CONSTANTINOPLE FALLS…AGAIN

The whole world is aware of the controversy surrounding the proposal to build a Muslim mosque on the Ground Zero site that sustained the attack of September 11, 2001. Suddenly people who despise the idea of religion in public life and who become squeamish at the thought of public prayer are becoming misty eyed in their support for the religious freedom of the Muslims whose motives for building this mosque are rightly being questioned. Strangely, the clash of three civilizations is repeating itself at the site of Islam’s expansionist rebirth. Surely you recognize the conflict of Islam and Western Christianity as it boils over into the streets of New York. But what of Eastern Christianity? It too has a role in this controversy just as surely as it was at the center of the storm that resulted in the Medieval Crusades, and once again we see how little man has “evolved” in the 915 years since the Western Christian powers came to the aid of the Christian East. It looks disturbingly as much like 1095 as it does 2010.

Apparently Father Mark Arey of the St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand why the Muslim Mosque is all the rage in the media while his little church struggles in obscurity. You see, the St. Nicholas Church was actually located at Ground Zero BEFORE the attack of September 11, 2001. It was annihilated when the South Tower fell and consumed it. In the nine years since, the same Port Authority that so enthusiastically supported the proposal to install a Muslim Mosque at the site of one of Islam’s great successes has failed to authorize the Christian Eastern Orthodox Church to rebuild.

“I dare say this, if this were a Roman Catholic church or a Baptist church or even a synagogue, we would not have had this problem. I’m not sure we haven’t been a little bit bullied because we’re tiny.” -Father Mark Arey, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

And you thought the liberal media were standing up for the minority underdog.

In the tradition of most Orthodox churches, St. Nicholas held relics of saints, including the one for which the church was named: St. Nicholas of Myra (270-346 AD). This Saint was known for his love of children and was particularly beloved by the Dutch, who called him Sinterklaas and believed that he delivered treats to children on a special night every December. Sinterklaas? Sound familiar? He was the patron saint of Amsterdam and I am sure that most of you remember your history well enough to know that New York was originally a Dutch settlement called New Amsterdam.

However I bet most of you didn’t know that a church containing relics of the actual St. Nicholas was amongst the collateral damage inflicted by those Islamic barbarians on that fateful day. Had this been made known then perhaps the American public would not have weakened its resolve in the subsequent years following the attack. It’s one thing to strike a blow against the economic center of capitalism in the heart of the “Great Satan,” but they also attacked…Santa Clause!!! Barbarians indeed.

Soon after the Towers fell, Port Authority officials, and then Governor George Pataki, vowed to build a new St. Nicholas Church on the World Trade Center site. A location at 130 Liberty Street was agreed upon. Apparently that location would allow for a larger structure with a traditional Greek Orthodox dome, and a non-denominational center for visitors to ground zero. It was felt the church would likely attract thousands of pilgrims to the World Trade Center site who might appreciate the secular memorial but who also thirst for a spiritual memorial. If the raising of a new World Trade Center Monument is meaningful to us, then the resurrection of the site’s ONLY original sacred structure would also have to be considerably meaningful. Unfortunately, that meaning may well be too politically incorrect for our time.

In 1054 the two great churches of Christendom split when the Western Church broke away from the Eastern Orthodox. The Western Church became forever known as the Roman Catholic Church. The cause of this division can be found in primarily one issue: the Primacy of the Pope of Rome.

Until the Fifth Century A.D. there was never a single instance of dissension or antagonism between the two Churches. The Bishop of Rome had always been considered the First in the order of hierarchy. This was a natural consequence of the position of Rome as the capital of the Roman Empire. When Constantinople became the new capital of the Byzantine State its Bishop assumed the second position in the ranks of the hierarchy. However, with the rise in prominence of Constantinople the Pope of Rome’s claim to universal jurisdiction was soon to be contested.

The influence of Greek thought on Christian thinking led to all sorts of divergent and conflicting opinions. Theology was also used as a weapon against opponent bishops, because being branded a heretic was the only sure way for a bishop to be removed by other bishops.
The opinion of the bishop of Rome was always sought, and his approval often desired. However the Bishop of Rome’s opinion was not always accepted by all.

