The following short interview (if one question comprises an interview I will not argue with as that is how it is stated in the original) is from the November issue of “Neskuchnyi Sad,” a popular mission- and social-oriented Orthodox magazine. Source.
Citizens of heaven were what the Christians of the pagan Roman Empire called themselves when the Church was persecuted by patriots of Rome. Today in Russia patriotism still is often opposed to Christianity, although the Church and the State are not fighting one another. Father Daniel Sysoyev of the Church of St. Thomas in Moscow reflects on the situations in which patriotism contradicts Christianity and those in which it supplements it.
Where is a Christian’s homeland, the cares of which his heart must be overflowing with? Where is the place that Orthodox can call home? In recent years, I have heard a lot of discourse on this subject. As a homeland we have been offered Russia, the Soviet Union, and America, the “the land of liberty.” In the name of the people or the state, we are offered to consent to a crime or dedicate our life to the service of the fatherland, the nation. It is suggested that we consider the well being of that land where we were fated to be born or where our ancestors were born to be the greatest value, and we are reproached with the question of why the Church “does not fight for the rights of the people,” or, on the other hand, they write that “the Church always served Russia” (from the banner of a suburban Moscow church). Instead of all of this I suggest to return to words of Scripture which have been forgotten by many, “…here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Our only and eternal Homeland is heaven. Our Father lives there, our fellow citizens, the saints, are there, the Church will find there eternal peace after a long war with the devil.
We are not nationalists for in Christ and in His Church there are no nations. As Russians and Tartars and Jews and Americans we have become one new people of the Covenant. We pray and worry so as to lead as many people as possible into the Celestial Home. We are not patriots of the earth, for we remember the words of St. Gregory the Theologian. “And these earthly countries and families are the playthings of this our temporary life and scene. For our country is whatever each may have first occupied, either as tyrant, or in misfortune; and in this we are all alike strangers and pilgrims, however much we may play with names” (Oration 33). We are striving for the New Jerusalem and only with its interests in mind do we bring our actions into correlation.
Uranopolitans are members of the Body of Christ, which exceeds kinship of language and unity according to citizenship by state, and that is why the interests of the Universal Church are more important for us than any remaining interests. Only the one who has become a true citizen of heaven is capable of true freedom, about which the Savior said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). We are no longer obliged to think in unison with this passing world. We should not consider that society, the nation, or the state is more important than an individual. This is not so; when all the nations disappear, when all the kingdoms of the world collapse, we will live in the flesh in our Homeland. The state is created by God for us and not us for the state. The nations, the result of the condemnation of Babylon, will vanish, but all those people that they are composed of will remain, those whom our Heavenly Father commanded us to love as ourselves.
We honor the authority established by the Creator and follow those laws which do not contradict the will of God, but never will we give it that worship which is only befitting of God.
Persecution for a pilgrim-people is natural. For, you know, St. Justin the Philosopher said, “we know that Christians will always be persecuted until Christ returns and frees us.” But the fatherland of the uranopolitan is always safe, for who can harm New Jerusalem? And that state in which the uranopolitan is wandering, he will defend to the measure that it does not war with God, according to the commandment of obedience to authority (see Rom. 13:1-6). But his heart will not be disturbed, for all that is seen is temporary and the unseen is eternal. In order to please God the uranopolitan will defend the weak and will take pity on the insulted. And this not in the name of someone’s rights but in the name of God.
So let us all flee from here. Why should we cling to the perishable? Why should we attach our heart to that which we will abandon forever? Hasten to heaven all partakers of the mystery of Christ. Become citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem. God the Father is waiting for us. Will we really exchange his embrace for the elusive darkness of this age and the delusion of human ideology?
Uranopolitism (from Greek: ουρανός-heaven, polis-πόλης), as used by Fr. Daniel, is a concept which affirms the supremacy of Divine laws over earthly and the primacy of love for the Heavenly Father and His Heavenly Kingdom. The most important kinship, according to uranopolitism, is not by blood or country of origin but kinship in Christ. Patriotism (from Greek: Πατριώτης-fellow countryman, πατρίς-fatherland) is love of ones fatherland following from the realization of solidarity of interests of the citizens of a given state or members of a given nation (Dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron).