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Father Daniel, priest and martyr

24 November 2009

Fr Daniel Sysoyev

The murder of Father Daniel Sysoev last week has shocked Russia. Father Daniel, aged 34, was shot by a masked gunman at St Thomas’s Church in southern Moscow last week. The parish choir director, Vladimir Strelbitsky, was wounded in the shooting.

Father Daniel worked in a multiethnic suburb of Moscow, where people of many different nationalities lived, including many Muslims. He was active in mission and evangelism and more than 30 former Muslims had been baptised in the Church. Shortly before his death Father Daniel said he had received death threats because of his missionary work.

There is an interesting interview with Fr Daniel about his missionary work at Orthodox/Islam — Voices from Russia:

I last met with Fr Daniil just last week… I was going to write an article about his missionary school. He opened it two years ago at his parish, St Thomas church. Classes meet twice a week, the curriculum includes a comparative analysis of Islam and Orthodox Christianity, the strengths and weaknesses of each religion, and in-depth study of both the Koran and the Bible. Fr Daniil, himself half-Tatar in ancestry, was the only priest in Moscow who advocated preaching Orthodoxy amongst the migrants and guest workers. His clerical colleagues called him the “Orthodox Wahhabi” for the fire gleaming in his eyes and his passionate speeches.

Last Sunday was the 24th Sunday after Pentecost — Tone 7 (9th of Luke). Afterfeast of the Entry Into the Temple.

The Prokimenon for Tone 7 has the verse:

The Lord shall give strength to his people
The Lord shall bless his people with peace.

And the Epistle reading, Ephesians 2:14-22, seemed very appropriate for the work of Father Daniel

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,
16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.
18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

In his life and ministry Father Daniel tried to bring people from all kinds of ethnic and cultural backgrounds into the inclusive fellowship of the household of God.

But some people do not like that.

In Genesis 12 God promised Abraham that he would make his descendants a powerful nation, and they would be a blessing to all nations. But Abraham’s descendants found it easier to remember the first part than the second. They remembered the “powerful nation” part, but forgot the part about being a blessing to all nations.

And those of us on the new calendar were also commemorating the Afterfeast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple. She came to the old temple, made with hands, but she herself was the new temple, giving birth to the One who would draw all men to Himself.

Today is the prelude of God’s goodwill
and the prophecy of the salvation of men
the virgin appears openly in the temple of God and foretells Christ to all
so let us cry to her with loud voices
rejoice, thou who art the fulfilment of the Creator’s providence.

She who is to give birth to the one who breaks down the wall of separation.

People have recently been celebrating the 20th anniversary of the breaking down of a wall of separation in Berlin, yet even as they celebrate, another wall has arisen in Israel/Palestine. But Christ breaks down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile, between Russian and Azerbajani, between Pedi and Shona, between white and black. He is our peace.

The Lord shall give strength to his people
The Lord shall bless his people with peace.

So I preached on Sunday in Mamelodi. And so Father Daniel preached in Moscow. But he didn’t merely preach it, he lived it, and died for it.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 3 December 2009 12:05 am

    What a waste! How sad! When will these antipathies end?

  2. 19 June 2013 1:20 pm

    The antipathies between Islam and Christianity will end when Islam is no more.

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