St. Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833) is arguably the most beloved of modern saints anywhere in the Orthodox world. We have seen his icon even in Greek churches. He is remembered for his gentleness, his relationship with wild animals, his visions of uncreated light, his conversation with Nicholas Motovilov on the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, and his practice of calling all his visitors my joy as he greeted them every day of the year with Christ is risen, my joy!
A less likely candidate for patron saint of Russia’s nuclear arsenal there could not be.
The following short excerpts are taken from Russian Orthodox Church Considers a Ban on Blessing Weapons of Mass Destruction, which appeared yesterday at Religion News Service. We encourage you to take a few minutes to read the whole report at the source.
St. Seraphim of Sarov
As police officers stood guard [in May 2018], two Russian Orthodox priests wearing cassocks and holding Bibles climbed out of a vehicle and began sprinkling holy water on the stationary Topol and Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Priests have sanctified S-400 surface-to-air missiles, nuclear submarines, tanks and fighter jets.
Vsevolod Chaplin, an influential priest and former spokesman for the patriarch, told the Vzglyad newspaper that nuclear weapons were the country’s “guardian angels” and necessary to preserve “Orthodox civilization.”
Patriarch Kirill has described the Kremlin’s military campaign in Syria as a “holy war” [Orthodox jihad?], while uniformed clerics embedded with the armed forces are being trained to drive combat vehicles and operate communication equipment.
Russia’s nuclear arsenal also has its own patron saint — St. Seraphim, whose remains were discovered in 1991 in a disused monastery in Sarov, a small town in central Russia that was home to several key nuclear facilities in the Soviet era.
Putin has memorably described Orthodox Christianity and nuclear weapons as “twin elements of Russia’s domestic and foreign security.”
Ideas such as these have been melded into a radical ideology described as “Atomic Orthodoxy” by Yegor Kholmogorov, a nationalist writer. “To remain Orthodox, Russia must be a strong nuclear power, and to remain a strong nuclear power, Russia must be Orthodox,” Kholmogorov wrote.
“I was myself, to some extent, a medium for such ideas,” Dmitry Tsorionov, the former head of a radical Orthodox Christian movement called God’s Will that sometimes clashed with anti-Kremlin activists. “It was not uncommon to see how church functionaries openly flirted with these toxic ideas.” Tsorionov, who is better known by his pseudonym, Enteo, said he broke with militant Orthodox ideology when he witnessed how young Russian men took up arms and voluntarily headed to eastern Ukraine to fight “under the banner of Christ” after the Kremlin’s support for separatist forces there.
See also The Russian Church’s Rush to Spiritual Bankruptcy: War Priests & a Cathedral Resembling an Army Tank and Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy: Religion, Politics, and Strategy.
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