A Year Between Heaven and Earth

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This year marks the eighth anniversary of the martyrdom of the missionary Moscow priest Daniel Sysoev, who was shot in the church he built by a Muslim who was angered by Fr. Daniel’s ability to convert followers of Islam, on the evening of November 19, 2009. He died in the hospital early the following morning.

Matushka Julia, Fr. Daniel’s wife, has agreed to share her memories of her husband. Her words here are a frank monologue, a canvas woven from her personal diary.

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Julia Sysoeva at the funeral of Fr. Daniel. Photo patriarchia.ru

 

“I will no longer accept condolences. I accept only congratulations.”

Memories of the events a year ago are very hard. The wounds remain, and my heart feels the pain. I remember that evening almost minute by minute—even what I bought in the store, what I was thinking about, when I got home, my last call to him, and his last words: “About forty minutes.” And forty minutes later, the cold dial tone on the line—he didn’t answer anymore. I called him a few minutes after he was shot. Then that first horrible night: the church, the police perimeter, the interrogation, the scarlet puddle of blood on the floor. His unfinished tea in his office, the open laptop. The sleepless night, sunrise, and further—the real horror. Here are excerpts from my journal—memorials of those sorrowful days.

“A year has passed and I have realized one thing that I was unable to accept and understand—in the ancient Church they congratulated you with martyrdom. I have felt with all my heart how good it is for Fr. Daniel there!—how he has enormous possibilities for work incommensurate with our earthly standards. Then I understood and realized that I will no longer accept condolences. I accept only congratulations. …”

“A priest once wrote these words in his last book: “The best end, which only a Christian can imagine, is a martyric death.” These words were written by the murdered priest Daniel Sysoev.”

“November 22, 2009

We stopped by the deserted apartment for a couple of hours. The whole night I was at his grave and at the early Liturgy.

I found the leftovers from our last dinner in the fridge. I had made sushi, and for some reason it hadn’t gone bad. Wednesday was the last time we had dinner together. Late, almost 12:00.

He didn’t come to dinner on Thursday. If someone had called me from the church immediately after it happened, I would have reached him alive! He lived—and it’s a miracle—almost an hour after being shot in the neck and right through his head. But no one called me!!! Why? I have more questions than answers. These days are lost time—it is continuous pain and sorrow.

It was a joy, almost like Pascha, when after vesting him in the morgue, they let me see his face. It was a miracle that, despite the perforating wound, the Lord preserved his face unharmed, without any bruising, as if alive.”

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Fr. Daniel’s pectoral cross, washed in his blood

For the rest of the diary, go here

For more articles and interviews about Daniel Sysoev of Blessed Memory, go here 

Also, “WHEN THEY KILL ME, DON’T CRY FOR ME, BUT PRAY FOR ME”

Remembrances of Fr. Daniel Sysoev by Archimandrite Melchisedek (Artiukhin)

By Matushka Julia Sysoeva

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The Colour of Love

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                                           Chagall’s wisdom

In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.

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When I am finishing a picture I hold some God-made object up to it / a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand / as a kind of final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there’s a clash between the two, it is bad art.

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If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing. Will God or someone else give me the strength to breathe the breath of prayer and mourning into my paintings, the breath of prayer for redemption and resurrection?

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The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. In this long vigil he often has to vary his methods of stimulation; but in this long vigil he is also himself striving against a continual tendency to sleep.

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Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love. 

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Marc Chagall (July 1887 – March 1985) was a Russian artist of a devout Jewish family, born in Vitebsk.

Source: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2014/05/07/character-of-the-week-marc-chagall/

Mundi Peregrinatione

Explore in 360 degrees the Sistine Chapel, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and many more – all online.

http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/index.html

Christians have been making pilgrimages to holy sites and churches around the world for centuries. Can’t make a pilgrimage? Here’s the next best thing!

Some tours are embedded on this page, while others can be found with the link provided.

Enjoy!

1) Sistine Chapel – Vatican City

 Maus-Trauden / Wikipedia
Maus-Trauden / Wikipedia

Built in the 15th century and painted in the 16th century, the Sistine Chapel is one of the great artistic masterpieces in the world. Michelangelo painted the ceiling and the Last Judgement fresco, while the frescoes on the other walls were painted by a number of other artists. Among other things, the Sistine Chapel serves as the location for conclaves of Cardinals that elect new popes.

This one can only be viewed on the Vatican website, so click on the picture or on the link to check it out.

