipline. Here is a 1928 letter he addressed to his comrades in emigration, assuring them that one day a new
, a nation of faith and power, would arise. Translation by Mark Hackard. Russia
However hard it might be for you in life and heavy on your soul, to you who selflessly love
, believe: the just cause shall prevail! And therefore never be troubled by the onslaught of evil; it is temporary and fleeting. But first of all and most of all, seek out rightness – only it is truly vital – and only therein shall be born and arise a new force, leading, saving and directing… Russia
The just cause shall prevail. This hardly means that it is protected from earthly failures, temporal trials and periods combining genuine suffering with visible humiliation. No, all of this is not only possible, but it is directly unavoidable. And an innumerable multitude of times, people walking the right path, clearly suffering and by all appearances humiliated, prayed and will still pray as the Son of God did – that this cup would pass them over, and asking why the Lord had forsaken them… Yet namely in these prayers, after Golgotha, there will always live the deepest surety that rightness will be granted victory, and that in visible “dying,” in “clear” failure, resurrection is prepared unseen and brought into being.
Yes, the bearers of the faithful ideal and the just cause are fated to have their hours of failure and suffering. Yet all these failures and all this suffering shall but form the purification for future exploits, the school of future victory. For no one of these men is ready for heroism from the very day of his birth, but for each is needed a long ordeal, his trial and tempering. And from among other peoples, perhaps, we, Russians, need tempering most of all – with our weak-willed passion and our dreamy carelessness. In this lack of character and with this carelessness, in the chaotic mix of good and evil, it was impossible to build
any further: neither her Church nor her state, neither her economy nor her spiritual culture. War and the Revolution proved this with certainty; and having proven their point, they brought us into a period of severe trials and ruthless tempering. Russia
This period has already lasted for ten years now. In this time we were shown naked evil so that we would turn to God. We were witness to shamelessness and dishonor so that we might affirm ourselves in conscience and honor. The greatest traitors in the world stood out from our ranks so that we ourselves would strengthen our loyalty. We experienced untold lawlessness and enslavement to learn to value the just law and the right measure of freedom. All our belongings were taken from us and Communism instituted so that we understood the necessity of property, its meaning and purpose. The family and the Motherland were extinguished, the essence of the soldier and the army perverted so that we would apprehend the holiness of the hearth and the fortress and the warrior’s sacred meaning. In poverty and dark work, in tight living spaces, in exile and expulsion, surrounded by temptations and dangers, we suffer unto a new perception of God, a new national feeling, a new style of character, a new awareness of law and a new national attitude to the army and property. Herein is the great meaning of our trial and our tempering. Herein is our service to
, both there, under the yoke, and outside the country, in our dispersion overseas. We should accept this cup and drain it until emptied. We shall not dare to pray that it pass us over; we must be solidly sure that on this path, we are forsaken by God. Russia
Our cause does not concern who has temporarily triumphed for now, but who is right at the very essence, before the face of God. For essential rightness is faithful not only in heaven, but on earth. It is not “righteousness,” abstracted from life and unneeded to the world, but a creative vitality necessary to the world – a source not of weakness, but strength, and not of defeat, but victory.
. . .
Source: ‘The Just Cause, http://souloftheeast.org/2014/04/11/the-just-cause/, posted 11 April 2014, accessed 29 April 2014
The Southern cause - Christianity, true community, limits to the power of money, the life of tilling the soil, patriarchy, a non-absolute government, etc. - will be vindicated, surely in Heaven and maybe on earth, but only if she follows the path the Lord has lain before her feet, the path of struggle, not friendship, with her enemies (those inside her people’s souls as well as those outside of them).