St. Silouan as a Teacher

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This is a small excerpt from St. Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony.

Throughout my time with Blessed Staretz Silouan I never for an instant doubted that his words were the ‘words of life eternal’ received from on high, and that it was not some sophistry that had taught him the truth which his whole life bore witness to. A great many people talk lightly about love of Christ but their actions are a scandal to the world and so what they say has no life-giving force.

The Staretz, with whom I was on close terms for many years, and of whom in my foolishness I now make bold to write, was such a great, such a splendid ascetic, that I cannot find words to express my awe. At the same time his life was so simple, so natural and truly humble that any rhetoric on my part would introduce an alien element. This is why it is so difficult to write about him.

There are people for whom a brief word is not enough, while others are put off by lengthy exegesis. The Staretz’ sacred, plain teaching, because it is so simple, is beyond the understanding of many, and so I have decided to add my own arid, distorted comment, presuming no doubt erroneously, that in doing so I may help someone to understand who is used to a different style of life, of expression.

Let us consider, for example, this brief homily of the Staretz.

‘What is necessary to have peace in soul and body? We must love all men as ourself, and be ready for death at all times.’

At the thought of approaching death the soul is generally seized with uneasy dread, often with despair, too, to such an extent that the body falls ill because of the soul’s torment. So how is it that the Staretz can say that constant preparedness for death and love for all men fills not only the soul but the body, too, with peace? A curious, incomprehensible doctrine!

When he speaks of peace in soul and body the Staretz is envisaging circumstances when not the soul only but the body, too, knows the blessed action of grace. However, here he is thinking of a measure of grace less than that which he knew when the Lord appeared to him. In the latter instance grace both in soul and body was so powerful that his body, also, was aware of being hallowed, and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit evoked such potent love for Christ that it, too, wanted to suffer for the Lord.

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