St. Silouan, was born in 1866, of devout parents who came from the village of Sovsk
in the Tambov region. At the age of twenty-seven he received the prayers of St. John
of Kronstadt and went to Mt. Athos where he became a monk at the Russian
monastery St. Panteleimon. He received from the Holy Theotokos the gift of
unceasing prayer, and was given the vision our Lord Jesus Christ, in glory, in the
church of the holy Prophet Elijah adjoining the mill of the monastery. After the
withdrawal of that first grace, he was oppressed by profound grief and great
temptations for fifteen years, after which he received from Christ the teaching, "Keep
they mind in hell, and despair not." He reposed on September 24, 1938.
He left behind his writings which were edited by his disciple and pupil, the Elder
Sophrony. Fr. Sophrony has written a complete life of the Saint along with the record
of St. Silouan's teachings in the Book St. Silouan the Athonite.
Saint Silouan on Love
The soul cannot know peace unless she prays for her enemies. The soul that has
learned of God's grace to pray, feels love and compassion for every created thing, and
in particular for mankind, for whom the Lord suffered on the Cross, and His soul was
heavy for every one of us.
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 to 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 shoe 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 as 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, for, in the words of the Lord, out of the heart proceed evil thoughts - or
The good man thinks to himself in this wise: Every one who has strayed from the
truth brings destruction on himself and is therefore to be pitied. But of course the
man who has not learned the love of the Holy Spirit will not pray for his enemies. The
man who has learned love from the Holy Spirit sorrows all his life over those who are
not saved, and sheds abundant tears for the people, and the grace of God gives him
strength to love his enemies.
Understand me. It is so simple. People who do not know God, or who go against Him,
are to be pitied; the heart sorrows for them and the eye weeps. Both paradise and
torment are clearly visible to us: We know this through the Holy Spirit. And did not
the Lord Himself say, "The kingdom of God is within you"? Thus eternal life has its
beginning here in this life; and it is here that we sow the seeds of eternal torment.
Where there is pride there cannot be grace, and if we lose grace we also lose both
love of God and assurance in prayer. The soul is then tormented by evil thoughts and
does not understand that she must humble herself and love her enemies, for there is
no other way to please God.
What shall I render unto Thee, O Lord,
for that Thou hast poured such great mercy on my soul?
Grant, I beg Thee, that I may see my iniquities,
and ever weep before Thee,
for Thou art filled with love for humble souls,
and dost give them the grace of the Holy Spirit.
O merciful God, forgive me.
Thou seest how my soul is drawn to Thee, her Creator.
Thou hast wounded my soul with Thy love,
and she thirsts for Thee, and wearies without end,
and day and night, insatiable, reaches toward Thee,
and has no wish to look upon this world, though I do love it,
but above all I love Thee, my Creator,
and my soul longs after Thee.
O my Creator, why have I, Thy little creature,
grieved Thee so often? Yet Thou hast not remembered my sins.
Glory be to the Lord God that He gave us His Only-begotten
Son for the sake of our salvation.
Glory be to the Only-begotten Son that He deigned to be
born of the Most Holy Virgin, and suffered for our salvation,
and gave us His Most Pure Body and Blood to eternal life,
and sent His Holy Spirit on the earth.
O Lord, grant me tears to shed for myself,
and for the whole universe,
that the nations may know Thee and live eternally with Thee,
O Lord, vouchsafe us the gift of Thy humble Holy Spirit,
that we may apprehend Thy glory.
The Life and Teachings of Elder Siluan
by Bishop Alexander and Natalia Bufius
translated by Anatoly Shmelev
There once lived a person of great spiritual strength whose name was Siluan. He
prayed long with tearful cries of "Lord have mercy on me," but God would not hear
him. Many months went by in such prayer, and the strength of his soul was
dissipated; he lost heart and cried, "You are unresponsive to prayer!" And suddenly,
with these words on his lips and his soul drained of strength, for a moment he saw
the Living Christ. His heart and entire body were filled with such flame that had the
apparition continued another second, he would have died. Later he was unable to
forget the inexpressibly meek, limitlessly loving, joyful and peaceful look of Christ;
from that point forward he witnessed untiringly that God is love, love without
measure or frontiers.
It is Siluan, this witness of God’s love, who forms the subject of this text.
The Life of Elder Siluan
Schema-monk Siluan of Mt. Athos (his secular name was Semyon Ivanovich Antonov)
was born in 1866 in the village of Shov, Lebedinsk region of the Tambov district of
Russia. He first arrived on Mt. Athos in 1892, was tonsured in 1896 and took the vows
of the schema in 1911. His period of obedience was served at the Mill, the Kalamarey
Metoch (monastery territory outside Mt. Athos), the Old Nagorny Rusik and the
Oeconomia. He died on the 24 (11) September 1938. These brief facts are taken from
the Athos records.
Between "born" and "died" there seems very little to say; but to speak of someone’s
inner life before God is a forthright, audacious act. To open up the "innermost heart"
of a Christian on the world stage is almost sacrilege. But in the knowledge that for
the Elder, who left this world a victor over it, there is nothing to fear; nothing will
disturb his eternal rest in God, so we — who also search for righteousness — can
attempt to discover his morally rich life.
Many who come into contact with monks and with Elder Siluan in particular, do not
see anything particular in them and thus remain unsatisfied and possibly even
disappointed. This occurs because they approach monastics with the wrong scales,
with improper demands and expectations.
The monk is engaged in endless struggle, and often very pitched struggle, but an
Orthodox monk is not a fakir. He is not interested in the acquisition, through special
exercises, of specific psychic powers, which is what so many ignorant seekers of
mystical life expect. Monks engage in difficult, constant battle, and some of them,
like Elder Siluan, engage in a titanic struggle, invisible to the outside world, to
destroy within themselves the proud beast and to become men, real men in the
image of the perfect Man — Jesus Christ — humble and meek.
This is a strange life, incomprehensible to the secular world; everything in it is
paradox, everything is in a form opposite to the order of the secular world, and it is
impossible to explain it in words. The only way to understand it is to perform the will
of God, that is, to follow the commandments of Christ; the path, indicated by Him.
Childhood and Early Life
From the long life of the Elder we would like to highlight certain facts which are
indicative of his spiritual life and his "history." The first comes from his early
childhood, when he was no more than four years old. His father, like many Russian
peasants, would take in pilgrims and travelers. Once, on some holy day, he invited to
his home a man carrying books, hoping to hear from this "learned type" something
new and interesting, for he was unhappy in his "darkness" and eagerly sought
enlightenment and knowledge. At home, the guest was treated to tea and food. Little
Semyon with childish curiosity studied the guest and listened closely to his words.
The bookworm tried to convince Semyon’s father that Christ is not God and that there
is no God. Little Semyon was particularly affected by the words: "Where is He, where
is God?" and he thought to himself, "When I grow up, I will travel the world to find
God." When the guest had left, Semyon said to his father: "You teach me to pray, but
he said there is no God." His father answered, "I thought he was an intelligent
person, but he turned out to be a fool. Don’t listen to him." But his father’s answer
did not calm Semyon’s apprehension.
Many years passed. Semyon grew up, became a healthy young man and went to work
on the neighboring estate of Prince Troubetskoy. He worked as a carpenter with a
gang of other workmen. The gang had a cook, an old peasant woman. Once, on a
pilgrimage, she visited the grave of the hermit Ioann Sezenovsky (1791-1839) a
famed monk. Upon her return, she told of her pilgrimage and of the miracles that
happen at the grave. Some of the workers also mentioned the miracles and all agreed
that Ioann was a holy man.
