Written by Vladimir Moss



    One of the most striking facts of Christ’s ministry on earth was the praises He bestowed on non-Jews by comparison with the reproaches and threats He delivered to Jews. Speaking of the Roman centurion, He said that He “had not seen such great faith, no, not in Israel” (Matthew 8.10). He praised the Syro-Phoenician woman for her humility. And He had a long conversation with a Samaritan woman (John 4) that led to the conversion and baptism of most of that nation (Acts 8.5-25). In pondering why this should be so, it is natural to suppose that the Lord wanted to give a prophetic sign towards the future, towards the fact that many Gentiles would receive the Gospel while most of the Jews would reject it. Undoubtedly this is true. But we can go deeper: we may suppose that the Lord wanted to deliver a warning to the people of God – not only in His, but in every age – not to vaunt themselves over their unenlightened neighbours.

     The great Serbian bishop, St. Nikolai Velimirovich, wrote in his Homily on the Sunday of the Samaritan woman: “Providence desired to create this opportunity for our instruction, so that we, when we see our enemy in need, will help him. And when our nation is at enmity with neighbouring peoples, we as men dare not extend this enmity to every man from that nation, but it is our duty, in a given situation, to help every man in need, with no consideration of whether he belongs to our nation or not. 

     “’Then saith the woman of Samaria to Him: ‘How is that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.’ This woman held the view, common in those days, that a man must hate not only an enemy nation but also every individual in that nation. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Lord marked the hatred of the Jews for the Samaritans, and this event makes the hatred of the Samaritans for the Jews very clear. In order to break down the barriers of hatred between one nation and another, it is necessary first to break down the barriers of hatred between one man and another. This is the only rational way to heal the human race of the great sickness of mutual hatred.”[1]

     Again St. Nikolai wrote: “We sin if we see it as an obligation to hate those whom our relatives hate. This hatred passes into us like a family disease.”[2] Some perpetuate race hatred on the pretence that in this way they are being loyal to God’s people and the true faith. But the Lord shows by His words and His actions that this is not so. It is perfectly possible to be a genuine patriot and a true believer while showing love for the stranger.


     Let us see how the Lord does this. First, when the Samaritan woman points out that by talking to her He is not acting with typical Jewish haughtiness, He does not justify Himself; He is interested neither in perpetuating the hostility of the Jews towards the Samaritans nor in explaining why He acts differently. Instead He offers her something good, something He knows she will be interested in having: living water.

     Secondly, when she tries to goad Him into an argument on territorial rights by referring to “our” father Jacob and his ownership of the well, He does not take the bait. He knows that this is futile. Of course, He could argue that Jacob is not “your” father, but ours, insofar as he was a Jew and a true believer, whereas the Samaritans were of mixed race and mixed religion, worshipping not only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but also the false gods and goddesses of the Assyrians and Babylonians. On the other hand, the Lord as God had Himself taken Samaria out of the hands of the Jews in punishment of their sins and delivered it into the hands of the Samaritans. So, as in almost all territorial disputes between nations, there were arguments on both sides…

     In any case, the Lord is not interested in arguments about material things -  money and land, but in spiritual matters. So he returns to the topic that will really benefit her: living water. Only now He points out that He is not talking about material water, but about spiritual water, about the Holy Spirit that quenches the soul’s thirst forever.

     At this point, the usual, materialistic person would probably have lost interest in the conversation. But the Samaritan woman is intrigued – both by Him and by His proffered gift. However, she is not yet fully “hooked”. So the Lord suddenly displays His prophetic knowledge: he reveals her personal life in all its squalor… She, to her credit, is not offended by this: she recognizes that He is a prophet and is therefore now ready for the real revelation – that he is the Messiah that both Jews and Samaritans have been waiting for. 

