Theoretically, we all know that we are God’s children. Theoretically, we understand that we have been fashioned in the image of God. Yet, for most of us this knowledge does not transform our lives or our perception of our role and relationship to God. What does this kinship with God really mean on a daily level? In this short chapter, Silouan looks at this kinship with new eyes and ponders its true meaning.
God has revealed to us his mysteries. He lives within us “and the sacraments of the church.” He calls us to Him constantly, nurtures us, loves us and has mercy on us. He leads us to “where we can behold His glory” yet very few are able to see it. Most of us do not spend our days filled with awe when we consider the supreme mystery of having been fashioned in His likeness and the privilege of being able to partake of His essence.
This is because, Silouan tells us, man can only behold God’s glory “according to the measure of his love.”
There are three levels of love and hence ability to behold the glory of God and connection with Him:
- Ardent love: “The more a man loves, the more ardently does he set his face toward God in yearning to be with the beloved Lord and therefore, he will approach the nearer to Him.”
- Moderate love: “…the man who loves but little will have but little desire for the Lord”
- Indifference: “and the man who does not love at all will neither wish nor aspire to see the Lord and will spend his life in darkness.”
Silouan weeps for this last category of people who do not know God and, thus, his mercy.
To show us the contrast between those who are near God and those who are deprived of His presence, he juxtaposes the light of the knowledge of God to the darkness of his absence.
Living in darkness is a choice, he tells us. It means that “we have accepted the darkness of the enemy.”
A parallel contrast is that between beauty and ugliness. As individuals pass from the innocence of childhood to the acceptance of darkness, their faces and expressions increasingly reflect the growing anguish and despair of a life without God.
We are, according to Silouan, the creators of our own darkness. He faults pride for choosing to believe that there is no God and that we can find salvation by our own means. We fall in love with our own cleverness and admire the conclusions we’ve reached, not realizing that these thoughts are not indications of brilliance and originality but are sent by the devil. Our perceived freedom from restrictions, rules, hardship and sacrifice is really slavery to darkness.
“If all people on earth,” he tells us, “knew how deeply the Lord loves man their hearts would be filled with love of Christ and Christ’s humility, and they would seek to be like Him in all things.”
“The Lord has made us kin with Him.” By choosing alienation and faithlessness we squander that gift. By discerning God’s glory, yearning to be one with Him and being always aware of our kinship — “…without rest neither by day nor by night…” — we would never feel empty, desperate or alone.
“Thus the Lord by the Holy Spirit makes us one family with God the Father.”