A MODERN-DAY SAINT AND HIS DISCIPLE:
SAINT SILOUAN AND FATHER SOPHRONY
Archpriest Michael G. Dahulich
Editor's note: the following talk was presented Oct. 7, 1997 as part of the annual Lecture Series at St. Tikhon 's Seminary.
The Register of the Monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mount Athos reads:
"Schema-monk Father SILOUAN. Name in the world Simeon Ivanovich Antonov. Peasant from the province of Tambov, district of Lebedinsk, village of Shovsk. Born 1866. Arrived Athos 1892. Professed 1896. Schema 1911. Performed his duties of obedience at the mill, at Kalomar, at Old Russicon, and as steward. Died 11/24 September 1938." Such a simple entry to encapsulate the life of such a great saint!
The Saintly Life
He spent 46 years as a simple monk in a community, but during this time (in the words of Father Sophrony) "tireless inner striving gave him a personal experience of Christianity identical with that of many of the early ascetic Fathers."
Orthodox monasticism comprises three degrees the Novitiate, during which the habit is worn though no vows have been taken; the Lesser Schema, when the postulant pronounces vows which he will renew in a slightly altered form on being invested with the Great Schema of the third and strictest rule. When an Orthodox monk is professed, he is given another name. It was in this manner, then, that the novice Brother Simeon became Father Silouan.
A staretz or "elder" (cf. Matthew 15:2 and Mark 7:3), he was a monk whose experience of the spiritual struggle brought wisdom and insight and the ability to guide others. He left behind him some deeply moving meditations, poetic in style and profound in their theological vision.
For the holiness of his life, his example of constant repentance and his spiritual legacy, he was proclaimed a saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1988, only fifty years after he fell asleep in the Lord.
The youthful Simeon had been a sinner, to be sure. He drank and caroused; he made love outside of marriage; he nearly killed someone in a brawl. But God granted him a vision to change his way of wild living. One day he dozed off and was in a light sleep, when he dreamed that he saw a snake crawl down his throat! Feeling sick with revulsion, he awoke to hear a voice saying to him, "Just as you found it loathsome to swallow a snake in your dream, so I find your ways ugly to look upon."
"Simeon saw no one. He only heard the voice, extraordinarily sweet and very beautiful; but for all its gentleness, the effect it had on him was revolutionary. He was convinced beyond doubt that he had heard the voice of the Mother of God herself," and to the end of his life he gave thanks to her for coming to lift him from his degradation.
He would say, "Now I see how sorry the Lord and His Mother are for people. Imagine the Mother of God appearing from the skies to show a young man like me his sins!" From then on, he vowed to devote his entire life to God. His goal was to live on Mount Athos, in constant repentance for his sins. Until he arrived there, his thoughts were always focused on the holy mountain and his sorrow. Even while he was in the army, his friend once reported, while all the soldiers were in the tavern, eating and drinking vodka, listening to music and enjoying themselves, Simeon's mind was "on Mount Athos and at the Last Judgment!"
Quotes From St. Silouan
From scraps of paper, on which he pencil-scratched his thoughts we have a rich collection of his quotes. They provide us with an ample example of spirituality which we can imitate:"... I know that we must always pray, and so I pray without ceasing."
One of his prayers to Heaven was:
"Lord, Thou seest that I desire to pray to Thee with a pure mind but the devils will not let me. Instruct me, what must I do to stop them hindering me?" And in his soul he heard, "The proud always suffer from devils." ... "Lord, teach me what I must do that my soul may become more humble." Once more, his heart heard God's answer: "Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not."
One of his conversations provides us this understanding: Tell me, supposing you went to paradise, and there looked down and saw somebody burning in hellfire would you feel happy?" The hermit with whom Silouan was speaking, replied: "It can't be helped. It would be their own fault." To which the staretz answered, "Love could not bear that. We must pray for all." Later on, the holy father would add, "Praying for people is to shed blood."
