Wednesday, January 09, 2008

St. Silouan the Staretz: on Suffering

Someone sent a site to read more about St. Silouan's life and with photos (and without having to wade through my blogs!).

St. Silouan suffered a tremendous despair, to the depths of the darkest night of the soul. Then God gave him a grace of living in God's presence and being filled with awe of the Divine compassion. For fifteen years he struggled with the inconstancies of human nature and wept when grace diminished.

But gradually grace grew in strength and duration, along with his sense of gratitude to God. "Oh Lord, how can I give thanks to Thee for this new, inscrutable mercy, that Thou dost reveal Thy mysteries to the ignorant sinner that I am? The world totters in the chains of despair, while to me, the least and worst of men, Thou dost reveal eternal life. Lord, not to me alone: suffer the whole world to come to know Thee!"

Yes, St. Silouan's suffering consisted in a sorrow for the world's ignorance of God; this began to dominate his prayer. Christ-like love is blessedness with which nothing in this world can compare, but at the same time it is a suffering greater than any other suffering. To love with Christ's love means to drink Christ's cup, that cup which the Word Incarnate entreated the Father to let pass from Him.

The Holy Spirit taught him Christ-like love, and the Holy Spirit bestowed on him the means to effectively live this love--to take on in himself the life of all mankind. The intensity of his prayer as he wept for the entire world, related him and bound him with strong bonds to all mankind, to the 'whole Adam'. Since he had experienced a resurrection within (or we might say a deeper conversion of soul), he began to look upon every man as his eternal brother.

Now, regarding tears. One erudite monk said that prayer without tears is not correct prayer and not from the deep heart, and would bear no fruit. But Fr. Silouan, who spiritually wept (but not emotionally or with demonstration), replied that "tears, like all other bodily forces, can dry up, but that a mind refined by weeping develops a certain subtle sense of God and, clear of all irrelevant thought, can then quietly contemplate Him. And this may be even more precious than tears."

Today, a different letter came in the mail. I had been receiving hate mail. Thankfully, today none came. I have not wanted to deal with the mail, with the issues. This morning in confession I asked if what I had prayed the other night was not proper. I had prayed, "Lord, I'd rather DIE than to be dragged back out into the world...[of all these problems and deal with them]. The confessor said that it sounded like a prayer of despair. But, I had prayed it quite calmly. He said that may be, but he has seen people attempt suicide very calmly! So I admitted that my motives were wrong, then, in that prayer. I didn't want to be bothered with troubles, didn't want to have to take the time to handle them. It was not a proper prayer.

The letter today deals with something I guess I hoped would be handled, but thought I was detached either way. I had been told that it would most likely go one way, and it is looking as if it is going in another, with the reponse likely to be negative unless I go through more processes. One would involve delving more into the past. The other is not feasible because a choice of the past has no more witnesses. That speaks for itself--that I had chosen to do something without others who knew, and ignored the wise counsel of the ones who didn't know enough about what I was choosing to do, and said to wait. The result is that I am now faced with having to deal more with it, appointments digging through the past, or to simply relinquish the process, and accept something that now I am comprehending does have an unexpected spiritual aspect.

That aspect is painful! I am experiencing the pain of it right now and have been while writing of St. Silouan. And the only conclusion I have come to, is that God may desire me to be linked to this person and another, in a choice made years ago, as a means of suffering in reparation for their sins, without releasing me from the humility of my own fault in so brashly going against prudence at the time. It is sad to see these people thus existing in sin, and what St. Silouan expresses about suffering and being one with others, that all are our brothers--rings true.

Is this God's way of teaching me Christ-like love? Does God desire me to drink this cup always, as I will always be bound spiritually to the one person, and in essence through the one, with the other? Did I not just read and write about pure love and humility being its foundation? Or am I to process through, more and more? Is the greater path of suffering to be linked spiritually, and to suffer the humiliation of facing what occurred? It seems best. Or is it that I simply do not desire the world, and to sludge through even the world of the past?


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