Tag Archives: War

Patriotism in Wartime: Nikolai of Japan and the Kingdoms of this World

by Betsy Perabo

St. Nikolai of Japan

In a diary entry on Christmas Eve 1904, Bishop Nikolai of Japan expresses his deep sorrow over Russian losses in the ongoing Russo-Japanese War.  Nikolai remained in Tokyo during the war at the request of the Japanese Orthodox congregation he had served for more than four decades.  His suffering was all the more difficult because he lived alongside Japanese Christians he had known for many years, who were – appropriately, he said – celebrating their own victories.  He states his desire to transcend this suffering when he is with his fellow Christians, writing:

I live now in a two-story house. On the upper floor we are all children of the Heavenly Father; on that floor, there are no Japanese, no Russians. Most of the time, I try to be there…Together we engage in Christian deeds for the Church, translation, book publishing, even Christian help to the prisoners of war or the Japanese wounded—all of this is suitable for the children of one Heavenly Father….But sometimes an oppressive state of soul pulls me down to the lower floor, where I remain by myself, without the Japanese….I must go to the upper floor, where there is no anger…I must be an inhabitant of the upper floor. (Betsy Perabo, Russian Orthodoxy and the Russo-Japanese War, 149. Other in-text citations also come from this source.)

In a twist on the classic forms of the “doctrine of the two”—two cities, two kingdoms, two governments—Nikolai characterizes the coexistence of the “earthly kingdoms” and the “heavenly kingdom” as two floors of the same house, with the lower floor divided into two separate sections.  What Nikolai’s version of this theological construct captures that others do not is the multiplicity of the earthly kingdoms. Continue reading