On Love by Saint Silouan

My soul thirsts for the living God. Time and again my soul seeks fulness of delight in the Lord. O mercy of God that passeth all understanding: the Lord formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the soul of man was made kin to God.
The Lord so loved His creature that He gave man the Holy Spirit, and man knew his Creator and loved his Lord.

The Holy Spirit is love and sweetness to the soul, the mind and the body; but when the soul loses grace, or grace is diminished, once again the soul will seek the Holy Spirit in tears, and yearn for God and cry:

My soul yearns for the Lord, and I seek Him in tears.

How could I not seek Thee, O Lord? For Thou Thyself didst seek me out aforehand, and gavest me to delight in Thy Holy Spirit; and now my soul yearns for Thee. My heart fell to loving Thee, and I pray Thee: give me to the end to abide in Thy love. For the sake of Thy love empower me to endure all sickness and affliction.

My soul is seized with fear and trembling when I would write of the love of God.

My soul is poor and without strength to describe the Lord's love.

My spirit fails, but love constrains me to write.

The Lord ascended into heaven and awaits our coming; but to be with the Lord we must be like Him, or like little children —lowly and meek—and we must serve Him. Then, according to the words of the Lord, 'Where I am, there shall also my servant be', we too shall be with Him in the kingdom of heaven. But now my soul is overspread with melancholy, and I am unable to lift an undistracted mind to God, and I have no tears wherewith to bewail my evil deeds: my soul is withered away and spent with the night of this life.

O who shall sing me the song that I have loved since the days of my youth -the song of the Lord's Ascension into heaven, of His love for us, of the vigil He keeps for our coming? To this song would I hearken with tears, for my soul is weary on earth.

What has befallen me? How came I to lose joy, and shall I attain to joy again?
Weep with me, all ye wild beasts and birds. Weep with me, forest and desert. Weep with me, every creature created of God, and comfort me in my grief and sorrow.

O man, what a feeble creature thou art.

When grace dwells within us the spirit glows and reaches day and night towards the Lord, for grace constrains the soul to love God; and now that she has come to love Him she cannot tear herself away from Him: never can she have enough of the tenderness of the Holy Spirit.

And there is no end to the love of God.

I know a man whom the Lord in His mercy visited with His grace. And had the Lord asked him, 'Wouldst thou have Me give thee more?', from the weakness of the flesh his soul would have made answer: 'Thou seest, Lord, that I cannot bear more but would die.' For man has little strength and may not carry the fulness of grace.

Thus it was that on Mount Tabor the Disciples fell on their face before the glory of the Lord.

With what shall I requite my Lord?
At all times I beseech the Lord who is merciful to grant that I may love my enemies; and by the grace of God I have experienced what the love of God is, and what it is to love my neighbour; and day and night I pray the Lord for love, and the Lord gives me tears to weep for the whole world. But if I find fault with any man or look on him with an unkind eye my tears dry up and my soul sinks into despondency. Yet do I begin again to entreat forgiveness of the Lord, and the Lord in His mercy forgives me, a sinner.

Brethren, before the face of my God I write Humble your hearts, and while yet on this earth look upon the mercy of the Lord.

No man of himself can know what is God's love, unless he be taught of the Holy Spirit; but God's love is known in our Church through the Holy Spirit, and so we speak of this love.

The sinful soul which does not know the Lord fears death, thinking that the Lord will not forgive her her sins. But this is because the soul does not know the Lord and how greatly lie loves us. But if people knew this, then no man would despair in his heart, for the Lord not only forgives but rejoices exceedingly at the return of a sinner. Though you he at death's door believe firmly that the moment you ask you will receive forgiveness.

The Lord is not like us. He is passing meek, and merciful, and good; and when the soul knows Him she marvels greatly and exclaims: '0 what a Lord is ours!'

The Holy Spirit gave our Church to know how great is God's mercy.

The Lord loves us, and gently and without reproach takes us to Himself, just as the father in the Gospel story did not reproach his prodigal son but called his servants to bring a new robe and put a precious ring on his finger and shoes on his feet, and told them to kill the fatted calf, and be merry; and in nothing did he condemn his son.

'Did not our heart burn within us' said the Apostles after Christ drew near them. So does the soul recognize and love her Lord, and the delight of His love is a burning delight.

In heaven there is one and the same love in the hearts of all, but on earth some there are that greatly love the Lord, others love Him in small degree, while still others love Him not at all.

The soul that is filled with love of God is forgetful both of heaven and earth. The spirit burns and invisibly beholds the Desired One, and the soul sheds many sweet tears and is unable to forget the Lord for a single second, for the grace of God gives strength to love the Beloved.