Divisions and arguments fomented for centuries until the two entities essentially excommunicated each other. All this is fascinating in that just a few decades after the split, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus would ask the Christian West for military assistance to help him resist Islam’s expansion into Byzantine territory. An expansion that was becoming a threat to Constantinople itself. Constantinople, you will recall, is named after the Roman Emperor Constantine who himself converted to Christianity and legalized it in Rome. The help that the Christian West provided to the East has been forever known as the Crusades.

The Crusades had their own political intrigues that involved repeated betrayals by the Byzantines who were quite fearful of the Crusaders. Eventually these betrayals would lead to the Crusaders actually sacking Constantinople themselves during the fourth Crusade on April 12, 1204. In spite of all the distrust and infighting, the city remained in Christian hands until May of 1453 when Sultan Mehmed II finally conquered the city with a massive slaughter of the Christians inside. The city was renamed Istanbul and, interestingly, The Church of the Holy Wisdom, also called the Hagia Sophia, was converted into the Ayasofya Mosque. This was done in keeping with the Muslim tradition of building mosques on the sites of their great victories.

Throughout history, Muslim conquerors have demonstrated their dedication to “multiculturalism” and “inclusiveness” by purposefully erecting mosques over some of the most sacred and hallowed places of Jewish and Christian worship. The al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is built on top of one the holiest site Judaism, the Temple Mount.  The Cordoba mosque in Spain was a former Christian cathedral. Muslims have engaged in this practice for centuries, symbolizing their victories over the infidels. Significantly, the Muslims proposed to name their Mosque at Ground Zero the Cordoba House until the symbolism behind that name was brought to everyone’s attention. Islam is nothing if not consistent.

Symbolism is important to Muslims. You should not believe that the date of September 11 was some random choice by Osama bin Laden. That date held an important symbolic meaning…and no, bin Laden was no fan of legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant who was born on that day in 1913. Rather bin Laden was well aware that on September 11, 1683 The King of Poland, Jan III Sobieski, attacked the Muslim army that had besieged Vienna, Austria. He subsequently routed the Muslims and this defeat would represent the end of Islamic attempts to expand their territory westward. To the Muslims it was a humiliation. The attack on the World Trade Center was delivered on that date to send a message to the West that “The Religion Of Peace” is back on the offensive. How many of us got the message?

The founders of the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque at Ground Zero say they want peace and reconciliation. They got approval for their project, and look what’s happened. They have created nothing but conflict and divisiveness. Or as Jesus might say, by their fruits you will know them. I propose that they have generated the exact results they were seeking.

The liberal politicians and media personalities that have suddenly discovered their religious tolerance are not lecturing to us because of their love for Islam. In fact, it is their continuing hatred for Christianity that motivates their support for the Ground Zero Mosque. In their world of moral relativism ALL religions are equal. Therefore their support is not intended to raise Islam up in the eyes of the public. It is rather to bring Christianity down to Islam’s level. The United States was founded on Christian principles, not Islamic ones. Yet they would equate the two. As always, the evil religion of equality is behind their actions. They have offered ZERO support for the St. Nicholas Church.

“The Port Authority may be Goliath, but we’re David and you remember how that story ended.” -Father Mark Arey

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that negotiations between the St. Nicholas Church and the Port Authority had resumed, but Father Arey says no one has reached out to him. “We are very concerned. We’re not going to be pushed out. We are very determined to rebuild the church at Ground Zero.”

How little has changed. Once again the Christians of the West are needed to rescue the Christians of the East. The Mosque itself may be a constitutional right, however, the right of the St. Nicholas Church is just as protected and, of course, they were there first. Can we be motivated like those Crusaders of old to act in defense of our brethren of the East? Or do we watch as Constantinople falls again, right before our eyes? Islam is once again wrapping itself around Christianity and constricting the life out of it. If we cannot rise to the aid of St. Nicholas Church and insist that IT have priority at Ground Zero, then Islam truly will own the battlefield and be the clear victor in the battle of New York City. A Battle they started by attacking on September 11, 2001.

C,mon…rise up and defend Santa Claus!

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