We have now come to a chapter about what we most long for: peace.
St. Silouan simplifies and sums up the nature of this quest:
…the man who likes to have his own way will never know peace…
It is as simple as that.
I think of my lifelong struggle to have “my own way:” persuading 3 different graduate schools to collaborate on my own concoction of an interdisciplinary doctoral program; exhausting myself to function independently and against the status quo in institutions I worked for; wanting to control others’ opinions of me; struggling to influence the course of things, to persuade, change, even “punish.”
Getting one’s way in careers, child-rearing, business dealings or personal relationships is generally considered a sign of strength and success.
This leaves us stuck between longing for peace and devoting the bulk of our efforts and mindshare to the fulfillment of our own will; making the world conform to the script we created in our mind.
None of the remedies for salvation—virtue, prayer, fasting, charity—are adequate in themselves without abandoning our efforts at having things “go our way;” without humility and submission to God’s will. Without them, resentment and self-pity will rise within us and bring about turmoil and despair.
But if a man murmur against his fate he will never have peace in his soul, even though he fast and spend much time in prayer.
The acceptance St. Silouan advocates is not the same as resignation. Acceptance signifies the recognition that God’s will and not yours is in charge. Resignation means giving up in despair. In fact, resignation often follows disillusionment over our futile attempts to control.
Far from resignation, acceptance of God’s will is a difficult discipline of maintaining dispassion and inner peace in the face of hardship and pain.
…we are living through the final period, yet must we still preserve our soul’s peace, without which we cannot be saved.
The humble Christian, far from being weak or passive, is a spiritual warrior who does not react emotionally to circumstances and does not allow his soul to become de-stabilized by affliction and external circumstances, no matter how dire.
How do we acquire the strength to maintain peace and grace in our souls, regardless of “living through the final period?”
By loving others, St. Silouan tells us. He brings as an example Father John Kronstadt who maintained inner peace in the face of distraction “because he loved the people and never ceased praying to the Lord for us.”
“Pray to the Lord to give you a tender heart which God loves,” St. Silouan exhorts.
Though a man pray much, and fast, but has not love for his enemies he can have no peace of soul.
When St. Paissy the Great prayed for his disciple who had denied Christ, the Lord spoke to him directly, recognizing that he had achieved likeness to Him and hence Grace:
Paisy, thou hast become like unto Me in thy love
Achieving and maintaining inner peace is not an aside activity. It requires consistent focus and a complete re-orientation toward God.
Explore God’s Law, day and night
We have seen in patristic writings how upon reaching the stage of theosis we are freed from complexity and fragmentation—circular thinking, ambivalence, conflicting priorities and truths, confusion, instability. Instead we experience clarity, peace and unity, driven by a single, simple and unclouded perception of the truth.
Without a complete re-orientation toward God we are vulnerable to the enemy and risk losing whatever peace we have achieved.
Then the enemy, seeing that the soul is not in God, causes ger to waver, and unrestricted he can instill what he will in the mind. The soul is then driven from one set of thoughts to another, so that she spends the whole day in this confusion and is unable to contemplate God with a single mind.