Prophecies of the Holy Fathers about Monasticism in the End Times

NOTE: In both the verbal and fax homilies that Geronda Ephraim gives to his monastics, he emphasizes “we are the monks of the last days; the holy fathers prophesied about our generation.” He uses this as a kind of encouragement for his monastics not to fall in despair for being weak and not gaining great spiritual heights as “this generation will not accomplish any great feats like the fathers of old.” It is also used to justify the secularization, worldiness, and lack of ascesis in contemporary Greek-American monasticism, to encourage the younger monastics not to have logismoi or be scandalized with the contrast between what is written in the monastic texts and what is actually practised and lived in the monasteries. These prophecies are also used as “leverage” as to why only blind obedience to Geronda Ephraim, the Prayer, and patient endurance are necessary.

Geronda Ephraim teaches his monastics that they are the last generation of monks whom the Desert Fathers prophesied about.
Geronda Ephraim teaches his monastics that they are the last generation of monks whom the Desert Fathers prophesied about.

The prophecies of Abba Moses the Ethiopian, do not appear in any of the Patristic writings of the time, nor his Synaxarion. Much like the “Constantinople Prophecy” of St. Methodius (believed to be the work of a 7th century Syrian Monophysite), none of the Church Fathers mention or quote these prophecies. They only appear in 20th century books about end-time prophecies.

(See Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition)

The 20th century became a hotbed for the dissemination of spurious prophecies attributed to various saints. Many of these spurious prophecies were accepted as legitimate and incorporated into the eschatology of various contemporary Elders, especially on Mount Athos. Moreover, antiquated and heretical “prophetic” and “visionary” texts that were never accepted by the Church—The Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius; The Apocalypse of St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ, etc.—contained so many Scriptural errors, heresies, and mythological traditions that only the passages that fit into the specific eschatological teaching of Constantinople’s liberation were extracted and the remainder of the texts ignored. Many contemporary books omit all the heresies and false histories and only publish the verses that are “prophetic”. They still print the verses that say all these things would occur in the 6th or 7th Millenium but these dates have already past. Over the years, various monasteries under Geronda Ephraim have sold (and still sell) books containing some of these spurious prophecies. Elder Ephraim has also given numerous homilies to his monastics and pilgrims quoting these spurious prophecies and affirming that everything will happen “just as the Holy Fathers say it will.” These spurious prophecies are taught as the “consensus of the Fathers.”

Interestingly, many of these prophecies accurately describe certain aspects of the life and atmosphere in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. desert_fathers

Abba Ischyron

The Holy Fathers were making predictions about the last generation. They said, “What have we ourselves done?”

One of them, the great Abba Ischyron, replied, “We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.”

The others replied, “And those who come after us, what will they do?”

He said, “They will struggle to achieve half our works.”

They said, “And to those who come after them, what will happen?”

He said, “The men of that generation will not accomplish any works at all and temptation will come upon them, and those who will be approved in that day will be greater than either us or our Fathers.”

An Anonymous Elder

“It is better to dwell together with three God-fearing people rather than dwell together with thousands who don’t have the fear of God. I tell you this because when the end of the world approaches, if, for example, there is a monastery with 100 monks, then it is questionable whether two or three monks from among them will be found who will save their souls. Again, even though the monks are 50, there will not be found even one amongst them who will save his soul.”

“All will throw themselves into food and their heart will love the dining tables, the belly, and money.”

“Nevertheless, do not be amazed so much on account of this, it is more amazing to see whether one soul will escape from the mouth of the enemy.”

Abba Pambo (d. 374)
Abba Pambo (d. 374)

Abba Pambo

“And I will tell you this, my child that the days will come when the Christians will add to and will take away from, and will alter the books of the Holy Evangelists, and of the Holy Apostles, and of the Divine Prophets, and of the Holy Fathers. They’ll tone down the Scriptures and will compose troparia, hymns and writings technologically.”

