Saturday, November 8, 2014

Excerpts from the Books of Saint Silouan and Father Sophrony

Excerpts from the Book of Saint Silouan the Athonite: On Love.

       The Lord so loved His creature that He gave man the Holy Spirit and man knew his Creator and loves his Lord. The Holy Spirit is love and sweetness to the soul, the mind and the body. No Man of himself can know what God’s love is unless he be taught of the Holy Spirit; but God’s Love is known in our Church through the Holy Spirit, and so we speak of this love.

       The Lord’s love is such that He would have all men to be saved and abide eternally with Him in heaven and behold His glory.
   If you would know the Lord, humble yourself to the utmost, be obedient and sober in all things, love truth, and the Lord of a surety will give you to know Him through the Holy Spirit, and then you will know, by experience, just what love towards God is, and what is love towards man.
   Blessed is the soul that loves her brother, for our brother is our life. Blessed is the soul that loves her brother: the Spirit of the Lord lives manifest within her, affording peace and gladness, and she weeps for the whole world.

       The soul cannot know peace unless she prays for her enemies… the Lord taught me to love my enemies. Without the grace of God we cannot love our enemies. Only the Holy Spirit teaches love, and then even devils arouse our pity because they have fallen from good, and lost humility in God.

   I beseech you, put this to the test. When a man affronts you or brings dishonor on your head, or takes what is yours, or persecutes the Church, pray the Lord, saying: “O Lord, we are all thy creatures. Have pity on Thy servants, and turn their hearts to repentance”, and you will be aware of grace in your soul. To begin with, constrain your heart to love enemies, and the Lord, seeing your good will, will help you in all things, and experience itself will show you the way. But the man who thinks with malice of his enemies has not God’s love within him, and does not know God. If you will pray for your enemies,  peace will come to you; but when you can love your enemies – know that a great measure of the grace of God dwells in you, though I do not say perfect grace yet, but sufficient for salvation. Whereas if you revile your enemies, it means there is an evil spirit living in you and bringing evil thoughts into your heart. If you cannot love, then at least do not revile or curse your enemies and things will already better.

       Excerpts of the book “We Shall See Him as He is” by Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov): On Spiritual Mourning.

   Acquiring the Love of God is the ultimate purpose of Christian asceticism.  Its
achievement demands long and arduous travail. But by a gift from on High, one can experience a Divine visitation in great strength at times when the soul, in a burst of repentance for her sins, becomes receptive to the coming God.
       The way of the Lord is this: He manifests himself to man, and man apprehends His Love in the uncreated light, in timeless mode. I keep harping on the word “love” but ontologically it contains wisdom, not of this world, and grandeur infinite in its boundless humility, all-conquering beauty and deep peace. When this love touches man, God thereby makes him a participant in His Being, and this, there are no earthly worlds to describe. We are possessed by one single longing – to acquire this Divine Love in such fashion that it becomes our nature, forever inalienable.
       Love, the Flame of which Christ cast into the soul of man, possesses an amazing attribute. It will lead him into depths and heights inaccessible to anyone else. It will enable him to master suffering of all kinds, even death itself. Time and again it will hurl him into indescribable infinity where he will be “alone”, yearning to behold again the Light of the beloved God.
       Such is the process for cleansing our nature infected by the poison of Lucifer. The way of Christ leads from a relative, constantly vacillating type of existence to an absolute, unshakeable Kingdom.
Nothing but sacred love can cause the tears to flow from the Christian’s heart. The Scriptures write that Jesus “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13: 1). And only this “unto the end” can account for His sweat that fell like “great drops of blood” as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Where there is no love there are no tears, even when ascetic striving goes to extreme like exhaustive meditation, prolonged fasting, rigorous living conditions faraway from the rest of the world – of all of which both Western Christianity and the non-Christian East provide many instances.
       And it is just when the spirit of humility takes command of us that tears flow from the depths of our heart.