Listening to this conversation, Semyon thought, "If he is a holy man, then God must
be among all of us, and there is no need to wander the earth searching for Him."
With this thought, his young heart was lifted with love for God.
Somehow, from the age of four to the age of nineteen, the thought that had entered
Semyon’s soul during the bookworm’s conversation with his father, a thought that had
stayed with him, unresolved, was finally answered in this strange, apparently naive
After Semyon felt that he had acquired faith, his mind was concentrated on the
memory of God, and he prayed often with tears. At the same time, he felt an internal
change and a desire to become a monk, and, as he later recounted, he began to look
on the beautiful daughters of Prince Troubetskoy with love, but not desire, as sisters,
though earlier he had been partial to them. At that time he also asked his father to
release him to go to the Kiev Pecherskaya Lavra (Monastery), but his father told him
categorically, "First you must finish your military service, and then you will be free to
Semyon spent three months in this state, but then it dissipated and he once again
resumed his friendship with his peers, took up drinking vodka, chasing after girls,
playing the accordion, and in general living like all the other peasant boys his age.
Young, handsome, strong, and by that time wealthy, Semyon enjoyed life. The
villagers liked him for his happy and peaceful character, and the girls looked at him
as a good marriage possibility. He also fell in love with one of them, and before the
question of marriage was resolved, one late night, "something happened."
Strangely, the next morning, while working with his father, the latter asked Semyon,
"Son, where were you last night, my heart was aching." These meek words fell deep
into Semyon’s soul, and later, remembering his father, he said: "I didn’t follow in his
footsteps. He was completely illiterate, he even said ‘Our Father’ with mistakes,
having learned it by ear in church. But he was a humble and wise man."
Semyon’s was a large family: father, mother, five sons-brothers and two daughters.
They lived together and were content. The older brothers worked with their father.
Once, during the harvest, Semyon prepared dinner in the field. It was Friday, but
Semyon had forgotten, and so he prepared pork, and everyone ate it. Half a year
passed from that day, and one winter holiday, Semyon’s father turned to him with a
kind smile: "Son, remember when you fed me with pork in the field? It was a Friday,
and you know, I ate it then as if it were carrion."
— "Why didn’t you tell me then?"
— "I didn’t want to embarrass you."
In telling about these events from his life in his father’s house, the Elder would add,
"This is the type of Elder one should be: he never became angry, always had an even
and meek disposition. Think about it: he waited a half-year for a good moment to tell
me without shaming me."
Elder Siluan had great physical strength. Once when he was still young, prior to
military service, after Easter he stayed at home when his brothers went out to see
friends. Even though he had just had a large meal with meat, his mother made him
an entire pot-full of scrambled eggs, at least fifty, and he ate it all.
In those days he worked with his brothers on the estate of Prince Troubetskoy, and
on holidays he would sometimes visit the local inn. There were instances when he
could drink and entire "quarter" (2.5 liters) of vodka, but still not be drunk.
Once, during a severe frost that followed a thaw, he was staying at an inn. One of
the guests who had spent the night there was preparing to return home. He went out
to prepare his horse, but soon returned, saying, "Trouble! I must get home, but I can’
t: ice has gathered on my horse’s hooves and she won’t let me break it off because it
is too painful." Semyon said, "Come, I will help you." In the stable he took the horse’
s head under his arm and said to the peasant, "Break the ice off." The horse stood
motionless during the entire process, and the peasant was able to ride off.
Semyon could take an entire cast-iron pot of boiling soup from the stove to the table
where the gang of workers would be sitting. He could break a thick board in pieces
with his fist. He could lift heavy objects and was able to withstand extreme
temperatures and great physical labor with little food.
But this strength, which later helped him in his extraordinary struggles, was also the
reason for his greatest sin, for which he had to do an extraordinary penance.
Once, during the yearly village religious holiday, Semyon was out walking and singing
with friends as all the villagers gathered outside their huts. Two brothers — the
village bootmakers — walked toward Semyon and his group. One of these brothers
was also very strong, and a troublemaker. This day he happened also to be drunk. He
came up to Semyon and tried to take away his accordion, but Semyon managed to
pass it to his friend. Semyon began to ask the bootmaker to go in peace, but the
latter, wishing apparently to show his strength in front of the entire village, jumped
on Semyon. This is how the Elder described the situation:
First I thought it better to retreat, but suddenly I became ashamed by the fact that
the village girls would laugh at me, so I punched him in the chest. He flew backward
and hit the ground in the middle of the road: blood and froth came from his mouth.
Everyone grew frightened and so did I: I thought I killed him. I stood there even as
the younger brother of the bootmaker took a big rock and threw it at me. I managed
to turn in time, but the rock hit me in the back and I said to him, ‘ Do you want the
same treatment?’ I moved on him, but he ran away. The bootmaker lay long on the
roadway, but people came to help him, washed him with cold water. It was a half-
hour before he could get up, and with great difficulty they brought him home. For two
months he was ill, but he lived. I had to be careful from then on because his brothers
and friends would lie in wait for me in the evenings with knives and sticks, but God
So it was that in the noise of young life the first sound of God’s call to monasticism
was drowned out in Semyon’s soul. But God, who had chosen him, soon repeated the
call with a type of vision.
Once, after spending some time indulging in earthly pleasures, Semyon fell asleep
and in a dream saw that a snake had slid through his mouth inside him. He felt
disgusted and awoke. At the same time he heard these words, "You swallowed a
snake in your sleep and you are disgusted. That is how unpleasant it is for me to see
There was no one in the room. He heard only a voice that spoke those words, a voice
that was extraordinary in its kindness and beauty. But the impression that voice
made, in spite of its quietness and sweetness, was revelatory. The Elder was deeply
and undoubtedly convinced that this was the voice of the Mother of God. To the end
of his days he thanked the Mother of God for not forsaking him, for visiting him and
helping him rise up from his fall. He said, "Now I see how the Lord and the Mother of
God feel sorry for people. Think of it — the Mother of God came down from Heaven to
show me, a lad, of the error of my ways."
He attributed the fact that he was unable to see the Virgin Mary to the unclean state
he was in at the time.
This second call, which came not long before his military service, had a decisive
influence on his choice of life. The first result of this call was a complete reversal in
his lifestyle, which had taken on an unwholesome form. Semyon felt a deep shame
for his past and began to ask genuinely for forgiveness from God. The decision to
enter a monastery after military service returned with new strength. He acquired a
strong sense of sin, and because of this he began to view everything in life
differently from before. This different attitude became apparent not only in his own
life and actions, but also in his conversations with others.
Semyon’s military service took place in St. Petersburg, in the Life-Guards Sapper
Battalion. Leaving for service with a living faith and deep feeling of penitence, he
never ceased to remember God.
In the army he was liked as a well-disciplined, calm and orderly soldier. To his
comrades he was a loyal and trusted friend. This was in fact, typical of the Russian
army as a whole, where soldiers lived together as brothers.
Once, during a holiday, he went with three soldiers from his battalion to a large
tavern in the capital, where there was much gaiety and music. A dinner with vodka
was ordered and the group began to talk loudly. Semyon remained mostly silent, and
one of his friends asked,
"Semyon, you are so quiet, what are you thinking about?"