     And then the Lord takes her beyond the bound, not only of Samaritan but also of Jewish religion, revealing to her the limitations of the Old Testament, which decreed that God should be worshipped only in the temple at Jerusalem. Of course, there was a purpose in that decree: the uniqueness of the temple at Jerusalem reflected the uniqueness of the true religion, and the commandment to worship only in Jerusalem helped protect the people from the “ecumenism” that so prevailed in the pagan Gentile world. And this in turn meant that those who worshipped other gods in other places did not know what they worshipped; for “salvation is of the Jews”. However, that salvation does not consist in rites carried out in a certain way in a certain place; that salvation consists in Christ Himself, Who is a Jew, but who has also come to save the Samaritans and all other peoples. “For in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek”. 

     The true worship, Christ reveals, is not confined in time or space, nor defined by rite or race. Those who wish to worship God must worship Him “in spirit and in truth” – and that worship is available to all peoples and in all places. In this way Christ definitively excludes both ecumenism – for “salvation is [only] of the Jews”, insofar as Christ the Saviour is a Jew – and nationalism – for the true worshippers will worship not, or not primarily, in a temple made by hands or in a particular national culture, but “in spirit and in truth”.

     It is not always realized how close are the apparent opposites of ecumenism and nationalism, whether of the ancient or modern types, and how aversion from the one often leads to the other. Thus ancient Gentile paganism was ecumenist; that is, it accepted simultaneously many different gods and “truths”, even though they were incompatible with each other. Jewish nationalism, on the other hand, believed that there is only one God and one Truth. As such, it was definitely superior to paganism. However, Jewish national pride corrupted this truth and degraded this real superiority by insisting that since the one God and the one Truth had been revealed exclusively to the Jews, they must be intrinsically superior to all the Gentile nations – superior, that is, not because of their faith and only because of their faith, but because they were superior to all other nations by nature. And in time this led to the belief, not just that salvation is only of the Jews, but also only for the Jews, because only they were worthy of it. Of course, there were Gentile converts to Judaism (especially in the last centuries before Christ). But increasingly these became converted, not to the universalist faith of the Old Testament, but to the corrupt, nationalist faith of Pharisaic Judaism. The Lord spoke about these Gentile converts to nationalistic Judaism when He said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you traverse land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23.15).

     In His conversation with the Samaritan woman, the Lord not only refuted the pagan ecumenism of the Samaritans, insisting that there was only one true faith, that of Israel, not Samaria. He also refuted the proud nationalism of the Pharisees, who cared not a jot for the salvation of the Samaritans or any non-Jews, but only for the glory of their sect and nation. He said that true worship of God consists in neither heretical extreme but in worship “in spirit and in truth” – “in spirit” to distinguish it from the evil spirit of the Pharisees, and “in truth” to distinguish it from the indifference to truth of the Samaritans.

     Three facts confirm Christ’s anti-nationalist message. The first is that in His thirst for true worshippers, who will worship the Holy Trinity in spirit and in truth, He was prepared to cast off even His own nation, the nation of the Jews, who in their great majority had rejected Him and became guilty of His death. And so when Christ died on Golgotha, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, and the visible sign of God’s presence, the Shekinah, departed in order that He should find a more worthy habitation among the Gentiles. 

     Secondly, although He was utterly devoted to His nation, a true patriot if ever there was one, Christ consciously takes upon Himself the shame and stigma associated with the word “Samaritan”. When the Jews said of Him: “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8.48), it is remarkable that Christ strongly denies that He has a demon, but says nothing about His being a Samaritan. Indeed, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37), it is clear that He is the Good Samaritan, who saved the man fallen among thieves when the representatives of the People of God – the priest and the Levite – passed by on the other side…

     Thirdly, Christ was killed because He refused to become a nationalist. Not only did He recognize and confirm the power of the pagan Romans over the Jews: He rejected their nationalist dreams of overthrowing the Roman yoke. And for that He was killed; for “if we let Him alone,” said the Pharisees, “everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11.48) – in other words, our dreams of a nationalist revolution will be destroyed. 

