Elder Eli on Rev. Silvanus, Athos, and the Meaning of Prayer
Schiarchimandrite Eli (Nozdrin), the confessor of the Most Holy, for more than ten years labored on the Holy Mount Athos in one of the sketes of the Panteleimon monastery – the Old Russik. It was here that in the mill just a few decades earlier, Rev. Siloine of Athos carried out obedience. His book in 1967 became for the revered old man, and then still the Pskovo-Pechersk novice Alexy, the spiritual guide 1.
– Batyushka Eli, it is known that at one time you were greatly influenced by the book “The Elder Silouan Athos,” recorded by Archimandrite Sofroniy (Sakharov). What she so struck you?
“When I read the book of Elder Siluan, I just opened up a bright space where I found what I need — answers to some of my questions.” In general, the book gave a clear idea of the content of our faith.
Elder Silouan is a modern ascetic. There is no falsehood in it. He speaks and writes according to God’s grace. What the Lord reveals to him by the Holy Spirit, he listens and repeats. This is a man without a higher education, although he certainly had some kind of school. His book gained fame. He himself did not write it, Father Sofrony wrote from his words. It is translated – I’m afraid to say exactly how many languages, but more than a dozen for sure. Believers who turn to this book are looking for truth, Truths – and they find it. Not to say about this book with high praise and gratitude to the old man Silvoin is impossible.
He sought prayer uniting with God. The Lord heeded his desire and appeared to him himself
He can be said, not such an ascetic. But he was looking for unity with Christ. I was looking for how to come to the Lord, serve Him, truly be a monk. The main thing – he was looking for a prayer that is full, truly uniting with God. The Lord heeded this desire and appeared to Him Himself. “If this continued,” said Elder Silouan, “then I probably would have melted. My soul would dissolve from the glory of God’s love and grace, could not bear it if this vision of Christ continued on. ”
The Lord left such a trace of His grace, the power of grace, that he continued to pray incessantly until his death. We must, of course, read this book. This is a revelation. How he expresses his experience! How he cried and prayed! When grace departed, he cried out: Lord! And the Lord again filled him with the power of grace. Prayer he went continuously, even in a dream was performed.
– How to learn how to do Rev. Silouan of Athos: keep your mind in hell and not despair?
– It’s simple: if a person prays, then he cannot have complete despair. It speaks mainly of humility. There is worldly, secular pride and – spiritual pride: when a person gets a special closeness to God, strengthens his faith, is worthy of spiritual experience, he undoubtedly has thoughts that he is already a very high spiritual life of man, the consciousness that he, so to speak, already holy. This is dangerous for the devotee.
Therefore, the Lord does not give many a high degree of grace, such an inspiration from the power of God, even before the miracle work, that a person cannot preserve it because of spiritual pride. When a person chooses pride, it is incompatible with the presence of a high measure of grace from the Lord.
Before the elder Silvanus appeared the devil of human height. The ascetic was perplexed: why does he pray, but the devil does not disappear?
Before the old man Silouan the devil appeared in his full — that is, in human — growth. The devil is a spirit, only by the permission of God can materialize. The ascetic wondered why he was praying, and the devil standing before him, did not disappear. The Lord revealed to him: it is because of spiritual pride. And in order not to have her, he had to consider himself the smallest and the most sinful: for his sins, he is the heir of hell.
If the Lord has given us something, then we must realize that all our gifts are earthly and spiritual — they are from God. We can not be proud of anything. Neither material benefits, nor mental achievements, nor any merit – any wealth with his earthly. If the Lord gives, then by His mercy. Neither talents, nor strength, nor works – nothing is ours, but only God’s mercy. Therefore, everything spiritual that Elder Silouan received through the appearance of the Savior is all God’s mercy.
– What can modern man give Athos?
– The Holy Mountain, by the grace of God, is the lot of the Mother of God, and from the V century the seat of monks. Somewhere around the 10th century, by order of the emperor, Athos entrenched itself for the monks, at the same time a ban was imposed on women’s entry there.
There are twenty monasteries to this day. Many monasteries or, as they are called, cellia. Such monasteries as our former St. Andrew or Ilinsky are even larger than some Greek monasteries. We also had about three dozen or more cells. The so-called siromakhs live there, they used to live and now they are. These are poor monks who do not even have their own cells, but simply work where they have to.
Athos is above all the guardian of our Orthodox faith. There is nothing else that gives meaning to our lives, except the salvation of the soul. What did the Lord indicate? Love your Lord with all your heart, your strength, your thoughts, and your neighbor as yourself (see: Matt. 22: 37–39). Holy Mount Athos is the realization of this Christian ideal throughout the centuries of the history of Christianity.
– What is required of a person who wants to work on Mount Athos?
– Subject Athos to the Ecumenical Patriarch. There exists the so-called local spiritual administration – the Holy Kinot, the Holy Epistasia. There is on the Holy Mount Athos and secular power – the governor. Twice a year there are such special meetings with the presence of the governor, representatives of the ministries of Northern Greece. In addition to the anti-monitors constantly residing from each monastery, the abbots of the monasteries are also present at these meetings.
We have the Athos Compound in Moscow, you can try to get to Athos through it. Also, if a person came to Svyatogorsky monastery, he may directly ask to stay there. He wants, for example, in our Panteleimon monastery, with the consent of the monastery, the Holy Kinot can decide on his stay on Mount Athos.
– What is the difference between Athos and the reviving Russian monasticism?
– The law is one. There is no other law besides the Gospel. All that our Orthodox faith affirms and the Orthodox Church interprets is in no way at odds with the gospel truths explained to us by the holy fathers, cannot. Holy Mount Athos is simply distinguished by its historical continuity. It is like comparing the difference between a naked icon and an ordinary icon. She just received grace. Or ask what makes a person with spiritual experience different from just starting to live like a Christian. So on Athos, the experience of the spiritual life has already been accumulated. You can enter the church, which has just been consecrated, and you can go to the one in which they have served for more than one century. Will it not be felt that the divine service has been performed here for quite a long time in full rank and in beauty?
– Batyushka Eli, what is the most important thing for us, Orthodox Christians?
– “The Lord is the same yesterday and this day, and forever the same” (Heb. 13: 8). So is our feat: how a person was saved in the first centuries, in the Middle Ages – and in the present time, he is saved. There is no difference in how we believed then and how we now believe in the Holy Trinity, in holy truths, dogmas. Solomon also said: “There is nothing new under the Sun” (Eccl. 1: 9).
– How to learn to pray?
How can Russian people return to faith? – pray
– The one who seeks the Truth, truly seeks for himself good, and he will learn. “Seek, and ye shall find, tolzite and open”; “Ask, and it shall be given to you” (Matt. 7: 7). God blessed: if you want to learn, learn. True, during the Soviet period there were many temptations. State atheism imposed its administrative hand on the Church, for the whole Christian life in our country. In the circumstances of those years who wanted to be saved, they became confessors or martyrs. Someone, of course, could not stand, moved away from faith.
– How can Russian people return to faith?
– Pray. Anyone who wants to save his soul will try.