Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God. And no torture will ever touch them. In the eyes of the undiscerning they seem to have died, and their departure was considered to be a misfortune. And their passage from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.
For though in man’s view they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Though chastened in a few things, Great kindness will be shown to them. For God tested them and found them worthy of Himself. He tested them like gold in a furnace and accepted them as a whole burnt offering…
Those who trust in Him will understand truth. And the faithful shall continue with Him in love. Because grace and mercy are upon His elect.
Trisagion for the Departed – Troparion Tone 4 – Orthodox Funeral
With the spirits of the righteous made perfect in peace give rest O Lord to the soul of Your servant, O Savior; and keep it safe in that life of blessedness that is lived with You, O Friend of Man. In the place of Your rest, O Lord, where all Your Saints repose, give rest also to the soul; of Your servant, for You alone are Immortal. You are our God Who went down to Hades to loose the pains of the dead that were there; give rest also to the I soul of Your servant. O Virgin, alone pure and immaculate, that in maiden-motherhood brought forth God, intercede for his soul that he may have mercy and salvation.
MOSCOW (Reuters) – A masked gunman entered a church and murdered a Russian Orthodox priest who had received death threats for converting Muslims to Christianity and criticizing Islam, prosecutors and church officials said Friday. The gunman approached Orthodox Priest Daniil Sysoyev, 34, in St Thomas Church in southern Moscow Thursday night, checked his name and then opened fire with a pistol, a spokesman for the investigating committee of the Prosecutor-General’s office said. “The main theory is that religious motives are behind the crime,” spokesman Anatoly Bagmet said. The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church warned on Friday against rushing to accuse “individuals or groups” of the murder of a priest in Moscow. Sysoyev was known for his missionary work among Muslim immigrants, and had received numerous death threats. Patriach Kirill said:
Any murder is a grave sin. But the murder of a priest in a church is also a challenge to the law of God. This sin will not be left unrevenged by God. And justice will hopefully be ensured by people. But as long as the killer has not been identified, I ask you to refrain from any hasty accusations against individuals or groups.
Kirill also said God’s work often requires martyrdom.
The murder stirred a wave of condemnation from all religious groups in Russia, and demands to ensure better security for the clergy. Some nationalist lawmakers claimed Thursday’s decision by the Constitutional Court to extend a ban on capital punishment in the country could have “inspired” the killer. “The priest was gunned down in a Moscow church. This happened when the Constitutional Court had virtually abolished the death penalty,” A Just Russia member Vera Lekareva said.
Martyrdom is no stranger to the Orthodox Church. From the very first martyrdoms of St. Stephen, the Apostles of Jesus, to Apostolic Fathers like Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp, to modern-day women and men – like Father Daniil – the blood of the martyrs continues to be the “seed” of the Church. In fact, more Christians have been martyred in the last century than in the previous nineteen combined, and the Orthodox Church has paid the price dearly under the tyranny of Communism and radical militant Islam. Countless millions have given their lives freely for the sake of Christ, His Church, and the precious Gospel, and it appears, that we are moving into another period of history in which Christians will be asked, once again, to give their lives as a witness – instead of denying the Truth of the gospel found in Christ Jesus.
But is it any surprise?
Jesus taught these things about the last days in which we now live…
These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. “A servant is not greater than his Master, if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…
…but when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning. John 15:18f
The question remains for all of us: “”Will I live my life like Fr. Daniil?” “Will I live in such a way as to speak the truth about the Gospel, and do it with love and no fear? And am I willing to give my life as an offering to those who would use hatred and violence to stop me?” Christianity at its core is a message of LIFE. Of mercy. Of LOVE. It is a movement of redemption, mercy, and grace. We are taught, and we believe, “Thou shall not kill.” Abortion is wrong – it is sin. Euthanasia is wrong – it is sin. Murder is wrong – it is sin. We are commanded to love our enemies, and to do good to those who hurt us and hate us. There is no room at all, in the Faith of our Fathers, for retribution, or returning evil with evil. Our Savior, is Christ Jesus, who freely gave up his life for the life of the world, who freely ascended the Cross, and allowed his enemies to murder Him for the redemption of the world, and so ours is a faith of LIFE. He never threatens, or forces, or coerces people to convert. True Christianity, does not kill others, or hurt them, or threaten them if they do not convert. But some faith traditions do.
Would you want to be part of a faith that says, “Convert or die?” Believe or else….!
How senseless? How pointless? How illogical? If your faith is the true faith, then it cannot be stopped by anyone, or any movement, including the bullet of a mortal man; for who can stop the truth and heart of God? And if your faith is the true faith, then why would you need to resort to death threats, intimidation, and strong-arm tactics to “convert” people? Wouldn’t people be naturally drawn to your Truth – simply for the sake that it is right and true? If your faith is the true faith, why would you feel the need to threaten others to stop their teachings? Would not their own pointless doctrines fall on deaf ears since yours is superior?
No Christian is afraid to die. Father Daniil was not afraid. No Christian should ever fear death. Our lives are in God’s hands. No human on earth is in control of our destiny. God alone has determined our day and time. He has already established the day and date of my departure from this world as well. And we are at peace. He is our Father, and we are His children, and He longs for the day when we will make our departure from this world, into the presence of His being. Our death is but rhe doorway to eternal life with Christ, the life that we all long for, that Jesus has already won for us. Death is not our enemy, for death has been trampled down by death. Christ is risen from the dead, and we rise in new life with Him. Similarly we love our enemies. We bless those who persecute us. We pray for our attackers. We give our coats to those who steal our clothes. We do not attack and kill, or threaten others to convert to Christianity, we simply do not need to. We speak the truth in love, and the message of Christ has the power that converts the soul, heart, and mind. We fight hatred with love. We cannot help but speak, and we cannot stop speaking with our words and with our lives, about the goodness of God. For us to stop speaking and sharing the Good News of the Gospel is like a death realized now, so how can we withhold the gift of mercy and eternal life from anyone?
In the end – we speak because we love. We will not recant our faith – for there is no other choice.
We patiently point out the errors of others, because we love them. But we will not kill. We will not murder. We do not follow the ways of Satan, who is the father of death and destruction.
Father Daniil stands in the long noble line of martyrs. Men and women who spoke courageously. He obeyed the command of Christ, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and pf the Son and of the Holy Spirit…’
For this confession he gladly exchanged his temporary life here on earth, for that which is far better, far greater – for an eternal existence in the very bosom of Christ himself for all eternity.
May God have mercy on us all. May God have mercy on those who kill, maim, threaten and take life for the cause of their faith. Pray for us now, sainted martyr Fr. Daniil Sysoyev! You may be the first of many more martyrs to come in our day and in our times. Pray for us to remain faithful, loving and steadfast in the times in which we live.
Memory Eternal Father Daniil… Memory Eternal!