LinkStart the tour!

http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/

http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/

2) Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Jerusalem

Jorge Láscar / Flickr
Jorge Láscar / Flickr

Located in Old Jerusalem, the Church of Holy Sepulchre is venerated by Christians for containing within its space what is believed to be the places of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection – which makes it pretty important! The original church was built in the 4th century under Constantine but has endured several rounds of extensive damage and restoration since.

LinkStart the tour! (here’s another virtual tour of the same place)

http://www.holysepulchre.custodia.org/default.asp?id=4098

http://www.holysepulchre.custodia.org/default.asp?id=4098

3) St. Basil’s Cathedral – Moscow, Russia

michael clarke stuff / Wikimedia Commons
michael clarke stuff / Wikimedia Commons

Not to be confused with the Kremlin (which is nearby), St. Basil’s Cathedral was built in the 16th century on orders from Ivan the Terrible and served as a Russian Orthodox cathedral for centuries until it was confiscated and forcibly secularized in the late 1920s by the Soviet Union. It remains property of the Russian government today and is used as a museum.

LinkStart the tour! (Note: the virtual tour can take a little bit of time to load.)

http://en.ria.ru/infographics/20110903/166323377.html

http://en.ria.ru/infographics/20110903/166323377.html

4) Basilica of St. Peter – Vatican City

Public Domain / Wikipedia
Public Domain / Wikipedia

This great wonder of the world was built in the 16th century in the midst of the Protestant reformation, replacing the aging church that had stood on that site since the 4th century. The largest church in the world, it is built on top of what is believed to be the grave of St. Peter, the first pope.

LinkStart the tour!

http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_pietro/vr_tour/Media/VR/St_Peter_Altar/index.html

http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_pietro/vr_tour/Media/VR/St_Peter_Altar/index.html

5) Church of the Nativity – Bethlehem, West Bank

young shanahan / Flickr
young shanahan / Flickr

Church of the Nativity is located on the place that Christians have traditionally believed that Jesus was born. The first church was built in the 4th century under Constantine but was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt in the 6th century. Since then it has gone through numerous restorations, additions, etc. Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic representatives run and maintain the current church.

LinkStart the tour!

http://www.bethlehem.custodia.org/default.asp?id=455

http://www.bethlehem.custodia.org/default.asp?id=455

6) Cathedral of St. Paul, National Shrine of the Apostle Paul – St. Paul, MN

Jeremy Noble / Wikimedia Commons
Jeremy Noble / Wikimedia Commons

Atop the highest hill in the Twin Cities (with the Minnesota state capital just a bit lower down the street!), the St. Paul Cathedral is everything you’d expect of a beautiful European cathedral – except that it’s in the U.S.! It’s the third largest completed church in the U.S., and the fourth tallest. Built in the early 20th century, it is a co-cathedral with the Basilica of St. Mary (see #6) for the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.

https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9469453,-93.1090568,3a,75y,262.12h,114.8t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sU1_gbXFY_AG2EOYw2_51-Q!2e0!3e2!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en-US

7) Basilica of St. Mary – Minneapolis, MN

Beatrice Murch / Wikimedia Commons
Beatrice Murch / Wikimedia Commons

Built in the early 20th century, the Basilica of St. Mary was the first church designated a basilica in the U.S., and serves as a co-cathedral with the Cathedral of St. Paul for the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.

https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9731394,-93.2863352,3a,75y,357.32h,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1si0wv1yLqYgqL0xnh6PB72w!2e0!3e2!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en-US

8) Canterbury Cathedral – Canterbury, England 

Hans Musil, Wikipedia
Hans Musil, Wikipedia

When was Canterbury Cathedral built? That’s a hard question to answer, since different parts of the current structure were built, torn down, rebuilt, added on, etc over nine centuries, from the 10th to the 19th, with the site having been used as a cathedral since the 6th century. During the Protestant reformation in the 16th century, the Church of England took control of the church from the Roman Catholic Church.

LinkStart the tour!

http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/visit/tour/
http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/visit/tour/

9) Exeter Cathedral – Exeter, England

WyrdLight.com / Antony McCallum / Wikipedia
WyrdLight.com / Antony McCallum / Wikipedia

Built from the 12th century to the 15th century, Exeter Cathedral serves as the seat of the Anglican bishop of Exeter. Among its large collection of relics, the church has what is supposedly the Burning Bush, as well as part of a candle used by an angel in Christ’s tomb. Like the Canterbury Cathedral, Exeter Cathedral was originally a Roman Catholic cathedral, but was acquired by the Church of England in the 16th century.