“Their nous will be spilled out among them, and will become alienated from its Heavenly Prototype. For this reason, the Holy Fathers had previously encouraged the monks of the desert to write down the lives of the Fathers not on parchment, but onto paper, because of the coming generation will change them to suit their own personal tastes. So you see, my child, the evil that comes will be horrible.”

Then the disciple asked: “So, then, Geronda, the traditions and the practices of Christians are going to be changed? Maybe there won’t be enough priests in the Church when these unfortunate times come?”

And the Holy Father continued: “In those times, the love for God in most souls will grow cold and a great sadness will fall upon the world. One nation shall face off against another. Peoples will move away from their own places. Rulers will be confused. The clergy will be thrown into anarchy, and the monks will be more inclined to negligence. The Church leaders will consider anything concerned with salvation—both for their own souls and the souls of their flock—as useless and they will despise any such concern. All will show eagerness and energy for every matter regarding their dining table and their appetites. They’ll be lazy in their prayers and casual in their criticisms. As for the lives and teachings of the Holy Fathers, they will not have any interest to imitate them, nor even to hear them. Rather, they will complain and say, ‘If we had lived in those times then we would have behaved like that.’ And the Bishops shall give way to the powerful of the world, giving answers on different matters only after taking gifts from everywhere and consulting the rational logic of the academics. The poor man’s rights will not be defended; they’ll afflict widows and harass orphans. Debauchery will permeate these people. Most won’t believe in God; they’ll hate each other and devour one another like beasts. They’ll steal from each other; they’ll be drunk and walk about blind.”

The disciple asked again: “What can we do in such a state?”

And Abba Pambo answered: “My child, in those times, whoever will save his soul and prompt others to be saved will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

St. John the Dwarf (d. ca. 405)
St. John the Dwarf (d. ca. 405)

Abba John

Abba John used to say, that he saw in a vision one of the old men in a state of stupefaction, and behold, three monks were standing on the shore of a lake, and a voice came to them from heaven (or from the other shore of the lake), which said, “Take ye wings of fire and come to me”; and two of them took wings of fire and flew over to the other side, even as it was told them. Now the third remained behind, and he wept abundantly, and cried out, and at length wings were given to him also, but they were not of fire like those of his companions, for they were weak and feeble wings, and it was only with the greatest difficulty, and after dropping down into the water, and with most painful exertions that he reached the [opposite] shore. And even so is it with this generation, for although it taketh to itself wings, they are not the powerful wings of fire, but it forceth itself to take weak and feeble wings.

St. Moses the Ethiopian (d. ca 405)
St. Moses the Ethiopian (d. ca 405)

Abba Moses the Ethiopian

Abba Moses, prophesying said, “In the last days of the seventh and a half eon, the monastic state will be completely neglected and in the future, the monks will despise the salvation of their souls. Therefore, the brothers will go about amidst the tumults and troubles: darkened, useless and careless, and they will not cultivate the virtues at all; enslaved in the passions of sin. For where the ancient strugglers burned Satan, that is where Satan is going to burn and set aflame those monks and he will defeat those negligent monks who despise the laws of the monastic life. But where righteousness abounded, there is to abound much more sin and iniquity, because the love of the many will grow cold, and without fear they will be going around the villages with gluttony and wine-drinking, and between the vanity of the world, sinning together in licentiousness and the impurities of the flesh.

“And in those days there will be hate, envy, contentious strivings, and fights in the coenobiums, until murder; likewise, even in the idiorhythmic lavras, from the evils of one towards the other one’s neighbors, on account of the canons and spiritual struggles being neglected.”

[NOTE: The fistfight at St. Anthony’s Monastery between two novices from Toronto—the brothers Eleutheris and Demetrios—is still talked about today. As well, the Athonite Fathers who are here in the States still talk about the monk at Filotheou who chased another monk with a knife throughout the monastery ready to murder him].

“They will elect abbots and shepherds: men without virtues, unbelievers, making no progress, anomelies, and uncouth—not discerning the right path from the left, careless and worrying about many things.”

“The abbots will seize their primacy with gifts and will take upon the abbacy without knowing how to catechize and admonish the flock of the brotherhood and without realizing that they should be the type and example in order to benefit their flock. But from such negligence and despisement of the shepherds, they will lead themselves into perdition.”

