Nearing the End of Life: (Wisdom from Mount Athos: The Writings of Starretz Silouan)

In your presence is fullness of joy;

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At your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

(Psalm 16)

Because Silouan has “tasted of the grace of the Holy Spirit” in his soul, he has been able to have glimpses of joy in its fulness before God’s presence. With this knowledge of that indescribable joy that awaits him, he no longer fears death.

Until the coming of God’s grace the soul fears death.

He knows, however, that the state of peace and joy we experience on earth is but momentary and a mere approximation of the happiness we will experience in the presence of the Lord.  As he nears the end of his life, his longing for fulness, permanence and completion increases.  

He no longer makes rational arguments but delves into the mystical experience of union with God and our longing for it.  Like a person passionately in love, perhaps for the first time, his soul is wholly preoccupied with God and can think of little else.  

The soul He suffers to taste of the sweetness of the love of God but is absorbed in God alone and attaches herself to no earthly thing.

As desire intensifies, Silouan’s descriptions use ecstatic terms, beyond reason, sound or sight.

The soul from love of the Lord has lost her wits; she sits in silence, with no wish to speak, and looks upon the world with mazed eyes, having no desire for it and seeing it not. 

Surely, we can relish our families, enjoy the beauty of music and be grateful for our cozy home but, through our love for God,  these do not become preoccupations, sources of passion and envy or the lone objectives of our lives. This “longing for the things of heaven” overshadows longing for material things and puts them in perspective.

My soul is nigh unto death and longs with a great longing to behold the Lord and be with Him forever.

While union with Christ, after death, represents our most cherished goal, permanence and completion, it  is not depicted as stasis or even a finite destination. On the contrary, it is a continuous journey of a much higher caliber than that on earth. Our proximity to God enables a true and profound transformation of our souls. Silouan ends the book, and this chapter, with a vision of the fulness of true joy in Christ and the hope of eternal sweetness and transformation.

One glance at the Lord, and the love of Him will take up its abode in the soul, and from love of God and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit she will be all transformed.

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