September 24, 2021

The Unity of Saint Silouan and Saint Sophrony (1 of 5)

 By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Saint Silouan the Athonite is celebrated today (September 24), that great empirical theologian of our Church, whose writings I can emphasize are similar to the texts of the Prophets, the Apostles and the Saints, all of whom had empirical knowledge of God, and were formulated with simplicity, which makes them admirable.

We met Saint Silouan from the book written by his fellow-ascetic and his son according to the Spirit, Saint Sophrony, otherwise he would have remained unknown, as many saints have remained unknown through the ages.

The book of Saint Sophrony about Saint Silouan was published in the Greek language in 1973 and was then, almost 50 years ago, my spiritual nourishment. Reading it led me to its author, that is, to Saint Sophrony, whom I first met in 1976, and since then we have been very closely connected spiritually.

Knowing Saint Sophrony spiritually, I understood even more the teachings of Saint Silouan, as analyzed by the one who knew him and had a spiritual kinship with him, since he inherited his entire tradition. At the same time, Saint Silouan gave the confirmation to what Saint Sophrony was going through at that time.

Talking many times with Saint Sophrony, I understood very well that he spoke from experience, and conveyed in a scholarly language the experience of Saint Silouan and his own. Because he was acquainted with the philosophical and theological movements that circulated in the West at that time, he expressed in a modern language the empirical theology of Saint Silouan.

Thus, the books written by Saint Sophrony also reflect the teachings of Saint Silouan, in a very special way, which is why they are important.

Saint Sophrony himself wrote of Saint Silouan:

"As far as we can judge from our contacts with people, he was the only dispassionate person we happened to meet in the course of our earthly life. In fact, now that he is no longer with us, he seems to us to be an extraordinary giant of the spirit."

Then he writes that despite his simplicity he had an inner greatness and that is why, he says, in his life he has not met anyone like him:

"When he lived, he was so simple and approachable, that despite our reverence for him, despite the awareness of the high holiness of this man, we could not fully feel his greatness. And only now, when after a whole series of years on our course, we have not met anyone like him, so we begin with a delay to understand the authentic greatness of that one whom, according to the unfathomable providence of God, we were led to know up close."

This is the reason why all the books written by Saint Sophrony express the empirical theology of Saint Silouan, which is similar to his own theological experience, but with the help of the meaning and depth of the amazing experience of the Church.

I think it is something similar with what one observes between the texts of the Prophets and Apostles and the texts of the Holy Fathers of the Church, especially of the fourth century.

Precisely for this reason, I will then make a small presentation of the panorama of the theology of Saint Sophrony, which also reflects the theology of Saint Silouan, as can be seen in the books published by Saint Sophrony so far.

It should be emphasized that basically the priority of the presentation of the books is done with the year when they were written and not with the time when they were published. Thus, in a way, this text also functions as a theological and ascetical autobiography of Saint Sophrony.