LinkStart the tour!

http://www.peterstephens.co.uk/virtual_tours/exeter-cathedral/2012/virtualtour.html
http://www.peterstephens.co.uk/virtual_tours/exeter-cathedral/2012/virtualtour.html

10) St. Patrick’s Cathedral – New York City, NY

Mr. Kjetil Ree / Wikimedia Commons
Mr. Kjetil Ree / Wikimedia Commons

Directly across the street from Rockefeller Center in the middle of New York City, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built in the 19th century when midtown wasn’t as populated, and its large size dominated the area. Construction began in 1858, paused during the Civil War, and was finished in 1878. Further work was done in the early 20th century, and it was named a National Historic Site in 1976. It is currently used as the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of New York.

https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7586705,-73.9765313,3a,75y,111.35h,82.11t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sE_1fHJcwaJp2kITv5ZMA-A!2e0!3e2!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en-US

11) Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Chartres – Chartres, France

Olvr / Wikipedia
Olvr / Wikipedia

Built mostly in the 13th century, Chartres Cathedral is the latest of at least five churches that have stood in its location. Amazingly, most of the stained glass in the church is original. Among its many boasts, the church claims to have the Sancta Camisa, the tunic worn by the Blessed Virgin Mary at the birth of Jesus. It is still the seat of the Catholic bishop of Chartres.

LinkStart the tour!

http://mappinggothic.org/archmap/media/buildings/001000/1107/panos/1107_vr_00004.swf
http://mappinggothic.org/archmap/media/buildings/001000/1107/panos/1107_vr_00004.swf

12) Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – Washington D.C.

AgnosticPreachersKid / Wikipedia
AgnosticPreachersKid / Wikipedia

Located on the campus of Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception “is the largest Catholic church in the United States, the largest church of any kind in the western hemisphere, the eighth largest church building in the world, and the tallest habitable building in Washington, D.C.” Construction began in 1920, but wasn’t completed until 1961 due to the Great Depression and WWII. Even so, significant additions have been made as recently as 2012. In addition to a beautiful array of images of the Blessed Virgin Mary from different cultures, the basilica houses the papal tiara of Pope Paul VI.

LinkStart the tour!

http://www.nationalshrine.com/site/c.osJRKVPBJnH/b.5842239/k.A7C7/Virtual_Tour_360.htm
http://www.nationalshrine.com/site/c.osJRKVPBJnH/b.5842239/k.A7C7/Virtual_Tour_360.htm

Source: 12 Amazing Virtual Tours of the World’s Most Spectacular Churches

http://www.churchpop.com/2014/08/10/12-amazing-virtual-tours-of-the-worlds-most-spectacular-churches/

The Blood of the Lamb

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Fr Daniil Sysoev (1974-2009)

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“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11)

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With the rising wave of genocidal persecution of Christians by Muslims, we can properly begin speaking of the ‘New Martyrs of the 21st Century under the Sword of Islam’. One of the most important of these New Martyrs, if not the pre-eminent, is the righteous Priest-Martyr Fr. Daniil Sysoev of Moscow (1974 -2009), who was killed by a masked Muslim gunman in front of the altar at the church he founded. Sysoev’s murder was claimed by a militant Islamic group based in the North Caucasus. According to a statement made by Russian Islamists “One of our brothers who has never been to the Caucases took up the oath of (former independent Chechen president Doku Umarov) and expressed his desire to execute the damned Sysoyev.”

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Fr Daniil was not any ordinary casualty of Islam’s renewed war on Christians in the early third millennium after Christ’s First Coming in the Flesh. He was a towering figure in the Russian Orthodox Church, a theologian, writer, evangelist and missionary, extending his endeavours to all Muslims, neo-Pagans, Jews, Protestants, excluding none.. He particularly engaged in open debate with Muslims, and converted scores of them from Islam to the Orthodox Gospel, including a number of Wahhabi extremists. In the Islamic space of Russia he had earned the nickname “Russian Salman Rushdie”.

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For his profound faith and tireless efforts, he has earned the titles of Confessor, Evangelist, Apostle to the Muslims, and Pillar of Orthodoxy in the 21st Century. That his zealous but loving and peaceful missionary work among Muslims enraged some of them to resort to murder in order to silence him, proves the strength and validity of his witness to Christ, and seals his life’s work with the pure blood of holy martyrdom.

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The purpose of this page is to provide a representative collection of essential resources on New Martyr Fr. Daniil Sysoev, to promote the veneration of Father Daniil as a Saint of the Church, and to inspire others to follow his example, take up their crosses, and labour for our Lord Jesus Christ.

†Nov. 19, 2009

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of thy servant

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Special Resource Page

You Wish to See Many Miracles? – You Should Become a Missionary or a Martyr!

Fr. Daniel’s Autobiography and the Interview with Him on the Occasion of the Opening of the Missionary Centre

http://facingislam.blogspot.gr/2013/11/you-wish-to-see-many-miracles-you.html

http://www.pravmir.com/article_793.html

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Writings of Fr. Daniel Sysoev now available in English

http://facingislam.blogspot.gr/2015/02/new-martyr-fr-daniel-sysoevs-writings.html

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New online store for book ordering, plus digital publication on the ISSUU platform, bring Fr. Daniel’s works to the English-speaking world. Numerous titles available with many more to follow. More info with links here.

http://facingislam.blogspot.com/2015/02/new-martyr-fr-daniel-sysoevs-writings.html

https://lessonsfromamonastery.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/book-review-catechetical-talks-by-new-martyr-daniel-sysoev/

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Fr. Peter Alban Heers: Podcasts on New Martyr Fr. Daniil Sysoev

Three audio podcasts from 2011…

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Orthodox Word #268, ‘The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church’

The Life and Martyric Death of the Righteous Missionary, Father Daniel Sysoev

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http://facingislam.blogspot.gr/2013/11/fr-daniil-sysoevs-last-sermon-video.html

Fr. Daniel Sysoev’s Last Sermon (VIDEO)

With English subtitles. A message on Christian love and concord, full of scriptural references and spiritual truths.

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Priest-Martyr Fr. Daniil Sysoev with His Family, Video

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/11/priest-marty-fr-daniil-sysoev-with-his.html

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Interview with Fr Daniil

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/11/interview-with-fr-daniil-sysoyev-on-his.html

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ON THE DEATH OF MY HUSBAND: THE MATUSHKA OF THE MARTYRED PRIEST DANIEL SPEAKS AND REVEALS THAT A PROPHECY HAS BEEN FULFILLED

Fr Daniel had already foreseen his death several years before it happened. He had always wanted to be worthy of a martyr’s crown. … He used to say that they would kill him. I would ask him who would look after us. Me and the three children. He would answer that he would put us in safe hands. ‘I‘ll give you to the Mother of God. She’ll take care of you’. Read her full, moving testimony at http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/32818.htm

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Can One Consider the Death of Fr. Daniel Sysoev to be a Martyrdom? by Hieromonk Job Gumerov

Death is the last event in a person’s earthly life. For a missionary, death is the last homily, the last message preached, the last witness for Christ, Whom the missionary loved with complete readiness to sacrifice his or her life for the sake of the triumph of the Faith. Father Daniel Sysoev[1] had prepared himself for this sacrifice long before…  Read the full article.

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Serbian Conversations, Part 1 – An Interview with Fr. Daniil Sysoev and Dcn. Yuri Maximov

To shortly describe Fr. Daniel, he walked before God. … He walked with a light step, like a person who knows where he is going and why, one who is calm in the present and that does not worry about the future because he has entrusted all his cares to the Lord, Who is as close to him as a Loving Father. Read the full article and interview.

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Serbian Conversations, Part 2 – An Interview with Fr. Daniil Sysoev and Dcn. Yuri Maximov

“True Christianity is having pity for the perishing people. Fear to be punished by the Lord for burying one’s talent and desire to receive great reward in heaven-these are what must move a missionary. We should walk with God as the Lord said of Enoch, Enoch walked with God and…God took him (Gen. 5:24). Just that walking with God is the root of missions. “Read the full interview…

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Orthodox Priest Murdered in Moscow for his anti-Muslim stance

(Pravda, Moscow, 11/20/2009) Orthodox Priest Daniil Sysoyev was assassinated in Moscow on the night of November 19. … The unidentified assassin was wearing a doctor’s mask when he attacked the priest, Interfax reports. The criminal entered Holy Apostle Thomas Church in the south of Moscow on Thursday night, at about 10:40 p.m. …The man rushed into the church and shouted: “Who is Sysoyev here?” The 35-year-old priest came forward, the attacker pulled out a gun with a silencer, and shot him in the neck and in the head. … Read the full article.

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On the Murder of Father Daniil Sysoev. By Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

http://www.pravmir.com/article_792.html

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For Daniel Sysoev’s biography .. «the good shepherd giveth his life…» John. 10,11…Read the full article at http://mission-center.com/en/daniil-sisoev

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Father Daniel, priest and martyr

“… His clerical colleagues called him the “Orthodox Wahhabi” for the fire gleaming in his eyes and his passionate speeches. …

The day he was assassinated was the 24th Sunday after Pentecost …I preached on Sunday in Mamelodi. And .. Father Daniel preached in Moscow. But he didn’t merely preach it, he lived it, and died for it.” Read the full interview at https://khanya.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/father-daniel-priest-and-martyr/

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Remembering Fr. Daniel Sysoev By ARCHPRIEST OLEG STENIAEV

…We met in the mid-1990s: I was a priest and he was still a deacon. … Thereafter we were in constant contact. …He felt no animosity towards people of other faiths. He himself mentions this in his lectures: “I love these people, but I do not share their faith and beliefs.” … They killed him out of fear. … I said to him: “They’re going to kill you!” To which he replied: “What are you talking about? I’m unworthy!” He felt that if he were killed for the faith he would become a martyr. There was no shadow of fear in him, only reverence before martyrdom. …Read the full interview at http://www.pravmir.com/remembering-fr-daniel-sysoev/

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Fr. Daniel Sysoev: “To Make the Whole World Love Christ”

He very much loved to preach about Christ; and I can say for myself that the greatest commandment that I received from my preceptor is this: “The purpose of a missionary is to make the whole world love Christ.” Read the full interview at

http://www.pravmir.com/daniel-sisoev-to-make-the-whole-world-love-christ/

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Seraphim Maamdi’s memories of Father Daniel

“My acquaintance with Fr. Daniel was God’s mercy toward me. … When I met him I was impressed by his burning faith and the brave spirit which he was able to share with those around him. … inspired me to go by the same path. ….Fr. Daniel told me to fear nothing, that the Muslims had threatened him personally fourteen times, saying that they would behead him — but should we hold back out of fear? The important thing, he said, is to firmly and bravely bear the Word of God, and to be witnesses of Christ … He often said spoke of martrydom, as if he knew that the Lord would glorify him in precisely this way. And behold, the Lord made him worthy of a martyr’s crown. The ancient Christians rejoiced in this situation, but we were saddened. .. I remember that when I learned of his death I was very grieved and thought, “If only he could have had a few more years.” But later I acknowledged that the will of God is in all things. Read the full article at http://www.pravmir.com/daniel-sisoev-to-make-the-whole-world-love-christ/

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MANY MUSLIMS WERE BAPTIZED AFTER THE DEATH OF FR. DANIEL SISOYEV

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/57085.htm

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Priest Daniel Sysoev: Even Provincial Imams Come to our Church … “Russian Salman Rushdie”

http://www.pravmir.com/priest-daniel-sysoev-even-provincial-imams-come-to-our-church/

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“DON’T BE AFRAID TO PREACH CHRIST”

Three men from the Caucasus region, Monk Madai (Maamdi), a Kurd Mikhail, a Kabardinian and Nectary Mikhaelyan, an Armenian recount how Fr. Daniel Sisoyev influenced their lives. Read the full article at http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/75392.htm

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FATHER DANIEL SISOYEV’S POSTHUMOUS MISSION: THREE STORIES: Aviv Saliu-Diallo (Switzerland), Stanoe Stankovic (Serbia), Oana Iftime (Romania). Read the full article at http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/57660.htm

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Sources:

http://facingislam.blogspot.gr/p/new-marty.html

Pravoslavie;  Pravmir

Edited and Updated

Through the Eyes of a Child

 “The quiet art of Helen Cherkasova seems simple at first sight – simple even to the naivete. And for much it is true if we imply by naivete pure natural sources and the belief in the clear divine spring of any real creative act.  As usual, dimensions of her works are not great. Nevertheless, some of them bear evident epic traits that are inherent to such monumental arts as mosaic or fresco.” (William Meiland, March, 1998)

Helena Cherkasova was born in Moscow in 1962. Finished art school in Moscow. Painted icons for orthodox churches. Now she paints by oil landscapes, still lifes and compositions mainly with religious topics. Participant of exhibitions in Russia and abroad. Lives and works in Moscow.

Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem

Nativity

Blessedness of the meek

Wise virgins

The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

Psalm 127

Prayer for rain

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Angel speaks to the myrrh-bearin women

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A monk

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Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem
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the Tsar’s family

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Letters of St. John Chrysostom to Olimpiada
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Prophet’s Eliah’s day

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St. Seraphim of Sarov

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Prince Igor’s murder

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A bird from Heaven

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The righteous soul enters Heaven

Matushki and cats

Matushki and cats

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“103rd Psalm”

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“Eleazar and Rebekah”

( the Old Testament story of the marriage of Isaac)

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“Song of Songs”

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Annunciation

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“Teens in the furnace” Daniel

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“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God!”  “Psalm 41”

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“Nativity”

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“The Holy Family”

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“Marriage at Cana”

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Another option of the marriage at Cana

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Healing the Demoniac of the Gadarene

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“Healing the Blind”

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“The storm on the lake”(Mk . 4 , 35-41 )

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Doubting Thomas ( Jn. 20 , 24-29 )

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“Adam and Eve in paradise again”

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Way of the Cross

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The Resurrection of Christ

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Last (Final) Judgment — Day of Judgment

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The entry of a righteous soul in paradise

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The Holy Spirit – a timid bird

Photos by Michael Moiseev
Source: Pramvir

Gateway to Heaven

 St Nicholas Cathedral

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Standing in the Cathedral after Sunday Liturgy on August 12, 2012. In addition to its magnificent and historic iconography, completed in the 1990s following the dissolution of the USSR, the Cathedral houses the relics of many saints, including St John of Kronstadt, St Elizabeth the New Martyr, St Herman, apostle to Alaska, St Innocent, metropolitan of Moscow and apostle to Alaska, St Tikhon, and St Daniel of Moscow.

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Gazing up at the dome with the image of Christos Pantokrator (Christ as Ruler of All, or Lord of the Universe) offering all worshipers His benediction.

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The choir gallery overlooking the nave, with beautiful frescoes of the Russian New Martyrs on the left and right as well as many of the North American saints. Note the magnificent fresco of Christ’s Resurrection on the wall hanging over the gallery as well as the ceiling icons of the Great Feasts of the Dormition of the Theotokos (L) and that of Pentecost, the Decent of the Holy Spirit (R). Symbolizing the triumphant restoration of Orthodoxy in Russian life, the fresco of Moscow’s rebuilt Christ the Savior Cathedral – initially demolished under Stalin’s orders in 1931- crowns the beautiful choir gallery.

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The four writers of the Gospels are depicted on the pendentives supporting the dome. Higher up, closer to Christ, are depicted the cherubim and seraphim and other angelic powers of heaven. The red fire symbolizes the Holy Spirit descending to and filling the earth.

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The frescoed icons on the Cathedral’s north wall depict the life and deeds of St Nicholas, the fourth century bishop of Myra (located in modern day Turkey), and patron saint of Greece, Russia, and many ancient cities. Can you find the picture of the saint rescuing a drowning man?

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A reliquary of St Herman of Alaska (1756-1837), patron saint of Orthodoxy in the Americas and peaceful evangelist to many native Alaskan tribes.

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Relics of the Romanov Imperial Family of Russia, who were murdered on Lenin’s others on July 17, 1918: the Emperor or Tsar Nicholas Alexandrovich II, his consort the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and their children. Orthodox Christians venerate them as “Passion-bearers” who graciously and courageously bore many sufferings and imprisonment and went to their deaths with great fortitude.

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Relic of Saint Sergius, fourteenth century Wonder-worker and deeply beloved Russian saint (d. 1392).

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Looking toward the iconostasis and the apse above the altar. Along with most of the interior fresco work, after the fall of the Soviet Union expert Russian iconographers completed the beautiful iconostasis (icon stand) which separates the altar area from the main part of the Cathedral. This evokes the Temple at Jerusalem which had a ‘holy of holies’ in which the Tabernacle was kept.

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Relics of many ancient and new Russian saints, including St Elizabeth the New Martyr (front right).
Saint Elizabeth (1864 – 1918) was the wife of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, fifth son of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and Empress Maria Alexandrovna (born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, she was the sister to Alexandra who became Queen of the United Kingdom as consort to Edward VII). Princess Elizabeth and her sister Alix, who in 1894 became the wife of the new Russian Emperor Nicholas II as Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, were granddaughters of Britain’s Queen Victoria.
After an anarchist assassinated her husband, Grand Duchess Elizabeth visited the man, offering him her forgiveness, but he refused her offer to intercede with her brother-in-law for a reprieve from execution. She went on to found a convent dedicated to ministering to Moscow’s poor, and as part of her efforts she petitioned the Russian Church to restore the historic female diaconate. She opened the Martha and Mary Home in Moscow to utilize the prayer and charity of devout Russian women. For many years she helped the poor and orphans through this Moscow home.
In 1918, the Communist government exiled her to Yekaterinburg and then to Alapaevsk, where she and several other members of the Imperial Family were violently killed by the local Bolsheviks on July 18, 1918. She was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 1981, and by the Russian Orthodox Church as a whole in 1992 as New-Martyr Elizabeth.

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Reliquary of the Great Martyr Saint Catherine of Alexandria (287-305), an Egyptian princess and scholar whose erudition and learned arguments inspired the conversion of thousands. She was brutally put to death on the orders of the pagan Roman Emperor Maxentius, whom Constantine defeated in October 312 at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge outside Rome. In the fifteenth century another virgin saint, the young Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) received visions of St. Catherine exhorting her to drive the English out of France.

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Fragrant double icon depicting two pillars of the Orthodox faith in Russia. Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908), shown offering the Communion chalice and a benediction, is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.
He is shown with Saint Matrona of Moscow (1885-1952) because when he saw her as a young, blind girl in a crowd, he predicted she would be his spiritual successor. Blessed Matrona healed many people of their spiritual diseases and predicted numerous marriages, events and deaths- including her own.

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Standing in the choir, looking toward the iconostasis and the apse icon of the Panagia Theotokos (All-Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary). The elaborate chandelier, lit at various points of the divine offices, symbolizes the eternal presence of God’s grace in His Church, the radiance of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the abiding light of the Holy Spirit.

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Gazing down over the nave from the choir gallery. Approaching the central icon stand before the iconostasis, worshipers first venerate the cathedral’s principal icon of the holy person or God. Upon entering any Orthodox church, worshipers bow before the divine presence in the altar where the Eucharist is offered as the mystical transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord.

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Standing in the lofted gallery where I sing with the choir. This is one of my favorite pictures of the Cathedral interior because one really has a strong sense of the iconography- the ‘image writing’, as the term means from the Greek- as a powerful tool for the theological education of the faithful who see and comprehend the many magnificent images depicting the saints.

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Centered shot of the dome and its supporting columns and pendentives.

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The Cathedral shining in the late summer sunshine! Russian and American architects designed the Cathedral to evoke a twelfth century church in Vladimir, an ancient Russian city on the Klyazma River some 200 km (120 miles) east of Moscow. In 1988 the bell tower was erected as a gift from the Moscow Patriarchate to the Cathedral commemorating the one thousandth anniversary of the conversion of St. Prince Vladimir of Kiev and his people to Eastern Christianity.

Like a Russian Novel

st maria

 

A very unlikely nun

For a nun, Maria’s story is more than a little unconventional. At Bishop Anthony Bloom’s first encounter with her, Maria sat at a cafe table with a beer. She was often seen shambling around the Paris market in her tattered habit, cigarette perched on her lip, haggling for deals. And she kept company with the lowest of the low.

“She was a very unusual nun in her behavior and her manners. I was simply staggered when I saw her for the first time in monastic clothes. I was walking along the Boulevard Montparnasse and I saw: in front of a café, on the pavement, there was a table, on the table was a glass of beer and behind the glass was sitting a Russian nun in full monastic robes. I looked at her and decided that I would never go near that woman. I was young then and held extreme views.”

That was her calling. Former-revolutionary, twice-married, twice divorced, cigarette-smoking, poet, painter, theologian, nun and martyr-saint, she knew the meaning of God’s mercy and desired only to share it with as many as she could muster. The number was not small.

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Her backstory is the stuff of Russian novels. Born into a wealthy family in 1891, her father died when she was young, and the shock of the loss drove her to renounce her faith. Mixing with smart and fashionable of St. Petersburg, she published poetry, married a Bolshevik, and distressed over the state of the city’s beleaguered poor. But idealism couldn’t save her marriage, which ended in 1913.

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The following year she moved to her family’s estate on the coast of the Black Sea with her daughter, Gaiana. Headstrong and independent, Maria was politically active and eventually became mayor of the town of Anapa as a single mom! She also rediscovered her faith, which informed her activism. “[T]he Christian,” she said, “is called to social work.”

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The problem for Maria was that she was too conservative for the radicals and too radical for the conservatives. After the start of the Russian Revolution she found herself arrested and tried by the anti-Bolshevik party and only escaped conviction because of a kindly judge, Daniel Skobtsov. The two married within months of her acquittal.

