New Enemies of Christianity
In spite of the decisive victory of Christianity over the pagans, they still attempted to advance against Christianity again during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate.
Julian was a son of a brother of Constantine the Great. When he became Emperor, although he was first brought up as a Christian, he began to worship idols and declared himself as a pagan and vigorously oppressed Christianity. Inaugurating persecution of the Christians, Julian decided to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem for the Jews, and he funded the project. But the Lord defended the holy faith. Christians as well as pagan writers record an earthquake and balls of fire that sprang out from under the earth and put a stop to Julian’s attempt to re-establish the Jerusalem Temple. Even those stones which had been preserved underground from the former Temple were cast up, so that in the full sense of the phrase not one stone remained on another stone.
Thus, the pagan Ammianus Marcellinus, a contemporary of Emperor Julian and his adviser, wrote, “Terrible balls of flame, which were often expelled from the foundation, made that place inaccessible burning repeatedly those who worked there; in this manner, this enterprise was halted spontaneously driving away persistent workmen,” (Bk 23, chap. 1).
A contemporary and schoolmate of Julian, St. Gregory the Theologian, in a speech against Julian, said that at this time in heaven there appeared a blazing cross and the clothing of onlookers was imprinted with crosses. Many foreign observers, as the historians write, gathered to look at the spectacle of the struggle with the mysterious spontaneous fire.
The enemies of Christianity had to confess their powerlessness, but they did not repent of their evil. In a battle with the Persians, an enemy’s arrow struck Julian. Dying, he mournfully cried out, “You have conquered me, Galilean!” as he called the Lord Jesus Christ.
After the death of Julian the Apostate, all the following Roman Emperors took care to affirm Christianity throughout the empire.
In the seventh century, there began new suffering for the Christians in the East. In 614 A.D., the Persian King Chosroes seized Jerusalem and turned over ninety thousand Christians to the Jews for punishment. Patriarch Zacharias and many other Christians were led off to captivity. They burned the Church of the Resurrection, stole the treasures of the church, and carried the Cross of Christ into Persia. Fourteen years later, in 628 A.D., the Greek Emperor Heraclius conquered the Persians, returned all the captive Christians led by the Patriarch Zacharias; and the Holy Cross was returned with honor to Jerusalem.
Rejoicing and thanking God, the Emperor Heraclius wanted to bring the Cross to Jerusalem in person. But at Golgotha, an invisible power blocked the Cross, and the Emperor was powerless to carry on. Then, the Patriarch Zacharias showed the Emperor that the Son of God, the Heavenly King, carried the Cross to Golgotha in humility and disgrace. The Emperor humbly listened to the Patriarch, took off his royal robes, and carried the Holy Cross barefooted into the church on Golgotha where the Patriarch again elevated the Holy Cross above the people.
Soon after this great event, the false prophet Mohammed appeared in Arabia. Suffering from childhood with epilepsy, a nervous disorder, and hallucinations (falsely taken as visions), he himself believed in his calling to found a new religion; and at age forty, he began his preaching. In the year 632 with his followers, he conquered Mecca, his birthplace in Arabia, and established his religion. Then, his followers by the power of arms subjugated Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and even Jerusalem. Gradually, Islam (the teachings of Mohammed) spread more and more, and the Greek empire grew weaker and weaker. Finally in the middle of the 15th century (1454 A.D.), under the Emperor Constantine XI (Constantine Drageses Palaeologus), the Turks conquered Constantinople.
(from: The Law of God by Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy)