Saturday, November 28, 2015

Elder Paisios' Prophecies of the Russia-Turkey Conflict

Turkey shoots down a Russian jet fighter, tensions rise, and in Greece, some are turning again to the prophecies of Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, who reportedly wrote,
“There will be war between Russia and Turkey. In the beginning the Turks will believe they are winning, but this will lead to their destruction. The Russians, eventually, will win and take over Constantinople. After that it will be ours. They will be forced to give it to us.”

There is no doubt we are living in dire times. We may even be living in apocalyptic times, foretold in the Scriptures and through prophecies of holy people of God. At the same time, looking for signs and fulfillment of prophecies in certain events should not be our main concern. When the Apostles asked the Risen Lord if He was now to restore the kingdom to Israel, He told them, "It is not for you to know..." 

Rather, these words from Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) of Platina may be a trustworthy guide for us when "wars and rumors of wars" and other ominous "signs" begin to spread:

The time of the end, though it seems to be near, we do not know. However close, it is still future, and in the present we have only the same age-old fight against the unseen powers, against the world, and against our own passions, upon the outcome of which our eternal fate will be decided. Let us then struggle while it is still day, with the time and the weapons which our All-merciful God has given us!

Our times, above all, call for humble and quiet labors, with love and sympathy for other strugglers on the path of the Orthodox spiritual life and a deep resolve that does not become discouraged because the atmosphere is unfavorable. We Christians of the latter times are still called to work persistently on ourselves, to be obedient to spiritual fathers and authorities, to lead an orderly life with at least a minimum of spiritual discipline and with regular reading of the Orthodox spiritual literature... to watch over our own sins and failings and not judge others. If we do this, even in our terrible times, we may have hope—in God's mercy—of the salvation of our souls.
(Fr. Seraphim Rose, Blessed Paisius Velichovsky, St Herman of Alaska Press, Platina CA, 1976, pp 17, 20.)
Perhaps Elder Paisios would tell us similarly, not to worry about times and signs, but to repent and pray, and to struggle with philotimo.

Related Articles:

Some Greeks turn to Elder Paisios' Prophecies on Russia-Turkey Conflict
Greek Reporter via Pravoslavie, November 25, 2015

The tension that was created after the shooting down of a Russian jet fighter by Turkish warplanes has led several Greeks to refer to Elder Paisios‘ prophecies about war between Russia and Turkey.

The ascetic monk Paisios, who became Saint Paisios by the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church in January, was known for his prophecies and predictions. One of them was that Istanbul, once the capital of the Byzantine Empire Constantinople, will become Greek again.

Specifically, Paisios wrote: 
“Events will start that will culminate with us taking back Constantinople. Constantinople will be given to us. There will be war between Russia and Turkey. In the beginning the Turks will believe they are winning, but this will lead to their destruction. The Russians, eventually, will win and take over Constantinople. After that it will be ours. They will be forced to give it to us.”

The text reads further, “(The Turks) will be destroyed. They will be eradicated because they are a nation that was built without God’s blessing. One third of the Turks will go back to where they came from, the depths of Turkey. One third will be saved because they will become Christians, and the other third will be killed in this war.” This is based on the Saint Kosmas prophecy.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Putin: Turkish Leadership purposefully supports Islamization of Country

Putin has also accused Erdogan of being an "accomplice of terrorists." Hard to deny that.

Once again the Russian leader cuts through the West's politically correct myopia to clearly state simple, verifiable truths. Think back to June 2013, when Putin blasted Obama and Cameron for supporting so-called "moderates" in Syria, who were shown on video eating the organs of their slain enemies. Or his equally strong rejection of Western military intervention in Syria. Or his call to the West to unite in defending persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Africa. And of course his recent UN address, when he castigated the Western leaders responsible for the rise of ISIS and the refugee crisis, shaming them with the question, "Do you realize what you have done?"

For those who might be concerned, based on his remarks below that Islam is "a great world religion," that Putin is becoming soft on the jihad threat, recall that Putin does not hesitate to use force when required to shut down the Islamic threat. A prime example is the rounding up of 300 Muslim jihadists at a prayer meeting in 2013. Can you imagine anything like that happening in America? Certainly not under the current administration.

