THE first year after I had received the Holy Spirit I thought to myself: The Lord has forgiven me my sins: grace is witness thereof. What more do I need? But that is not the way to think. Though our sins be forgiven we must remember them and grieve for them all our lives, so as to preserve a contrite heart. I did not do this and ceased to be contrite, and suffered greatly from evil spirits. And I was perplexed at what was happening to me, and said: My soul knows the Lord and His love. How is it that evil thoughts come to me? But the Lord had pity on me, and taught me the way to humble myself: Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not. Thus is the enemy vanquished; but when my mind emerges from the fire the suggestions of passion gather strength again. ~ Starets Silouan
St Silouan’s belief that God does indeed desire the universal salvation of the human race can be summed up in four short injunctions: love all; pray for all; weep for all; repent for all. ~ Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia
“To believe in God is one thing, to know God another.”
“To believe in a God is one thing, to know God another.”
“Wisdom From Mount Athos: the Writings of Staretz Silouan”, Archimandrite Sophrony, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1975
“Not all psychopaths are saints. And not all saints are psychopaths. But there’s evidence to suggest that deep within the corridors of the brain, psychopathy and sainthood share secret neural office space.” ~ Kevin Dutton
“What?” I figure many will ask after reading Dutton’s comment. “How could that be? After all saints are those of us walking close to God.”
“No way,” several others may chime in with irritation over those words. Some others, I’m rather confident, will be voicing, “Who other than a malicious atheist would pair God’s saints up with psychopaths?”
Either way, I’m not voicing Kevin’s work to break the knees of Christians!
Having dealt with an assortment people, I’ve, also, known various levels of seeming Christian saints. Some of them are people who had done all the way from, subtle manipulative, on over to overtly murderous things. Of course, many will retort with, “Then those people weren’t Christians.” Keeping to my point, I have to tell you that until their evils were surfaced, everyone in the church thought that pastor, youth minister, teachers or long-term member, I had dealt with were nothing less than true believers. I’m not contending that God saw our shared examples as believers or unbelievers. Rather, I’m pointing at us and scorning those earlier declarations. No one, including me, knew any better before their sins were surfaced. So, it isn’t those people I want your attention focused on.
Delving deeper, I have listened too a host of difficult to swallow thoughts, feelings and a few fantasies shared with me by clients and friends that would be disturbing. Those of you who function as pastors and priests probably know what I’m talking about. More to the point, both what my work history exposed me to and what striving to follow after the likes of Maximos the Confessor, John Climacus, Symeon the New Theologian or even what Staretz Silouan have shoved my face into I couldn’t have truly owned that my own spiritual life totters a lot like my father after his strokes and advancing dementia.
People, please realize that we are not living clean lives in spite of being forgiven. To trod the whole distance of personalizing forgiveness honestly requires owning the depth of personal fallenness. We are not truly wanting to live out our repentance until we are actively reflecting back on all we have been up to until that very moment.
But then what am I, let alone you to do with owning what I’ve come to see as odious thoughts, feelings and behaviors?