A Hymn to the Theotokos
Under thy mercy we take refuge, O Theotokos Virgin. Disdain not our prayers in afflictions but from perils deliver us, O only pure and blessed One.—a penitential hymn to the Theotokos often sung in Russian monasteries at the end of the daily cycle of services.
The Last Hour
The Holy Apostle John the Theologian wrote: “Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour” (IJohn 2:18). It was approximately in the early 1970’s that an avid interest and foreboding concerning the second coming of Christ began to appear and spread both among the Orthodox and other Christians. This expectation has been amplified in the past few decades. With our modern technology and weaponry that which is written in Revelation is very much possible. However, this expectation is not something totally new but a recurrence of that which has been present in the past. The early Church itself had an eminent expectation of the coming of Christ. It seems to have been a sober and joyful eager awaiting yet today this hope appears to be more on the line of producing anxiety rather than the aforementioned. So now, let us consider two things: the signs of the times and how one should be prepared for the second coming of Christ which will be preceded by the appearance of the antichrist who will deceive many leading them to perdition and persecute the faithful.
1. Signs of times
- A. A widesread deadening and distorting of faith
An Elder Anthony will be referred to both here and later is the same person and these references will be from a book “Spiritual Conversations and Edifications of Elder Anthony” published in the Ukraine by Father Alexander Krasnov. English excerpts of two visions the Elder received in the early 1970’s have been prepared by Tatiana Shvetsova, these are the source of our excerpts and a complete text can found by a web search (the same is true for any of the elders quoted in this post). Elder Anthony in considering the evils which were to come upon mankind draws an analogy and relates the following concerning his childhood:
it’s interesting that the simple people, at a time of seeming prosperity and contentment in the empire, already saw the approaching catastrophe. And this was not so much as a result of their associating with the Elders of Optina or Kiev, or from the sermons of the righteous John of Kronstadt, as it was a result of their ability to observe what was happening and draw conclusions, based not on an abundance of material available, but on the preservation of spirituality by society. It was namely the lack of faith, not simply faith in the existence of God, but faith as the fulfillment of Christ’s commandments, which led these people to think that the coming disaster was inevitable.
Along the same lines a hundred years earlier yet in more detail Saint Amvrossy (+1891), the elder of Optina, wrote:
My child, know that in the last days hard times will come; and as the Apostle says, behold, due to poverty in piety heresies and schisms will appear in the churches; and as the Holy Fathers foretold, then on the thrones of hierarchs and in monasteries there will be no men to be found that are tested and experienced in the spiritual life. Wherefore, heresies will spread everywhere and deceive many. The enemy of mankind will act skillfully, and whenever possible he will lead the chosen ones to heresy. He will not begin by discarding the dogmas on the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, or the Theotokos, but will unnoticeably start to distort the Teachings of the Holy Fathers, in other words the teachings of the Church herself. The cunning of the enemy and his “tipics” (ways) will be noticed by very few — only those that are most experienced in spiritual life. Heretics will take over the Church, everywhere, and they will appoint their servants, and spirituality will be neglected. But the Lord will not leave His servants without protection. Truly, their real duty is persecution of true pastors and their imprisonment; for without that, the spiritual flock may not become captured by the heretics. Therefore, my son, when you see in the Churches mocking of the Divine act, of the teachings of the Holy Fathers, and of God’s established order, know that the heretics are already present. Be also aware that, for some time, they might hide their evil intentions, or they might covertly deform the divine faith, so that they better succeed by deceiving and tricking the inexperienced. heresy cannot stand the Divine order. Like wolves in sheep skin, they will be recognized by their vainglorious nature, love for lust, and lust for power. All those will be betrayers, causing hatred and malice everywhere; and therefore the Lord said that one will easily recognize them by their fruits. The true servants of God are meek, brother-loving and obedient to the Church (order, traditions).
