Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Ecumenism and Psychotherapy


Saint Siluan's stance towards those who disagreed with him

Source: http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/

Original Source: Book by Archmandrite Sophrony, "Saint Siluan the Athonite", Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, Essex, England.



It is impossible to overlook a noteworthy, distinguishing trait in the Elder's character: his stance towards those who disagreed with him. He sincerely and deeply desired to comprehend such a person as best he could, and to not insult whatever that person held sacred.

We know of a conversation between the Elder and an archmandrite who was preoccupied with missionary work among the heterodox. This archmandrite had a deep respect for the Elder, and whenever he visited the Holy Mountain he would repeatedly go to discuss things with him.

The Elder asked him how he preached. The archmandrite - still young and inexperienced - replied quite nervously and with rather excessive gesturing:

"I say to them that their faith is perverted. Everything about you is perverted, everything is false, and if you don't repent, you won't be saved."

Upon hearing this, the Elder asked him:

"But please tell me, holy archmandrite, do they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ - that He is the true God?"

"Yes, they do believe that."

"And do they honour the Holy Mother?"

"They honour Her, but they teach erroneous things about Her."

"And what about the saints - do they acknowledge their existence?"

"Yes, they do, but ever since they have severed themselves from the Church, what kind of saints could they have?"

"Do they perform services in Churches? Do they read the word of God?"

"Yes, and they also have temples and services, but if you could only see how inferior their services are to ours - how cold, how soul-less they are!"

"Holy archmandrite, their souls obviously feel that they are acting correctly in believing in Christ, in honouring the Holy Mother and the saints - whom they invoke in their prayers.  That is why, when you tell them that their faith is illegitimate, they will not listen to you... But if you told the people that they are right in believing in God, that they are right in honouring the Holy Mother and the saints, and in going to church for services and praying at home, that they are right in reading the Word of God and all the rest, except that here and there they have a few incorrect theories which should be corrected, then everything will be just fine and pleasing to God, and by the Grace of God, everyone will be saved.... "God is Love", and that is why a sermon needs to always spring from love. Only then will the preacher and the listener both benefit. But if you censure them, then the souls of the people will not listen to you and no benefit will be achieved."


People usually seek freedom, in order to do "what they want".

Once, the Elder was conversing with a student who had visited Athos and was saying a great deal about freedom. As usual, the Elder paid close attention to the thoughts and the sentiments of that sympathetic but also naive interlocutor. Of course, his notions regarding freedom focused on the one hand on the demand for more political freedoms and on the other hand, on one's ability to generally act in accordance with personal motives and desires.

In response, the Elder put forth his own views: 

"Who doesn't desire freedom? Everyone wants it, but you need to know where it is, and how to find it. To become free, you need to confine yourself. The more you confine yourself, the more freedom your spirit will have. You must bridle the passions inside you, so that they don't govern you; you need to restrain yourself, to not cause any harm to your neighbour.... People usually seek freedom so that they can do "what they want". But that isn't freedom - it is the dominance of sin over you; it is the freedom to sin, to fornicate, to be unrestrained and a drunkard; to be vindictive, to extort, to commit murder or other such things... all these things aren't freedom, they are enslavement, the way the Lord had expressed it: "Whosoever commits a sin, is the slave of that sin". And one will have to pray extensively to escape such a treacherous enslavement.

It is our view that true freedom entails refraining from sin, and loving the Lord and your neighbour with all of your heart and with all of your might.  "True freedom is to remain close to God, constantly".

Despite the fact that the profundity of the Elder's words had exceeded the perception of that young student, he nevertheless departed, very vividly impressed.



Article published in English on: 1-10-2010.

Last update: 1-10-2010.