After these things, the salve of God Moses saw that a cloud and tempest—gloomy, dark, and more fearful temptations—fell upon the monks from the arctic and the monks were persecuted. And because of destructive heresies they will be forced to cast away the monastic schema and get married. Then the few strugglers who were tried as gold and silver in the furnace of many great afflictions, persecutions and grief—those who show themselves tried and victorious over these great afflictions and temptations—will be magnified, glorified, and honored by God more than those who endured the burden of the day and the burning heat and the cold of the night.

After these things, the slave of God Moses saw that the winter of afflictions, temptations and grief of the terrible heresies passed by and there was peace and calm.

Again, however, after the passing of some number of years, the Angelic Order of Monks will become negligent and worse than the first—temptations will rise up again and they will be more violent. He saw how the monks mingled dishonorably with the nuns and that the evil desire was mixed up together with the tyranny, so that even those who didn’t want to were corrupted. But the priests will be polluted with fornications and their prebyteras will commit adultery. Likewise, those men with whom the presbyteras committed adultery will go with other married women.

Then it will be done: The wrath of God consuming every evil generation there with fire, and they will be driven away into eternal fire.

Blessed, then, is whoever does not submit and bow down in the lawless work of debaucheries—which are more violent and heavier sins than murder—but they shall resist and reproach the lawlessness as John the Forerunner and they will be triumphant in reproaching the incest and they will be murdered by the vile, unclean, and licentious people of those times. They will be given comfort and rest in the bosoms of the glorious Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and they will dwell in the Kingdom of Heaven, adorned and gladdened along with all the Saints; whose share and portion may we also acquire through the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Abba Silvanus

As Abba Silvanus was sitting with brethren, one day he was rapt in ecstasy and fell with his face t the ground. After a long time, he got up and wept. The brethren besought him, saying, “What is it, Father?”

But he remained silent and wept. When they insisted on his speaking, he said, “I was taken up to see the Judgement, and I saw there many of our sort (i.e. monastics) coming to punishment and many seculars going into the Kingdom.”

st-nifon11

St. Nephon

NOTE: The Life of St. Nephon is one of Geronda Ephraim’s favorite books. He gave his spiritual child, Archimandrite Ignatios Apostolopoulos—who now resides at St. Anthony’s Monastery—an obedience to translate it into English.  It was published in 1989 under the title, Stories, Sermons, and Prayers of St. Nephon: An Ascetic Bishop. Fr. Demetrios Carellas, another spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim, wrote the introduction. Geronda Ephraim’s teachings are greatly influenced by this book and he paraphrases St. Nephon’s prophecies and visions in many of his homilies. Geronda Ephraim presents this particular prophecy as being fulfilled right now; i.e. this is the last generation of monks and the end of the world is just around the corner.

“The prophets of the Lord God will not disappear till the end of the world, just as the workers of Satan will never be absent. In the last days, however, all that work truly for Christ will hide from the people wisely. And if they don’t perform signs and wonders like today, nevertheless, they will always walk on the narrow path in all humility. In the Kingdom of God, they will be greater than the wonderworkers, because in their time there will not be anyone performing miracles, to incite them to spiritual struggles, since those who will occupy priestly offices throughout the world will be completely unsuitable and will have no trace of virtue. But the leaders of the monks will also be the same. They will have surrendered to gluttony and vainglory. Consequently, they will constitute more of a stumbling block than a model. That’s why virtue will be neglected. Avarice will reign everywhere. But woe to the monk who will prosper with gold, because they will be disgraced in the eyes of the Lord and will not see the face of God.

Monastics and laymen will lend money with interest. They will not prefer that God multiply it for them through alms to the poor. For this reason, also, if they do not withdraw from this greed, they will sink to the abyss. Then, as I said before, the majority will be misled by ignorance into the chaos of the broad and wide road of perdition.”