     “On coming into the world,” wrote the penitent ex-revolutionary L.A. Tikhomirov, “the Saviour Jesus Christ as a man loved his fatherland, Judaea, no less than the Pharisees. He was thinking of the great role of his fatherland in the destinies of the world and mankind no less than the Pharisees, the zealots and the other nationalists. On approaching Jerusalem (during His triumphal entry) He wept and said: ‘Oh, if only thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!’…, and recalling the coming destruction of the city, He added: ‘because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation’ (Luke 19.41, 44). ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… which killest… them that are sent to thee!’ He said a little earlier, ‘how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and yet would not!’ (Luke 13.34). What would have happened if the Jews at that decisive moment had accepted the true Messiah? Israel would have become the spiritual head of the whole world, the beloved guide of mankind. At that very time Philo of Alexandria wrote that ‘the Israelites have received the mission to serve as priests and prophets for the whole world, to instruct it in the truth, and in particular the pure knowledge of God’. If they had recognized this truth in full measure, then the coming of the Saviour would have confirmed forever that great mission. But ‘the spirit of the prophets’ turned out to be by no means so strong in Jewry, and its leaders repeated the role of Esau: they gave away the right of the firstborn for a mess of pottage.

     “Nevertheless we must not forget that if the nationalist hatred for the Kingdom of God, manifested outside tribal conditions, was expressed in the murder of the Saviour of the world, all His disciples who brought the good news of the Kingdom, all His first followers and a multitude of the first members of the Church to all the ends of the Roman empire were Jews by nationality. The greatest interpreter of the spiritual meaning of the idea of ‘the children of Abraham’ was the pure-blooded Jew and Pharisee, the Apostle Paul. He was a Jew by blood, but through the prophetic spirit turned out to be the ideological director of the world to that place where ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek’.”[3] 

     Let us turn, then, to the teaching of St. Paul on this subject; for not only does he insist, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, that the Gentiles have equal access to the Kingdom with the Jews: he also brings the Lord’s teaching on Jews and Gentiles “up to date”, as it were. For while, in the Lord’s time the Jews were still the People of God, and subject to the temptation of nationalism, St. Paul is speaking in a time when the reverse is the case, when the People of God are now the Churches of the Gentiles, and it is they who are particularly subject to the temptation of nationalism. Thus in case the Christian Gentiles should become puffed up by their new status, he reminds them that at the end of time the cast-off Jews will be grafted back onto the tree of the faith. “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree. Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear.  For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, that lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so the whole of Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11.16-26).

     Although with his usual tact the apostle emphasizes a positive message here – the fact that, in the last times, Jews and Gentiles will be united in one Church, which he calls “the whole of Israel”, - it cannot be denied that there is a darker, more threatening aspect to his meaning. He is warning that “the first will be last and the last first”: just as the Jews were cast out from being the Chosen People to make way for you, so you Gentile Christians could be cast out in order to make way for the penitent Jews into the Church. ”The fullness of the Gentiles” refers to the last harvest of Gentile Christians, after which there will be no more Gentile Christian generations. Their Gentile nationalism could cast them out. “So be not highminded, but fear.”


     Let us now apply this teaching to our own generation…

     No Orthodox Christian who impartially studies the contemporary state of the Orthodox Church today can deny, on the one hand, that the Orthodox Church today is in a catastrophic condition, and on the other, that there is a pernicious influence on it of what we may call “Orthodox nationalism”. In almost all the Orthodox nations we see that anti-semitism which St. Paul spoke about. But anti-semitism is only one aspect of this evil phenomenon; it is not only above the Jews that the contemporary Orthodox vaunt themselves, but also above many heterodox Gentile nations – especially the Americans. Thus almost all the ills of contemporary Orthodox nations are attributed – often with extraordinary vehemence and hatred – to the CIA, NATO or some other American or American-led agency. The idea that the root causes of our tragedies could lie in ourselves, in our contempt for the purity of our Orthodox faith (hence the prevalence of abominable heresies such as ecumenism, sergianism, evolutionism, Romanideanism, etc.) and equally abominable immoralities (like abortion and fornication), which deprive the people of the grace to worship God “in spirit and truth” - appears to be only rarely and feebly recognized by the contemporary Orthodox. But perhaps an even more fundamental reason for this pride and hardness of heart is (Pseudo-) Orthodox nationalism. By this we do not mean that godly and truly Orthodox nationalism manifested by such heroes of the faith as St. Tamara of Georgia, St. Alexander Nevsky and St. Lazarus of Serbia, who defended their Orthodox nations against invaders from outside. We mean that nationalism of the Pharisees, who cared, not for the true Messiah living in their midst, whom in reality they hated, but only about their own “place and nation”. How many “Orthodox” leaders, for the sake of that “place and nation”, have “repeated the role of Esau, giving away the right of the firstborn for a mess of pottage”!