"I am thinking: here we are in this tavern, eating, drinking vodka, listening to music
and having a good time, and meanwhile on Mt. Athos monks are keeping the vigil and
will pray all night. So, who of us will give a better answer on Judgment Day — we or
Then another said," What a strange character you are, Semyon! We are listening to
music and having a good time, and your mind is on Mt. Athos and Judgment Day!"
The words of this Guards soldier, that Semyon’s "mind is on Mt. Athos and the
Judgment Day," are applicable not merely to the moment when they were all sitting
in the tavern, but to the entire period of his military service. His thoughts of Athos
were also apparent in the fact that he sent money there on several occasions. One
day he was walking from the Ust-Izhora camp, where the battalion was quartered in
the summer, to the Kolpino post ofice to send a donation to Mt. Athos. Upon his
return, not far from Kolpino, a rabid dog ran toward him. As it approached and
prepared to bite him, he could only exclaim in fear, "Lord, have mercy!" As soon as
the words left his mouth, some force pushed the dog aside as if it had encountered a
wall; circling Semyon, it ran off toward a nearby village, where it bit a number of
people and cattle.
This event left a deep impression on Semyon. He personally felt the proximity of God,
who had saved him, and his faith became even stronger.
Having finished his military service, before departing for home, Semyon and the
company clerk went to visit Father Ioann of Kronstadt to ask for his prayers and
blessing. However, Father Ioann was absent from Kronstadt, so they decided to leave
him letters instead. The clerk began to write a long letter in his best handwriting, but
Semyon wrote only a few words: "Father, I wish to become a monk. Pray that the
world does not detain me."
They returned to their barracks in St. Petersburg and, in the words of the Elder, the
very next day he felt that all round him "the flames of hell were burning."
Leaving St. Petersburg, Semyon returned home, but he spent only one week there.
Clothes and presents were collected for him to take to the monastery. He said good-
bye to everyone and departed for Mt. Athos. But from the day that Father Ioann of
Kronstadt prayed for him, "the flames of hell" burnt round him no matter where he
was: on the train, in Odessa, on the ship and even in the monastery on Mt. Athos, in
Arrival on the Holy Mountain. Deeds as a monk.
Semyon arrived on the Holy Mountain in the autumn of 1892, entering the Russian
monastery of the holy martyr St. Panteleimon. Thus began his new life as a monk.
According to the customs of Mt. Athos, the novice "brother Simeon" was to spend a
few days in complete calm, so as to ruminate on the sins of his life, and, having
written them down, confess them to his priest. The hellish suffering he had endured
brought forth in him a complete and sincere repentance. During the sacrament of
Confession, he sought to free his soul from all that weighed on it, and for this reason
he willingly and fearfully, without a trace of self-righteousness, confessed all the sins
of his life.
His confessor then said to him, "You have confessed your sins before God, and know
that they are forgiven... Now you must prepare to lead a new life... Go in peace and
be joyous that the Lord has led you to this harbor of salvation."
Brother Simeon was prepared for spiritual feats by the centuries-old tradition of
monastic life on Mt. Athos, filled with the ever-present memory of God: prayer in the
cells alone, lengthy common services in the church, fasts and vigils, frequent
confession and communion, reading, work, and works of penance. Soon he learned the
Prayer of Jesus on the rosary. Only a brief while later, some three weeks, one evening
during prayer before an icon of the Mother of God, the prayer entered his heart and
continued to repeat there day and night, but it was some time before Simeon
appreciated the greatness and rarity of this gift, received from the Mother of God.
Brother Simeon was patient, mild, and obedient; in the monastery he was held in
high regard as a good worker of fine temperament, and this pleased him greatly. It
was then that thoughts began to creep into his soul, such as, "You live a saintly life,
you have repented, your sins have been forgiven, you pray incessantly, and you fulfil
your obligations well."
These thoughts disturbed the mind of the novice and worried his heart, but due to his
inexperience, Simeon did not know what to make of these feelings.
One night, his cell filled up with a strange light, which showed through even his body,
so that he could see his organs inside. A thought came to him, "Take this — it is
grace," but his soul was confused, and he was left in a state of great anxiety. After
seeing the strange light, he was visited by demons, and out of naivete he spoke with
them, "as with people." Their visits became more frequent; sometimes they would
say, "You are now a saint," and sometimes, "You will not be saved." Brother Simeon
once asked a demon, "Why do you say such contradictory things: on the one hand I
am holy, and on the other I will not be saved?" The demon laughed in answer, "We
never tell the truth."
Contrary demonic insinuations, lifting him to heights of pride and throwing him into
the depths of eternal damnation, burdened the soul of the young novice, bringing him
to the verge of despair and causing him to pray with increasing fervor. He slept little
and in brief spells. Physically strong, of heroic stature, he did not lie down in bed, but
spent his nights in prayer either standing or sitting on a stool. When exhaustion
overcame him, he would sleep for 15-20 minutes on his stool, and then rise again for
Months passed, but the suffering of demonic visits only intensified. The young novice’
s spiritual strength began to falter, his courage was exhausted, the fear of death and
despair gripped him, and a horrible feeling of hopelesness took hold of his entire
being more and more often. Finally, he reached the brink of his despair, and, sitting
in his cell one evening, concluded that, "It is impossible to reach God through
prayer." With this thought he felt completely forlorn, and his soul darkened with
hellish languor and anguish.
The same day, during vespers, on an icon of the Savior outside the church of the Holy
Prophet Elijah by the windmill, he saw the Living Christ.
"The Lord mysteriously revealed himself to the young novice," and his entire body, his
entire being, was filled with the fire of grace of the Holy Spirit, the same fire that the
Lord brought to earth during His Coming (Luke 12:49). From this vision, Simeon
fainted, and the Lord disappeared.
It is impossible to describe Simeon’s condition in this hour. He had been sanctified by
the glorious light of God, as though he had been removed from this world and
spiritually transported to the heavens, where he heard unspoken words. At this
moment, he was as though born anew from on high (John 1:13; 3:3). The meek gaze
of the all-forgiving, all-loving, joyous Christ drew to Him his entire person, and having
disappeared, continued to vitalize his soul with the sweetness of God’s love through
the vision of God outside the confines of worldly objects. Later, in his writings,
Simeon often repeated that he came to understand the Lord through the Holy Spirit,
that he saw God in the Holy Spirit. He also insisted that when the Lord Himself visits
a soul, the soul cannot but recognize him as its Creator and God.
Comprehending its resurrection and having seen the light of true and eternal being,
Simeon’s soul experienced the joy of the Pascha for some time following this vision.
Everything was great: the world was wonderful, people were nice, nature
indescribably beautiful; and his body seemed different too: it was lighter and he
appeared to have greater strength. But slowly the feeling of grace began to weaken.
Why? What could be done to avoid its loss?
The search for an answer to this puzzle was sought in the advice if Simeon’s spiritual
guide and the writings of the ascetic Holy Fathers. "During prayer keep your mind free
of all imagination and thought and concentrate it in the words of the prayer,"
admonished the Elder Father Anatoly of Holy Rusik. Simeon talked much with Elder
Anatoly, who concluded his useful and didactic teaching with the words, "If you are
already such, where will you be in old age?" Without wishing it, Anatoly’s
astonishment gave the young novice a strong push toward vanity, which Simeon did
not yet know how to vanquish.