Fr. Seraphim (Sam) Lawson

Occultism, Occult Functionaries & Demonology in the Old Testament (Solomon Nigosian, 1978)

NOTE: The following article is taken from OCCULTISM in the OLD TESTAMENT, pp. 9-15.

Occultism in the Old testament (1978)

From the early origins of the settlement of the Old Testament people in Palestine up to the Babylonian captivity, their religious practices included magic, sorcery, witchcraft, demonology and divination. There is no better evidence for this than the words of the author who recorded the cause for the defeat and exile (in 586 B.C.) of the southern kingdom, Judah:

And he [Manasseh] did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, according to the abominable practices of the nations…he rebuilt the high places…he erected the altars for Ba’al…worshipped all the host of heaven…burnt his son as an offering, and practised witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted the mediums and the wizards. [2 Kings 21:2-6]

The situation in the northern kingdom, Israel, was similar. Less than a century and a half before Judah’s downfall, Israel too had gone to exile (in 721 B.C.). And its religious practices also included the magical and divinatory arts.

And…the children of Israel sinned against YHWH their god…and feared other gods…and did secretly things that were not right…and made their sons and daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and sorcery. [2 Kings 17:7-17]

Illustration from the Nuremberg Chronicle of the destruction of Jerusalem under the Babylonian rule
Illustration from the Nuremberg Chronicle of the destruction of Jerusalem under the Babylonian rule

These arts were practiced by various skilled functionaries: the sorcerer, the soothsayer, the medium, the necromancer, the wizard, the charmer, the auger, the diviner, the dream-expert, the seer, the vision-expert, the priest, and the prophet. The importance attached to such qualified practitioners by the Old Testament people is seen in the statement by Isaiah (3:2-3), who places the expert in charms, the skillful magician and the diviner on the same plane as the mighty man and soldier, the judge, the elder, and the prophet. Isaiah was merely stating a known fact—namely, the high prestige that such practitioners enjoyed within their society (cf. also Isa. 8:19). Similarly, when Jeremiah (27:9) tells the public, “do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dream-experts, your soothsayers or your sorcerers,” he is simply reiterating the importance attached to these practitioners in the life of the people of the state.

Incidentally, Jeremiah’s distinctive use of the second masculine plural form—your—is very significant, for it indicates that there were at least two types of practitioners: the false and the true. When Jeremiah accuses “your prophets, your diviners, your dream-experts, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers,” it is obvious that his accusation is not directed against all persons who performed such practices, since he himself was one of them. Rather, Jeremiah was accusing only those whose practices he considered to result in false victims, omens, and oracles, because they were not performed by consulting YHWH.

προφήτης Ιερεμίας

It was not just the ordinary people who sought help from the skilled functionaries; the kings did likewise. King Manasseh made public use of soothsayers, augers, sorcerers, medium-experts and wizards (2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron. 33:6). Similarly, King Ahab had qualified practitioners in his palace who were also experts in the art of cleromancy (1 Kings 20:30-34). Moreover, he consulted some 400 prophets, experts who performed their magical imitative art in order to ensure the success of his mission (1 Kings 22:1-28). That Ahab had 950 prophets who possessed and controlled the mystical knowledge of Ba’al and Asherah (1 Kings 18:19) surely indicates the importance attached to such men by the Israelite sovereigns.

Furthermore, King Saul made use of the services of mediums, wizards, dream-experts, cleromancers, prophets, and necromancers (1 Sam. 14:36-46; 28:3-19). When David succeeded Saul as king he inherited from his predecessor not only the court officials, but also the court experts in magical practices and divinatory arts. He often consulted them, especially in time of national raids and attacks (2 Sam. 5:17-25). On the other hand, King Solomon not only inherited these court experts, but added a host of qualified functionaries whose deities were other than YHWH: Sidonians, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites and Hittites (1 Kings 11:1-10). These functionaries performed the various magical practices and divinatory arts connected with their respective deities, Ashtoreth, Milcom, Molech and Chemosh. They must have been in sharp conflict with the group who performed their arts in the name of YHWH. More will be said about this conflict presently.