Brethren, let us humble ourselves that we may be worthy of the love of God, that the Lord may adorn us with His lowliness of spirit and His humility, that we may become worthy of the heavenly mansions which the Lord has made ready for us.

The Lord loves all men but His love is greater for the man who seeks Him.
'I love them that love me,' said the Lord. 'And those that seek me shall find grace.' And with grace life is good, and the soul rejoices and says: 'My Lord— I am THY servant.'

In these words there is great joy: if the Lord is ours. then all things are ours. That is how rich we are.

Great and inapprehensible is our Lord, but for our sakes He made Himself small that we might know Him and love Him, that for love of Him we might forget the earth, and live in heaven and behold the glory of the Lord.

The Lord bestows such grace on His chosen that they embrace the whole earth, the whole world, with their love, and their souls burn with longing that all men should be saved and behold the glory of the Lord.

The Lord said to His holy Disciples: 'Children, have ye any meat?' What great love is expressed in those tender words! The Lord calls us 'Children'! What could rejoice us more? We should ponder these words and think on the Lord's sufferings for us on the Cross.

On earth the soul has only to touch upon the love of God for the sweetness of the Holy Spirit to transport her with wonder at her beloved God and Heavenly Father.

O how the Lord loves His creation!

And behold the Lord has vouchsafed to us to speak together of these things, and our spirit rejoices that the Lord is with us.

Humbly I entreat you—pray for me, and the Lord will reward you. Brother R. told me how once when he lay seriously ill his mother said to his father: 'How ill our little lad is! I would gladly let myself be cut in pieces if it would help him and ease his suffering.'

The Lord's love for man is like that. He said: 'Greater love hash no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his fellow.' The Lord's compassion for us was so strong that He wanted to suffer for us, as a mother suffers, and even more. But no man can conceive of this great love without the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures tell of this love but neither are they to be understood by the mind, for in the Scriptures too speaks the same Holy Spirit.

The love of the Lord is such that He would have all men saved: His desire is that all should abide eternally with Him in heaven, and behold His glory. We do not know the fulness of this glory, but through the Holy Spirit we may conceive of it in part. But the man who has not come to know the Holy Spirit can have no conception of this glory: he can only believe in the promise of the Lord, and keep His commandments. However, he too is blessed. as the Lord showed St Thomas, and will have equal place with those who saw the glory of God while still here on earth.

If you would know the Lord, humble yourself to the utmost. Be obedient and sober in all things. Love truth. And the Lord of a surety will give you to know Him through the Holy Spirit: and then you will know by experience what love towards God is, and what love towards man. And the more perfect the love, the more perfect your knowledge. There is love in small measure: there is a mean of love; and there is great love.

The man who fears sin loves God. The man with a tender heart loves Him more. Still greater is the love of the man in whose soul dwell light and joy. But the man with grace in soul and body has perfect love. This is the grace the Holy Spirit gave to the Martyrs, the grace that helped them to bear every suffering with fortitude.

I would speak for a moment (insomuch as the grace of God will enlighten me) of the various degrees of love for God.

Where a man fears to distress God by sinning in any way-that is the first degree of love. The man whose mind is undistracted has love in the second degree, which is greater than the first. A third and still greater degree of love is when a man is aware of grace in his soul. And, finally, the man who has the grace of the Holy Spirit both in soul and body is in a state of perfect love; and if he preserve this grace the bones of his body will turn into sacred relics, as did the hones of the holy Martyrs, the Prophets, the blessed Fathers, and other great Saints.

We are proud-minded, and therefore unable to continue in this grace, which withdraws from the soul. Then the soul yearns after the grace she has lost, and seeks it anew with [ears, and weeps and sobs and calls upon the Lord, saying:'0 merciful Lord, Thou seest my soul's mourning, and how I long for Thee.'

There is no man on earth so gentle and lowly in spirit as our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him is our joy, in Him our gladness. Let us give Him our love, and lie will lead us into His kingdom, where we shall behold I Its glory.

These forty years, ever since the Lord through the Holy Spirit gave me to know the love of God, have I grieved over God's people.

O brethren, there is naught better than the love of God when the Lord fires the soul with love for God and our fellow-man.

The man who knows the delight of the love of God—when the soul, warmed by grace, loves both God and tier brother—knows in part that 'the kingdom of God is within us'.

Blessed is the soul that loves her brother, for our brother is our life.

Blessed is the soul that loves her brother. The Spirit of the Lord lives manifest within her, giving peace and gladness, and she weeps for the whole world.

