The Kingdom of Heaven is Holy Russia according to the Russian Orthodox Church. It maintains that there is a mystical union between the land, the people and the faith which makes Russia the Kingdom of Heaven. Does Putin share this belief? Is he seeking to restore Russia to its original territory in order to restore the Kingdom of God?
Is this why a fair proportion of older Russians, remembering a time when the Church had even more influence than now, are supportive of the reclaiming of the Ukraine? Younger people appear less supportive. Perhaps they are less steeped in this kind of religion. The young do not see the necessity of restoring Holy Russia. It is from young voices that we hear comments like ‘I’m ashamed to be Russian’. However, it would be a mistake to assume that the young think like westerners.
In most Western Christian Churches the Kingdom of Heaven is no longer associated with physical land or geographical areas. For us the Kingdom of Heaven is within each person and seen in relationships and the way we live our lives.
Understanding God’s Kingdom as the mystical union of land, people and faith is strange to us. And any mention of mysticism is likely to be treated with suspicion. Yet in the Creed we affirm our belief in ‘the communion of saints’. The communion of saints is the mystical union of God’s people of all nations, races, colours, abilities. This mystical union stretches around the world and backwards and forwards in time. It is geographical and historical – but not as held by the Russian Orthodox Church. This union, of people, is a way of understanding the Kingdom of God. A kingdom not dependent on land but a kingdom dependent on our hearts. For Western Christians the Kingdom of Heaven is justice and joy, mercy and grace. The Kingdom of Heaven is God’s Kingdom. It is where captives, sinners and outcasts find their home, love and peace.