The young and inexperienced Simeon now embarked on the most difficult and
complicated struggle against vanity. Pride and vanity bring with them all manner of
sorrows and falls: grace disappears, the heart grows colder, prayer becomes weaker,
the mind is distracted and various passions take root.
Now a monk, Siluan gradually becomes more adept at ascetic works, most of which
appear impossible to the common man. His sleep remains fitful: 15-20 minutes
several times a day. As before, he does not lie down, but sleeps sitting on his stool;
in the daytime he labors as a worker; he follows the precepts of internal obedience
and learns to submit his own will in order to more fully commit himself to doing the
will of God; he abstains from food, talk, and extraneous movement; spends lengthy
periods praying the Prayer of Jesus. And despite all this spiritual exertion the feeling
of grace often leaves him, and at night he is surrounded by demons.
The constant change of condition from a feeling of some grace to a feeling of
hopelesness in the face of demonic attack does not pass without bringing fruit. In
this state of perpetual change, Siluan’s soul becomes accustomed to constant
internal battle, vigilance, and the diligent search for a solution.
Fifteen years passed since his vision of Christ. And one day, during a struggle with
the demons, when, despite his efforts, it proved impossible to achieve a clear state
of mind for prayer, Siluan rose from his stool to prostrate himself, but saw before him
an enormous demon, obscuring the icon and expecting to take Siluan’s bow for
himself. The entire cell was full of demons. Father Siluan sat down again on his stool,
and, head hung low, with heavy heart prayed, "Lord, you see that I wish to pray to
you with a clear mind, but the demons won’t let me. Teach me what I must do so
that they cannot distract me." And the answer came from within his soul, "The proud
always suffer like this from demons." "Lord," said Siluan, "teach me what I must do to
humble my soul." Once again the answer came from his heart: "Keep your mind in hell
and don’t lose hope."
From this moment he saw not in an abstract or intellectual manner, but with his
entire being that the root of all sin, the seed of death is pride; that God is Meekness,
and the person seeking to win God must win meekness. He understood that the
indescribable sweetness of Christ’s meekness that he had been given to experience
during the Vision, was an inseparable aspect of God’s love, God’s being. From this
moment he truly understood, that his entire spiritual labor must be directed toward
attaining meekness. Thus with his own being, he was able to comprehend this great
mystery of Being.
In this manner, his soul was exposed to the mystery of the struggle of Serafim of
Sarov, who, following his vision of Christ in church during the Liturgy, also
experienced a feeling of having lost grace and contact with God; who stood for a
thousand days and nights in a desert on a rock, calling, "God, have mercy upon me, a
He finally saw the true meaning and force of Saint Pimen the Great’s answer to his
disciples, "Believe, my children! Where Satan is, there I will be." He understood that
Saint Anthony the Great was sent by God to a shoemaker in Alexandria to learn the
same lesson: from the shoemaker he learned to think, "All will be saved, only I will
He understood from the experience of his life that the field of spiritual struggle with
evil, cosmic evil, lies within a person’s own heart. He saw with his soul that the tap
root of sin is pride, that curse of mankind that tore people from God and thrust the
world into endless sorrow and suffering; pride was that true seed of death that had
enveloped mankind in the darkness of despair. From this moment, Siluan, now a
spiritual giant, turned all his energies toward acquiring the meekness of Christ, which
he was given to witness during his first Vision, but which he had not then been able
Now the monk Siluan stood firmly on the path of righteousness. From this day, his
"favorite song," as he called it, became, "Soon I will die, and my cursed soul will
descend into the closed black confines of hell, and there I alone will burn in a dark
flame and cry for the Lord, ‘Where are You, light of my soul? Why have You deserted
me? I cannot live without you’." This prayer led to peace in Siluan’s soul and to clarity
in prayer, but even this flaming path was not a short one.
Grace does not desert him as before. He feels it in his heart, he feels the living
presence of God, God’s mercy fills him with wonder, he experiences the depth of the
world of Christ; the Holy Spirit once again fills him with the power of love. And
though he is no longer as foolish as before, and though he has emerged wiser from
the long and arduous struggle, though he is now a great spiritual wrestler, yet still he
suffered from the inconstancy and mutability of human nature, and his heart cried
with an inexpressable sorrow when he felt grace slipping from him. And this continued
for fifteen more years, until one day he acquired through one sweeping exercise of
the mind, invisible on the outside, the ability to vanquish that which had for so long
By way of clear internal prayer, the ascetic learns the great mysteries of the soul.
Entering his heart with his mind, first he finds his human heart, within which he sees,
deeply hidden, the heart whose essence is not human at all. He finds this deeper
heart, this spiritual, metaphysical heart, and discovers that the being of humanity is
not something alien or external to him, but is organically connected to his own
"Our brother is our life," taught the Elder. Through Christ’s love all people are
accepted as an indivisible part of our own personal eternal being. The commandment
to love your neighbor as you would yourself, he begins to understand as something
other than a mere ethical norm; in the word "as" he sees not an indication of the
level, or measure, of love, but a sign of the ontological commonality of being.
"The Father does not judge, but has given judgment to the Son... because He is the
Son of man" (John 5:22-27). This Son of man, the Great Judge of the world, on
Judgement Day will proclaim that "the one among the smallest of these" is Himself;
in other words that the being of each individual is held in common with Him, and is
included in His own personal being. All of humanity, "all of Adam," he has taken into
himself and has suffered for all of Adam.
After the experience of the torments of hell, after God’s admonition to "Keep his mind
in hell," it became a habit of Elder Siluan to pray for the dead suffering in hell. But he
prayed also for the living and for future generations. His prayer, which was not bound
by temporal limits, erased any trace of the transient features of human life, and of
enemies. He was given in the sorrow of the world to distinguish between those who
experienced God and those who did not. It became unbearable for him to consider
that people could languish in the depths of darkness.
Once a hermit-monk said to him that "God would punish all atheists. They will burn in
an eternal flame." It appeared to give this monk satisfaction that they would be
punished by eternal fire. But Elder Siluan, with some worry, asked, "Tell me please, if
you are placed in Heaven, and from there you see how others burn in hellish flames,
would you remain detached?" "What can you do — it’s their own fault," countered the
monk. The Elder, filled with sorrow, answered, "Love cannot accept that... Everyone
must be prayed for."
And indeed, he prayed for everyone; to pray only for himself became a foreign
concept. All people are disposed to sin, and all are stripped of God’s glory (Romans 3:
22). For Siluan, having been exposed to the glory of God and having been denied it,
the very thought of such denial was too heavy to bear. His soul languished in the
consciousness that people live without knowing God and His love, and he prayed with
great prayer that the Lord through his inscrutable love should allow them to know
Till the end of his life, despite waning strength and sickness, Siluan continued to
sleep for only brief spells. He had much time for individual prayer, and he remained in
prayer constantly, changing its form to fit circumstances. He prayed especially
strongly at night, before the matins. That was when he prayed for the living and the
dead, for friends and enemies, for the entire world.
Teachings and admonitions of Elder Siluan
On the condition of man.
People, until they come to know something greater, are satisfied with the little that
they have. Man is like a village rooster who lives in a small enclosure with few people
and farm animals about, who knows his ten hens and is content with this life,
because he knows no more. But an eagle, who circles high in the clouds, and sees
great distances with his sharp eyes, who hears the sounds of the earth and revels in
its beauty, who knows many lands, seas and rivers, and sees a multitude of animals
and birds, would not be content to live in a small enclosure with a rooster.
