June 20, 2013

On Saint Silouan the Athonite (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)

Love Is Higher Than Knowledge

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

When someone visits the Holy Mountain and sees the humble monks, they could think this is a lazy life without purpose. It seems so, when one sees things from the outside. This is because few people can understand the fearsome and uninterrupted war undertaken within the souls of the monks.

This war is almost supernatural, invisible and (conducted) not only against the demonic powers of the rulers of darkness, but for beginners it is also against the flesh, that is, against lusts and passions.

Elder Silouan was my teacher. Once I asked him: "Father Silouan, perhaps these many people bring disturbance to your mind and your prayer? Would it not be better for you to go to a hermitage in Karoulia and live there in peace, like Fr. Artemios, Fr. Dositheos and Fr. Kallinikos? Or you can live in a remote cave like Fr. Gorgonios?" Fr. Silouan responded to me: "I live in a cave. My body is a cave for my soul and my soul is a cave for the Holy Spirit. And I love the people of God and minister to them, without coming out of my cave."

Despite his willingness to minister to everyone and his admirable modesty and willingness of affection, he spoke about God with extraordinary excitement and the boldness of someone speaking about a friend: "I know God. He is affectionate, good and quick to help." When the Elder said this, a certain monk, Fr. Theophanes, listened with fear and thought Fr. Silouan had lost the fear of God. But later, when he read the writings of Fr. Silouan, he changed his mind and said: "Fr. Silouan went towards and reached the measure of the Fathers of the Church."

I think the texts of Father Silouan should take their place among the books of psychology. If for no other reason, at least to confirm that (their author) was a spiritual warrior of the 20th century and to validate what the glorious Fathers of the Church taught and wrote.

There is something new among the teachings of Fr. Silouan: "Keep your mind in Hades and despair not." These words express a motivation and reminder against melancholy and sloth. I personally never heard such words.

Important is the other expression: "Love is higher than knowledge (epistemology)." This is the daily and fundamental teaching of St. Silouan.

With his love, which was tied together with his tears in prayer, he forgave the sins of sinners, upheld the weak, corrected those who did evil works, healed the sick, and pacified the winds. In the monastery he did backbreaking work. He had the warehouse with the heavy objects.

Once I told him that the Russian monks were in great turmoil, because of the tyranny of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Church of God. He then replied: "I also in the beginning had turmoil over this issue. However, after much prayer the following thoughts came to me: the Lord loves all inexpressibly. He knows everyone's plans and the time of each. The Lord allowed the persecution of the Russian people for some future good. I cannot understand it nor stop it. I am left only with prayer and love. I say these things to the brothers who have turmoil: You can only help Russia with prayer and love. Anger and cries against the atheists will not correct things."

Source: Protaton, October - December 2007. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.