Persist and Weigh the Enemy More Mighty
Oh, there is an inner war and an outer war and in War in Peace often the two shall meet. Today the two meet inside the Razumovsky’s private chapel as Russia prepares for war with Napoleon and Natasha wages battle against her own demons. All the Moscow notabilities gather to celebrate Mass with an extra, special prayer from the Synod asking deliverance from hostile invasion. Natasha, as we know, is there as part of her daily churchgoing efforts to ask forgiveness and seek spiritual guidance. All these preparations for war, whether inner or outer, are necessary because, as the Dauphin of France reminds us, “In cases of defense, ’tis best to weigh/ The enemy more mighty than he seems.”
It is interesting to note in this chapter how closely the predicaments of Natasha and of larger Russia parallel each other. Russia faces an obvious threat in the form of Napoleon and his Grande Armée. Natasha, similarly, is confronted with great inner turmoil. She’s lately been invaded by self-hatred and guilt. Her preparations, initiated in the last chapter, are wholly spiritual. She plans her fight by digging deep into her ancient, Orthodox faith. Here, in prayer and meditation, she discovers the weapons of forgiveness and charity.
The people of Moscow find themselves in a similar position. They, too, are threatened by an outside foe. They, too, gather at Mass for direction. There is not, however, a perfect analogue between the two. Natasha, for instance, prays for total forgiveness of her enemies while the Synod prays for martial victory over its enemies. Natasha hesitates before she joins this prayer:
But she could not pray that her enemies might be trampled under foot when but a few minutes before she had been wishing she had more of them that she might pray for them. But neither could she doubt the righteousness of the prayer that was being read on bended knees. She felt in her heart a devout and tremulous awe at the thought of the punishment that overtakes men for their sins, and especially of her own sins, and she prayed God to forgive them all, and her too, and to give them all, and her too peace and happiness.
Here we see Natasha’s hard, independent investigation of the truth. She’s come a long way since we first met her as a little girl at the beginning of our book. She’s now giving serious thought of how to live well in the world. If she keeps up this rigorous effort she just might get there, equipped with the mental armory sufficient to fend off any attack.
Persistence surmounts every obstacle and nothing is really difficult which the mind enjoins itself to endure.
Seneca, On Anger II