When buzzards come calling…

When vultures surround you, try not to die.
African proverb


(close up of a turkey buzzard / Lifescience.com)

Look at that face would you?
Look how the nostril just opens through to the other side…
I’ve always heard that, as the garbage men of the bird world, buzzards
can’t smell…well I would certainly hope not!

It is supposedly by their keen eyesight that they are able to scope out and zoom in on the
latest roadkill.

So over the past weekend, since it has been so miserably hot and while we are still
supposedly in some sort of social distancing lockdown…
just don’t tell everyone out on the roadways that, we opted for some idyllic countryside driving.

I don’t know about you but I’ve come to realize that I feel very heavyily burdened.

Be it this ongoing Pandemic mess…total civil unrest across the nation and world…
political persecution should you support the sitting president…
Christian persecution…

All the while questions loom heavy overhead…
Will there be school, will there not be school…
will there be a second wave…did we ever finish the first wave…
will they open Chruch…will we just succumb to Marxist ideology and the church will be
rendered dead…should we don a mask or not…

And so pray tell, how much longer will all of this mess go on!?

So as we started driving and I was looking out the window, with the weight of so much
heaviness on my mind, I focused my eyes on something a bit odd…
I noticed a black image sitting atop the steeple of a small country church.


(youtube)

“Oh my gosh,” I exclaimed to my husband, “do they not have any sense of reverence?”
“Who?” my husband surprised by my question responds a bit bewildered.

“Buzzards!”
“There’s a buzzard sitting on top of that church’s cross on its steeple.

“No respect” my husband chuckles.

I wish I had been able to get out my phone to take a picture but the one I found
on-line gives you some idea of what I’m talking about.

I went back to staring out the window while musing the symbology of a specter of death
perched on a cross atop a steeple.

And so wouldn’t you know it, when we were out driving around the following day,
I saw the same thing…but this was another church with another buzzard perched up top.

What are those odds?

Coincidence?

Who knows…but what I do know is that there’s got to be a heavy dose of irony
buried somewhere in two different visions of death birds perching on top of a cross,
an image of life.

Yesterday, Tricia, over on Freedom Through Empowerment,
and I were chatting back and forth about the implications of the news over Hagia Sophia
becoming a “working” mosque again mirrored by the Marxist push to attack
Christianity here at home.

We both noted that whatever is to come from any of these latest digs at
the global body of Believers was not going to be good.

For many weeks now a thought has been nagging at the back recesses of my thoughts.
It’s a thought that I believe is being slowly fine-tuned.

This was my response to Tricia—a response I cleaned up when re-reading
my initial reply because there is just something about pecking out a deeply
thoughtful response on a phone while using a thumb.

“Tricia—as a kid, I was always mesmerized by the stories of the early saints and martyrs of the church.
I often imagined living life in early Rome,
sneaking about and worshiping in secret, in the cover of darkness or hidden in catacombs.
I imagine my defiance if ever discovered and arrested.
I would face the torture with fortitude.

Or so thought my youthful bravado self.

Even over the past decade, as we’ve seen more and more about the persecution of Christians worldwide,
I’d like to think I would be courageous.
But here, at home, we have something much more sinister and insidious.
No less full of persecution with the end goal being Christian eradication—
yet am I courageous in our oh so woke society?

Do I take to the streets in defense of my faith?

Churches are being attacked..both here and in Europe and it is not by Muslim extremists…
but by extremists none the less.

I can’t help but think God has prepared you, me, Tom, Kathy, IB, Wally, CS et al,
(just a few of the blogging community of Fatih)
to be those who dare to meet in the catacombs albeit the catacombs of today…
those of our neighborhoods and cities.
Am I willing to risk everything for my faith??
I hope I will be able to answer yes.
Is this a preparation of an ending, a clash of both Good and Evil—–
of course, we can’t answer that…but it sure does feel like it.”

And so I’ve come to view my buzzard friends as both a symbol as well as a reminder.

Death has always smugly desired to sit upon that which has always promised life.
Yet those of us who are true Believers, and trust me, there are many today
who call themselves “believers” but who are not…are here for a reason.

Do I think “the end is near?”

I asked this same question just the other day…and like the other day, I couldn’t say,
I can’t say… but what I do know is that it sure does feel like it.

So I think we need to get ready.
Catacombs and buzzards seem to be waiting!

So I’m not alone..

The continued persecution of Christians in the Middle East is one of the great
underreported stories of the 21st century.

Douglas Murray, in his insightful book The Strange Death of Europe,
warns us that there is a real danger of Europe losing its Christian roots,
values and freedoms, something which he as a gay atheist deplores.
I fear that the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque is a sign of more
troublesome times ahead.

David Robertson


(Interior of the great dome, Hagia Sophia /Paris Review)

The other day I offered a post regarding the news that the once-massive
Christian enclave of the East, the Basilica of Hagia Sophia,
had once again fallen to Muslim rule ( or perhaps ‘once again’ is not accurate as Muslim rule has shadowed the church since the 15th century–it just hasn’t been a practicing mosque but rather a museum in a Muslim nation)

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2020/07/17/the-future-of-hagia-sophia-should-be-very-troubling-to-christians/)

Hagia Sophia, constructed in 532, stood as a Christian beacon in the East, as well
for the West following the sack of Rome, until 1453–
the year when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans.
She was desecrated and turned into a mosque.

Several hundreds of years passed when the mosque next became a museum.

And then change came once again last week when the church turned mosque,
turned museum returned to a Muslim Mosque.

For nearly a thousand years, she faithfully served her flock.

And so the question that sits like an elephant in the middle of the world’s living room…
what does this mean for the Faithful now…

Our friend the Wee Flea raises this same question in his most recent post…
“The Tale of Two Buildings–the Hagia Sophia and the Free Church Manse

David begins his post by reflecting on the demise of Christianity
in the very place of her inception, the Middle East…

The Assyrians for example have shrunk from 1.3 million in Iraq to less than 250,000.
They have scattered over the world.
There are around 40,000 Assyrians in Sydney – one of whom is my barber!
In Turkey, Christians are systematically persecuted.
Foreign church workers are arrested and expelled;
evangelical churches are regularly attacked by extremists.
To even suggest that the killing of over one million Armenians by the Turks in 1914-1923
was genocide will result in you going to jail.
I recall in 2007 being in Ephesus just after three Christian leaders
had been brutally tortured and killed –
the fear amongst the Christians was palpable.

I suspect that turning the Hagia Sofia into a mosque will only make things worse
as it will encourage the more radical Islamists to fulfil their dream of a society
where Sharia law is fully enacted, and the Christians and secularists are removed.
Another Hagia Sophia in Nicaea, where the Second Council of Nicaea was held in 787,
has already been turned into a mosque. It is a concerning development which
raises a number of questions.

Turkey has, like China, signed the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights,
which amongst other things, guarantees freedom of worship, expression and belief.
Like China, it appears that its signature is meaningless.

Another area of concern is the problem of the lack of freedom in many Islamic countries.
In the West, Muslims are rightly free to worship and build mosques –
something I have defended in the past and will defend again.

There is a bigger issue here.
I have no problem with there being different religions within a pluralistic and tolerant society.
But what if that religion itself is opposed to pluralism and tolerance,
which I argue Islam is, and seeks to impose its own Sharia law?

David continues his post with a more personal reflection regarding the Chruch manse that he
and his family called home for 27 years…a church manse turned Muslim home with the
entire neighborhood becoming Muslim…

A casual observer might think that David’s feelings are somewhat racist in that he is concerned
about a Scottish neighborhood becoming Muslim, but he clearly notes that Islam is
not a race but rather a religion…and it is one that has at its core the goal of
the decimation of Christianity…

And so yes, there are big questions that remain—
What is happening to the Chruch from both within and from with-out

See David’s full post here:

A Tale of Two Buildings – the Hagia Sophia and the Free Church Manse – CT

The future of Hagia Sophia should be very troubling to Christians…

Turkey to cover Hagia Sophia’s Christian icons during prayers
Governing party’s statement comes days after Ankara turned the iconic monument
from a museum into a mosque.