In addition St Nilus the Myrhhstreamer of Athos in his 16th century prophecies also spoke of priests and bishops becoming vain men in the latter days And he adds The antichrist will so complete science with vanity that it will cause people to lose faith in the one true God.
Again the Elder Lavrentius of Chernigov-Trinity convent who reposed in 1950 spoke of the time when the churches would be returned and be more beautiful than before. He goes on to say and then they will not be ours and he instructs his spiritual children not to enter those churches.
- B. A debauched life as the norm
The Elder Anthony again writes of a freedom which,
is the freedom of moral corruption. Unfortunately, people have already accepted it and it has become an inseparable part of contemporary life. Fornication—is not fornication, but sexual freedom (see how the enemy hides his action behind pretty, at first glance, words: it’s not fornication, but sex, not robbery, but expropriation…). Debauchery begins in the earliest years in the form of teaching the culture of the sexes and their mutual relations. They will show the children naked bodies, and this is already being done in some places, and sexual union, thereby inflaming lust, pretending that this is all normal. Books and television will be filled with naked people, horrible scenes of fornication. Contemporary clothing is even very revealing—but this is only the beginning. The aim is the extremely loathsome feasts of Astarte and Baal, where hundreds and hundreds of pagans would fornicate, stupefied by alcohol and drugs. There, to the worship of demons, is where the champions of freedom are leading mankind. Whoever is overcome by someone, is a slave to him. And people are being attracted to this slavery, wrapped up in freedom.
But for the servants of darkness, natural fornication is not even enough. As a demonstration of true love of freedom and emancipation of thought, they will yield to the sin of Sodom and bestiality. Propaganda for this abomination will be unusually strong, almost as much as for ‘normal’ debauchery. Instances of single sex marriages will be given as much publicity as the discovery of antibiotics was in its day! Sodomites will appear everywhere—artists, mostly, and politicians, and economists. The sin of Sodom will become the sign of the nearest future. Already in America their wild orgies are organized in the form of annual carnivals, and we will have all this as well, in a no less disgusting display. And whoever will oppose this forced demonic display will appear as one violating another’s freedom, an ignorant buffoon, an enemy of the state, since all the governments will have as their main concern, not the protection of morality, but the protection of demonic freedoms.
In the prophecies of St Seraphim of Vyritsa (+1949) we see that the Elder said that a time will come (it is already coming!) when the debauchery and moral decline of the young will reach their ultimate point. Virtually no-one will remain uncorrupted. Seeing their impunity, the young will consider that everything is permitted them for the satisfaction of their whims and lusts. They will begin to gather in groups and gangs, stealing and debauching themselves.
Yet the Elder also speaks of repentance which usually happens simultaneously among some of the populace when evil increases:
But a time will come when the voice of God will be heard, when the young will understand that it is not possible to go on living in that way. They will come to the faith in various ways, drawn ever more strongly to the ascetic life. Those who before were sinners and drunkards will fill the churches and greatly thirst for spiritual life. Many of them will become monks. Monasteries will open, churches will be filled with the faithful. Then young people will go on pilgrimages. It will be a glorious time! The repentance of those that sin now will be all the more ardent…
- C. Conclusion
The evil that is growing strong will inevitably lead to disaster. A general trend of prophecy in our Church has been related by the late Elder Joseph the Younger of Vatopedi Monastery who reposed about a year and a half ago. In a video he spoke of a financial collapse followed by a world war that would be followed by a period of thirty of forty years before the appearance of the antichrist and the end.
But who is to blame for the evils coming upon the world? Some people want to blame God for the evils that come upon this world but man, who has forsaken God’s commandments and order of creation is to blame. Thus did the Elder Anthony instruct:
The Lord created this world, and as the Creator, He created it in harmony with Himself. Remember His words about the new creation: ‘It is good’ God said this. The All-sufficient and All- good, the All-mighty and All-perfect, the All-merciful Provider found the creation to be good, i.e., He found the world to be in harmony with Good, with Love for God is love. Man, the one creature able to influence the existence of the world, the crown of creation, was likewise created in the image and likeness of Good and Love. And the laws given to him by the Creator, are nothing else than instructions for living a peaceful and happy life in the world, in harmony with it. Everything else which opposes these commandments is destructive for the world and for everything existing in it, depending on it.