Prophet Solomon
Prophet Solomon

The so-called attempted reforms of both King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4; 2 Chron. 29:3-31:20) and King Josiah (2 Kings 23:4-24; 2 Chron. 34:1-7) indicates, at least, how deeply rooted was the belief in the efficacy of magical practices and divinatory arts. But there is more than that! The Old Testament people had built on certain hilltops and valleys, as well as beside various trees, waters, rocks and stones, altars or sanctuaries. It was only natural that the people should continue to go to such “sacred” sites not only to burn incense and worship idols, molten images, and all the host of heaven, but to practice magic, sorcery, human offerings and divination (2 Kings 17:7-18). They persisted in such practices even during Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s so-called reform, and performed the magical customs of the surrounding nations (2 Kings 17:8).

The settling of the Old Testament people in Canaan involved, both culturally and religiously, the establishment of close relations—if not complete fusion—with the native people and the surrounding neighbors:

So the people of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites; and they took their daughters to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons. And they served their gods…forgetting YHWH their god, and serving the Ba’als and the Asheroth. [Judges 3:5-6]

Thus the practice of magical and divinatory arts in Israel had developed from various sources. Nevertheless there appears to have developed an intense power struggle between those that practiced the art in the name of YHWH and those who practiced in the name of a number of other deities, collectively known as Ba’alim. These latter were regarded as “false” through and through by the former—false deities, false practitioners and false messages (Jer. 14:14; 27:9-10). While the struggle may have existed from the first on a small scale between the practitioners themselves, eventually it came into the open and became a political power struggle on a national scale.

Righteous Hezekiah
Righteous Hezekiah

Thus, the reforms of King Hezekiah and King Josiah should perhaps not be regarded as attempts to abolish magical and divinatory practices, but rather to suppress the so-called false practitioners in favor of true practitioners. Both these two kings used their political powers to overthrow the false functionaries, whose practices were regarded as abominable. In contrast, King Ahab and King Manasseh used all possible means of political pressure to uphold and support such false practitioners. Consequently, these two latter kings “rebuilt the high places…erected the altars for Ba’al and made an Asherah…worshipped all the host of heaven and served them…practised witchcraft and did sorcery, and consulted the medium and the wizards” (2 Kings 21:2-6).

A number of early prophets—Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Elisha, Elijah, and a host of seers, dream-experts, priests, and prophets, all tried to suppress the so-called practitioners who used the sacred arts in the name of Ba’alim. Thus, Isaiah (57:5-9) condemned the public not because they practiced the magical rite of cereal offering and libation, but because they exchanged YHWH’s power for other deities (cf. also Ezek. 16:19-22). Again, it was commonly believed by the YHWHistic group that those who consulted “foreign” gods stirred YHWH to jealousy and provoked him to anger (Deut. 32:16).

Prophet Samuel
Prophet Samuel

Furthermore, the YHWHistic group believed that the so-called false practitioners offered sacrifices, not to their respective deities, but to demons (Deut. 32:17). However, much to their frustration, the public continued to seek the practices of these false functionaries.

Consequently, the YHWHistic group strongly opposed and openly condemned those who performed the practices of the art considering them to be not only evil or abominable (Deut. 18:9), but “playing the harlot” (Exod. 34:15-17; Lev. 17:7; 20:2-6; Deut. 31:16; Judges 2:17, 8:33; Psalm 106:39). As a matter of fact the metaphor of harlotry was commonly used by the YHWHistic group who regarded all practices of the art that excluded YHWH as being an improper intercourse, prostitution and fornication (Isa. 1:21; 57:3; Jer. 2:20; 31:1-8; Ezek. 16:15-25; Hos. 2:5; 3:3; 4:15).

It became the strong conviction of the YHWHistic group that the cause of the defeat and exile of the northern kingdom, Israel, and similarly of the southern kingdom, Judah, was that the state and the public performed the practices of the false functionaries (2 Kings 17:7-20; 21:1-14). And if for a moment one were to accept this perspective, then obviously one is not only accepting that magic and divination were integral parts of the society, but is in fact saying that the false functionaries had the upper hand and the majority of the society sought their aid, since “YHWH sent them to exile.”

