By PAULUS Late Archpriest
OD is not in strength but in truth" was the motto inscribed upon the banners of St. Alexander Nevsky when as the ruling Prince of Wladimir he defeated the Swedes who attempted to invade Russia and later gained at Lake Tchud a decisive victory over the Knights of the Teutonic Order.
From this time can be dated Russian distrust of the West in general and of the Latin or Catholic West in particular, for both the Swedes and Teutons were, religiously speaking, Latins and their invasion was believed to be stimulated by a desire to implant Latin Catholicism in Russia as well as territorial gains.
This historical antagonism and fear of the Latin West has most certainly all down the ages embittered the Russian Orthodox Church against Rome.
Heir go Byzantium TRussians have always be
lieved that the Russian State is the heir of the Byzantine Empire and that the Russian Church is the true heir and guardian of the Christian tradition of the Greek Church of Constantinople, and so Moscow in Russian eyes became the third Rome.
Russia felt that it was her special mission to rescue the City of Constantine from the Infidel and to restore Christian worship to the Church of St. Sophia. Simple Russian Christians could never understand why the Christian nations of the West, for purely material and political motives, prevented Orthodox Russia from wresting the holy city of Byzantium from the clutches of the Mohammedan Turks, for it is true to say that but for Catholic France and Protestant Britain and Gerinany. Russia would have replaced the Crescent by the Cross in 1854 and 1877.
It may be that had history taken a different course at that time there would be no Bolshevids in the Kremlin today.
Russia, like every other race of God's children, ha 's a mission, a very special mission, for in the words of the 17th-century Croat Catholic priest Yury Krijanitch, "Russia stands between East and West and is destined to form a bond between the two."
What might have been a truly "uniting" Christian expansion in Constantinople and the near East has developed into an anti-God, anti-Catholic and pro-Marxist attack upon the whole world. Yet one is constrained to believe that God in His infinite mercy and love has not permitted the Devil to triumph over the soul of Russia. Russia still has her mission to perform and that mission is not a materialist one, it is a Christian mission.
If the words of Fr. Yury Krijanitch, that Russia is destined to form a bond between East and West, are true then we must believe that it is through the agency of the Russian Church that the great schism of 1058 will be healed and in spite of present-day adverse appearances that great day may not be as far off as we think.
ission of unity
0NE may sum up Russia's spiritual mission in some more words of Soloviev which he addressed to the Russian people: "Your word, 0 people of the word, is free universal theocracy, the true solidarity of all classes, Christianity practised in public life, the Christianisation of politics, it is freedom of all the oppressed, the protection of the weak, it is social justice and the good Christian peace."
This is the true Russian idea expressed all down the ages by Russia's great spiritual and intellectual leaders, from St. Servius to the countless unknown disciples of Christ who for the past 30 years have kept the soul of Russia pure and given their lives that the love of God may still reign supreme in Russian hearts.
If unity between East and West is in very truth Russia's spiritual mission. she appears to have singularly failed in fulfilling that mission for which the best and most intelligent of her sons have laboured.
Today not only the Soviet Government but the Church under the Patriarch of Moscow seems to devote whatever influence it still exercises in the hearts and minds of the people to sowing the seeds c:•distrust and dissension against the Centre of Christian unity, the Holy See.
It will take men of unusually strong character, firm conviction and burning faith, to rescue Russia and her Church from the terrible predicament in which she is now placed. We must not, however, be dismayed, for both in the distant and near past, hundreds and thousands of devoted Orthodox priests and layfolk have given their lives and suffered a living death in concentration camps rather than betray Christ.
CEOGRAPHICALLY, ethnolo`1fflgically and spiritually Russia is the link, the bridge, between Asia and the West. Her influence for good or evil is immense, greater perhaps than that of any other single power in the world, for no other nation is such a complete mixture of both East and West.
The leaders of Soviet Russia today believe in Russia's universal mission as much as Alexander I, Yury Krijanitch, Dostoievsy or Vladimir Soloviev did, but with this difference: they believe that. Russia is destined to bring peace and material prosperity to mankind by overthrowing all other political. social and economic systems and establishing Communism, and by destroying the religion of the spirit and replacing it by Dialectical Materialism. Christ. Mahommed, Buddha, Jehovah, are to give place to Marx and Lenin. So still, in many Russian minds, there exists this awareness of a universal and unifying mission for the Russian people.
Today the purity of this motive has ben soiled and perverted, by diverting it from the spiritual to the material plane, and the question is: How can the West in general, and the Western Church in particular, help Russia to free her great soul and spirit from the chains of materialism?
HE writer certainly feels much trepidation in expressing any opinion upon so vast and intricate a problem and a problem which the best and most experienced minds of two hemispheres are finding almost insoluble.
In the first place, it is necessary for the West to recognise, and openly recognise, that Russia has a spiritual mission, and that her mission is a unifying one. In the past the West has too often stood in the way of Russia's attempts, to fulfil this mission.
For generations we have concentrated opinion over much upon Russia's backwardness and barbarity, both considerably exaggerated in the light of the recent behaviour of older civilised peoples, and we have not emphasised enough t h e great contribution made to humanity by Russian philosophers, writers, artists, musicians, scientists, etc. As a former Orthodox priest perhaps I may be excused if I mention the great contribution made to religion by her mystics and to theology by some of her ancient and recent religious triters.
IT would not be honest or in the 'best interests of truth to attempt to minimise the ;theological and doctrinal differences which separate the Catholic Church from dissident Orthodoxy.
Both Catholic and Orthodox theologians on the highest levels are fully aware of these considerable differences, but both sides are faithfully and thoroughly reviewing the whole complicated field.
By our labours we must bring to our task patience, love and good will. We must not allow our pride to be wounded by the gibes of a Vyshinsky or a Molotov, for We must remember that these men are not representative of the true Russia.
Certainly we must have sufficient material strength at our disposal to deter any attempt by the Soviet leaders at using military force for a swift gaining of their ends. We should not, however, allow ourselves to be stampeded into some fatal step, but continue to make every possible attempt to help the great Western power of America and the great central power of Russia to a better understanding of one another.
'SPEAK of Russia as the great central power, that is, the power which some day must keep the balance between the West and the East. Taking a long view, the Western World may be glad of a strong Russia when the teeming millions of China become fully organised and aware of their strength.
If we can hang out long enough, the Kremlin problem will solve itself because time is always on God's side, and religion will settle what no diplomacy known to man can ever hope to do. This may not sound a very practical solution to the problem of Russia and the West yet I venture to think it is the wisest course to pursue.
We need constant good will in the face of all the provocations to which we shall be frequently subjected, never permitting ourselves to be provoked, a firm refusal to give an inch upon any matter of fundamental principle, but a readiness to be reasonably compromising in circumstances where such principles are not at stake.