It is the same in spiritual life. Whoever has not known the grace of the Holy Spirit is
like the rooster who does not know the flight of the eagle; he cannot comprehend the
sweetness of tender emotion and love of God. He knows God from nature and from
Scripture, he is satisfied with the law and is content with his lot as is the rooster,
and does not feel sorrow that he is not an eagle. But he who has experienced the
Lord through the Holy Spirit, he prays day and night, because the grace of the Holy
Spirit calls him to love the Lord, and the sweetness of the Lord’s love gives him the
ability to carry the burdens of the world with ease; his soul pines only for the Lord
and searches constantly for the grace of the Holy Spirit.
We are all suffering on this earth and searching for freedom, but few know what
freedom is and where it can be found. The Lord gives the repentant His peace and the
freedom to love Him. Oh, my brothers, all the earth, repent while you still have time.
God awaits our repentance with mercy. And all the heavens, all the saints await our
repentance. As God is love, so the Holy Spirit in the saints is love. Ask, and the Lord
shall forgive. And when you receive absolution from your sins, then your soul will be
joyful and happy, and the grace of the Holy Spirit will enter your soul, and you will
say, "Here is true freedom: it is in God and of God."
The grace of God does not hinder freedom, but only helps to keep the commandments
of God. Adam was in grace, and his will was not fettered. So too the angels are in the
Holy Spirit, but their free will is not taken away.
The Lord wants us to love each other; this is the essence of freedom — love for God
and for your neighbor. This is both freedom and equality. But in earthly titles there
can be no equality; this is of no concern to the soul, however. Not everyone can be a
king or a prince; not everyone can be a patriarch or an abbot, or a leader, but no
matter what your title you can love God and serve Him, and that is all that matters.
And whoever loves God more on earth shall be in greater glory in the Kingdom.
The Will of God.
When you have no kind mentors, then you must submit humbly to the will of God.
And then the Lord will make you wiser with His grace, for the Lord loves us more than
words can describe.
It is a great goodness to submit to the will of God. Then your soul is filled with the
Lord only, and it has no other thought, it prays to God with a special purity, and feels
the love of God, even though the body may suffer. When the soul has submitted
wholly to the will of God, then the Lord Himself begins to lead it, and the soul learns
directly from God, where before it had learnt from teachers and Scripture. But it is
very rare that the Teacher of a soul should be the Lord Himself through the Holy
Spirit, and few know of this, except those who live according to the will of God.
The proud do not wish to live according to the will of God, they prefer to direct their
own lives, and they do not understand that man lacks the capacity to direct his own
life without God. And when I lived in the world and did not know the Lord and His
Holy Spirit, I did not know how much the Lord loved us; I only depended on my own
abilities. But when through the Holy Spirit I felt the presence of Our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, then my soul submitted to God, and everything wicked that
befalls me I accept with the words, "The Lord watcheth over me, what have I to
fear?" Previously, I could not live like this.
The most precious thing on earth is to know God and at least in part understand His
will. The soul that has felt God must submit to his will in everything and live before
Him in fear and love. In love, because the Lord is love. In fear, because it must be
afraid to insult God by some evil thought.
How do you know whether you are living according to the will of God? Here is a sign:
if you long for some thing, then you have not submitted to the will of God, even
though you may think that you live according to His will. Whoever lives according to
the will of God does not concern himself with anything. And if he needs some thing,
then he submits himself and that thing to God; and if he does not receive it, then he
remains content as though he had received it. The soul which has submitted to the
will of God, fears nothing: neither storm nor bandits; nothing. And whatever should
happen, it says, "It is God’s will." If the body is ill, the soul thinks, "Then I am in
need of this illness, otherwise God would not have given it to me." And so the body
and the soul remain at peace.
Any soul that feels burdened by doubt must appeal to the Lord, and the Lord shall
answer it. But in general, this should only be done in an hour of crisis and confusion;
ordinarily, one should appeal to a confessor, for this is an expression of humility. The
Lord has provided for the Holy Spirit to be present on earth, and those in whom He
lives feel Heaven in their hearts. Perhaps you ask, why do I not feel such grace?
Because you have not submitted to the will of God, but live according to your own.
We must always pray, so that the Lord will tell us what we must do, and the Lord will
not leave us in confusion. Adam was unwise not to ask the Lord about the fruit
brought to him by Eve, and so lost Eden. David did not ask the Lord, "will it be good
if I take for myself the wife of Uriah?" and so fell into the sins of murder and
adultery. And so all the saints who have sinned, sinned because they did not call
upon God for help and spiritual guidance. Saint Serafim of Sarov once said, "When I
spoke of my own mind, I made mistakes."
If you speak or write of God, then pray and ask the Lord for help and guidance, and
the Lord will aid and teach you. And if you are bewildered, bow three times and say,
"Merciful Lord, You see that my soul is confused, and I fear falling into sin, guide me,
oh Lord." And the Lord will certainly direct you because He is very close to you. If you
doubt this, then you will not receive that for which you ask. Thus the Lord said to
Peter, "Why did you doubt, you of little faith" (Matthew 14:31), when Peter began to
drown in the water. It is the same with the soul that begins to drown in evil thoughts
when it enters into doubt.
And so, only the Lord knows all; as for us, whoever we are, we must pray to God for
enlightenment and turn to our spiritual confessors, so as not to make mistakes.
A Word On Prayer.
Whoever loves the Lord remembers Him always, and this memory of the Lord gives
birth to prayer. If you do not remember the Lord, you will not pray; in the absence of
prayer the soul languishes without the love of God. For it is through prayer that we
feel the grace of the Holy Spirit. Prayer saves man from sin, for a praying mind is
busy with God and stands in humility before the Lord, whom the soul recognizes.
Prayer is given to those who pray, as the Scriptures say, but prayer offered only by
force of habit, without heartfelt sorrow for sins, is not pleasing to the Lord. A loving
soul cannot abstain from prayer, for it strives to reach Him through the grace which it
feels by means of prayer.
For prayer we have been given churches, in which services are conducted according to
books, but you cannot take a church with you, and even books are not always
available, whereas internal prayer is with you always and in all places. Holy rites are
performed in churches in the presence of the Holy Spirit, but the soul is the best
church of God, and whoever prays in the soul knows the world as his church. But this
is not for everyone.
Many pray aloud and like to pray from books, and this is good, and the Lord accepts
their prayers and has mercy on them. But if someone should pray to the Lord and be
thinking of something else, this prayer will not be heard. Whoever prays through
habit has no change in prayer, but whoever prays with feeling has many changes:
there is a struggle with the enemy, a struggle with oneself, with passions, a struggle
with others, and one must remain hearty. Many like to read good books, and this is
commendable, but prayer is best.
If your mind wishes to pray in your heart and cannot, then read the prayer aloud and
keep your mind on the words of the prayer, as the "Ladder" recommends. In time, the
Lord will give you prayer of the heart without interfering thoughts, and prayer will
become easy. Some have damaged their hearts by forcing their minds to pray in their
hearts and have even reached a point where their mouths could not say the words.
Know the order of religious life: gifts are given to a simple, humble, attentive soul.
Whoever is obedient is sparing in everything: food, words, acts; to these the Lord
gives prayer, and it repeats easily in the heart.
Unceasing prayer derives from love and is lost through passing judgment, idle talk
and intemperance. Whoever loves God might think about Him day and night, because
no activities can stand in the way of loving God. The Apostles loved God and the
world did not stand in their way, though they understood the world, and prayed for it,
It is a great sign of grace to learn Christian humility: it becomes easier to live, and
everything becomes dearer to the heart. Only to the humble does the Lord show
himself through the Holy Spirit, and if we are not humble, then we cannot see God.
Humility is that light, by means of which we can see the Light of God, just as we sing
"In Your light we see the light."
There is a great difference between the simplest person who has felt the Lord
through the Holy Spirit and the person, though he may be prominent, who has not felt
the grace of the Holy Spirit. There is a great difference between believing only that
God exists, experiencing Him only through nature or the Scriptures, and experiencing
Him through the Holy Spirit. If one has experienced God through the Holy Spirit, his
soul burns with love for God day and night, and it can no longer be tied to anything
earthly. The soul which has not felt the sweetness of the Holy Spirit, feels joy in the
vanity of earthly fame or wealth, but the soul that has experienced God through the
Holy Spirit, desires only the Lord, and places no value on wealth or earthly glory.
If we were humble, the Lord in His kindness would show us everything, reveal all
secrets, but we are not humble, we are proud and vain over all details, and in this we
suffer ourselves and torment others.
The Lord does not reveal Himself to proud souls. The proud soul, even if it has read
all the books, will never understand the Lord, for in its pride it does not allow any
room for the grace of the Holy Spirit, and God is only experienced through the Holy
Spirit. Pride does not allow the soul to enter on the path of faith. I give this advice to
the unbeliever: let him say, "Lord, if You exist, then enlighten me, and I will serve
You with all my heart and soul." For this humble thought and preparedness to serve
God, the Lord will certainly enlighten him.
The Lord, though He is merciful, tests the soul with hunger and does not bestow
grace until it learns humility. The proud person fears reproach while the humble does
not. Whoever has acquired the meekness of Christ is always prepared to reproach
himself and welcomes abuse, and sorrows when he is complimented. But this is only
the first step in humility; when the soul experiences the Lord through the Holy Spirit
in His humility and meekness, then it sees itself as worse than all.
The Lord has taught me to hold my mind in hell, and not to despair. And this is how
my soul becomes humble, but this is not yet real humility, which is indescribable. As
the soul moves toward the Lord, it becomes fearful, but when it sees the Lord, then it
becomes immensely joyous from the beauty of His glory, and it forgets everything
earthly in the face of the love of God and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. This is the
Lord’s Heaven. Love will surround everyone, and from the humility of Christ they will
be glad to see others above them. The humility of Christ exists in the lowly: they are
happy in their lowliness. This was given to me to understand by the Lord.
The Lord said, "Learn from Me to be meek and humble of heart." There are many
types of humility. You can be obedient and reproach yourself in everything — this is a
form of humility. Another can repent his sins and count himself the lowest before
Christ — this is also a form of humility. But when a soul sees the Lord through the
Holy Spirit in all His meekness and humility, then it also becomes humbled to its
limits. This is a special sort of humility which cannot be described, it can only be
experienced through the Holy Spirit. And if people could experience the Lord through
the Holy Spirit, they would all change — the wealthy would despise their wealth, the
learned their studies, the powerful their glory and authority, and all would be
humbled and would live in great peace and love, and the earth would be filled with
great joy. He who has experienced God through the Holy Spirit has a different
understanding and taste.
The Lord loves people, but sends them sorrows, so that they can understand their
weakness and be humbled, and for their humility they can accept the Holy Spirit. With
the Holy Spirit all is good, all is joyous, all is wonderful.
One might suffer greatly from poverty and ill-health, yet not be humbled: and so
suffer in vain. But whoever is humbled is happy with any fate because the Lord is his
wealth and joy, and all people will be amazed at the beauty of his soul.
You say, "I have great sorrow." But I say, or rather, the Lord Himself says, "Have
humility," and you will see your sorrows dissolve into peace, so that you yourself will
be amazed and say, "Why did I suffer and torment myself so?" Now you are joyful
because you have become humble and the grace of God has descended upon you. And
should you even remain alone in poverty, joy will not leave you because there is the
peace in your soul of which the Lord said, "I give you My peace." Thus does the Lord
give His peace to all humble souls.
The soul of the humble person is like the sea: cast a stone into the sea, and for a
moment it will disturb its serenity, and then sink to the depths. Sorrows sink in the
heart of the humble because the power of the Lord is with them.
Previously I thought that the Lord performed miracles only in response to the prayers
of saints. But now I know that the Lord will perform a miracle even for a sinner as
soon as his soul is humbled, for when a person learns humility, then the Lord shall
hear his prayers.
In their inexperience, many believe that one or another saint performed a miracle, but
I have learned that it is the Holy Spirit residing in a person who performs the miracle.
The Lord hopes that we will all be saved and be with Him eternally, and for that
reason He listens to the prayers of a sinner for the good of others and for the one
Where do you reside, humble soul; and who resides in you; and what can I compare
You shine brightly, like the sun, and you do not burn out, but give warmth to all
You will inherit the earth of the meek, as the Lord said.
You are like a flourishing garden, in the midst of which stands a beautiful house,
where the Lord likes to live.
The earth and the sky love you.
The holy Apostles, Prophets, and Saints love you.
The Angels, Seraphims and Cherubims love you.
You, in your humility, are loved by the Ever-Virgin Mother of God.
The Lord loves you and finds joy in you.
On the World of the Soul.
Judging by what is written in the Scriptures and by the character of the people
surrounding us, we are living in the final days. However, as that great holy man of
Russia, Saint Serafim of Sarov, said, we must seek to keep safe our inner peace,
because without this salvation is impossible. During Serafim’s life, in response to his
prayers, the Lord kept Russia safe; after him came another pillar stretching from
earth to the heavens, Father John of Kronstadt. He loved the people and prayed
continuously for them: "Lord, I wish that Your world would be in all Your people,
whom You love so boundlessly that You gave Your Only Son to save the world."
Praying thus without respite for the people, he retained his inner peace. But we are
losing ours because we do not love people. The Holy Apostles and all the saints
desired salvation for all people and, remaining among people, prayed for them
energetically. The Holy Spirit gave them the strength to love all people. If we do not
love our brothers, then we cannot have peace. Everyone should think this over.
Glory to the Lord, that He has not left us orphans, but has given us the Holy Spirit to
be with us on this earth. The Holy Spirit teaches the soul unspoken love for people
and sorrow for all those who have lost their way and who are descending into hell.
And whosoever has not acquired the Holy Spirit does not wish to pray for enemies.
Saint Paisii the Great prayed for his disciple, who had renounced Christ, and while he
was praying, the Lord appeared and said to him, "Paisii, who are you praying for? He
has renounced Me." But Paisii continued to sorrow for his disciple, whereupon the
Lord said, "Paisii, you have become like Me in your love."
Thus is peace retained, and there is no other path.
If someone prays much and fasts, but does not love his enemies, then he cannot
achieve peace in his soul. I could not speak like this, if the Holy Spirit had not taught
You should guide your brother meekly, with love. Peace is lost when the soul
becomes vain, treating a brother with condescension, or judging someone, or
teaching a brother, but not meekly and without love. If you eat too much, or pray
limply, you will lose the peace in your soul.
