This is yet another highly symbolic event inked to this great and ancient church building, which we Orthodox Christians must respond to...
There has been a growing movement within Turkey for several years demanding the re-conversion into a mosque of Hagia Sophia — for centuries the greatest church in all of Christendom. The great church was turned into a mosque in 1453 after the Muslim Turks conquered Constantinople and subjugated the surviving Christian inhabitants. Following the defeat of the Ottoman empire in World War I, the new leader of the secular state of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, in 1935 put a stop to Islamic prayers in Hagia Sophia, and had it converted into a museum.
Ever since Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in Turkey in 2003, calls for turning Hagia Sophia back into a functioning mosque have been steadily increasing. Following one such occurrence in May 2014, I wrote the following:
Muslim Prayers at Hagia Sophia - A Sign Calling Us to Repent
Erdogan has set his sights on Hagia Sophia, to turn the once luminous church structure into a dark and oppressive mosque again. Such a symbolic achievement would appear to Muslims as a second conquering of Christendom, bolstering Erdogan's push to reinstitute the Islamic caliphate, with Turkey at its head.
Islam must have such temporal victories and exert political and military domination in order to justify its existence, as Muhammad's successes in battle, culminating in his retaking of Mecca ten years after being driven out in weakness and disgrace, forever set the example for Muslims to follow.
But worldly success and temporal victories and kingdoms are not the Christian way.
Christians follow Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who "had no place to lay His head," who emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and who submitted Himself fully to the divine will of the Father, even to the point of death on the cross. Here we have no city, but are called to be pilgrims and aliens, journeying to our heavenly homeland. In the radical words of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to take up our cross and follow Him. As Fr Seraphim Rose put it:
"Let us not, who would be Christians, expect anything else from it than to be crucified. For to be a Christian is to be crucified, in this time and in any time since Christ came for the first time.
"His life is the example—and warning—to us all. We must be crucified personally, mystically; for through crucifixion is the only path to resurrection. If we would rise with Christ, we must first be humbled with Him—even to the ultimate humiliation, being devoured and spit forth by the uncomprehending world.
"And we must be crucified outwardly, in the eyes of the world; for Christ's Kingdom is not of this world, and the world cannot bear it, even in a single representation of it, even for a single moment."
If the Muslims convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque a second time, then we Christians must see in this God's providential will. If God allows the enemy to reconquer Christian symbols, then we must take it as a warning to not place our trust in mere symbols, but in the Real and True Son of God Himself. We must allow such calamities to spur us on to ever deepening faith and ever more fervent repentance.
As Islam and the other forces of evil wage open warfare against Christ and His Church in these last times, we are called to be faithful to the end. And if we remain faithful, then, like the Lord, we shall find our victory mystically concealed in our Golgotha.
Scroll down for the latest news story in this drama which extends back to the early Islamic sieges of Constantinople...