So I repeat. Some people want to blame God for the evils that come upon this world but man, who has forsaken God’s commandments and order of creation is to blame.
2 How do we prepare?
St. Seraphim of Vyritsa and the Elder Anthony tell us that in our times salvation comes through bearing sorrows and illness and they speak of enduring persecution.
In 2010 in an interview entitled: “ The truth about the times—Spirituality of the end of times”, the Romanian Archimandrite Justin Parvu says the following about prayer:
It is very important to know how to pray. Many times even we, the monks in the monasteries, pray, but we only think we pray. It is not enough to attend the church services and just be there like that would be enough. We have to work the prayer from the inside out. No matter how many prayers we say with our mouth, it is nothing if the prayer is not coming from the heart and if we don’t apply the teachings of Orthodoxy in our everyday life. Now more than ever, lay people have to pray from the heart, because this will be our only salvation. In the heart is the root of all passions and that is where we need to direct our struggles. If in the later years Christianity became look warm and superficial, we have to end all that now, this is not going to be enough anymore. If we will not pray from the heart, we will not be able to sustain the psychological attacks, because the evil one has hidden brainwashing methods that are unknown to us. The greatest sin today is carelessness. We pray carelessly, we repent carelessly, even if we do it. Times will come when only the ones that have the Spirit of God will be able to know good from evil. Human mind itself on its own will not be able to tell the difference. There will be great deceptions and only the Holy Spirit will give us the discernment we need so we could save ourselves. Pray that you will not be deceived ! Only through prayer we can receive the Holy Spirit. If we don’t pray and just perseveremay in our lazziness and unrepentful ways, we will completely lose the Holy Spirit and His guidance. May it not be that we lose the guidance of the Holy Spirit !
C. Humility and Love
The Elder Gabriel of Georgia (+1995) instructs us:
We are witnessing the End Days. You will see the Antichrist. The Lord our God will demand love for God and the neighbor; whoever holds out to the end will be saved.
A humbled man is protected from temptations. No one can enter the Kingdom of God without humility.
During the Antichrist times, the strongest temptation will be anticipation of salvation from the cosmos, from humanoids, extraterrestrials that are actually the demons. One should rarely look up at the sky, as the signs might be deceptive and thus one may be ruined.
True faith finds its place in the man’s heart, not in his mind. Antichrist will be disclosed by the believers having their faith in their hearts; those with their faith in their mind follow him.
In the End Days a man will be saved by love, humility and kindness. Kindness will open the gates of Heaven; humbleness will lead into the Heaven; a man, whose heart is filled with love, will see the God.
This is my last will and testament: raise your prayers for everyone; your prayers will move the mountains. Love each other.
The Elder Anthony similarly commented about perfect love:
Do you think that is was so simple for the wonderworker of Sarov, who had been translated to the mansions of Paradise, to be ready himself to go to hell just so that others might be saved?! No, that is the highest level of love, the uniting of perfections, or if you will, the vision of God and the knowledge of God. God gave His own Son as a Sacrifice for our sins, for the sins of all mankind. The Apostle Paul offered himself as a sacrifice for the Jewish people; St. Seraphim offered himself for the Christians from among the nations. They and thousands of others who traveled the path of acquiring perfection, the path of imitating God, were ready to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the lost sheep. They did not just read, but they understood that ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His Only-begotten Son.’ (John 3:16)”
May our Lord Jesus Christ give us the grace of love for enemies, so that we may say with the Apostle: “As He is so are we in this world” (IJohn 4:17). Amen!