Monday, January 28, 2008

St. Silouan, on Suffering

Some excerpts from the Staretz' writings on the "Knowledge of God" assist in courage and joy of suffering.

"...the Apostles, and after them the marytrs and holy men who wrestled against evil, went forward with joy to meet pain and suffering. For the Holy Spirit, sweet and gracious, draws the soul to love the Lord, and in the sweetness of the Holy Spirit, the soul loses her fear of suffering.

"The Lord is love; and He commanded us to love one another and to love our enemies; and the Holy Spirit teaches us this love.

"The soul that has not come to know the Holy Spirit does not understand how it is possible to love one's enemies, and will not receive this commandment; but in the Lord is pity for all men, and he who would be with the Lord must love his enemies....

"Many numbers of people, you say, are suffering every kind of adversity and from evil men. But I entreat you: humble yourself beneath the strong hand of God, and grace will be your teacher and you yourself will long to suffer for the sake of the love of the Lord. That is what the Holy Spiirt Whom we have come to know in the Church, will teach you.

"But the man who cries out against evil men, who does not pray for them, will never know the grace of God.

"If you would know the Lord's love for us, hate sin and wrong thoughts, and day and night pray fervently. the Lord will then give you His grace, and you will know Him through the Holy Spirit, and after death, when you enter into paradise, there too you will know the Lord through the Holy Spirit, as you knew Him on earth.

"We do not need riches or learning in order to know the Lord: we must simply be obedient and sober, have a humble spirit and love our fellow-men. The Lord will love a soul that does this, and of His own accord make Himself manifest to her and instruct her in love and humility, and give her all things necessary for her to find rest in God....

"To believe in God is one thing, to know God another....

"Some there are who spend their whole lives in trying to find out about the sun, or the moon, or in seeking like knowledge; yet this is of no profit to the soul. But if we take pains to explore the human heart this is what we shall see: the kingdom of heaven in the soul of the saint, but in the soul of the sinner are darkness and torment. And it is good to know this because we shall dwell eternally either in the kingdom or in torment.

"Just as the love of Jesus Christ is beyond our understanding, so we cannot conceive of the depth of His suffering, because our own love for the Lord is so infinitely small. But with greater love comes more understanding, even of the Lord's sufferings. There is love in small degree, medium love and perfect love; and the more perfect our love the more perfect our knowledge."

I admit that I am trying to practice greater love of all peoples, especially of enemies. To do this, I try to be aware more of who are my enemies. Since I rarely go places except Mass, it is easy enough to see my enemies at Mass. I have people who dislike me or at minimum are wary. There aren't many--perhaps two women who have shown dislike. But when I see them, I think of love, of how I love them. I try to inwardly smile. If I am mistreated by these or anyone, I try to inwardly smile and think: I love you.

At night, I lie in bed usually for some time, as it takes awhile to fall asleep with the chronic pain. I try to think of enemies of the past, present and future. There are those who have hurt me very much. I tell them in my mind that I forgive them and love them. They do not have to forgive or love me [for ways I may have hurt them, or not]; I keep this a one-sided exercise.

Then, I think of other people's enemies--people who I know have been hurt by others, and the others who have done the hurting. This could be a friend's spouse who is hurting the friend, or a parent I saw at a store hurting his or her child, or a young woman who has had an abortion or might be thinking of having an abortion [for this I must consider the person in general, since I do not know anyone personally in this state]. I think of people who have been abused by adults sexually and emotionally, and I think of the perpetrators. I think of any ways in which I have lacked kindness or attentiveness to others.

I pray for all these people and ask Jesus to let me accept responsibility for the ones who have hurt others, for the "enemies" of people hurt to the point of anger and not being able to live their lives in love and freedom of God. And since it is said we often are our own worst enemies, I pray to be forgiven by God, and for the Holy Spirit to heal my wounds and the wounds of others who are ensnared by not being able to pray for their enemies.

Since I have recently begun these exercises, I have no results other than a long-term result of someone I prayed for often. He had not told the truth and had prevented something that would have been very good for another. He also said hurtful things to this other person. I prayed for several years, as this person had become a sticking point, and the prayers changed my mind and my heart. I found that love for this person had entered into my mind and heart without my realizing. Has the person changed? I don't know. But there is love now, and no enemy, at least from my stance.

I do not know how it will be to ask the Lord to let me take responsibility for the hurts the "enemies" have done to others. This has been prayed; and God answers our prayers. As in most of these situations, the change will probably occur gradually, even imperceptibly, but where there is love and prayer, the Holy Spirit enacts; conversion commences. I do not want to exist in torment. No, the peace is too cherished!

If Jesus commands us to love one another and to love our enemies, to pray for them, then we must do this. It begins by simply doing it, and trying to do it with as much love as possible, even if that is but a small amount of love. The Holy Spirit has the power to cause love to grow; God is love. The small seed of love is of God, and it will grow in prayer and in the desire for more love--perfect love. The saints found the commandments of Jesus to be true. They "work". Suffering is so akin to love,: it "works".


Blogger Marie said...

I really struggled with this 'love your enemy' part for many years. Then oneday I understood the meaning of the word 'love' and what it did not mean.

To love your enemy does not mean I must feel 'fuzzy wuzzy' or 'cuddly wuddly' towards them..What it DOES mean is to see Jesus within them and love them because of that fact alone.

Many times we owe a debt of gratitude towards these enemies for bringing forth the worst and the best in our own personalities. When we see the worst in ourselves we quickly hasten to the Sacrament of Penance..When we see the best in ourselves we lift our hearts to God and thank Him for His Gift to you.

What is that old say...'the amount of love you have for your enemy is the amount of love you have for God?' Something like that.

Wonderful reflection Zenith. Much to ponder on....

Peace & JOY to you


7:49 PM  
Blogger nothing said...

Marie, You express it all so beautifully! Thank you for bringing up these points. I especially like the gratitude we owe our enemies, and the action we can take when we see the best and worst in ourselves!

Praying seems crucial to keep "enemies" not enemies any longer. Praying seems necessary for love. I'm just beginning to comprehend matters....

6:57 AM  

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