Al Jazeera


(The Deësis mosaic, Hagia Sophia upon its restoration)

This past week’s news story regarding Turkey’s Hagia Sophia was buried under the
weight of a global pandemic and the continuing Western civil unrest…
but this story is no less troubling despite being shrouded by the current events
of seemingly more pressing issues.
This is a story that is most ominous to not only art historians, or to Byzantium historians,
but it should be, in particular, troubling to all of Christendom.

But first, let’s take a look back to the Basilica’s inception…

On Jan. 13, 532, riots broke out in Constantinople,
the capital of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire.
(The city of Rome itself had long since become a backwater and had finally been conquered by barbarians.
The residents of the Empire still called themselves “Romans,” though, and their capital city was
officially known as “New Rome.”)
Within a week, tens of thousands of residents were dead and nearly half of the city
had been burned or otherwise destroyed, including the foremost church of the empire,
the Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”).

(Desert News)

Historic fate struck again centuries later:
Tuesday, May 29, 1453 the ancient dream of Islam to capture Constantinople,
which originated with Muhammad, the founder of the religion was achieved by his namesake,
Mehmed II.
After allowing his troops to sack the city and terrorize the people,
killing them or capturing them to ransom or sell as slaves,
the Ottoman Sultan ordered the destruction of the city to seize.
He entered the city on horseback and rode through the doors of Hagia Sophia.
He could not travel on foot because the church was full of dead people and the floor
was covered in blood and gore. Islamic troops were in the process of smashing the icons
and stripping them of any valuables they could find.
The silver chalices, candlesticks, gospel covers and other things used in the liturgy
were taken and broken up. Priests and nuns were tortured in search for hidden treasure.
Running out of precious things
(It had been a very long time since Hagia Sophia had any treasures of value).
frenzied looting even extended to hacking at the marble ambo,
sanctuary screen and the altar-ciborium.
The ignorant soldiers believed they were made of precious stones.
Mehmed II ordered a stop to the destruction of Hagia Sophia
and declared that it was his personal property.
Next he dismounted from his horse, climbed onto the great altar and
recited a Muslim prayer converting Hagia Sophia into a Muslim mosque.
Eleven hundred years of Hagia Sophia as a Christian church ended.

(pallasweb.com)
https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/history.html


(shutterstock)

Hagia Sophia, Turkish Ayasofya, Latin Sancta Sophia,
also called Church of the Holy Wisdom or Church of the Divine Wisdom,
cathedral built at Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey)
in the 6th century CE (532–537) under the direction of the
Byzantine emperor Justinian I.
By general consensus, it is the most important Byzantine structure and one
of the world’s great monuments.

The Hagia Sophia was built in the remarkably short time of about six years,
being completed in 537 CE. Unusual for the period in which it was built,
the names of the building’s architects—Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus—-
are well known, as is their familiarity with mechanics and mathematics.
The Hagia Sophia combines a longitudinal basilica and a centralized building
in a wholly original manner, with a huge 32-metre (105-foot)
main dome supported on pendentives and two semidomes, one on either side of the longitudinal axis.
In plan the building is almost square. There are three aisles separated by columns
with galleries above and great marble piers rising up to support the dome.
The walls above the galleries and the base of the dome are pierced by windows,
which in the glare of daylight obscure the supports and give the impression
that the canopy floats on air.

