Spooky-Doxy January 24, 2005

The “Prophecy of St Nilus,” thanks to the Internet, has had quite a shelf life. And, like Chick tracts on toilet backs, I’ve even found stacks of xeroxed copies of the St Nilus Prophecy, in death-to-the-world “zine” form, lying around on tables at Orthodox church conferences. Alas, if memory serves me, I believe I even printed it in a parish newsletter once. Oops?

I was recently reminded of the Prophecy when poking around on the Canadian Classical Anglican site (an otherwise excellent forum). It was strange to see St Nilus Prophecy sandwiched between traditional Anglican polemics. Then again, if I were an orthodox Anglican these days I’d be waxing apocalyptic too.

Here’s the text of the Prophecy; commentary to follow:

The Prophecy of Saint Nilus

The Plight of the World and the Church during the 20th Century

By SAINT NILUS (d. circa AD 430)

After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century, the people of that time will become unrecognizable. When the time for the Advent of the Antichrist approaches, people’s minds will grow cloudy from carnal passions, and dishonor and lawlessness will grow stronger. Then the world will become unrecognizable.

People’s appearances will change, and it will be impossible to distinguish men from women due to their shamelessness in dress and style of hair. These people will be cruel and will be like wild animals because of the temptations of the Antichrist. There will be no respect for parents and elders, love will disappear, and Christian pastors, bishops, and priests will become vain men, completely failing to distinguish the right-hand way from the left.

At that time the morals and traditions of Christians and of the Church will change. People will abandon modesty, and dissipation will reign. Falsehood and greed will attain great proportions, and woe to those who pile up treasures. Lust, adultery, homosexuality, secret deeds and murder will rule in society.

At that future time, due to the power of such great crimes and licentiousness, people will be deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which they received in Holy Baptism and equally of remorse. The Churches of God will be deprived of God-fearing and pious pastors, and woe to the Christians remaining in the world at that time; they will completely lose their faith because they will lack the opportunity of seeing the light of knowledge from anyone at all. Then they will separate themselves out of the world in holy refuges in search of lightening their spiritual sufferings, but everywhere they will meet obstacles and constraints.

And all this will result from the fact that the Antichrist wants to be Lord over everything and become the ruler of the whole universe, and he will produce miracles and fantastic signs. He will also give depraved wisdom to an unhappy man so that he will discover a way by which one man can carry on a conversation with another from one end of the earth to the other.

At that time men will also fly through the air like birds and descend to the bottom of the sea like fish. And when they have achieved all this, these unhappy people will spend their lives in comfort without knowing, poor souls, that it is deceit of the Antichrist.

And, the impious one! — he will so complete science with vanity that it will go off the right path and lead people to lose faith in the existence of God in three hypostases. Then the All-good God will see the downfall of the human race and will shorten the days for the sake of those few who are being saved, because the enemy wants to lead even the chosen into temptation, if that is possible… then the sword of chastisement will suddenly appear and kill the perverter and his servants.

Obviously, the text is spot on concerning our own times. But, speaking of time, the above text has been altered for in some earlier versions it read “toward the middle of the 19th century“. Since what began in 1900, was the 20th century, not the 19th century, it was necessary to change the text. You may be able to google “St Nilus” and find earlier versions still littering the Net. Secondly, the century began in 1901, not 1900.

Quoting Fr Dimitri Cozby from the Indiana List:

In the second place, the practice in the 4th century was to date from the Creation, from the founding of Rome, from the accession of the current emperor, or from the Era of Diocletian and according to the Indiction. The practice of dating from the birth of Christ was introduced by Dionysius Exiguus (“the Short”), a Roman monk, in the 6th century. It did not enter into general use in the West for a couple of centuries. Orthodox countries did not generally date things from the Nativity until after the Fall of Constantinople. The practice did not become official in Russia until Peter the Great.

Thus, IF the writing is by St Nilus (a big IF), then he certainly was not referring to the century just past. Or, IF the writing is by St Nilus, whoever did the translation has monkeyed with the text.

OCA Bishop Tikhon, on the same List enters the fray:

After all, this is by no means the first time the “Prophecy” of Pseudo-Nilus (that appellation is used to distinguish the creator(s) of the “Prophecy” from St. Nilus himself) has been discussed on this panel or elsewhere in the Church. I remember in the days before anyone thought of an Internet how a very conservative Republican Priest and friend of mine used to brandish that prophecy about in order to show that Hippies were evil and predicted by a Saint (long hair, don’t you know) but, most serious of all, a clear sign of the end times. How many times was the 20th century held up as being clearly depicted in not only such dubious “Prophecies” but even in the Apocalypse of St. John!! Now, here we are in the 21st century…

Another problem is, there being more than one “St Nilus,” who wrote it? The above text purports to have been authored by St Nilus of the 4th-5th century. You can read about him on, of all places, the Opus Dei site:

But others claim that the Prophecy was written by St Nilus the Myrrhstreamer of Mt Athos in the year 1651.