But if we adapt to diligent prayer for our enemies and love for them, then peace will
ever be in our souls; and if we should hate and condemn our brethren, then our minds
shall become clouded and they will both lose inner peace and become impudent
Whoever carries within himself the peace of the Holy Spirit brings peace to others as
well; and who carries with him an evil spirit brings evil to others. The soul that has
experienced God wishes always to see Him within itself, for He enters quietly, and
brings peace to the soul, and witnesses salvation without words.
The Lord called on a sinful soul to repent, and it turned to Him. Then He mercifully
accepted it and revealed Himself to it because He is merciful, humble and meek. In
His infinite mercy He did not mention the soul’s sins, and the soul loved Him without
end, and was drawn to Him like a caged bird to a green wood.
Suddenly the soul loses the Lord’s grace and wonders how it insulted the Lord. "I will
ask for forgiveness, and perhaps He will once again give me His grace, for my soul
wishes for nothing else in this world except the Lord," thinks a person, for the love of
the Lord is so warming, that if a soul should taste it — it would desire nothing else;
and if it should lose it, or if grace should dissipate, then what prayers would a soul
not utter in order to return the Lord’s grace to it?
When a soul lives in the Holy Spirit, then it is joyful and does not pine for the
heavens, because it feels the Kingdom of God within itself: the Lord has come and
abides within it. But when it loses grace, then it begins to pine for heaven and
tearfully seeks out the Lord.
Whoever has not felt grace cannot know what it is to desire it. Most people have
become attached to the worldly, and they cannot understand that nothing worldly
could ever take the place of the Holy Spirit. The Lord takes His grace from the soul
and in this manner mercifully and wisely teaches it to be humble, for it was for the
soul that He spread His arms on the Cross with such great suffering. He gives the
soul the ability to struggle against our enemies, but the soul by itself is powerless to
achieve victory; for this reason it is said, "Ask, and ye shall receive." And if we do not
ask, then we but torment and rob ourselves of the grace of the Holy Spirit, without
which the soul remains confused, because it cannot see the will of God.
Here is the shortest and easiest path to salvation: Be obedient and temperate, do
not judge and keep your mind and heart free of evil thoughts; believe instead that all
people are kind and that God loves them. For these humble thoughts the grace of the
Holy Spirit will live within you, and you will say, "God is merciful."
It brings the Lord joy to see a humbly penitent soul, and He brings the grace of the
Holy Spirit to it. I know how one novice received the Holy Spirit after only a half-year
in a monastery; others received the Holy Spirit after ten years; and yet others live for
forty and more years before they experience grace. But none of them could retain
grace, because we are not humble.
Saint Serafim was 27 years old, when he saw the Lord, and his soul loved God so,
that the sweetness of the Holy Spirit changed him entirely. But when he later went to
a deserted area and saw that he no longer carried that grace, he stood for three
years on a rock and cried, "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner."
Blessed is he who does not lose the grace of God, but rises from strength to
strength. I have lost grace, but the Lord has felt great pity for me and allowed me to
taste an even greater one in His mercy. Brothers, with all your strength, humble your
souls, so that the Lord will love them and bestow His mercy upon them. But we
cannot hope for mercy if we do not love our enemies.
Glory to the Lord, that He gave us repentance, with which we can all — without
exception — achieve salvation. Only those who refuse to repent shall not achieve
salvation, and in this I see their despair, and I cry out of pity for them.
Any soul which has lost its peace must repent, and the Lord will forgive its sins, and
then peace and joy will visit the soul. There need be no witnesses, for the Holy Spirit
is the witness of the remission of sins. Here is a sign of forgiveness: if you have
come to hate sin, then the Lord has forgiven your sin.
Whoever repents sincerely is prepared to withstand any sorrow: hunger and
homelessness, cold and heat, illness and poverty, humiliation and banishment, lies
and slander, for the soul seeks God and does not concern itself with anything worldly,
but instead prays with a clear mind. And whoever is tied to lands and wealth can
never have a clear mind in God, because deep within his soul there is always a
concern over worldly things. If he should not repent completely and not sorrow over
his insult to God, then he will die impassioned, never having received the Lord.
Christ prayed for those that crucified Him: "Father, count not this sin against them;
they know not what they do." Archdeacon Stefan prayed for those who stoned him so
that the Lord would not judge this sin against them. And so we, if we wish to retain
grace, must pray for our enemies. If you do not find pity on a sinner who will suffer in
flames, then you do not carry the grace of the Holy Spirit, but rather an evil spirit;
and while you yet live, you must free yourself from his clutches through repentance.
The Lord loves us as His children, and His love is stronger than a mother’s love,
because even a mother can forget her child, but the Lord never forgets us. And if the
Lord Himself had not given the Holy Spirit to the Orthodox people and our great
pastors, then we could never know how much He loves us.
The Lord loves us so much that for our salvation He came down to earth and spilled
His Blood for us, and gave It to us to drink, and gave us His Ever-Clean Body. Thus
we became His children, of His Flesh and Blood; and we are like the Lord in flesh as
children are like their fathers, no matter their age. And the Spirit of God witnesses to
our souls that we shall always be with Him.
In order to experience the Lord it is not necessary to have wealth, or learning, but it
is necessary to be obedient and abstemious, to have a humble spirit and love your
neighbor; the Lord will love such a soul and reveal Himself to it, and will more often
teach it love and humility, and will give it all it needs in order that it may find peace
The Lord created man from earth, but He loves us as His children, and awaits us with
The Lord loves all people, but whoever searches for Him, He loves most. "Who loves
Me — I love," says the Lord, "and who seeks me shall find grace" (Proverbs 8:17). The
love of the Lord is such that He desires that all people should be saved and be with
Him in Heaven for eternity, to witness His glory. We cannot know this glory in full,
but through the Holy Spirit can know it in part. And whoever has not experienced the
Holy Spirit cannot know this glory, but can only believe in the promise of the Lord and
keep His commandments. But even they are blessed, as the Lord said to the Apostle
Thomas (John 20:29); and they will be equal to those who witnessed the glory of the
Lord on earth.
And I learned that love is different in strength. Whoever fears God in order not to
insult Him: this is the first kind of love. Whoever has a mind clear of unnecessary
thought — this is the second form of love, greater than the first. Whoever feels the
presence of grace in his soul — this is the third form of love, even greater.
The fourth, absolute, love for God is to have grace in your body as well as your soul.
Such a body will become holy and leave relics. This happens with great martyrs,
prophets and saints. Whoever has reached this level is untouched by bodily love. He
may sleep with a girl and feel no desire for her. The love of God is greater than that
bodily love that attracts the entire world, except those who have the grace of God in
full, for the sweetness of the Holy Spirit recreates the entire person and teaches to
love God completely. In the fullness of the love of God, the soul does not touch the
earth; though one may live among others in the world, he forgets all in the world
thanks to the love of God. Our misfortune is that we are too proud to stand in that
grace, and it leaves our souls, and the soul searches for it, crying and weeping, and
says, "My soul pines for the Lord."
Whoever wishes to love the Lord must love his enemies and be without spite; then
the Lord will give you to glorify Him day and night, and your mind will forget the
world; and if it should return and remember, then it will pray diligently for the world.
This is how the saints lived, for the Spirit of God taught their souls to pray for others.
The Lord calls upon bishops to lead their flocks and bestows upon them the grace of
the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit they have the authority to release sin or not. They
are the heirs of the Apostles, and they lead us to Christ by the grace bestowed upon
them. They teach us repentance; they teach us to keep the commandments of the
Lord. They enlighten us with the word of God, so that we might experience the Lord.
