Friday, January 18, 2008

St. Silouan on Distinguishing Good from Evil

This seems very good, for recently there has been an examination of events and situations which include evil. I think I referred to the devil as a kind of suffering. This morning the confessor said it is a process to learn to deal with the devil, and the devil is adept at figuring out new ways to surprise. But also, perhaps more importantly, he said that it is a process to not personalize what others think or say, and to not react to the stirring that is out in the world. It is enough (and a good) to focus on God.

The Staretz seems to be saying this. The final lines of this excerpt from Sophrony the Archimandrite's book about St. Silouan, are special for those who suffer. The damage caused by evil is effaced by God--removed, erased, as in acne can be treated and healed and erased from one's face with no scars remaining. I pray this for anyone reading, but it is very much for me to ponder and praise God for others who have wisdom to explain such truths.

Now to quote what Sophrony the Archimandrite shares of St. Silouan's teaching:

"The Staretz...held that the certain sign by which to recognize good from evil is not so much the end, which may appear to be holy and sublime, as the means selected to achieve the end.

"God alone is absolute. Evil, which has no original essence but is merely the resistance of the free creature to God, cannot be absolute. Therefore the evil does not and cannot exist of itself but must live like a parasite on the body of good. Evil must find a justification, must appear disguised as good, and often the highest good. Evil always and inevitably contains an element appearing to have a positive value, and it is this which seduces man. Evil strives to present its positive facet as a jewel so precious, or at all events so desirable, that all means are justified to attain it.

"Absolute good cannot be achieved in man's earthly existence: there is an element of imperfection in all human undertakings. This presence of imperfection in human good on the one hand, and the inevitable presence of some pretence of good in evil on the other, often make it extremely difficult to distinguish good from evil.

"The Staretz believed that evil always proceeds by means of deceit,camouflaging itself as good, whereas good in order to realize itself does not need the co-operation of evil. Therefore as soon as wrong means--malice, lying, violence and their like--make their appearance, one is entering a domain alien to the spirit of Christ. Good is not attained by evil means, and the end does not justify the means. Good not obtained by good means is not good. This is the testament we have received from the Apostles and holy Fathers. Although good frequently triumphs and by its appearance rectifies evil, this does not mean that evil has led to good, that good has come out of evil. That is impossible. But the power of God is such that where it appears, it heals all things so wholly that no scar remains--the damage caused by evil is effaced--for God is the fullness of life and creates life from nothing."


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