Among St. Silouan's other notations we find the following: "What does inner silence mean? It means ceaseless prayer, with the mind dwelling in God. Father John of Kronstadt was always surrounded by people, yet he was more with God than many solitairies. I became steward in an act of obedience and because of the Abbot's blessing I can pray better at my task than I did at the Old Russicon where out of self-will I had asked to go for the sake of inner silence... If the soul loves and pities people, prayer cannot be interrupted."
"We believe that true freedom means not sinning, in order to love God and one's "neighbor with our whole heart and our whole strength... True freedom means constant dwelling in God."
"How is it possible to keep the mind pure?... The Holy Fathers have left us their teaching on the prayer of the mind-in-the-heart. Such prayer preserves the mind, and I see no other means of enabling one to keep God's commandments."
Some Important Distinctions
The staretz' teaching makes us aware of some very valuable distinctions:
"When the soul prays for the world, she knows better without newspapers how the whole earth is afflicted. She knows what people's needs are and feels pity for them... Newspapers don't write about people but about events, and then not the truth. They confuse the mind and, whatever you do, you won't get the truth by reading them; whereas prayer cleanses the mind and gives it a better vision of all things."
"It is one thing to believe in God, and another to know Him."
"No one can know of himself what is Divine love unless the Holy Spirit instructs him, and so we may speak of this love . .. The Lord is good and merciful but we could say naught of this love save what the Scriptures tell, unless the Holy Spirit so instructed us..." We can deliberate only in so far as we have experienced the grace of the Holy Spirit."
"The Saints speak of that which they have indeed seen and know. They do not speak of what they have not seen."
The Love Of The Lord
How great is God's love for us? This is what the Athonite tells us: "The Lord gave us as feeble children sung church services we do not yet know how to pray properly but singing helps everyone when it is done in humility. But it is better still for our heart to become the temple of the Lord and our mind His altar."
"The Lord so loved His creature, that man is in the likeness of God."
"If a man sees the presence of the Holy Spirit in his brother, it means that he possesses a great measure of grace himself; whereas if he hates his brother it signifies that he himself is in thrall to an evil spirit."
"The Lord so loved man that He gave the Holy Spirit, and in the Holy Spirit man became like unto God. Those who do not believe this, and do not pray to the Saints, have not learned how deeply the Lord loves man and how He has exalted him."
Fathoming the Mystery
In contradiction to a Western world-view in which man thinks he can know every thing, this Eastern Father writes:
"With our minds, we cannot come to know even how the sun is made; and if we beg God to tell us how He made the sun, the answer rings in our soul, 'Humble thyself, and thou shalt know, not only the sun but the Creator of the sun.' But when the soul through the Holy Spirit knows the Lord, then from joy she forgets the whole world and ceases to fret for earthly knowledge.'"
"It is given to our Orthodox Church through the Holy Spirit to fathom the mysteries of God, ad she is strong in the holiness of her thought and her patience."
"One cannot say that God is unjust that there is injustice in Him but neither can one say that He is just in our sense of the word. St. Isaac of Syria wrote, 'Do not presume to call God just, for what sort of justice is this we sinned, yet He gave up His only-begotten Son on the cross?'"
Lest anyone think that a saint realizes his sanctity, Silouan makes it clear:
"At first, because of my lack of experience, I let a dissolute thought enter my heart. I went to my spiritual father and said, 'I have had a lecherous thought.' He replied, 'You must never dwell on such thoughts.' Forty-five years have gone by since then and I have never once accepted such thoughts, never once been angry with anyone, for my soul is always aware of the Lord's love and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit, and I do not dwell on affronts."
"'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.'... The man who has come to know the love of God will say to himself, 'I have not kept this commandment. Though I pray day and night, and strive to practice every virtue, still I have failed in the commandment of love towards God. At rare moments only do I arrive at God's commandment, though at all times my soul longs to abide in it."
"O brethren, let us forget the earth and all that therein is. The earth entices us from contemplation of the Holy Trinity, Which our minds cannot apprehend but Which the Saints in heaven behold in the Holy Spirit. We for our part, should continue praying without imaginings ...