By shooting down a Russian fighter jet (which some analysts believe was premeditated), Turkey now finds itself in Russia's crosshairs, and its rapid re-Islamization only makes it a more urgent target for Putin.

Putin: Turkish Leadership purposefully supports Islamization of Country
TASS via Pravoslavie, November 25, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the current leadership of Turkey purposefully supports the country’s Islamization.

"The problem is not in the tragedy we faced yesterday (the Su-24 incident), the problem is much deeper," the Russian leader told reporters. "We see — and not only we, I assure you that the entire world sees that — that the current leadership of Turkey has been for a number of years pursuing a purposeful policy of support and the Islamization of the country."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Islam, Heresy, and 'The Dangerous Vision of Paradise'

"The Fathers, contemporary to early Islam, all judged it to be a form of Christian heresy... classical Christianity would readily agree that heresy is dangerous stuff. There’s a reason that the Church has always opposed heresy. It kills people."

The Dangerous Vision of Paradise
by Fr. Stephen Freeman,  Glory to God for All Things, November 24, 2015

Edward Hicks. The Peaceable Kingdom. 1833

A utopian vision gave birth to America. The “pilgrims” who came to New England in the 17th century, imagined an ideal state, defined by their radical “purification” of society and the Christian Church. Their dreams of a new world were constantly thwarted in England by the reluctance of the greater body of Protestants to embrace their extreme vision. England’s Reformation fell far short of their imaginings. In 1640, the English cousins of the American pilgrims managed to take control of Parliament. In short order, they began a radical reform of England, including the execution of King Charles. They sought to do for England what the Puritans in the New World were doing for “New England.” The English land endured 10 years of Oliver Cromwell’s reign of purifying terror. It’s disfiguring marks have never been erased. Such extremism with its attending violence is not an isolated phenomenon. It has been a recurring hallmark of the modern period. Paradise haunts the modern world, both as promise and as threat. Modern people do not live – they dream. And their dreams sometimes become nightmares.

There is something inherently utopian within Christianity: we look for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Christ began His ministry, preaching the coming of the Kingdom. And He acknowledged, “If my kingdom were of this world, then my disciples would fight.” Modernity, in many respects, is simply the secularizing of the Christian vision. The Kingdom that is “not of this world” must, in modernity, become “of this world.” Every dream of a better world, every hint of progress is a modern echo of the preaching of the Kingdom. Of course, the Kingdom no longer needs a king, much less the King of Creation. But the modern imagination is always turned towards a future. Our dreams are inherently eschatological (directed towards the end).

This orientation is the engine behind the constant improvement and development in technology and science. At the most fundamental level, we think we are building towards something. It is uniquely Western, inasmuch as the modern West is built on a Judeo/Christian foundation. The religions of the East (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) lack this eschatological vision. It’s not that there are no visions of a Buddhist or Hindu paradise, but that those visions are very much “not of this world,” indeed, this world is not even of this world.

Islam has to be seen as belonging to the Judeo-Christian world, regardless of how foreign it might seem. The Fathers, contemporary to early Islam, all judged it to be a form of Christian heresy. I think this is quite accurate and important to our understanding. For though Mohammed makes many changes in the Jesus Story, and modifies most of the elements of Christianity, he, nevertheless, still works with Judeo-Christian elements. There is an expectation of paradise – and, more ominously, the notion of a pure state established under Sharia Law.

Historically, Islam has occasionally been content to live within the borders of its religious vision. But there always lurks the haunting figure of a righteous world. Our most recent experiences with ISIS have been a modern outbreak of a drive to “restore the Caliphate,” an eschatological vision of a purified state – a Muslim paradise on earth.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Islamic State video threatens Georgians with beheadings, Caliphate

The Orthodox Church of Georgia is one of the most ancient Christian communities, with apostolic roots in the first century, its founding dating from the early 4th century. The Georgians have a long memory, and are likely thinking back to when Muslim invaders conquered Tbilisi in 1227. The Islamic State video references that slaughter — infamous for the beheadings of 100,000 Georgian Christians who refused to deny Christ — in its video.

