On this day we keep the memorial of our sacred father Silouan whom God inspired, who lived the monastic life upon the Holy Mountain in the Russian Monastery of the Holy and Great Martyr Panteleimon, and who died godly in the Lord on the twenty-fourth day of September in the year of our salvation 1938.
And now thou beholdest Him face to face,
Not darkly as in a glass.
Thine earthly country delights that thou wast born in her;
Athos rejoices in the Spirit; for in thee she nurtured a saint;
And from that sylvan mountain heaven has now received thee.
When he had reached his twenty-seventh year, he renounced the things of this life, and, with the prayers of Saint John of Kronstadt to speed him on his way, he set forth for Greece and the illustrious Holy Mountain. Here, in the cloister of the Holy Great Martyr and Physician Panteleimon, he took upon him the yoke of the monastic life.
Sitting in his cell before vespers, he thought, 'God will not hear me!' He felt utterly forsaken, his soul plunged in the darkness of despondency. Sick at heart, he remained in this black hell for about an hour.
That same day, during vespers in the Church of the Holy Prophet Elijah (adjoining the mill), to the right of the Royal Doors, by the ikon of the Saviour, he beheld the living Christ.In a manner passing all understanding the Lord appeared to the young novice whose whole being was filled with the fire of the grace of the Holy Spirit - that fire which the Lord brought down to earth with His coming.The vision drained Simeon of all his strength, and the Lord vanished. (http://www.st-silouan.org/StSilouan/ExperienceOfChristExcerpt.php)]
It was fifteen years after the Lord had appeared to him, and Silouan was engaged in one of these nocturnal struggles with devils which so tormented him. No matter how he tried, he could not pray with a pure mind. At last he rose from his stool, intending to bow down and worship, when he saw a gigantic devil standing in front of the ikon, waiting to be worshipped. Meanwhile, the cell filled with other evil spirits, Father Silouan sat down again, and with bowed head and aching heart he prayed,'Lord, Thou seest that I desire to pray to Thee with a pure mind but the devils will not let me. Instruct me, what must I do to stop them hindering me?'And in his soul he heard,'The proud always suffer from devils.'
'Lord,' said Silouan, 'teach me what I must do that my soul may become humble.'Once more, his heart heard God's answer,'Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not.' (http://www.st-silouan.org/StSilouan/LessonExcerpt.php)]
Whatever the means he employs, the proud man will never attain to genuine union with God. Just by wishing it, man cannot unite the mind with the deep heart, and even if the mind does somehow penetrate into the heart, it will see only itself, its own created beauty - splendid, undoubtedly, having been created in the Divine image - but God Himself will not be found.This is why the Blessed Staretz in his striving after humility seized on the fiery weapon given him by God: 'Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not.' Here was no subtle intellectual talking, but a 'simple', and 'ignorant' man who many a time was found worthy of pure contemplation of God, and had, indeed, grounds for saying, 'If you pray purely, you are a theologian.' Or, 'There are many on earth who believe but very few who know God.' By 'knowing God' he meant, not gnostic theories, not theological speculations, but the experience of lively communion, of real union with the Divine Light. Knowledge is co-existence - that is, a sharing of being. (http://www.st-silouan.org/StSilouan/PrideExcerpt.php)]
Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not. What does it mean - to 'keep the mind in hell'? Can it be that we are to use our imagination to conjure up circumstances for ourselves similar to those figured in some primitive painting? In this instance, no. Father Silouan, like certain great Fathers - St. Antony, St. Sisoë, St. Makarios, St. Pimen - during his lifetime actually descended into the darkness and torments of hell They did this not once but over and over again until their hearts were so permeated that they were able to repeat the movement at will. They took refuge in it when passion - especially that most subtle of passions, pride - reared its head.The struggle against pride is, in fact, the final stage in the battle against the passions. To begin with, the ascetic must wrestle with the greater passions of the flesh, then with irritability and, finally, pride. This last combat is undoubtedly the most painful of all. Taught by long experience that pride leads to loss of grace, the ascetic consciously descends into hell where every passion is 'seared with a hot iron'. (http://www.st-silouan.org/StSilouan/MindInHellExcerpt.php)]
By prayer didst thou receive Christ for thy teacher in the way of humility; and the Spirit bare witness to salvation in thy heart; wherefore all peoples called unto hope rejoice this day of thy memorial. O sacred Father Silouan, pray unto Christ our God for the salvation of our souls.
In thine earthly life thou didst serve Christ, following in His steps; and now in heaven thou seest Him Whom thou didst love, and abidest with Him according to the promise. Wherefore, O Father Silouan, teach us the path wherein thou didst walk.