We are like the man in the Gospel who is in doubt on account of wars and rumours of war. We are somewhat concerned and worried about the international situation. One war has just finished, and people say that it is intended to be a prelude to the next. For the next war, serious men of serious power are said actively to be considering the use of nuclear weapons. From thinking the unthinkable, serious and powerful men have today come to consider actively, and perhaps even to plan for actively, the unthinkable.
Some years ago we visited the Elder. It was during a time of war (which war?). The Elder compared one of the belligerents to the Devil. He remarked that he was praying for the war to be contained. And, in fact, the war did stop at a fairly good juncture. The Elder didn't say anything about praying for the belligerent he compared to the Devil to be smashed.
Another Elder is quoted as remarking about that same war that it was inevitable. He also had harsh words for that same belligerent. But the ‘inevitable’ he seems to have meant in this way: nothing anyone could do would prevent that war. It didn’t seem to have the sense that the war was just or necessary.
During World War II, it is said, Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) every day prayed with tears flat on the ground in his cave for the 'least evil side' to prevail—leaving it to God to figure out which side that might be.
It is said that Elder Sophrony's own Elder, St Silouan, who died about a year before the outbreak of World War II, when he thought of or prayed for Europe saw a black cloud hanging over it.
Several Elders on Mt Athos received an ‘information (pleroforia)’ when World War II began, a spiritual ‘information’ which was confirmed some days later when word reached Mt Athos that the war had broken out.
The saintly Elder Joseph the Hesychast, if we remember correctly, experienced great spiritual pain the day of outbreak of World War II, a pain humanly explained only when word reached Mt Athos that the war had broken out.
(Remember, this was before the day of cell phones.)
What are we to make of all this?
It seems to us that we should pray in all seriousness. For what? For ‘our side’ to win? Not really. The days are past of the ‘just war’ that let us smash our enemy without batting an eyelash and with a clear conscience.
The Gospel advises us to pray for all men in authority that we might live our lives in peace, that we might attend to our religious duties in peace. We should pray earnestly for all men in positions of authority on both sides (or on every side) that they might have wisdom (not delusion, fanaticism and messianic ideas) and coolness (not cold-bloodedness, callousness and cynicism). That they might truly fear God and consider well their responsibilities before God for what they plan to do. They are common men, without great intellectual attainments. May they obtain the wisdom from God to plan correctly for their own futures and for the futures of all men, both in this world and in the next. In this world because we cannot always foresee the consequences of our fatemongering fateful decisions; in the next world because God is not mocked, he who said through his own Son that not all those who call out ‘Lord, Lord’ will be saved, but he who does the will of the Father in Heaven as it is taught in the Gospel. It is an act of love to help the blind man find his way. Let us help the blind find their way.