     Let us take some examples. No Orthodox nation prides itself on its culture, and on its superiority to western culture more than the Greeks.[4] And yet in both Church and State the leadership of the Greeks are thoroughly western: in the Church, it is the extreme ecumenist Bartholomew of Constantinople, and in the State is the Marxist Alexis Tsipras. Why don’t the Greeks cast out their false leaders? Then they would have something to boast about! But just as the Pharisees justified themselves by saying they were the sons of Abraham, so the Greeks justify themselves by their descent from the great Greeks of the past. But the Lord does not accept such a justification: just as the Jews were indeed descended from Abraham, but did not do the works of Abraham, and so were cast out, so the Greeks, while descended from the Greek saints, do not do the works of those saints, and therefore will be cast out.

     Take another example: the Russians. Because of their recent history as a multi-national empire carrying the universalist message of the Gospel to all the eastern peoples, the Russians before the revolution, and for a long time after, were less inclined to crude nationalism than the Balkan Orthodox nations. But Putin has induced a vile and totally unjustified nationalism into them. Like the Greeks, the Russians leadership in both Church and State is thoroughly western: in the Church it is the extreme ecumenist and KGB agent Patriarch Cyril of Moscow, and in the State it is, of course, the neo-Soviet and neo-Fascist Putin. The hypocrisy of these leaders’ anti-western rhetoric is breath-taking: they unite in their condemnation of “Eurosodom”, and yet their Church hierarchy is penetrated through and through by sodomy – according to Deacon Andrei Kuraiev, 50 out of the 300 bishops, according to Fr. Gleb Yakunin – 250! Again, Patriarch Cyril considers himself purer in faith than Bartholomew of Constantinople, refusing to be present at the recent notorious Council of Crete. And yet last year had a very cordial meeting with the Pope and his good friend Fidel Castro in Cuba – all communist comrades together!

     In 1992 the heads of all the Local Orthodox Churches meeting in Constantinople officially renounced proselytism among the western heretics. What an apocalyptic betrayal, unheard of in Orthodox Christian history! As for missionary work among the Muslims, this is practically unheard of now… Of course, the main cause of this decision was ecumenism. But, as we have seen, ecumenism and nationalism are closely related. It is possible to be simultaneously an extreme ecumenist and an extreme nationalist. A clear example is Patriarch Cyril of Moscow: a long-time admirer of the Vatican and participant in the World Council of Churches, on the one hand, and a vicious exponent of Russian (or perhaps we should call it neo-Soviet) nationalism, on the other. So besides ecumenism, there is another, perhaps even deeper cause: Pseudo-Orthodox Nationalism. For just as the Jews despised the Samaritans and made no real effort to convert them to the true faith, so many Orthodox Christians today secretly – or, to judge from Facebook, not so secretly – hate the westerners and are not at all interested in bringing them to Orthodoxy, of which they consider them to be either unworthy or incapable of understanding.