My soul has remembered the Lord's love, and my heart is grown warm. My soul is given over to bitter weeping that I have so deeply grieved the Lord, my beloved Creator, but He remembered not my sins; and then my soul surrendered to profound and sorrowful weeping that the Lord might have mercy on every soul and take each one into His heavenly kingdom.

And my soul weeps for the whole world.

I 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 neighbour 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 is grace preserved; but if we do not love our brother the grace of God will not come into our souls.

If people kept Christ's commandments there would be paradise on earth, and with little labour every man would suffice his needs, and the Spirit of God would live in the souls of men, for He Himself seeks us and would dwell in us, and if He does not take up His abode in us it is only because of the proudness of our minds.

Men's hearts have grown proud, and it is only through affliction and repentance that we arrive at salvation, while as for love—it is rarely attained.

If a man thinks kindly of his brother, deeming that the Lord loves him and especially if he believes that the Holy Spirit dwells in his soul that man is near to the love of God.

One of you may object: this discourse is all of the love of God. But what else should we deliberate on but God? Did He not create us that we might live eternally with Him and behold His glory? When a man loves, his desire is to talk of the object of his love; and then habit enters in. If you make it a habit to think of God, you will always carry God with you in your soul. If you are always thinking of worldly things, they will absorb your mind. Make a habit of meditating on the Lord's sufferings, or on eternal fire, and they will become part of your soul.

God helps us in what is good, while the enemy incites us to evil, but this depends also on our own wills: we must constrain ourselves to what is good, but with moderation and knowing the measure of our strength. We must study our souls to know what is salutary for us: it may be more profitable to one man to pray, for another to read or write. It is a good thing to read but it is better to pray without distraction, and better still to weep: to each as it is given to him by the Lord. To be sure, when we rise from sleep we must render thanks to God, then repent and pray our fill. Next, we should read to rest the mind, and after that pray again, and work. Grace proceeds from everything that is good, but above all from brotherly love.

The soul should be filled with such insatiable love of God that the mind in all its strength dwells continually in God, captive only to Him.

The man who has come to loathe sin has mounted the first rung of the heavenly ladder. When he is not tempted in his heart to sin his foot is already on the second rung; while the man who through the Holy Spirit has come to know perfect love of God has reached the third step of the ladder. But this rarely happens.

If we wish to love God we must observe all that the Lord commanded us in the Gospels. Our hearts must brim with compassion and not only feel love for our fellow-men but pity for every creature—for every thing created of God.

That green leaf on the tree which you needlessly plucked: it was not wrong, only rather a pity for the little leaf. The heart that has learned to love feels sorry for every created thing. But man is a supreme creation, and therefore if you see that he has gone astray and is bringing destruction on himself pray for him and weep for him if you are able, or at least sigh before God for him. And the soul that acts after this fashion is loved of the Lord, for she is like unto him.

If you think evil of people, it means you have an evil spirit in you whispering evil thoughts about others. And if a man dies without repenting, without having forgiven his brother, his soul will go to the place where lives the evil spirit which possessed his soul.

This is the law we have: if you forgive others, it is a sign that the Lord has forgiven you. But if you refuse to forgive, then your own sin remains with you.

The Lord wants us to love our fellow-man: and if you reflect that the Lord loves him, that is a sign of the Lord's love in you. And if you consider how greatly the Lord loves Ills creature. and you yourself have compassion on all creation, and love your enemies, counting yourself the vilest of men, this is a sign of abundant grace of the Holy Spirit in you.

The man who has the Holy Spirit within him, in however slight a degree, sorrows day and night for all mankind. His heart is filled with pity for all God's creatures, and more especially for those who do not know God or who resist Him and therefore are bound for the fire of torment. For them, more than for himself, he prays night and day, that all may repent and know the Lord.

Christ prayed for those who were crucifying Him: 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' St Stephen prayed for those who stoned him, that the Lord 'lay not this sin to their charge'. And we, if we wish to preserve grace, must pray for our enemies. If you do not feel pity for the sinner destined to suffer the pains of fire, it means that the grace of the Holy Spirit is not in you, but an evil spirit lives in you. While you are still alive, therefore, strive by repentance to free yourself from this spirit.

The Lord taught me to love my enemies. Without the grace of God we cannot love our enemies, but the Holy Spirit teaches love, and then even devils rouse our pity because they have fallen from good, and lost humility and love of God.

I beseech you, put this to the test. When a man affronts you or brings dishonour on your head, or takes what is yours, or persecutes the Church, pray to the Lord, and say: 'O Lord, we are all Thy creatures. Have pity on Thy servants, and turn their hearts to repentance,' and you will be aware of grace in your soul. To begin with, constrain your heart to love her enemies, and the Lord, seeing your good will, will help you in all things, and experience itself will show you the way. But the man who thinks with malice of his enemies has not God's love within him and does not know God.

If you will pray for your enemies, peace will come to you; but when you come to love your enemies—know that a great measure of the grace of God dwells in you, though I do not say perfect grace as yet, but sufficient for salvation. Whereas if you revile your enemies it means there is an evil spirit living in you and bringing evil thoughts into your heart, for, in the words of the Lord, out of the heart proceed evil thoughts or good thoughts.

If you cannot love, then at least do not revile and curse your enemies, and things will already be better; but if a man curse and abuse his enemies it is plain that an evil spirit abides in him, and when he dies he will go to the abode of evil spirits. May the Lord preserve every soul from such adversity!

Understand me. It is so simple. People who do not know God, or who go against Him, are to be pitied: the heart sorrows for them and the eye weeps. Both paradise and torment are clearly visible to us: we know them through the Holy Spirit. And did not the Lord Himself say: 'The kingdom of God is within you'? Thus eternal life has its beginnings here in this life; and here it is that we sow the seeds of eternal torment.

Where there is pride there cannot be grace, and if we lose grace we also lose both love of God and assurance in prayer. The soul is then tormented by evil thoughts and does not understand that she must humble herself and love her enemies, for there is no other way to please God.

'The enemy persecutes our Holy Church,' you may say. 'Am I then to love him?' But my answer is this: 'Your poor soul has not come to know God, and how greatly He loves us, and how

longingly He looks for all men to repent and be saved. 'The Lord is love, and He sent the Holy Spirit on earth, Who teaches the soul to love her enemies and pray for them that they too may find salvation. That is true love. But if they are judged according to their deeds, then they merit punishment.

The Lord gave us the commandment 'Love your enemies'. But how are we to love them when they do us evil? Or how can we love those who persecute the Holy Church?

When the Lord was on His way to Jerusalem and the Samaritans did not receive Him, His disciples John and James were ready to call down fire from heaven to consume them; but the Lord in His mercy said: 'I am not come to destroy but to save'. Thus should we have but one thought: that all should be saved. The soul sorrows for her enemies and prays for them because they have strayed from the truth and their faces are set towards hell. That is love for our enemies. When Judas bethought him to betray the Lord, the Lord was stirred to pity and showed him what he was doing. Thus must we too be gentle with those who err and stray, and we shall be saved by God's mercy.

Love is made known through the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit the soul knows through peace and the sweet savour of the Lord. 0 how we should render thanks to God for His great love towards us! Consider, my beloved brethren: the Lord bestows His Holy Spirit on the sinful soul and gives her to know His mercy. And to know God we have no need of riches: we need only love our neighbour and be lowly in spirit, sober and obedient, and for these virtues the Lord allows us to know Him. Could any thing in the world be more precious than this knowledge? To know God, to know how He loves us and enlightens our spirits in the way they should go?

Where would you find a father prepared to die on the cross for the trangressions of his children? The ordinary father grieves and is sorry for his son who must be punished for his wrong-doing; but for all his pity he tells him that he has done wrong and that it is right that he should be punished for his crimes.

But the Lord will never say this to us. He will ask us, too, as he asked the apostle Peter: Lovest thou me?' Thus in paradise He will say to the whole people: 'And you—do you love Me?' And all will answer Him: 'Yea, Lord, we love Thee. Thou didst save us by Thy sufferings on the Cross, and now Thou hast given us the Oft of the Kingdom of Heaven'.

And no man shall be ashamed in heaven, as Adam and Eve were ashamed after the fall; but meekness, love and humility shall reign—not the humility we know now when we humble ourselves and bear with obloquy or reckon ourselves the worst of men, but all shall have Christ-like humility which is beyond the comprehension of every one, save of those who have been taught of the Holy Spirit.

What shall I render Thee, O Lord, for that Thou hast poured such great mercy on my soul? Grant, I beg Thee, that I may see my iniquities and ever weep before Thee, for Thou art filled with love for humble souls and dost give them the grace of the Holy Spirit.

O merciful God, forgive me. Thou seest how my soul is drawn to Thee, her Creator. Thou hast wounded my soul with Thy love, and she thirsts for Thee, and wearies without end, and day and night, insatiable, reaches towards Thee, and has no wish to look upon this world, though I love the earth, but above all I love Thee, my Creator, and my soul longs for Thee.

O my Creator, why have I, Thy little creature, grieved Thee so often? Yet hast Thou not remembered my sins.

From: 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. 24-36.