St. Silouan on the Love of God

silouanI cannot remain silent concerning the people, whom I love so greatly that I must weep for them. I cannot remain silent because my soul ever grieves for the people of God, and I pray for them with tears. I cannot refrain from making known to you, brethren, the mercy of God and the wiles of the enemy.

Forty years have gone by since the grace of the Holy Spirit taught me to love mankind and every created thing, and revealed unto me the wiles of the enemy, who works his evil in the world by means of deceit.

Love does not depend on time, and the power of love continues always. There are some who believe that the Lord suffered death for love of man but because they do not attain to this love in their own souls it seems to them that it is an old story of bygone days. But when the soul knows the love of God by the Holy Spirit she feels without a shadow of doubt that the Lord is our Father, the closest, the best and dearest of fathers, and there is no greater happiness than to love God with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our minds, according to the Lord’s commandment, and our neighbor as ourself. And when this love is in the soul, everything rejoices her; but when it is lost sight of man cannot find peace, and is troubled, and blames others as if they had done him an injury, and does not realise that he himself is at fault – he has lost his love for God and has accused or conceived a hatred for his brother.

Grace proceeds from brotherly love, and by brotherly love grace is preserved; but if we do not love our brother the grace of God will not come into our souls.

15 comments:

  1. Profound words from a holy man, thank you. St. Silouan has given me a couple of new insights. We proclaim God’s love by loving one another. To choose not to love another, it seems, is to choose to live in hell, separate from God’s grace. And to not love another is an act of violence.

  2. “Grace proceeds from brotherly love, and by brotherly love grace is preserved; but if we do not love our brother the grace of God will not come into our souls.”

    Wise, convicting words indeed. 🙁

  3. Father Stephen, could you very kindly tell us how “Silouan” is pronounced?

    As you can see, I like to focus on the essentials.

  4. Father,

    This is totally not on topic, but I don’t see an email address for you on here (I can totally understand why, judging from the comments your most recent post generated!). I was wondering about your church school VBS curriculum that you mentioned last summer. I think I had emailed you back then and was just wondering if it was available. My parish’s church school is always looking for new ways to teach the kids and engage them in the life of the liturgy of the Church.

    Thank you and I’m so sorry that this not about the post! I do love the posts of St. Silouan’s writing, though. I want to read more by him. I feel a connection to him that is hard to explain. Thank you again!

  5. Which comes first, the love for our brother, or love for God?

    Love for God is a very hard thing for me to understand, because God is no object. I understand when the saints talk about how money, power, pleasure etc. does not give true happiness, because all of those are things. But when they say that true happiness consists in the love of God, I don’t know what they mean. Who/what is God that we may love Him? Money does this thing, food gives that taste, but God cannot be defined except by the very thing that I don’t understand: love.

    Please help, if you have a few words here. Perhaps I don’t love God. I don’t even know what it means. I want to love God, I think, because I want to be happy, and nothing else has allowed for lasting happiness. But that’s as far as I can go if I’m honest with myself, and that seems pretty short of faith, hope, or love.

  6. Nes,
    I do not think we should think of one above the other, or one without the other. Love your brother, neighbor, etc. Be honest in your prayer to God and say, “I’m not sure how to love you other than doing this.” He is a good God and loves us and doesn’t have some sort of metaphysical hoops for us to jump through. Love your neighbor, and the rest will come in its own time.

  7. Thank you Father. I guess then I would ask, how do I love my brother? To love someone means to will their good, correct? But I don’t know what their good is. I don’t even know what my good is. If the answer is that “my good is to will the good of others” then we go round and round in a circle, the word “good” becoming meaningless.

    I do know, for example, food is good when one is hungry. It feels nice to eat and makes pain go away. So offering food to a hungry person is good because it eases their suffering. But easing suffering isn’t what it means to love. Loving seems to require knowing what one needs, and if what one needs is to love God, how I am supposed to facilitate that when I don’t even know who God is?

    I feel like I’m trapped outside of a circle with no entry point. To love God is to love people, and to love people is to love God: but that doesn’t mean anything if love as an act isn’t defined. Paul talks about the attributes of love in his letter to the Corinthians, but he doesn’t define to what end they pertain. “Love is patient” — but patiently waiting for what?

    Anyway, I feel loved when you take time to respond to my questions. It’s because I feel cared for, I think. Is that love? Caring for others? Wanting to see them happy? But what is it to be happy? Ah! I don’t know, my brain and my heart hurts. Thank you, regardless.

  8. Nes,
    The way I generally see it is that man cannot, of his own, have love : God alone is love (and has love, and makes you and ne have love – it comes from Him – it’s energy is Grace as love without Grace isn’t authentic love.)
    The closer our union to Him the more we can love. Our part of the deal (there is always a “deal” – a covenant – involved in any relationship between free persons that can lead to their union) is manifested by our efforts to fight our self centerdness and to keep the commandments and to act as if we have love even when we don’t , the rest is God’s. We mustnt be demanding though! Rather be trusting…
    Love is a cross: the vertical staff is (vertical) love towards God and the horizontal staff is (horizontal) love towards neighbour, the first supports the second and the second proves the first. Only God can fuel both and our acceptance of our weakness to have even a morsel of either is a positive first step to being the fertile ground into which God plants the seed of both.

  9. Nes,
    Forgive me, but I think you’re over analyzing this – which is how we get stuck in circles.

    Of course we do not know the future or what someone’s “good” is. Keep it simple. Be kind. Try not to hurt others. Be generous, share what you have. Do not seek to control others. Don’t lie or intentionally deceive. You will not get it right all of the time. So, ask forgiveness when you get it wrong.

    As to St. Paul. “Love is patient.” What for? For whatever. It does not seek to force someone to be where they are not or to get there quicker.

    We are not in charge of history (not even our own). The outcome of history is ultimately in God’s hand and, with patience, we can learn to be content.

  10. Nes,
    May God give you more grace! That you so fervently seek love shows His grace upon you already.
    Forgive me, for the only reason that I further respond to you is that I am a sinner in need of more grace as well.

    I think I partly understand what you are saying about love. Using the example you give about feeding the hungry, the effect (alleviating suffering) is there but the cause (love) is elusive. There is a definite lack. What is this love that I am supposed to feel? Why have I not experienced it?

    It seems this search for perfect love has existed as long as human beings have walked the face of the earth. I think part of the problem lies in trying to define what love is. In the true sense of the word, love is a who rather than a what. God is Love, therefore the source of, the cause of, every act of love. Would there be no Love, there would be no existence, no life, no creation. To exist in the true sense of the word, is to love. But there must be “another” to love!

    And such is the revelation of God….that the source of human love is God as He exists in Trinity…love freely given to the Other. Such is the basic fabric of Life Itself, between the Father, Son, and Spirit. It is this Love that is poured forth on us…the shared Love of the Godhead, the Trinity. So the Source is God, whose very being is love. His dealings with mankind can only be known as Love, a Person, manifest as movement (an “act” if you will), a flowing forth toward us. He “is” in a sense that movement! His act is not apart from Himself. This is why acts of kindness done strictly on a human level, apart from love of God (true selfless love), leaves us wanting. God is that perfect Love. Nothing else will satisfy apart from Him.

    Father Stephen mentioned your prayers to God. He will show you what you need to know. In time, however long (or short) it takes, you will recognize His love.
    Just as it is true that to receive a gift you turn to the person giving it and accept it, so with God. He already loves you. He will make you ready to receive His love as well.

    My prayers, Nes….

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