Of the Knowledge of God by St. Silouan

THE Father so loved us that He gave us His Son; but such was the will of the Son too, and He became incarnate and lived with us on earth. And the holy Apostles and a multitude of people beheld the Lord in the flesh, but not all knew Him as the Lord; yet it has been given to me, a poor sinner, through the Holy Spirit to know that Jesus Christ is God.

St. Silouan

The Lord loves man and reveals Himself to man. And when the soul beholds the Lord she humbly rejoices in the Master's compassion, and from that hour her love for her Creator is greater than her any other love: though she may see all things and love all men, yet will she love the Lord above all.

The soul suddenly sees the Lord and knows that it is He.

Who shall describe this joy, this gladness?

The Lord is made known in the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit pervades the entire man - soul, mind and body.

After this wise is God known in heaven and on earth.

The Lord in His boundless mercy granted this grace to me, a sinner, that others might come to know God and turn to Him.

I write out of the grace of God.

Yea, this is truth.

The Lord Himself is my Witness.

The Merciful Lord gave the Holy Spirit on earth, and by the Holy Spirit was the Holy Church established.

The Holy Spirit unfolded to us not only the things of the earth but those too which are of heaven.

The Prophets, the beloved of the Lord, rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, wherefore the words that they spake were mighty and pleasant, for every soul would hear the word of the Lord.

Filled with love the holy Apostles went into all the world, preaching salvation to mankind and fearing nothing, for the Spirit of God was their strength. When St Andrew was threatened with death upon the cross if he did not stay his preaching he answered:

'If I feared the cross I should not be preaching the Cross.'

In this manner all the other Apostles, and after them the martyrs and holy men who wrestled against evil, went forward with joy to meet pain and suffering. For the Holy Spirit, sweet and gracious, draws the soul to love the Lord, and in the sweetness of the Holy Spirit the soul loses her fear of suffering.

The Lord is love; and He commanded us to love one another and to love our enemies; and the Holy Spirit teaches us this love.

The soul that has not come to know the Holy Spirit does not understand how it is possible to love one's enemies, and will not receive this commandment; but in the Lord is pity for all men, and he who would be with the Lord must love his enemies.

How may we know whether the Lord loves us or no?

Here are tokens: If you battle firmly against sin the Lord loves you. If you love your enemies you are even more beloved of God. And if you lay down your life for others you are greatly beloved of the Lord, who Himself laid down His life for us.

The man who has known the Lord through the Holy Spirit becomes like unto the Lord, as St John the Divine said: 'We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.' And we shall behold his glory.

Many numbers of people, you say, are suffering every kind of adversity and from evil men. But I entreat you: Humble yourself beneath the strong hand of God, and grace will be your teacher and you yourself will long to suffer for the sake of the love of the Lord. That is what the Holy Spirit, whom we have come to know in the Church, will teach you.

But the man who cries out against evil men, who does not pray for them will never know the grace of God.

If you would know of the Lord's love for us, hate sin and wrong thoughts, and day and night pray fervently. The Lord will then give you His grace, and you will know Him through the Holy Spirit, and after death, when you enter into paradise, there too you will know the Lord through the Holy Spirit, as you knew Him on earth.

We do not need riches or learning in order to know the Lord: we must simply be obedient and sober, have a humble spirit and love our fellow-men. The Lord will love a soul that does this, and of His own accord make Himself manifest to her and instruct her In love and humility, and give her all things necessary for her to find rest in God.

We may study as much as we will but we shall still not come to know the Lord unless we live according to His commandments, for the Lord is not made known through learning but by the Holy Spirit. Many philosophers and scholars have arrived at a belief in the existence of God, but they have not come to know God.

To believe in a God is one thing, to know God another.

Both in heaven and on earth the Lord is made known only by the Holy Spirit, and not through ordinary learning. Even children, who have no learning at all, come to know the Lord by the Holy Spirit. St John the Baptist felt the presence of the Lord while still In his mother's womb. St Simeon Stylites was a seven-year-old boy when the Lord appeared to him and he knew Him; St Seraphim a grown man of twenty-seven when the Lord showed Himself to him during the Liturgy; and another Simeon was stricken with years when he received the Lord in his arms in the temple, and knew Him.

Some there are who spend their whole lives in trying to find out about the sun, or the moon, or in seeking like knowledge; yet this is of no profit to the soul. But if we take pains to explore the human heart this is what we shall see: the kingdom of heaven in the soul of the saint, but in the soul of the sinner are darkness and torment. And it is good to know this because we shall dwell eternally either in the kingdom or in torment.

Just as the love of Jesus Christ is beyond our understanding so we cannot conceive of the depth of His suffering, because our own love for the Lord is so infinitely small. But with greater love comes more understanding even of the Lord's sufferings. There is love in small degree, medium love and perfect love; and the more perfect our love the more perfect our knowledge.

We are able to treat of God only in so far as we have known the grace of the Holy Spirit; for how can a man think on and consider a thing that he has not seen or heard tell of, and does not know? Now the Saints declare that they have seen God; yet there are people who say that God is not. No doubt they say this inasmuch as they have not known God, but it does not at all mean that He is not.

The Saints speak of that which they have actually seen, of that which they know. They do not speak of something they have not seen. (They do not tell us, for instance, that they have seen a horse a mile long or a steamer ten miles long, which do not exist.) And I think that, if God were not, there would be no intimation of Him on earth; but people want to live after their own fashion and consequently they declare that God is not, and in so doing they establish that He is.

Even the souls of the heathen sensed that God is, though they were ignorant how to worship the true God. But the Holy Spirit instructed the Prophets of old and after them the Apostles and then our holy Fathers and bishops, and in this wise the true faith came down to us. And we knew the Lord by the Holy Spirit, and when we knew Him our souls were confirmed in Him.

The Lord loves us so dearly that it passes description. Through the Holy Spirit alone can the soul know His love, of which she is inexpressibly aware. The Lord is all goodness and mercy. He is meek and gentle, and we have no words to tell of His goodness; but the soul without words feels this love and would remain wrapped in its quiet tranquility for ever.

Christ said: 'I will not leave you comfortless', and we see, in truth, that He did not forsake us but gave us the Holy Spirit.

O ye peoples of the earth, fashioned by God, know your Creator and His love for us! Know the love of Christ, and live in peace and thereby rejoice the Lord, who in His mercy waits for ill men to come unto Him.

Turn to Him, all ye peoples of the earth, and lift your prayers to God. And the prayers of the whole earth shall rise to heaven like a soft and lovely cloud lit by the sun, and all the heavens will rejoice and sing praises to the lord for His sufferings whereby He '.saved us.

Know, all ye peoples, that we are created for the glory of God in the heavens. Cleave not to the earth, for God is our Father and He loves us like beloved children.

O Lord grant to all nations to know Thee by Thy Holy Spirit. As Thou didst give the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and they knew Thee, so grant to all men to know Thee by Thy Holy Spirit.

St. Silouan, Wisdom From Mount Athos - The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, Sofronii( Archimandrite), trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 1974) pp. 19-23.