From an historical account of the time:
Icon of the Georgian Martyrs 
... A river of blood flowed through the city. The Turkmen castrated young children, raped women, and stabbed mothers to death over their children's lifeless bodies. The whole city shuddered at the sound of wailing and lamentation. The river and streets of the city were filled with death. 
The sultan ordered that the cupola of Sioni Cathedral be taken down and replaced by his vile throne. And at his command the icons of the Theotokos [the Virgin Mary] and our Savior were carried out of Sioni Cathedral and placed at the center of the bridge across the Mtkvari River. The invaders goaded the people to the bridge, ordering them to cross it and spit on the holy icons. Those who betrayed the Christian Faith and mocked the icons were spared their lives, while the Orthodox confessors were beheaded. 
One hundred thousand Georgians sacrificed their lives to venerate the holy icons. One hundred thousand severed heads and headless bodies were carried by the bloody current down the Mtkvari River. 
from Lives of the Georgian Saints, by Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze, St Herman of Alaska Press, Platina CA, 2006, pp 403-404.

'Soon there will be time of beheading you' - Video address to Georgians released on behalf of Islamic State
Georgian Journal (via Pravoslavie), November 24, 2015:

A video address to the Georgian people on behalf of the Islamic State has been released on the internet. Fighters speaking Georgian address the Muslims living in Georgia, calling on them to support the ‘Islamic Caliphate’ and threatening to establish a ‘Caliphate’ in Georgia.

“I would like to address the faithless people living in Georgia that have been fighting Islam for a long time. Everybody who has acted against Islam, no matter in Iraq or Afghanistan, will be judged by God’s law.

God is very strict; therefore we call on you to stop persecuting Muslims. Your actions against Muslims will not go unanswered. Everybody will be held accountable for it.

Soon there will come the time of your beheading... 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Why You Never Question Allah: Islam's Problem with Blasphemy

In the conclusion to this fine article, Joel J. Miller, notes that "theology matters."  Indeed it does, as the real reason for Islamic terrorism is not poverty, lack of educational opportunities, or reaction against Western colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, or whatever, but rather Islam's sense of blasphemy, which is derived from the Koran, Muhammad's life and example, and all schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

Islam divides the world into the dar al-Islam, and the dar al-Harb — the House of Submission to Allah, and the House of War. And Muslims are compelled by the doctrine of Jihad to fight against the unbelievers to spread and advance the House of Islam.

In short, Islam's problem with blasphemy is precisely the World's problem with Islam, and why we are going to see more and worse acts of Islamic terrorism, Jihad, and rivers of blood in the years ahead.

Why You Never Question Allah: Islam's Problem with Blasphemy
by Joel J. Miller, Theology That Sticks, via Pravoslavie, November 23, 2015:

You’d better watch what you say about God if you live in the Middle East or North Africa, where seven in ten governments criminalize blasphemy.

In 2014, Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh was convicted of blasphemy by a Saudi Arabian court. Facing four years in prison and 800 lashes, Fayadh appealed the ruling. He was recently retried, and the court upped the ante. He’s now contending with a death sentence for apostasy.

In Egypt, TV personality Islam El-Behery appealed his blasphemy conviction. Though he escaped punishment in one case, the court upheld his five-year prison sentence in another.

The same thing happened to Egyptian author Karam Saber. Last year a court upheld his five-year sentence for penning Where is God?, a book of stories some Muslims deemed offensive.

Honest with God

Theodicy, a regular exercises in Western theology, is essentially banned in Islamic countries like Egypt. Say the wrong thing—be careful, the line is fuzzy—and you’ll pay the price. Egyptian law, according to one report, “gives all Muslims the right to file lawsuits in cases where an exalted right of God has been violated.”

Such cases, often supported by rumor and hearsay, have been on the rise in Egypt since 2011. And the 2015 annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom indicates this punitive defense of God’s honor is a widespread problem in many Muslim nations, a claim for which the report offers plenty of examples.