"When the soul in the Holy Spirit comes to know the Lord, she never ceased to marvel at God's mercy, at His majesty and power, and the Lord Himself, of His grace, gently, like a mother with her beloved child, trains the soul to have good and humble thoughts, giving her to feel His presence and nearness, and the soul in humility contemplates the Lord and has no other thoughts."
Archimandrite Sophrony also went to Mount Athos, in 1925, and there, at the Monastery of St. Panteleimon, became a disciple of Staretz Silouan. He listened to his spiritual father's teachings and was guided by his holy life. Like him he taught, "In this world there is nothing more difficult than to be saved" because the first step in progress towards becoming "like God" is "to love one's enemies." Father Sophrony took the writings of his staretz, which were penciled in laborious, unformed characters on old scraps of paper, edited them and published them in many languages. He also wrote his biography.
In Fr. Sophrony's own words: "The present writer spent some fourteen years in this same Monastery. During the Staretz' last years from about 1931 until the day of his death (11/24 September 1938) it happened that I was the one closest to him. And now I have been urged to pen his life-story not an easy mission for one with neither gift nor the experience of writing. Nevertheless, I have agreed, profoundly and sincerely convinced as I am that it is my duty to make known this truly great man."
"All my attention when I was with Staretz Silouan was taken up with his spiritual person, my one aim being my own spiritual good. There was never any idea of eventually writing his biography, and I remained ignorant of so much that would normally have been of interest to the chronicler."
A Living Legacy
"In so far as I can tell, and judging from my contacts with other people, he was the one soul free from all passion whom it has been given to me to encounter on my earthly way. Now when he is no longer with us, we see him as an extraordinary sort of spiritual giant."
"When the Lord lived on earth His humble appearance in the flesh hid from people's eyes His actual Divine majesty. It was only after His Ascension and the coming down of the Holy Spirit that the Divinity of Christ became manifest to the disciples and apostles. Something similar happened to me in regard to Staretz Silouan. In his lifetime he was so simple and accessible that for all my veneration for him, my awareness of his godliness, I still was not altogether conscious of his greatness, and it is only now many years later during which I have met no one like him, that I begin belatedly to appreciate the very real greatness of the man whom God's providence led me to know so intimately."
Orthodoxy in Great Britain today is particularly blessed by the presence of a growing monastic community, with both monks and nuns, at Tolleshunt Knights, Essex (under the Ecumenical Patriarchate), founded by Archimandrite Sophrony. Here a central place is given to the Jesus Prayer. Here the monastery is widely visited by pilgrims from all over the world, seeking theosis ... to live in their lives the words of Saint Paul the Apostle: "It is no longer I who live but Christ Who lives in me, and the life that I live in the flesh I live in the faith of the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20-21).
The Goal Of Everyone
Anyone who draws the conclusion that the central teaching of Saint Silouan and, in fact, the whole Orthodox Church theosis deification and union with God the transfiguration of the body and cosmic regeneration is remote from the actual experience of ordinary Christians, has entirely misunderstood the Orthodox teaching.
Deification, "becoming like God" is not something reserved for a few select initiates, but something intended/or all alike. The Orthodox Church believes that it is the normal goal for every Christian without exception. Certainly we shall only be fully deified on the Last Day, but for each of us the process of divinization must begin here and now in the present life. It is true that in this present life very few indeed attain full mystical union with God. But every true Christian tries to love God and to fulfill His commandments; and so long as we sincerely seek to do that, then however weak our attempts may be and however often we may fall, we are already in some degree deified.
The fact that a person is being deified does not mean that he or she ceases to be conscious of sin. On the contrary, deification always presupposes a continued act of repentance. A saint may be well advanced in the way of holiness, yet he or she does not therefore cease to employ the words of the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." Saint Silouan used to say to himself, "Keep thy mind in hell and despair not." Other Orthodox saints have repeated the words, "All will be saved, and I alone will be condemned." Orthodox theology is a both a theology of glory and of transfiguration, but also a theology of penitence.
