The last several weeks I have shared insights from my recent reading in the book, Wisdom From Mount Athos: The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866–1938. Staretz Silouan was an Orthodox monk who lived on the mountain in Greece that is most often associated with monasticism in the Eastern Church, at least outside of Russia. The term Staretz means “Elder” and is a title given to the Orthodox monks of a particular spiritual development. Silouan was a Russian peasant whose only formal education consisted of two winters at a village school. It was on Mount Athos that he received his education through a tradition that reaches back to the beginnings of Orthodox monasticism. His wisdom, according to many of the Orthodox, is akin to that of the more famous Desert Fathers.
This compilation includes material on subjects such as the knowledge of God, the soul’s yearning for God, the likeness of the Lord in his children, prayer, humility, peace and grace, spiritual warfare and thoughts on departing this life. I have quoted from his writings on love because of my deep need to learn more of the love of God and to learn how to live this love in relationship with God and then others.
Staretz Silouan writes of various degrees of love for God. He defines these degrees in the following way:
- A person fears to distress God by sinning in any way. This is the first degree of love.
- The person whose mind is undistracted has love in the second degree.
- A third, and still greater love, is when a person is aware of grace in the soul.
- Finally, the person who has the grace of the Holy Spirit both in soul and body is in a state of perfect love.
Silouan writes: “There is no man on earth so gentle and lowly in spirit as our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him is our joy, in Him our gladness. Let us give Him our love, and He will lead us into His kingdom, where we shall behold His glory.”
Then he writes:
“There forty years, ever since the Lord through the Holy Spirit gave me to know the love of God, have I grieved over God’s people. O brethren, there is naught better than the love of God when the Lord fires the soul with love for God and our fellow-man. The man who knows the delight of the love of God—when the soul, warmed by grace, loves both God and her brother—knows in part that ‘the kingdom of God is within us.’”
“Blessed is the soul that loves her brother, for our brother is our life. Blessed is the soul that loves her brother. The Spirit of the Lord lives manifest within her, giving peace and gladness, and she weeps for the whole world.”
He writes of the Christian loving the Creator who has “not remembered” all his sins but then speaks of his own soul being “surrendered to profound and sorrowful weeping that the Lord might have mercy on every soul and take each one into His heavenly kingdom.”
The Elder concludes: “And my soul weeps for the whole world.”
Is your soul silent? Do you grieve for the people of God? Do you care deeply about the whole world? Staretz Silouan writes of living forty years in the grace of the Holy Spirit who had “taught