Monday, 29 August 2011

A crossroads of the Orthodox World (6) [O răscruce a Lumii Ortodoxe]

Giving thanks for these lovely pictures (of the monastery and Essex countryside) to my reader Mihai Gociu, I am sharing an amazing writing of St. Silouan the Athonite, that I first heard (not read) while I was dining at the Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist.

St. John the Baptist’s message – “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” – is as valid today as it was some 2,000 years ago. It’s so sad that fewer and fewer people have their ears ‘tuned’ to listen to it.

Sadder still, even among the so few that hear the Forerunner’s words, few are those who can find the strength to break away from their sinful lives…

It was there, in this oasis of serene beauty and meaningfulness – sprung within a wasteland of hedonism and moral relativism as the UK is very often described by Britons themselves – that I found out why people remain so tragically unable to reach out for their Maker.

Like in other Orthodox monasteries around the world, all people (monastics and visitors) gathered in the dining hall are supposed to dine silently; only rare whispered chats break the rule.  

In the meanwhile, someone is entrusted with reading aloud from books written by Saints or Orthodox scholars, so that not only the stomach, but also the heart, be nourished.

During such a dinner like no other in my life, I heard St. Silouan’s words about humility as being the key to a meaningful life. Unless we earn true humbleness, most of our experiences in life (be them of apparent ‘spiritual’ nature) remain altogether useless.

No bit of the ‘fun’ we had in life matters in the afterlife, neither our ‘achievements’ mean anything. The only thing that counts is a genuine change of heart (repentance/metanoia)… And how few of us get at least remotely close to it, to this true way to happiness and fulfillment!

Fewer and fewer Britons believe in God, as well as countless millions of other people in the ‘civilised world’, whose emergence couldn’t be understood without Christianity.

Even among the (theoretically) 300 million Orthodox believers in the world, very few know what humbleness is and what exactly (their own pride and egoistic outlook on life) keeps them away from a happy life.

It is not the presumed lack of something that unbelievers have or yearn for (comfort, wealth, prosperity, delights, influence, glory, influence over others etc); it’s the exact opposite of what the contemporary ‘civilised world’ deems valuable.

To those very few who may still want to know why the Lord does not reveal Himself to them, St. Silouan gives a wonderful explanation, as one who has truly known his (and everyone’s) Maker. May the Lord help these ‘proud souls’ know Him!

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“We suffer because we lack humility”
 (various sources indexed) – St. Silouan the Athonite

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 who prays.

[For all the episodes of this series, and all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate episoadele din această serie şi toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]

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