There is nothing esoteric or extraordinary about the methods which we must follow in order to be deified. If someone asks, "How can I become like God?" the answer "is very simple." In the words of Bishop Kallistos (Ware), "... go to Church, receive the Sacraments regularly, pray to God 'in spirit and in truth,' read the Gospels, follow the commandments. The last of these items 'follow the commandments' must never be forgotten." Orthodoxy firmly rejects any kind of mysticism that seeks to dispense with moral rules.
Theosis is not a solitary but a "social" process. Deification means "following the commandments", and these commandments were briefly described by Christ as love of God and love of neighbor. The two forms of love are inseparable. A person can love his neighbor as himself only if he loves God above all; and a person cannot love God if he does not love his fellow man. (I John 4:20). Thus there is nothing selfish about theosis; for only if he loves his neighbor can a person be deified. "From our neighbor is life, and from our neighbor is death," said St. Anthony of Egypt. "If we win our neighbor we win God, but if we cause our neighbor to stumble we sin against Christ."
Human beings, made in the image of the Trinity, can only realize the divine likeness if they live a common life such as the Blessed Trinity lives; as the three Persons of the God head "dwell" in one another, so we must "dwell" in our fellow human beings, living not for ourselves alone, but for others. "If it were possible for me to find a leper," said one of the Desert Fathers, Agatho, "and to give him my body and to take his, I would gladly do it. For this is perfect love." Such is the true nature of theosis.
Love of God and for our fellow human beings must be practical. Orthodoxy rejects all forms of quietism, all types of love which do not issue in action. Deification, while it includes the heights of mystical experience, has also a very prosaic and down-to-earth aspect. When we think of deification, we must not only think of the hesychasts praying in silence and of St. Seraphim of Sarov with his face transfigured, but we must also think of St. Basil caring for the sick in the hospital at Caesarea, of St. John the Almsgiver helping the poor at Alexandria, of St. Sergius in his filthy clothing, working as a peasant in the kitchen garden to provide the guests of the monastery with food. These are not two different ways, but one.
Finally, theosis presupposes life in the Church, life in the Holy Mysteries. Theosis, according to the likeness of the Trinity, involves a common life, and it is only within the fellowship of the Church that this common life of coinherence can be properly realized. The Church and her Mysteries are the means appointed by the Lord whereby we may acquire the deifying Holy Spirit and be transformed into the divine likeness.
The Questions Remain
How can the average American relate to the lives of Staretz Silouan and Father Sophrony from atop Mount Athos or in the cloister of the Monastery?
How can we live the life of a spiritual saint in a world that is so dominated by materialism?
How can we strive towards theosis when we are faced by temptations from the world and its demons and dragged down by and down to the level of the world and its values, or rather, the lack thereof?
Things To Remember
In answering these questions, we must always remember:
1. Staretz Silouan and Father Sophrony were human beings like you and me, "working out their own salvation" (Philippians 2:12).
2. Their standards are our standards. There are not two sets of commandments or two sets of morality. We are all called to be holy. There is only a difference in degree.
3. Like me, Staretz Silouan had been a sinner. But as we all ought to, he considered himself "first" of all sinners and repented.
4. So too. Father Sophrony was a sinner for a time, he doubted the truths of the faith; he lived outside of the Church and her Mysteries. He was a non-practicing, nonbeliever who considered himself "first" of all sinners.
5. Like we need to. Brother Simeon readily made a confession of his sins; he heard the saving words of forgiveness from his spiritual father: "You have confessed your sins before God. Know now that they have all been forgiven... Now we will make a fresh start ... Go in peace, and rejoice that the Lord has led you to this haven of salvation."
But, Brother Simeon went to the Russian Monastery of St. Panteleimon and started on a new ascetic life. We cannot go to the Monastery; so what are we to do?
Bring The Monastery Home
It is true that we cannot all join the Monastery, leave our families, our jobs and our responsibilities in the world. But, we can take the Monastery, its goals and ideals, its purity of faith, and the very spiritual experience of it, into our homes ... into our daily lives.
Every day a day of prayer, several times each day with the community, the whole family, praying together not just for ourselves, but everyone, even our enemies.
