FREEDOM IN GOD (From: St. Silouan, Wisdom from Mount Athos)

From the chapter, On the Will of God and on Freedom, pp, 72-78

St. Silouan talks about two paradoxes: giving free reign to your own will leads to enslavement, and, conversely, submitting to God results in the only true freedom that you can experience.

Let’s break down what St. Silouan defines as “slavery” and “true freedom.”

  • Exercising your will and enjoying the “quick fix” of removing inconvenient restraints brings about momentary relief without halting the tyranny of lingering resentments, obsessive and circular thinking, fear, and anxiety.

Submission to God’s will, on the other hand, lifts us above the quagmire of self-preoccupation that sinks us deeper and deeper into isolation from God and despair. It purifies and calms our souls and unites us with God.

The man who is given over to the will of God is occupied only with God. The grace of God helps him to continue in prayer. Though he may be working or talking his soul is absorbed in God because he has given himself over to God’s will wherefore the Lord has him in His care.

  • I know when I have truly distanced myself from God by the increased turmoil within me: impatience and irritability towards others; focusing on losses or fantasy over what I already have; unflattering comparisons between my life and that of others; discontent; mourning over speculations of what might have been or rehashing perceived insults against me—with each new recollection fueling a fresh wave of anger.

Submission to God frees us from the oppression of this treadmill of passions and brings us serenity, joy and union with God.

When the Holy Spirit dwells in us it feels like we have paradise within us.

  • There is an image I recall from a book or movie. It is of a mother waiting for her son to arrive from China at an airport. She is so worried about his safety that she comes up with a sort of mental exercise of continuously visualizing the airplane staying in the air and landing safely. She is afraid to interrupt her visualization even for one minute from fear that the airplane might crash without it.

Relying on our own will and resources gives the same delusion that, were it not for our efforts—worries, advice, interference, anxiety etc.—our world would collapse. Like the mother in this example, we are weighed down by the burden we take on of “holding the airplane in the air” through sheer will power, and become exhausted.

There is no empty space for God in a soul that is consumed by the effort of controlling what is not within its control and exhausted by its futile endeavors. It is a soul that is unable to experience inner peace, rejoice over what it has or pray.

Giving ourselves to the will of God frees us from the delusion of willing the airplane to remain in the air, allows us clarity, serenity and true prayer.

But the man who is entirely given to the will of God can pray with a pure mind, his soul loves the Lord, and he finds everything pleasant and agreeable.

The man who is given over to the will of God is occupied only with God. The grace of God helps him to continue in prayer. Though he may be working or talking his soul is absorbed in God because he has given himself over to God’s will wherefore the Lord has him in His care.

  • Holding on to grudges, judging the magnitude of others’ sins and deciding whom we are willing to forgive and who is unforgivable is another way that we allow our will to place a burden on us—appointing ourselves to be judges and becoming saddled with the unbearable weight of hatred and resentment.

Forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us is fundamental to submission to God.

  • Cleary we cannot submit ourselves to God, and abandon the illusion of control, without humility.

I learned that freedom is with God and is given of God to humble hearts who have repented and sacrificed their will before Him

What blocks us from true freedom is pride. St. Silouan laments for the human condition of pride and the sorrow of losing paradise because of it. All he can affirm is the eternal longing for God and the glimpse he offers of paradise regained through submission.

Though man lives on earth…in his love for God he forgets everything that is of this world. But our trouble is that through the pride of our mind we do not continue in this grace, and so grace forsakes us , and the soul seeks it, weeping and sobbing and saying:

“my soul longs for the Lord”

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