The original church on the site of the Hagia Sophia is said to have been ordered to be built
by Constantine I in 325 on the foundations of a pagan temple.
His son, Constantius II, consecrated it in 360.
It was damaged in 404 by a fire that erupted during a riot following the second banishment
of St. John Chrysostom, then patriarch of Constantinople.
It was rebuilt and enlarged by the Roman emperor Constans I.
The restored building was rededicated in 415 by Theodosius II.
The church was burned again in the Nika insurrection of January 532,
a circumstance that gave Justinian I an opportunity to envision a splendid replacement.

The structure now standing is essentially the 6th-century edifice,
although an earthquake caused a partial collapse of the dome in 558
(restored 562) and there were two further partial collapses,
after which it was rebuilt to a smaller scale and the whole church reinforced from the outside.
It was restored again in the mid-14th century. For more than a millennium, it was the
Cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
It was looted in 1204 by the Venetians and the Crusaders on the Fourth Crusade.

After the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453,
Mehmed II had it repurposed as a mosque, with the addition of a wooden minaret
(on the exterior, a tower used for the summons to prayer),
a great chandelier, a mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca),
and a minbar (pulpit). Either he or his son Bayezid II erected the red minaret
that stands on the southeast corner of the structure.
The original wooden minaret did not survive.
Bayezid II erected the narrow white minaret on the northeast side of the mosque.
The two identical minarets on the western side were likely commissioned by
Selim II or Murad III and built by renowned Ottoman architect Sinan in the 1500s.

In 1934 Turkish Pres. Kemal Atatürk secularized the building,
and in 1935 it was made into a museum.
Art historians consider the building’s beautiful mosaics to be the main source of knowledge
about the state of mosaic art in the time shortly after the end of the Iconoclastic Controversy
in the 8th and 9th centuries.

The Hagia Sophia is a component of a UNESCO World Heritage site called the
Historic Areas of Istanbul (designated 1985), which includes that city’s other
major historic buildings and locations.

(britanica.com)

And yet once again, the fate of the Basilica Hagia Sophia turned Mosque, turned Museum
turns once again…this turn, however, becomes a great detriment to both
Christians and historians—

The UNESCO World Heritage treasure and long desecrated Christian Bascillica will
once again become a mosque…
a place that will not be welcoming to anyone other than Muslim worshipers.

Turkey’s Islamist Dream Finally Becomes a Reality
The Hagia Sophia has been designated as a mosque again,
its status as a museum viewed for decades as a seal on the country’s spirit.

(NY Times)

According to an article in the New York Times, this past week,
the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, issued a decree ordering the Hagia Sophia,
a majestic 65,000-square-foot stone structure from the sixth century in Istanbul,
to be opened for Muslim prayers.
The same day, a top Turkish court had revoked the 1934 decree by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,
the founder of the Turkish republic, which had turned it into a museum.

The Hagia Sophia was built as a cathedral and converted into a mosque, and then a museum.
It has for centuries been the object of fierce civilizational rivalry between the Ottoman
and Orthodox worlds.

The reconversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque was an old dream of Turkey’s Islamists.
In the Islamist political tradition of President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party,
Ataturk’s experiment in secular republican government was a foreign imposition on Turkey,
and the Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum a seal on the country’s spirit.

After making the announcement, according to one report,
Mr. Erdogan was so shaken with emotion that he did not sleep until first light the next morning.
What he thought of as an era of humiliation had ended.

Various authorities of the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches voiced their indignation,
and the pope (Pope Francis) expressed “profound sadness.”
The governments of the European Union and the United States muttered their regrets.
There are also Christian extremists who care deeply about the Hagia Sophia and its symbolism.
These sentiments make the decision all the more exciting to many Turks.

So a warning dear Christian brothers and sisters…
While our Western Chruchs have shuttered their doors over the growing concerns of COVID 19…
while the protests and riots grow in scope and go largely ignored by governmental leadership…
Christian voices from our ancient past are also being shuttered and silenced.

As long as the faithful remain silent, the wolves will continue to devour the flock.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 7:15
English Standard Version