     We have used the word “hatred”. But the refusal to convert the heretics to Orthodoxy may be motivated, not by an emotional kind of hatred, but simply by indifference. An Orthodox Englishman was in an English city he did not know on a Sunday, and decided to find an Orthodox church. Seeing a cupola in the distance, he headed for it. A priest was sitting outside the door of the church sunning himself. He stopped the Englishman as he was going into the church and inquired what he was doing. Our parishioner explained that he wanted to go to church because he was Orthodox. The priest (in a polite way) said: “But you are English”. “Yes,” he replied, “but I am also Orthodox.” “But my son, Orthodoxy is for Greeks and Russians, not the English.” And then he pointed him to an Anglican church in the distance…

     Was this ecumenism or nationalism? It matters not. The important point is that the English Orthodox Christian was turned away because he had the wrong genes or culture. Many contemporary Orthodox seem to think that their nation, whatever its sins, even those against the faith, will always remain Orthodox, and therefore superior to the heterodox. It is as if they believe in a certain Orthodox gene, which guarantees them salvation as a kind of inalienable heritage from generation to generation. But we must never forget that Orthodoxy is not our genes, but “in spirit and in truth”. St. John the Baptist warned the Pharisees not to rely on their physical descent from Abraham - God can raise sons of Abraham from the stoniest of hearts. And the Lord repeatedly warned that the Kingdom of God can be taken from one people and given to another.

     Nationalist pride is somehow considered excusable and even admirable where personal pride is not. This is a fallacy. This is not to say, of course, that we must not rejoice in the addition of saints to our national Church. But rejoicing is not the same as pride; the fact that a saint has been added to our national Church is cause for rejoicing, not because it shows that our race is somehow intrinsically superior to others, but because it brings another intercessor into the ranks of the Universal Church. Pride is pride in whatever form it comes; in both its personal and nationalist forms, it consists in the satanic sin of ascribing the glory to man and not to God. And its consequences are in both cases spiritually disastrous. For as Metropolitan Anastasy (Gribanovsky) wrote: “The nation, this collective organism, is just as inclined to deify itself as the individual man. The madness of pride grows in this case in the same progression, as every passion becomes inflamed in society, being refracted in thousands and millions of souls.”

     It is time for the Orthodox nationalists to reach out and impart the priceless treasure of the Orthodox faith to their fellow human beings without allowing either ecumenism or Orthodox nationalism to hinder the process. “From those to whom much is given much is required” – that is a basic spiritual principle, repeated frequently in the Gospel. If the Orthodox hold the key to knowledge, it is they who are at least partially responsible if the other nations remain unenlightened. For where could they acquire knowledge if not from those who are already in the know? But millions of potential converts to Orthodoxy are being put off either because ecumenist Orthodox tell them there is not need to convert, or because joining a national Orthodox Church means accepting not just the faith of that Church but also the prejudices and hatreds of that nation. The 1992 decision of the Orthodox Churches to prohibit proselytism among the westerners has its roots not only in a failure of faith, in an inability to understand what Orthodoxy really is, but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, in a failure of love, a lack of desire for the salvation of one’s neighbour. The sad fact is that most Orthodox today either do not understand that those outside Orthodoxy will not be saved, which places an enormous responsibility on them not to hinder the path of the heterodox to Orthodoxy; or they do not believe in the idea of salvation, because they do not believe in hell; or, quite simply, they do not want them to be saved.

     Our model, as always, is the Lord Jesus Christ, Who refused to allow the first-century equivalents of modern ecumenism and nationalism to hinder his way into the heart of the Samaritan woman. Nowhere in the Gospel do we see Him express such joy as when he saw the Samaritan converts of His convert coming towards him; for this harvest of souls, the fruit of truly international cooperation in the work of the Kingdom of God, was the whole purpose of His coming to earth. “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both He who sows and he who reaps my rejoice together” (John 4.34-35).


May 6/19, 2107.

[1] Velimirovich, Homilies, Birmingham: Lazarica Press, 1996, p. 254.

[2] Velimirović, Okhridski Prolog, Shabats-Valjevo, 2009, June 9, p. 476.

[3]Tikhomirov, Religiozno-Filosofskie Osnovy Istorii (The Religio-Philosophical Foundations of History), Moscow, 1997, p. 142.

[4] This has now been statistically demonstrated by polls carried out by the Pew Research Center. See “Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe”, May 10, 2017.

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