Every Sunday and holyday a day of liturgical worship receiving Holy Communion together as a family having received Holy Confession the night before.
Every day, but at least Sunday and each feastday a day of reading from the Scripture perhaps at table like in the Monastery, or in the living room together, the whole family, hearing the Word of God, and then discussing it under guidance.
Every day, as individuals and as the community of the family living the commandments, summed up in love of God and love of neighbor in all that we do, we ask, "What would Jesus want me to do or say or think; how would He want me to be?"
And, finally, when we each of us "misses the mark" or "falls short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), we repent anew of our sins, asking the forgiveness of all our family members in the flesh and in the faith, and ourselves forgiving others, even our enemies. The humility of which St. Silouan speaks, can begin to be found by reading sincerely the Prayers before Holy Communion.
Every Room is a Church
Every room in our home is like the inside of the Monastery:
1. In the family room is our icon corner, where we pray together and read the Scripture together as a community in Christ.
2. In our living room, there is no music or television program, book or magazine, friend or neighbor or visitor and their behavior that is not compatible with Christ and His teachings.
3. In our kitchen, the same rules for eating and drinking in moderation, and fasting according to the guidelines of the Church, are followed as they are in the monastery.
4. In every bedroom, we practice the virtue of chastity in marriage as in the celibate life as in the Monastery, although not in the same degree.
5. In the office, we practice the same honesty in finances, in dealing with people and possessions, as the monks do in the monastery.
6. In the closets and basements of our lives, we clean out the "rubbish" and the "dark secrets" regularly and thoroughly as in the Monastery through the mystery of holy confession.
7. In every room of our home, we live as the hymn of the Nativity beckons us: "God is with us!" And each day over the ways of the world we choose with Joshua: "Choose today whom you will serve. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).
There are real examples of everyday, ordinary people that prove such a lifestyle is not only possible but also in actuality attainable. I remember being at a funeral only a few weeks ago at which there were seven priests, a deacon, a subdeacon and a reader together. The person we were praying for and eulogizing was not rich or famous, powerful or influential. She was modest in income, simple in lifestyle, humble in person... but great in the eyes of God.
Her name was Anna, and her great love was to come to these very grounds, where she worked, cooking and cleaning for archbishops, bishops, priests, monastics and seminarians. I came to know her as her spiritual father for the past twelve years she had no TV or radio, newspaper or magazines. When I visited her she was reading either her prayerbook or the Bible, listening to a Russian choir or the Bicentennial chorus, and always praying. In her house, every room had an icon comer, and her bedroom looked like a miniature church. Where did this get her? She became an inspiration to her family among her children, nieces and nephews and grandchildren were all those clerics (except the parish pastor and myself) and several matushki. After being diagnosed with cancer, she died quite soon, at home and peacefully, with little suffering but surrounded by her family, so many of whom are priests. What a beautiful death for a woman who lived a simple, saintly life.
Earlier this year, I witnessed what I call "the making of a saint." My very dear friend Pani Jeannette had been diagnosed with leukemia. After a valiant battle of several months, she came from the hospital to stay for a time at my house, before going to her own home. There in my rectory, as she lay enduring incredible pain and suffering, I came to feel the most humanly helpless I have ever felt in my life. There was nothing I could do for her to ease her pain or soothe her suffering or allay her anguish.
Amid her weakened body, though, she found strength spiritual and physical as well in the Lord, Who was only a prayer away. Each day and night for the last weeks of her life she prayed with her husband Fr. David. Together they read from the Bible and the lives of the Saints. From his priesthood she partook of the precious Body and Blood of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ and received the anointing of holy unction, both on a daily basis. In essence Pani
Jeannette united every breath of her suffering to Christ. And one Wednesday evening during Lent, after Fr. David had given his wife the Holy Mysteries from the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, in that brief moment that it took him to take the chalice back over to the church, Pani fell asleep in the Lord, encircled in the love of her parents. Such an incredible end to such an incredible life.
