Tuesday, March 24, 2015

War and the Church, Part II: The West

The Russian philosopher Ivan Kireevsky saw one hundred fifty years ago how the spirit of heaðen Rome had impressed itself upon much of Western Europe (‘On the Nature of European Culture and on Its Relationship to Russian Culture’, On Spiritual Unity, p. 200).  One of the main features of fore-Christian Rome that concerns us today is named by Dr Russell Kirk (one of those rare birds, a traditionalist from the North) in the title to Chapter IV of his book The Roots of American Order (p. IX), ‘Virtue and Power: the Roman Tension’.  In the West, the lust for power has won out in the struggle with virtue, though for a time, during the first several centuries of the Church’s life, it was otherwise. 

Archbishop Averky Taushev spoke of this:

‘The western world with Rome reigning at its head, before which all the nations of the world once trembled, demonstrated that it was incapable of properly assimilating and absorbing the spirit of Christian humility; pagan pride, love of authority, and the unquenchable thirst to rule and command continued to live even in Christian Rome, which had adopted the teaching of Christ superficially and shallowly.  This spirit of pagan pride expressed itself in the pretensions of the Roman patriarch-pope to rule the entire Christian world.  The pope continued the tradition of the pagan emperors of Rome, becoming as it were a successor to their politics of subjecting all nations under them’ (The Struggle for Virtue, p. 10).

Protestants, sadly, betake of the same heathen Roman ghost (p. 11), rejecting the teachings of Christ’s one and only Body, the first church, the only one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church - the Orthodox Church, and shaping Christianity according to the reasonings of their own minds, so that instead of one Pope, there are now millions, as each Protestant has made himself the final authority in matters of the Faith.

And from this pride and þis love of power and dominion has come new thinking about war.  We noted aforetime how the Orthodox Church viewed killing in war as murther, and required penance and contrition of those who had to be engaged in it.  In the West, this has all been thoroughly changed with the fall of Western Europe away from the Ancient Faith.  The abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, France, makes this abundantly clear in his work In Praise of the New Knighthood.  Đere he wrote

 . . .

To be sure, precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his holy ones, whether they die in battle or in bed, but death in battle is more precious as it is the more glorious (Ch. I, section 2).  . . .

BUT THE KNIGHTS OF CHRIST may safely fight the battles of their Lord, fearing neither sin if they smite the enemy, nor danger at their own death; since to inflict death or to die for Christ is no sin, but rather, an abundant claim to glory. In the first case one gains for Christ, and in the second one gains Christ himself. The Lord freely accepts the death of the foe who has offended him, and yet more freely gives himself for the consolation of his fallen knight.

The knight of Christ, I say, may strike with confidence and die yet more confidently, for he serves Christ when he strikes, and serves himself when he falls. Neither does he bear the sword in vain, for he is God's minister, for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of the good. If he kills an evildoer, he is not a mankiller, but, if I may so put it, a killer of evil. He is evidently the avenger of Christ towards evildoers and he is rightly considered a defender of Christians. Should he be killed himself, we know that he has not perished, but has come safely into port. When he inflicts death it is to Christ's profit, and when he suffers death, it is for his own gain. The Christian glories in the death of the pagan, because Christ is glorified; while the death of the Christian gives occasion for the King to show his liberality in the rewarding of his knight. In the one case the just shall rejoice when he sees justice done, and in the other man shall say, truly there is a reward for the just; truly it is God who judges the earth.

I do not mean to say that the pagans are to be slaughtered when there is any other way to prevent them from harassing and persecuting the faithful, but only that it now seems better to destroy them than that the rod of sinners be lifted over the lot of the just, and the righteous perhaps put forth their hands unto iniquity (Ch. 3).  . . .

Bernard, before the passing of even one hundred years æfter the West's schism with the Orthodox Church, made of killing a holy act, while utterly dehumanizing those the new monk-warriors he was praising and justifying in New Knighthood fought against (‘he is not a mankiller but a killer of evil’).  By this he helped sow the seeds of full unforholden warfare that has been used by Western nations in very many battles from the Crusades onward to today’s American-E.U. proxy war with Russia in Novorossiya (the Ukraine). 

Where the South fits into this development of Western warlore we hope to write of soon.

Works Cited

Bernard of Clairvaux.  In Praise of the New Knighthoodhttp://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~amtower/bernard.html.  Posted n. d.  Accessed 14 March 2015.

Kireevsky, Ivan.  ‘On the Nature of European Culture and on Its Relationship to Russian Culture’. On Spiritual Unity: A Slavophile Reader. Bird, Robert, and Boris Jakim, trans. Hudson, Ny.: Lindisfarne Books, 1998.

Kirk, Russell.  The Roots of American Order.  Wilmington, Del.:  ISI Books, 2004.

Taushev, Archbishop Averky.  The Struggle for Virtue: Asceticism in a Modern Secular Society.  Jordanville, Ny.: Holy Trinity Publications, 2014.

For further study, the reader may listen to Father John Strickland’s recording found here:

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