Tuesday, February 9, 2016

‘Make America Great Again’

Most by now have heard Donald Trump’s campaign slogan (‘Make America Great Again’), but what would this mean if it were really accomplished?  Would it be a good thing?  For 'America' (by which people usually mean simply the culture of New England-Yankeedom that has come to dominate in so many regions of the [u]nited States) has truly been great at only a few things:  stirring up a lust for money and material things, starting unnecessary wars, and spawning heresies (from Unitarianism to Scientology).

No, if the South or any other State or region in thrall to the American Empire wants to be great in the Christian sense of the word (i.e., in acquiring humility and all the other virtues), they will need more than Donald Trump’s materialism, Ted Cruz’s shallow sermons, Marco Rubio’s militarism, and Bernie Sanders’s communism.  What they will need is an Orthodox Christian king.  We may take the life of St Davit the Builder (or sometimes, the Restorer), King of Georgia (+1125), as a sterling ensample of what we may gain by having Christian kings in our national lives again.  Some material has been left out below for the sake of shortness; the reader is encouraged to read these parts as well, for they too are edifying and instructive.

      At the end of the 11th century the Georgian Church underwent a trial of physically and spiritually catastrophic proportions.
      The Seljuk sultan, Jalal al-Dawlah Malik Shah (1073–1092), captured the village of Samshvilde, imprisoned its leader, Ioane Orbeliani, son of Liparit, ravaged Kvemo (Lower) Kartli, and finally captured all of Georgia, despite the isolated victories of King Giorgi II (1072–1089). The fearful Georgians fled their homes to hide in the mountains and forests.
      Tempted and deeply distressed by the difficult times, the nation that had once vowed its unconditional love for Christ began to fall into sin and corruption. People of all ages and temperaments sinned against God and turned to the path of perdition. God manifested His wrath toward the Georgian people by sending a terrible earthquake that devastated their Paschal celebrations.
      In the year 1089, during this period of devastation and despair, King Giorgi II abdicated, designating his sixteen-year-old only son, Davit (later known as “the Restorer”), heir to the throne. It is written that the Heavenly Father said: I have found David My servant, with My holy oil have I annointed him (Ps. 88:19).
      The newly crowned King Davit took upon himself enormous responsibility for the welfare of the Church. He supported the efforts of the Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi to restore and reinforce the authority of the Georgian Church and suppress the conceited feudal lords and unworthy clergymen. During King Davit’s reign, the government’s most significant activities were carried out for the benefit of the Church. At the same time, the Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi reasserted the vital role of the Orthodox Faith in rescuing the Georgian people from the godless mire into which they had sunk.
      Foremost among King Davit’s goals at the beginning of his reign was the repatriation of those who had fled Georgia during the Turkish rule. The king summoned his noblemen and began to reunify the nation. The king’s efforts to reunify Georgia began in the eastern region of Kakheti-Hereti, but the Turks and traitorous feudal lords were unwilling to surrender the power they had gained in the area. Nevertheless, King Davit’s army was in God’s hands, and the Georgians fought valiantly against the massive Turkish army. King Davit himself fought like any other soldier: three of his horses were killed, but he mounted a fourth to finish the fight with a fantastic victory. The Turkish presence was eliminated from his country.

 . . .

      The king’s enormous army finally uprooted the Turkish presence in and around Georgia permanently. The defeated Turks returned in shame to their sultan in Baghdad, draped in black as a sign of grief and defeat. Nevertheless, the unyielding sultan Mahmud II (1118–1131) rallied a coalition of Muslim countries to attack Georgia. The sultan summoned the Arab leader Durbays bin Sadaka, commanded his own son Malik (1152–1153) to serve him, gathered an army of six hundred thousand men, and marched once more towards Georgia.
      It was August of 1121. Before heading off to battle, King Davit inspired his army with these words: “Soldiers of Christ! If we fight bravely for our Faith, we will defeat not only the devil’s servants, but the devil himself. We will gain the greatest weapon of spiritual warfare when we make a covenant with the Almighty God and vow that we would rather die for His love than escape from the enemy. And if any one of us should wish to retreat, let us take branches and block the entrance to the gorge to prevent this. When the enemy approaches, let us attack fiercely!”
      None of the soldiers thought of retreating. The king’s stunning battle tactics and the miracles of God terrified the enemy. As it is written, “The hand of God empowered him, and the Great-martyr George visibly led him in battle. The king annihilated the godless enemy with his powerful right hand.”
      The battle at Didgori enfeebled the enemy for many years. The following year, in 1122, King Davit recaptured the capital city of Tbilisi, which had borne the yoke of slavery for four hundred years. The king returned the city to its mother country. In 1123 King Davit declared the village of Dmanisi a Georgian possession, and thus, at last, unification of the country was complete.
      One victory followed another, as the Lord defended the king who glorified his Creator.
      In 1106 King Davit had begun construction of Gelati Monastery in western Georgia, and throughout his life this sacred complex was the focus of his efforts on behalf of the revival of the Georgian Church. Gelati Monastery was the most glorious of all the existing temples to God. To beautify the building, King Davit offered many of the great treasures he had acquired as spoils of war. Then he gathered all the wise, upright, generous, and pious people from among his kinsmen and from abroad and established the Gelati Theological Academy. King Davit helped many people in Georgian churches both inside and outside his kingdom. The benevolent king constructed a primitive ambulance for the sick and provided everything necessary for their recovery. He visited the infirm, encouraging them and caring for them like a father. The king always took with him a small pouch in which he carried alms for the poor.
      The intelligent and well-lettered king spent his free time reading the Holy Scriptures and studying the sciences. He even carried his books with him to war, soliciting the help of donkeys and camels to transport his library. When he tired of reading, King Davit had others read to him, while he listened attentively. One of the king’s biographers recalls, “Each time Davit finished reading the Epistles, he put a mark on the last page. At the end of one year, we counted that he had read them twenty-four times.”
      King Davit was also an exemplary writer. His “Hymns of Repentance” are equal in merit to the works of the greatest writers of the Church.
      This most valiant, powerful, and righteous Georgian king left his heirs with a brilliant confession when he died. It recalled all the sins he had committed with profound lamentation and beseeched the Almighty God for forgiveness.
King Davit completed his will in 1125, and in the same year he abdicated and designated his son Demetre to be his successor. He entrusted his son with a sword, blessed his future, and wished him many years in good health and service to the Lord. The king reposed peacefully at the age of fifty-three.
      St. Davit the Restorer was buried at the entrance to Gelati Monastery. His final wish was carved in the stone of his grave: This is My rest for ever and ever; here I will dwell, for I have chosen her (Ps. 131:15).

© 2006 St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.

Source:  ‘St. Davit IV the Builder, King of Georgia and Abkhazeti’, http://www.holytrinityorthodox.com/calendar/los/January/26-07.htm, accessed 6 Feb. 2016

 Holy King Davit, pray for us sinners!

Gelati Monastery, built by St Davit (Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gelati_1661.jpg)

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