They show us the path of salvation and help us rise to the peak of the humble spirit
of Christ. They collect the sorrowing and the lost sheep of Christ in the churchyard in
order that their souls might achieve peace in God.
They pray to God on our behalf, so that we might be saved. They, as the friends of
Christ, can entreat the Lord, so that the living will be given humility and the grace of
the Holy Spirit, and the dead — forgiveness for their sins, and the Church — peace
and freedom. They engage in great labors and deeds, and for this they receive the
wealth of knowledge of the Saints, whose lives they emulate. They stand above all;
like eagles, they soar high and from there they see boundless space, and with the
wisdom of theology they lead the herd of Christ.
The priest, servant at the altar of Christ, is a great figure. Whoever insults him
insults the Holy Spirit abiding in him. One humble and meek man was strolling with
his wife and three children. He met an archpriest in a carriage, and when the peasant
bowed to him in reverentially, he saw the archpriest blessing him enveloped in flames
If people could see the true glory in which a priest serves, they would faint from the
sight; and if a priest could himself see the heavenly glory he stands in while
conducting the service, he would become a great ascetic, in order not to allow any
insult to the grace of the Holy Spirit residing within him.
I write these lines and my soul is joyous that our pastors are like the Lord Jesus
Christ; but even we sheep, despite our small grace, are also like the Lord. People do
not know this mystery, but John the Theologian clearly said, "Let us be like Him," and
not only in death, but even now, for the Merciful Lord has sent the Holy Spirit to
earth, and the Holy Spirit lives in our Church. He lives in pure pastors; He lives in the
hearts of believers; He teaches the soul spiritual feats. He gives strength to fulfil the
Lord’s commandments and puts us on the path to righteousness.
On thought and vainglory.
Know two thoughts and fear them. One says: you are a saint; the other: you will not
be saved. Both these thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in them.
You must think: I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful, He loves His children
greatly, and will forgive my sins. But don’t depend on your deeds, though you may
have worked much. One ascetic said to me, "I must surely be forgiven, for I bow so
many times per day," but when death came, he tore at his shirt. So, not for our
labors, but in His grace the Lord dispenses mercy. The Lord wishes our souls to be
humble, absent of hate and willing to forgive all, then the Lord shall forgive us with
Know that if your thought leads you to look at how others live, this is a sign of pride.
Watch after yourself and you will see that as soon as your soul rises above your
brother, this is followed by evil thoughts.
Our enemies (demons) fell because of their pride, and call us to follow them, and
bring us feelings of praise. And if your soul accepts that praise, then grace will
depart, until the soul becomes humble again. And so all your life you must learn the
humility of Christ.
A person can fall into vainglory either through inexperience or pride. If it is
inexperience, the Lord will quickly heal him, but if it is pride, the soul will suffer long
before it learns to be humble.
We fall into vainglory when we think we are smarter and more experienced than
others, even our confessor.
If you see a light within you, or about you, do not believe it, if together with the light
you do not feel tender emotion to God and love for your neighbor. But do not be
afraid, and be humble, and the light will disappear.
If you see a vision, or an image, or a dream, do not believe it, for if it is from the
Lord, the Lord will teach you. The soul that has not experienced the Holy Spirit cannot
comprehend visions nor where they are from. The enemy gives the soul a sweetness
mixed with vanity, and this is how to recognize vainglory. If a vision is from the
enemy the soul will feel confusion and fear; but this is only a humble soul that feels
itself unworthy of a vision; a vain person may not feel fear or even confusion,
because he seeks visions and feels himself worthy, and as a result the enemy easily
The heavenly is experienced through the Holy Spirit, and the earthly through the
mind: whoever wants to experience God with his mind through learning is in
vainglory, for God can only be experienced through the Holy Spirit.
Why did the Holy Fathers place obedience above fasting and prayer? Because
asceticism without obedience leads to vanity; if a novice merely does what he is told,
he has no reason to be proud. Moreover, the obedient has cut off his will in
everything and listens to his spiritual father, and for this reason his mind is clear of
any concern and his prayer is pure. The obedient has in mind only God and the word
of his elder, while the disobedient’s mind is full of various business and
condemnation for his elder, and for that reason he cannot see God.
Obedience is necessary not only for monks, but for all people. Even the Lord was
obedient. Proud and self-assured do not let grace reside within them, and therefore
they never have internal peace, whereas the soul of the obedient easily accepts the
grace of the Holy Spirit, bringing with it joy and serenity.
Whoever carries in him even a small amount of grace will submit to leadership with
great joy. He knows that the Lord controls heaven and earth and the netherworld, and
his own self, and his affairs and all that exists in the world, and for this reason he is
always at peace.
Obedience prevents pride. In return for obedience you receive the ability to pray,
along with the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is why obedience is greater than fasting
If the fallen angels had retained obedience, they would have stayed in the heavens
and would glorify the name of the Lord to this day. And if Adam had retained
obedience, then he and his issue would have remained in Eden. But even now it is
possible to return to Eden through repentance. The Lord loves us greatly, despite our
sins, as long as we seek humility and love our enemies. Whoever does not love his
enemies cannot achieve peace, even if he were placed in Eden.
If we view the entire two-thousand-year history of Christianity, we can see the
endless wealth of achievements of Christian culture. Enormous libraries, filled with
the great works of human minds and spirits. A great number of academies,
universities, institutes, where hundreds of thousands of young people approach the
banks of this great ocean, sometimes with baited breath and pounding hearts,
thankful for the fortune and joy given to them, in other cases with a burning
enthusiasm, so that they feel no need to sleep or care for themselves, and drink
greedily of the living waters of wisdom. Tens of thousands of beautiful temples,
magnificent creations of human genius. Uncounted precious creations of other forms
of art: music, art, sculpture, poetry. And much else besides. And the Elder ignores
this and sees only one thing: humility and love of one’s enemies — this is all there is.
As wise and learned and fine-looking as a person may be, if he does not love his
enemies, i.e. any other person, he cannot reach God. And the opposite is also true,
however simple a person may be, and poor and ignorant, but if he carries within
himself that love, then "he is with God and God is with him." The Elder maintained
that it was impossible to love one’s enemies outside of the One True God. The carrier
of such love is a participant in eternal life, and he carries within himself an
undeniable witness of this. He is the abode of the Holy Spirit, and knows the Father
and the Son through the Holy Spirit, knows them with a true and life-giving
knowledge, and in the Holy Spirit he is a brother and friend of Jesus Christ, he is the
son of God, and close to God in grace.
The Lord condensed all the law and prophets into two brief commandments (Matthew
22:40). And during the last supper, before His path to death on the cross, said to the
Apostles, "There is no greater love but that a man lay down his life for his friends,"
adding, "You are My friends... I call you friends because I have told you all that I
have heard from My Father" (John 15:13-15). Thus in these few words was said
everything. And without them all the laws, prophets, cultures, are nothing.
In order to remain in the love of God, it is necessary that anger and "hate" be
multiplied to their limits, but they must be directed at the sin that lives inside me, at
the evil that acts within me, within me, not within my brother.
All the energy of the struggle with cosmic evil is contained in the deep heart of the
Christian, even as externally he — as Christ commanded — "must not resist evil"
Elder Siluan walked the earth, labored with his hands, and lived among people as a
simple human, but nobody except God ever knew him.
Saintly Father Siluan,
Pray God for us!
Missionary Leaflet # EA17
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Lives of the Saints