Finally, there is the story of little Joshua, the son of my Deacon Peter and his wife Marnie whose medical condition has baffled doctors after doctors, some of whom said he would never walk or talk. And yet where has he demonstrated publicly his first steps, made his first melodies of song or smiled in laughter in response to others? It is in his parish church, his spiritual home, that he smiles in laughter when his dad takes petitions in the Liturgy or preaches a sermon; that he sings "his own song" of praise to the Lord with the rest of the congregation singing; that he walks "on his own" to receive with a smile and a song the Holy Eucharist the very Lord Who humbled Himself to become in the form of human flesh "a little Child."
It is in the Presence of the Lord, in the midst of the Body of Christ, that all the hopes and cheers for Joshua are multiplied by people of faith who truly love him, and see in him the words of Jesus' Gospel come true, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the Kingdom of God" (Luke 18:16). Is it possible to find examples of people who epitomize "becoming like God"? Even though the words of Father Sophrony are true, "In this world there is nothing more difficult than to be saved," we must also remember we have the teaching of Jesus, in response to His disciples' question, "Then who can be saved?" To this our Lord said, " With God all things are possible" (Luke 18:27).
Forgiving One's Enemies
In previous lectures on the life of St. Silouan, we heard repeated that the true test of our salvation really lies in truly loving our brother and truly forgiving one's enemies as Christ Himself did. Last week we heard a poignant expression of how difficult that is. In response I should like to share with you a story on the importance no, the necessity of forgiveness of one's enemies. It comes to us from the Kievan Caves Patericon. It, is the story of the Holy and Righteous Titus the Presbyter, whose feastday is commemorated on February 27.
The Patericon chronicles the story in these words: "The person who is filled with anger can see only anger in God, but that world of God which exceeds the limits of the mind is revealed to those who have peace in their heart and soul. The Lord clearly demonstrated this through His servant, Blessed Titus (Tito) the presbyter. St. Titus, a monk in the Caves Monastery, was honored with the priestly rank, and he passed a life worthy of the joy of the saints.
"This blessed one had a spiritual brother, a hierodeacon by the name of Evagry. St. Titus bore a strong and unhypocritical love for the deacon. Their harmonious and sincere love was a source of inspiration for everyone.
"The enemy of mankind, because of his hatred of all good, worked long and hard to sow tares among this wheat, and he succeeded in raising up anger and bitterness between these two friends. He darkened them with such hatred that if the one approached while censing the church, the other would turn and walk away from the incense, or if he failed to walk away, the one censing walked past without censing him. They remained in this spiritual darkness for a long time and even dared to serve and to bear the Holy Gifts and take Communion in this state. The brethren constantly begged them to become reconciled, but they did not even want to hear of it.
"At length. Father Titus became critically ill. Realizing that he was near death, he began to weep over his sins and sent for Fr. Evagry, with the words, 'Forgive me, brother, for the Lord's sake, for having offended you with my anger.'
"Not only did the deacon refuse to forgive the presbyter, but he even began to curse him with cruel words. The brothers saw that Fr. Titus was approaching his last breath and they dragged Fr. Evagry by force to the dying monk's cell to make amends with him. When the deacon was brought in, the ill priest immediately drew himself from his bed and fell at the feet of his former friend, tearfully beseeching: 'Forgive me, Father, and bless!'
"Father Evagry, however, showed himself to be so unmerciful and inhuman that he tore himself away from the brethren and loudly declared to everyone present: 'I will never reconcile with him, neither in this age nor in the future one.'
"Scarcely had he said these words when he fell to the floor. The brothers tried to raise him up, but they saw that he was lifeless and they could not bend his arms, nor even close his lips and eyes. Fr. Titus, on the other hand, rose to his feet completely well."
Terror fell upon everyone at the sight of this sudden dreadful death accompanied by such a miraculous healing.