With the Revolution in full swing, life in Anapa became impossible. The family fled, swelling in the sojourn. By the time they settled in Paris in 1923, Yuri and Anastasia had been born.

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And now the obvious question: How did this wife of two men and mother of three children become a nun?

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Not good, but revolutionary

It started when Anastasia succumbed to a wasting illness and died in 1926. The family, already strained, was devastated. Maria and Daniel separated and eventually divorced. But out of the devastation Maria’s calling to help the downtrodden was renewed.

Refugee life was terrible, especially for the Russians. Work was scarce. Despair and alcoholism was rampant. Maria saw herself as uniquely suited to help, to rescue, to comfort these victims and misfits. She would be, she said, “a mother to all.”

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The proposed path was monasticism. Revealing is her conversation with her bishop, Metropolitan Evlogy. “I could never be a good nun,” she protested. “I know,” he said. “But I want you to be a revolutionary nun.”

“[S]he went to the steel foundry in Creusot, where a large number of Russian [refugees] were working. She came there and announced that she was preparing to give a series of lectures on Dostoevsky. She was met with general howling: “We do not need Dostoevsky. We need linen ironed, we need our rooms cleaned, we need our clothes mended — and you bring us Dostoevsky!” And she answered: “Fine, if that is needed, let us leave Dostoevsky alone.” And for several days she cleaned rooms, sewed, mended, ironed, cleaned. When she had finished doing all that, they asked her to talk about Dostoevsky. This made a big impression on me, because she did not say: “I did not come here to iron for you or clean your rooms. Can you not do that yourselves?” She responded immediately and in this way she won the hearts and minds of the people.”

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And so she was. There would be no convent for Maria. Her monastery, as she said, was “the whole world.” Several houses and a chapel were set up to shelter and serve those in need. Maria worked tirelessly, Gaiana and Yuri aiding the effort, Father Lev Gillet serving as the ‘convent’’s chaplain for many years. In addition to painting icons and leading religious discussions, she cooked, counseled, and combed the streets looking for anyone she could help.

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“[E]ach of us,” she wrote, “is faced with the demand to strain all our forces, not fearing the most difficult endeavor, in ascetic self-restraint, giving our souls for others sacrificially and lovingly, to follow in Christ’s footsteps to our appointed Golgotha.”

Maria’s appointment emerged as World War II began and the Nazis seized control of Paris. The only response was obvious.

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A martyr for our own time

Maria and her associates began working with the French Resistance, hiding Jews, forging records and papers, anything to foul Nazi aims. She was brazen. “If the Germans come looking for the Jews,” she said, “I’ll show them the icon of the Mother of God.”

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* Two triangles, a star,

The shield of King David, our forefather.

This is election, not offense.

The great path and not an evil.

Once more in a term fulfilled,

Once more roars the trumpet of the end;

And the fate of a great people

Once more is by the prophet proclaimed.

Thou art persecuted again, O Israel,

But what can human malice mean to thee,

who have heard the thunder from Sinai? * 

The Gestapo knew something was afoot, but it took time to foil the plot. When they finally did, the Nazis dragged Maria and her coconspirators—including her son Yuri—off to prison.

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During her two-year confinement in the Ravensbrück concentration camp, she was a beacon, bringing hope to people in utter despair. She led prayers and Bible study, fed people from stores she smuggled away, and radiated hope to any and all.

But while her hope was invincible, her body was not. The trauma of the camp took its toll and she became increasingly frail. “Though she was unable to stand for roll calls, she traded some bread for thread so she could embroider one last icon.” It depicted Mary holding a crucified Christ. Before she could finish, she was taken to the gas chamber where she died on Great and Holy Saturday.

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MOTHER MARIA OF PARIS: SAINT OF THE OPEN DOOR

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Sources: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/joeljmiller/maria-skobtsova/

https://incommunion.org/2004/10/18/saint-of-the-open-door/

http://jimandnancyforest.com/2006/08/mothermaria/

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*Maria’s own poem reflecting on the symbol Jews were required to wear during WWII*

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* * If you are interested in more details about Maria’s activism, inspiration, grace, heroism, and hope-filled commitment, so needed in our world today, please visit: https://incommunion.org/2004/10/18/saint-of-the-open-door/

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For ST. MARIA SKOBTSOVA RESOURCES, on her life and writings, please go to: https://incommunion.org/st-maria-skobtsova-resources/