But let’s venture something here—maybe God can take people’s anger, questioning, and criticism. That’s what Ian Punnett argues in his book How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God, a title that could spark predictable offense in predictable quarters. But why?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mainstream Islam and why ISIS has such strong support in the Muslim World

In one paragraph and a survey conducted by Al-Jazeera, Tim Furnish shatters the myth that ISIS is "not Islamic," or is somehow "radical" or "extremist":
Every time you repost something using the terms "radical" or "extremist" Islam, you are perpetuating the false narrative that jihad and support for violent shari`ah are fringe in Islam—when in point of fact they are quite mainstream. Here's some data from my latest public lecture:

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Missionary Vision of the Martyred Fr. Daniel Sysoev

Fr. Daniil Sysoev is — without any exaggeration — the Protomartyr and Proto-Missionary for our age, for the 21st Century, and for the Third Millennium since the First Coming of Christ.

We commemorate him and ask his intercessions daily, but especially on the anniversary of his death, 19 November 2009, when he was slain by a Muslim before the altar of the church he founded in Moscow. 

For more on New Martyr Fr. Daniil, and to order his books, see this special resource page...


The following paper was written by a seminarian at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood, NY for a course focusing on Orthodox missionary activity throughout the world in the Fall 2014 semester.

The Missionary Vision of the Martyred Fr. Daniel Sysoev
by Edward Hunter, Pravoslavie, November 20, 2015

By all accounts, Fr. Daniel Sysoev was a powerful and effective missionary priest. According to his missionary companion and close friend, Prof. Yuri Maximov (now Priest Giorgy Maximov.—O.C.), Fr. Daniel turned “around 500 Protestants” to Orthodoxy and personally “baptized more than 80 Muslims” in his fourteen years of ordained ministry.1 He built a church community and mission center in an immigrant district in Moscow and had great success reaching persons of various ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and social classes.2 As a direct result of his efforts, and in accordance with his express desire and sense of calling, he crowned his ministry with martyrdom, being shot in the nave of his own church on the night of November 19, 2009.3

While Fr. Daniel did not leave behind extensive or systematic instructions for how to replicate his success, and the literature of the missionary center he founded remains largely untranslated, a number of his translated interviews and books are available online4 and can be used to form an outline of the principles which lay behind his ministry, as well as the methods which he used and found successful.

Fundamentally, Fr. Daniel’s missionary activity found its most basic principle in an extreme faith in the reality of eternal life and eternal judgment. When viewed from the perspective of an eternal destiny, actions in this present life gain a new significance; temporal life becomes “a school” where the human being is to prepare himself for “true life,” which “begins after the Final Judgment.”5 As such, it behooves every Christian to intentionally live a life that prepares him for eternity and to continually meditate on the transitoriness of earthly life and the inevitability of facing death and judgment.6

The funeral of Priest-Martyr Daniil Sysoev, with the clergy in white, just as for Pascha.

While Jesus has “earned paradise for us” by his death on the Cross and Orthodox Christians have “receive[d] salvation as a gift through baptism,” they still need to “assimilate” its reality to themselves by living a Christian life that is characterized by continual repentance, frequent Communion, and the performance of “good deeds”, which fulfill Christ’s commandments.7 If the Christian does not busy himself with repentance and thereby assimilate the salvation of baptism to himself, he runs the risk of his post-baptismal sin becoming a sort of “second nature” which would sever him from Christ and make him “incapable of entering into eternity.”8

ROCOR Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign” Hosts Event in Memory of Priest-Martyr Daniil Sysoev

Fr. Daniil Sysoev is — without any exaggeration — the Protomartyr and Proto-Missionary for our age, for the 21st Century, and for the Third Millennium since the First Coming of Christ.

We commemorate him and ask his intercessions daily, but especially on the anniversary of his death, 19 November 2009, when he was slain by a Muslim before the altar of the church he founded in Moscow. 

For more on New Martyr Fr. Daniil, and to order his books, see this special resource page...

The Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign” Hosts an Event in Memory of Priest Daniil Sysoev
ROCOR, via Pravoslavie, November 16, 2015

On Sunday, November 8, 2015, the feast day of Great Martyr Dimitry of Thessaloniki, Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign” in New York by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York. 