A Miraculous Healing
"Terror fell upon everyone at the sight of this sudden dreadful death accompanied by such a miraculous healing. The brethren began to ask the now healthy Fr. Titus what this meant. The saint related in detail what had happened and what had been revealed to him, saying:
'When I was ill, still ensnared in anger, I saw angels shrinking back from me and weeping over the ruin of my soul. The demons, however, were rejoicing over my anger. Because of this, I begged you to go to the brother and ask him to forgive me. When you brought him to me and I bowed to him, he turned away from me and I saw an unmerciful herald standing nearby, holding a fiery spear with which he struck the unforgiving man, who then fell dead. The same angel gave me his hand and raised me to health.'
"The fearful brethren wept over Father Evagry and his woeful death and buried him, his eyes and lips still open, his arms stretched out. After all this, the brethren began to vigilantly guard themselves against anger, forgiving one another of any offense or quarrel (Colossians 3:16) and because of this special revelation, they vividly remembered the words of the Lord, 'Everyone who continues in anger with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be unable to escape judgment' (Matthew 5:22).
"Saint Titus himself, seeing that as a result of seeking peace with his brother he found peace with God, began to reject the thought of anger. He rooted it out and acquired in its place a never-ending love in God for all the brethren (Colossians 3:14). The perfect peace of this righteous struggler was of such a nature that it clearly reflected the promise of the Apostle, "God's Kingdom is not food and drink, but truth and peace." Through this peace, St. Titus was made worthy of a heavenly repose. His relics rest in the caves.
"Through the prayers of the holy saint, may we too become worthy of forgiveness and free from anger, and receive peace from Christ our Saviour; for He is the God of love and peace (I Corinthians 13:11). Amen!"
Christ's True Disciple
We have another such example to follow in our spiritual life an excerpt from "How to Be Christ's True Disciple," contained in Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven, written by Saint Innocent (Veniaminov), the Apostle to America (published by Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, N.Y., 1994).
Saint Innocent tells us: "Jesus Christ loved everyone, and did every kind of good to all. So we too should love our neighbors and, as far as possible, do good to them either by deed, or word, or thought.
"Jesus Christ forgave His enemies all that they did to Him, and over and above that did them every kind of good and prayed for their salvation. So too we should forgive our enemies, repay with good the evil done us, and bless those who curse and abuse us, with full faith and hope in God, the most just and all-seeing Judge, without Whose will not even a hair of our head will be lost. By bearing wrongs without complaint, without revenge and with love, you will act as a true Christian.
"Jesus Christ, being meek and humble in heart, never sought out desired praise from others. So too we should never boast or pride ourselves on anything at all, or seek praise from others. For instance, if you do good to others, if you give alms, if you live more piously than others, or if you are more intelligent than your fellows, do not be proud of it either before men or to yourself, because all that you have that is good and praiseworthy is not yours but the gift of God only sins and weaknesses are your own, and all the rest is God's.
"To follow Jesus Christ means also to obey the word of Jesus Christ. Therefore we must listen to, believe and practice all that Jesus Christ has said in the Gospel and through His Apostles, and we must do all this without artifice or temporization but in simplicity of heart. He who listens and attends to the word of Jesus Christ may be called His disciple, but he who listens to and carries out His word and will with simplicity of heart and with perfect devotion is His true, beloved disciple.
"And so, that is what it means to deny oneself, to take up one's cross and follow Christ. That is the true nature and straight way into the Kingdom of Heaven. And that is the way by which Jesus Christ Himself lived on earth, and by which we Christians must go. There never was and never will be any other way."
The Ultimate Questions
Even though we may not be glorified and proclaimed Saints, officially by the Church, like Staretz Silouan was, the ultimate goal of every Orthodox Christian is deification theosis to become like God.
We know from the words of Father Sophrony, "In this world there is nothing more difficult than to be saved."
Can we do it? YES, with God's grace, we can. After all, we know of those who have... and we know the way they did it... It's nothing new.
Will we do it? I pray that each of us, inspired by the lives of St. Silouan and Fr. Sophrony, will follow their examples...
Must we do it? YES, it is a matter of life and death... our life and our death... our eternal life and our eternal death.
Through the prayers of Saint Silouan and Father Sophrony, Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on us and save us!
To Him be the glory, unto ages of ages. Amen!