"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
C. S. Lewis

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Grace Proceeds Above All From Brotherly Love

Nowadays men's hearts have grown proud, and only through affliction and repentance can we arrive at salvation, while as for love – it is rarely attained.
The great St. Antony said, "I no longer fear God but love Him." He said this because his soul was flooded with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Who testifies to this love, and then it is impossible for the soul to speak otherwise. But to those who have not this immense grace, the holy Fathers teach repentance; and repentance is not far removed from love, whose coming depends on simplicity of heart and humility.
If a man thinks kindly of his brother, deeming that the Lord loves him – and especially if he believes that the Holy Spirit dwells in his soul - that man is close to the love of God.
One of you may protest: he does nothing but discourse on the love of God. But what else should we deliberate on but God? Did He not create us that we might live eternally with Him and behold His glory? When a man loves, his desire is to talk of the object of his love; and then habit enters in – if you make a habit of thinking of God, you will always carry God with you in your soul. If you are forever thinking of earthly matters, they will absorb your mind. Make a habit of meditating on the Lord's sufferings, or on eternal fire, and they will become engrained in your soul.
God helps us in what is good, while the enemy incites us to evil, but this depends also on our own wills; we must constrain ourselves to do good, but with moderation and knowing the measure of our strength. We must study our souls to know what is salutary for us: it may be more profitable for one man to pray, for another to read or write. It is a good thing to read but it is better to pray without distraction, and better still to weep: to each as it is given to him by the Lord. To be sure, when we rise from sleep we must render thanks to God, then repent and pray our fill. Next, we should read to rest the mind, and after that pray again, and then work. Grace proceeds from everything that is good. But above all from brotherly love.
One Easter-time after Vespers I was on my way back from the Monastery to where I lived at the mill, and by the roadside stood a laborer. When I drew level with him he asked me to give him an egg. Not having any, I returned to the Monastery, got a couple from my spiritual father and gave one to the laborer. He said, "There are two of us at home." I gave him the other egg also, and afterwards I wept with pity for the poverty-stricken people, and felt compassion for the whole universe and every living creature.
Another time, also at Easter, I was walking along from the main gates of the Monastery to the new Transfiguration block when I saw a little four-year-old boy running towards me with a happy face – the grace of God gladdens the hearts of children. I had an egg on me, which I gave to the child. He was delighted, and ran off to show his present to his father. And for a little thing like that I received great joy from God, and took a love for every one of God's creatures, and my soul sensed the Divine Spirit. Reaching home, seized with pity for the world, I prayed long to God, weeping many tears.
O Holy Spirit, dwell in us always!
It is good to be with Thee.
But it is not always this well with my soul: grace is lost through pride and then I fall to lamenting, as Adam lamented his lost paradise, and I cry,
Where art Thou, Oh my Light? Where art Thou, my joy?
Why hast Thou forsaken me? My heart is heavy.
Why hast Thou hidden Thyself from me?
And my soul is sorrowful.
When thou camest into my soul, Thou didst consume my
sins with fire.
Come now again into my sou1,
and again consume my sins with fire,
for they conceal Thee from me as clouds conceal the sun.
Do thou come and rejoice me with Thy coming.
Why tarryest Thou, O Lord?
Thou seest how my soul languishes, and I seek Thee in tears.
Where hidest Thou Thyself?
Indeed, Thou art in every place,
but my soul sees Thee not, and aching and in sorrow seeks Thee.
In like manner the Most Holy Virgin, and Joseph,
sought Thee, sick at heart, when Thou wast a young lad.
What thoughts passed through her sorrowing mind
when she found not her beloved Son?
Likewise did the hearts of the Holt Apostles grow heavy at the death of their Lord, mourning that their hope was lost. But the Lord appeared to them after His Resurrection, and they knew Him, and rejoiced.
So now does the Lord manifest Himself to our souls, and the soul knows Him by the Holy Spirit. Simeon of the Wonderful Mountain was a child when the Lord appeared to him, and he had not known Him before, but when the Lord appeared to him, He knew Him by the Holy Spirit.
The Lord gave the Holy Spirit on earth, and by the Holy Spirit the Lord and all things heavenly are made known; whereas without the Holy Spirit man is but sinful clay.
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Saint Silouan the Athonite, pp. 372-375

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