His Eminence was joined by Protopriest Andrei Sommer, Senior Priest of the cathedral; Protopriest Vasily Raskovsky; Hieromonk Evtikhy (Dovganiuk); Protodeacon Nicolas Mokhoff; Protodeacon Vadim Gan, as well as other clergymen gathering to attend an event dedicated to the 6th anniversary of the death of Priest Daniil Sysoev, including Priest Georgy Maksimov (teacher at Sretensky Seminary in Moscow) and Hieromonk Savvaty (Ageev), Rector of St Nicholas Church of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA in Redding, PA. A sermon was delivered by Fr Georgy on the Gospel reading about the rich man and Lazarus, during which he stressed the importance of fulfilling God’s commandments.

The sisterhood then offered a luncheon in the church hall.

At 2 pm, Metropolitan Hilarion gave the opening speech at an event marking the 6th anniversary of the death of the renowned missionary, Priest Daniil Sysoev, a leader in the missionary movement in contemporary Russia, who was granted a martyr’s end on November 19, 2009, in the Church of Apostle Thomas in Moscow, which he built. 

His Eminence noted that Fr Daniil “was able to argue convincingly and calmly, with love, and leave his opponents no option but to agree with him. It was this measured, accessible and uncompromising witness to the truth that we need today. This is the kind of renewed preaching we are in such need of today.” 

Al Azhar and ISIS: Cause and Effect

The Islamic State is not an aberration. Not only is it Islamic, it is "a byproduct of what is considered normative thinking for Al Azhar—the Islamic world’s most authoritative university."

by Raymond Ibrahim, Coptic Solidarity, November 18, 2015

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Nasr, a scholar of Islamic law and graduate of Egypt’s Al Azhar University—regularly touted as the world’s most prestigious Islamic university—recently exposed his alma mater in a televised interview.

After being asked why Al Azhar, which is in the habit of denouncing secular thinkers as un-Islamic, refuses to denounce the Islamic State as un-Islamic, Sheikh Nasr said:

It can’t [condemn the Islamic State as un-Islamic].  The Islamic State is a byproduct of Al Azhar’s programs.  So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?  Al Azhar says there must be a caliphate and that it is an obligation for the Muslim world [to establish it].  Al Azhar teaches the law of apostasy and killing the apostate.  Al Azhar is hostile towards religious minorities, and teaches things like not building churches, etc.  Al Azhar upholds the institution of jizya [extracting tribute from religious minorities].  Al Azhar teaches stoning people.  So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?

Nasr joins a growing chorus of critics of Al Azhar.  Last September, while discussing how the Islamic State burns some of its victims alive—most notoriously, a Jordanian pilot—Egyptian journalist Yusuf al-Husayni remarked on his satellite program that “The Islamic State is only doing what Al Azhar teaches… and the simplest example is Ibn Kathir’s Beginning and End.”

Italian Police: Muslim Migrants Threw Christians Overboard

This crime is identical to this story from back in April 2015. How many such Muslim attacks on migrant Christians go unreported?

I wrote at that time:
The Muslim attack on Christians in a migrant boat crossing the Mediterranean is a sign of our times, a dark symbol and metaphor for a future which is rapidly beginning to come into focus: 
We are all in a boat together, but there is a band of people in our boat which seeks to throw the rest of us overboard, to kill us, to sink and drown us, to eliminate us. 
The fate of the murdered Christian migrants is the image of our future, unless we too form a human chain to resist our attackers.

Italian Police: Muslim Migrants Threw Christians Overboard 
by Hada Messia, Livia Borghese and Jason Hanna, AINA, November 20, 2015:

Rome (CNN) -- Muslims who were among migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy in a boat this week threw 12 fellow passengers overboard -- killing them -- because the 12 were Christians, Italian police said Thursday.

Italian authorities have arrested 15 people on suspicion of murdering the Christians at sea, police in Palermo, Sicily, said.

The original group of 105 people left Libya on Tuesday in a rubber boat. Sometime during the trip north across the Mediterranean Sea, the alleged assailants -- Muslims from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal -- threw the 12 overboard, police said.

Other people on the voyage told police that they themselves were spared "because they strongly opposed the drowning attempt and formed a human chain," Palermo police said.