Of course, both groups engaged in various forms of the art and their practice was widespread. Many feared, worshipped, and through the help of practitioners, offered sacrifices with libation to numerous deities and demons (Deut. 32:17). Plagues, disease, and all sorts of mishap were attributed to demons and evil spirits (Ps. 78:49; 91:6; Job 3:8; cf. also Isa. 13:21; 30:6; 34:8-15). Not only were protective amulets worn in order to ward off evil but recourse was made to magical practices in order to remove or transfer the contagion.

Besides averting evil powers and influences, many performed various practices of a magical nature in order to seek the favor of deities and demons, or appease their wrath (for example, when social or religious taboos had been broken). One of the significant apotropaic acts was aimed at the protection of the living from harm which could be caused by the spirit of the departed.

The effectiveness of the “binding spell” and of the various genres of imitative magic performed either for the removal of evil, misfortune and disease, or for the purpose of war-victory, or to avert vengeance, or even to appease hostile spirits, will be discussed in the following pages. Similarly, the symbolic imitative performance of the prophets, as well as the restrictions and prohibitions imposed upon the society to protect themselves from hostile spirits, mysterious powers and evil influences will be cited to indicate that such magical practices were not only frequently performed but favorably looked upon as legitimate enterprises.

Thus in order to avert evil powers and influences, to appease the wrath or seek the favor of deities and demons, the Old Testament people resorted to magical practices. To find solutions to personal or national distress, to solve disputed questions, to discover the will of deities regarding various affairs, the people sought omens and resorted to the art of divination. Numerous qualified functionaries, such as sorcerers, soothsayers, seers, diviners, prophets and priests, all had important roles within the society, and their expert services in magical and divinatory practices were sought both by the public and by the state.

The art of cleromancy (divination by lot-casting) was considered a proper method of obtaining decisions regarding various affairs, assignment of duties, discovering guilty individuals and solving disputed questions. Again, strange as it may appear to us, there is not the least doubt that the Old Testament people firmly believed that certain expert functionaries had the power to evoke and communicate with the dead—an art known as necromancy. Moreover, they thought that a person could become the unconscious agent of a spirit of deity so that any pronouncement by such a person would instantly be seized by those skilled in the art as a clue of good or evil omen—the art of cledonomancy.

Furthermore, there can be no doubt that the Old Testament people believed that dreams and visions were messages emanating from supernatural powers, benevolent or malevolent spirits and deities. The “dream-expert,” the “vision-expert” (gazer), the “seer” and the “prophet” were among those who attached great importance to dreams and visions, regarding them as vehicles by which divine intentions were revealed. Such an art is known as oneiromancy.

Not all occult techniques, however, were considered approved methods to inquire of God. Inquiries performed by “a diviner, a soothsayer, an auger…a medium…or a necromancer” were unconditionally banned (Deut. 18:10; Lev. 20:6, 27). Despite this prohibition, however, and despite the efforts of King Saul (1 Sam. 28:3, 9) and King Josiah (2 Kings 23:24) to eliminate from the society these so-called illegitimate practices of inquiry, the Old Testament people consulted “diviners, soothsayers, augers and mediums” (2 Kings 17:16-17; 21:6; Isa. 8:19; Jer. 27:9; Hos. 4:12).

Thus it is difficult to conceive how the Old Testament people regarded the practice of magic and divination “evil.” Probably, what was abominable to a certain group was that such practices were not done in the name of YHWH (who, in their view, was the only powerful and true deity) but in the name of other deities (who were absolutely false deities). It seems that magic and divination were not only permissible, but were legitimate religious enterprises—if performed correctly in the name of YHWH. Many naturally confused the issue with YHWH and performed their practices in the name of other deities. This must have brought them into sharp conflict, opposition, and condemnation. In fact, in the struggle, even political power was used (such as the reform of Josiah) in order to repress such non-YHWHistic activities.

At any rate, magic and divination were integral parts of the society and numerous practices were performed by skill functionaries.

Tower of Babel
Tower of Babel