Monday, October 4, 2010

Living Death; Deathly Life

We are called as Christians to die to ourselves. We are called to let the Love of Christ consume us, and utterly transform us.

How is this done? I so long to die to myself, and gain Christ. In fact, I am placing myself on the edge, putting all I have known in danger, that I may find Truth.

I so yearn to lock myself away and completely spend my time in the study of Scripture, in learning from the Fathers, in immersing myself in Christ completely. And yet, I have many callings- a student, a worker, a brother, a friend.

In this fast-paced world, I long for a Sabbath rest. And yet, I cannot find it. I yearn to be utterly immolated with Divine Love of Christ, that my life might be a pleasing sacrifice unto God.

And yet, how much I am a hypocrite! I struggle in my prayer life; I do not read Holy Writ as oft as I should.

What am I to do? Why is it so hard to die to self? Why can I not carry my cross? Oh, that the Lord would reveal to me these things!



    For those struggling:

    A little while after the Elder's [Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)'s] ordination, a hermit monk, Fr. Vladimir, visited Fr. Sophrony at the monastery, and they discussed several spiritual issues. Fr. Vladimir, move by the conversation and the overall spiritual atmosphere it had engendered, suddenly asked: "Fr. Sophrony, give me a word for the salvation of my soul!" The Elder, who was preparing tea for Fr. Vladimir, without hesitation replied, "Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little and have a cup of tea", whereupon he handed him a cup of tea.

    This word, and especially the energy of grace that it conveyed, struck the hermit who, filled with contrition, departed and went to St. Silouan, seeking counsel and confirmation as to the authenticity and safety of this saying.

    The day after this little meeting, Fr. Sophrony was ascending in the outside stairs of the Monastery building on his way to the central court. At the same time, St. Silouan was ascending in the opposite direction from the harbour of the Monastery. Normally, they would have met outside the entrance to the church of St. Panteleimon. The Elder, however, out of respect for St. Silouan - I told you earlier how he felt when censing St. Silouan - changed course in order to avoid meeting him. But St. Silouan, too, changed course, thereby making their meeting in front of the refectory inevitable. There St. Silouan asked Fr. Sophrony, "Fr. Sophrony, did Fr. Vladimir visit you yesterday?" And Fr. Sophrony, passing over all the usual phrases of etiquette - the intermediate stages of speech that normally occur at an encounter - simply answered, "Was I wrong?" Similarly, St. Silouan said to him, "No. But what you said was beyond the measure and strength of the brother."

    And so the Elder visited St. Silouan, who related his own life to him. He described to [Fr. Sophrony] his fifteen-year struggle against the spirits of wickedness. He confided the revelatory word of Christ to him: "Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not." This word, which was a milestone in the saint's spiritual struggle, was in essence the same as the word given by Fr. Sophrony to Fr. Vladimir. Through the power of this word he was saved from every demonic assault, and was purified from every suggestion of pride.

    - Zacharou, Archimandrite Zacharias. The Enlargement of the Heart: “Be ye also enlarged” (2 Corinthians 6:13) in the Theology of Saint Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony of Essex, ed. Christopher Veniamin (South Canaan, PA: Mount Thabor Publishing, 2006), pp. 20-21.

  2. St. Silouan and Elder Sophrony were stressing the first part of their 'words', while we who are weak in the world tend to appreciate the second part of their spiritual guidance. That is, while they stand at the brink of the abyss of hell with God, we seek permission for tea, to step back, so as to not despair.

    This way, as St. Silouan told the Elder, is "beyond the measure and strength" of many, most - well, at least beyond me. Thankfully, Arch. Zacharias provides us with a safer way for those unable to stand at the edge of the abyss without falling, without despairing.

    We spoke about these words of Christ to Silouan: "Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not." This is not for everybody - not even for all monks.

    I remember when I first became a spiritual father I began to grasp a little how this is carried out in life, and I wanted to share it with all my fellows, and I was trying to teach this to one of the sisters; and Fr. Sophrony said to me (forgive me for speaking so openly): "You are stupid! This is not for everybody, not even for all monks. Tell this person to carry out her obediences and to do the work of the Hegoumen [Abbot], that is to say, the work of the monastery, and she will be saved." But, people slowly, slowly, with time, become stronger; grace strengthens their nature, and they begin to practise this in some measure.

    But there is another way, for people living in the world: to keep thanking God continually, thus: "I thank Thee, O Lord, for all the things that Thou hast done for me", and so on, adding at the end, "...though I am unworthy." This brings the same results, the same state. Psychologically, it is more acceptable and has the same effect, because thanking God continually intercedes for our weakness before Him, makes up for our weakness. I believe that this is a more accessible way for people living in the world...

    - The Enlargement of the Heart, pp. 55-56 [Source]

  3. Thank you, Orrologion. Thank you. I beg your prayers!