There’s even a site claiming the Prophecy comes from the 14th century.

The Prophecy has been discussed on various boards, here’s an example:

It’s also, as they pointed out, a fake prophecy.

When you get a “prophet” who writes only one prophecy and it concerns YOUR century, it’s time to haul out the “skeptic-o-meter.” When you get a prophecy that’s a rip-off of another faked prophecy (Mother Shipton), it’s time to get out your “skeptic-o-meter”.

When you get a saint who howls warnings about the 20th century and very conveniently forgets the Middle Ages when the rule of the robber barons was widespread and sex and licentousness (in the church as well as in the secular world) was widespread, when men openly kept mistresses, when there were two classes (the rich and the slaves), when men sinned as they liked and bought penance on Sunday… when a prophet has no problems with behaviors like those and rails against the 20th century (where such practices are frowned on), then you can bet your booties that you’ve got a Faked Prophecy.

Either that — or you’ve got a prophet of a diety who wants to see the humans dragged back to the time when there were only the rich and the serfs (so you who are not rich better start looking for a wealthy person to sell yourself to as a slave); a deity who will excuse a wealthy man who contributes to the deity’s temples; a deity who condones land-grabbing and killing off villages and towns in the name of religion. A deity who condemns abortion but approves of babies and children and old people being thrown out on the hillsides to be starved to death and eaten by the wild beasts (yep. common practice then.)

A prophet of a deity who condones all the above… and gets bent out of shape when women cut their hair and wear trousers.

Golly. That’s quite a set of ethics.

A little research will show that this “prophecy” didn’t exist before 1950.

And finally, according to that “prophecy” the Antichrist should already be here… and about 70 years old. Getting kinda late for him to make a move, eh?

Poking around on Google, I even found someone on an e-board who incorporated St Nilus prophecy into the mysteries of the Tsunami tragedy!

It’s obvious, thanks to Google, that Roman Catholics of the Marian Visions stripe love them some St Nilus. But, other RCs doubt it no matter what:

Then why would Inside the Vatican, along with a traditionalist website print it?

It would be better to ask them that. But I’ve seen this in several trad and neo-Cat places. No one ever provides where the source document is, though.

You don’t have to be a lit crit to realize that no fifth-century author would ever say “After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century.” They just wouldn’t.

So even if there is some sort of sermon castigating sinners, or even Nilus’ actual prophecy, you know the text has been tampered with, at the very least.

But to me the whole thing sounds contrived. When I first saw it, I tried to search out a source, any shred of a textual source, behind it, and came up empty-handed. Everyone just repeated the whole thing verbatim. Some said it was approved by Pope So-and-so, but that thread led nowhere.

It also started circulating fairly recently (late-80s or mid-90s, I think), and does not appear in, say, Catholic end-time books from the ’50s.

I’m even a bit suspicious of the use of the name “Nilus.” It sounds to me like whoever invented it was making an “inside joke” about the Protocols of the Elders of Sion, published by Sergei Nilus in 1905.

Even Lutherans are captivated by the little Prophecy of St Nilus.

Folks, it just goes on and on … here’s the ROCA positing an e-worry from someone in 1986.

If you wanna get really spooky, there’s even a site that incorporates the Prophecy into Fatima and other visions.

All of this is to say … what?

First of all, I think there’s a segment of folks that really major in this kind of Spooky-Doxy. I must confess it gives me the willies. Makes me, an Orthodox priest, wonder: What would Jesus do?

Secondly, the Prophecy is popular, no doubt, because it seems factual, real. Right? I mean it contains elements of foresight — even if it’s hindsight — that ring true to modern ears.

But, to my mind, it portrays God as just sitting there waiting till we invent the proper number of gizmos and wear the wrong hair styles and clothes … and then WHAMO! Spanking time!


I best go make my bed and clean my room. No time to waste.

Better still, I think I’ll say my prayers … to the Good God who lovest mankind. Cuz, you know, that’s often harder to believe than fiction. But at least we know it is true.

And, just in case there’s any Anglicans reading this: Beloved! It shouldn’t take a dubious prophecy to help you in your plight! As an old friend and seminary mate stated as he was leaving ECUSA … “What constitutes proper health care changes entirely when the hospital is on fire.”

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. [Phil.4:8]

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