Saint Silouan the Athonite and His Relevance Today, Part 8

Saint Silouan the Athonite and His Relevance Today, Part 8

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Be assured that troubling and sinful thoughts will assail everyone making any sort of spiritual progress—especially if there is any progress in prayer—and this is even more true the further one advances.  The important point is not to become dejected, and not to allow these troubling thoughts to destroy our inner peace, and thus hinder our pursuit of prayer. St. Silouan teaches, “Should an intrusive thought approach, there is no cause to be troubled. Put your trust in God and continue in prayer. We must not be troubled, because that rejoices the enemy. Pray, and the intrusive thought will leave you.”  As believers, we must enter the field of battle armed with the weapon of confidence in Christ and the firm resolve to overcome the enemy.

Indeed, our enemy has at his disposal a variety of devious traps. Chief among these ploys is the passion of pride in one’s own spiritual progress. Pride can only darken and delude the soul.  If left to fester, such pride can evolve to the point where the soul seeks after—or even expects to be granted—divine visions and other such spiritual experiences.  Ironically, we are duped into thinking that we are growing closer to God, when in reality we are falling into the clutches of the evil one.

Through such deception, not only the inexperienced, but even the more advanced may fall into the abyss of spiritual pride and delusion, leading ultimately to alienation from God. This is not an uncommon experience in spiritual life. St. Silouan warns against this dangerous demonic tactic of spiritual delusion. He writes, “The conceited man … wants to have visions, and deems himself worthy of them, and so it is easy for the enemy to delude him.”  This is why he forewarns his reader—do not seek visions, and certainly never trust one.

Deception is a popular ploy of the enemy, especially for those of us committed to pursuing our spiritual lives. Even many well-intentioned believers are easily caught up in the quest for such spiritual experiences, visions or dreams. We must always bear in mind the true goal of spiritual life. We must not seek after such experiences, but only the mercy and the love of God.

The fall into delusion is due either to a lack of experience or from pride. When one falls from lack of experience, it is easier to recover. But when one falls on account of pride, then it is much more difficult to be restored to spiritual health.

—TO BE CONTINUED—

Read the entire St. Silouan series by Dr. Harry Boosalis:

Part 1,  Part 2,  Part 3,  Part 4,  Part 5,  Part 6,  Part 7,  Part 8,  Part 9,  Part 10


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Dr. Harry Boosalis

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota of Greek-American parents, Dr. Boosalis grew up at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church. Upon graduation from Seminary, he served his home parish as a lay assistant and youth director under the tutelage of his life-long parish priest, Fr. Anthony M. Coniaris. He earned his doctoral degree in Greece under the direction of Prof. Georgios Mantzaridis. His dissertation provides a systematic presentation of the teaching of St. Silouan of Mount Athos on Orthodox spiritual life, highlighting its relevance for today. Dr. Boosalis has been teaching dogmatic theology as a full time faculty member at St. Tikhon’s since the Fall of 1992, when he organized, developed and implemented a new curriculum for the entire sequence of dogmatic courses in the Master of Divinity degree program. He serves the Seminary as the Chairman of the Department of Theology and Spirituality and is a member of the Academic Affairs Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, the Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Development Committee. He is the author of four books, editor of three more, and is currently working on a textbook. Since the Summer of 2002, Dr. Boosalis has been leading a group of St. Tikhon’s seminarians on an annual pilgrimage to Iviron Monastery on Mount Athos, Greece. In the summer of 2009, Dr. Boosalis participated in a teaching mission to Tanzania in East Africa, conducted under the auspices of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). In the summer of 2011, Dr. Boosalis participated in a teaching mission to Turkana, Kenya also conducted under the auspices of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC).