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Spasení je skrze lásku, ne skrze bohatství intelektuálních znalostí

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Author: Saint Sophronius of Athos

(Salvation is acquired through love. The divisions of Christianity are due to the misunderstanding of the commandment about love. Monasticism as a school of love and salvation. For keeping the commandments. For keeping from sin. The commandments of Christ are transcendental. For the revelation of the eternal idea of ​​man in Christ. On the need to know the ultimate goal of monasticism.)

Again and again I thank God, Who gives me the joy of seeing you…

No matter how nice the road is, the driver of the car all the time has to adjust the course of the car: change the speed, change the direction a little or make turns, etc. It is the same in our life. Although the road before us is laid out by the fathers, the apostles and by Christ Himself, all the time we need to drive the car along the line that must be followed in order to reach our ultimate goal.

So, today I want to tell our new brothers and sisters that it is not in the amount of knowledge that the power of salvation is found, but in the way of life. Not the “gnostic” but the ethical aspect of our life – this is what saves us. We are saved by love, which the Lord commanded us when he said at the Last Supper: “Love one another”1. This does not mean at all that we are against any kind of knowledge. On the contrary, God’s command compels us to “seek”2 and acquire the fullness of knowledge – that fullness which is the Lord Himself3. But even if our knowledge is absolute, salvation does not lie in this. Salvation is in the way of life. You have already noticed that in my talks with you I do not have a chronological order of specific, predetermined questions, as is usual in theological schools. However, life itself goes like this…

Today I want to tell my brothers and sisters that although we divide labor into physical and intellectual, unity and salvation come only through love. And it is very bitter when we notice that in us lives the terrible tendency to dominate and excel, to see the other below us. This destroys the man. We are often faced with the situation that people are outwardly full of information from all fields of knowledge, but inwardly they have not learned to love.

In my book about the old man Siluan, at the end of his biography, I give his last word. Then I said to him:

– I’m sorry that I’m constantly sick and I don’t have the strength to devote more time to theology.

And he, with his inherent meekness and inner silence, asked me:

– And you consider this thing great?

I dealt with him, knowing that he was a supreme gift of God’s favor to me. And of course I couldn’t answer his question. After some silence he said:

– Only one thing is great – to humble ourselves, to reject the pride that prevents us from loving4.

I called this “the last word” because the Lord also spoke about the same thing at the Last Supper. And the apostle Paul speaks of this:

“Show zeal for better gifts, and I will show you a way more excellent.” To speak all the languages ​​of men and even of angels, if I have no love, I will be tinkling copper or a tinkling cymbal. To have a prophetic gift and to know all secrets, to have complete knowledge of all things and such strong faith that I can move mountains – if I do not have love, I am nothing. And to give away all my possessions, to consign my body to burning, – if I have no love, nothing benefits me. Love is long-suffering, full of kindness, love does not envy, love does not exalt itself, is not proud, does not act violently, does not seek its own, does not get angry, does not think evil, does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices in truth; forgives all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails, and the other gifts, if they are prophecies, will cease, if they are tongues, they will be silent, if they are knowledge, they will disappear. Because sometimes we know and sometimes we prophesy; but when perfect knowledge comes, then this “someday” will disappear. When I was a babe, as a babe I spoke, as a babe I thought, and as a babe I reasoned; and when I became a man, I left the infantile. Now we see dimly as through a mirror, and then face to face; now I know somewhat, and then I will know as I was known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, love; but greater than these is love”5.

It cannot be said stronger than that.

In the words of Venerable Silouan, which I have called “the last word”, in a very short formula is contained the same power of saving love, which is the center of all life and of God Himself. In the writings of St. John of Kronstadt, it is only about this. And with many other saints, everything boils down to just that. That is why we need above all to keep love and strive for it.

If there was love, the whole Christian world would be one, in the image of the unity of the Holy Trinity. If Christendom is torn asunder, it is only because Christians do not keep the Lord’s commandments. All the talk, all the intellectual efforts of each party to convince the other that it has the best, has come to nothing in our century, when the world movements of Christians began.

Likewise in our monastic life, if we do not learn to love, I do not know what justification could be given in favor of monasticism. There is no such excuse! Love to the point of wanting to suffer for Christ and shed your blood is also possible outside of monasticism. But monasticism is a particular organization of all time in accordance with our desire to save ourselves, i.e. to become able to receive eternal life from God. When we are filled with this understanding, then an inspiration comes to us which never leaves man, even if outwardly he is brought to utter humiliation or killed, as the Lord has said: “Fear not those who kill the body and then cannot nothing more to do”6.

So, it is not any functions in earthly life that save man, but only life according to God’s commandments saves him. When a person keeps these commandments, really keeps them with the feeling that the Lord spoke them as His final revelation to people about how God Himself lives, – then our whole life becomes different. And though outwardly nothing is visible, all the beauty and power, all the mightiness of eternal life is within man. We learn this great mystery of God’s love gradually. And monasticism is based on the principles that lead to this goal.

Our lives are full of tension. Our whole days and nights are spent in worrying about how to avoid sin. Not long ago, a soul came to us and told us: “When I was free from faith and lived without God, I had no problems and my life was simple. And now I have no rest day and night.” The newly initiated soul expresses this in his prayer to God simply: “Lord, what have you done to me? Now I don’t find a place or a moment where I can be calm”. It is the same with the monastic life – it is the ultimate strain of human strength and attention. Externally, however, monks can be likened to high-voltage electric wires: little birds can land on them and sit quietly, and at the same time energy flows along the wires that moves trains, lights homes, warms everything, – all life moves only from this energy.

So, today I would like to suggest this to you: in your effort to study our theology and enrich yourself with knowledge of the experience of the fathers, reading their works and works, remember that it is not the abundance of this knowledge that saves, but love – that love that God has commanded us7.

I want to leave only this little word and call attention to you to stand firm on this path. Here is the best method to learn the commandments of Christ: when we are filled with faith that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator of this world and His commandments are of a transcendental content, then fear is born before their greatness. And with this fear, one cannot break away from the corrective influence of Christ’s commandments. As I said, while driving a car, one is constantly adjusting its movement, even if the road is nice. Likewise, the commands that God has given us are our “driver”…

A nun from Yugoslavia wrote to me: “Oh, how grateful I am to God!” She left the university, interrupting work, and went to a monastery. “And now,” she says, “I have entered a higher school, the highest school, and my heart is filled with the desire that the Lord will give me the strength to remain in this state until the end.” She also writes: “Think about it, the end of this life is eternal life in God!” What more can be expected?” I wish all of you to have such an experience as I have had, and many of you and you newcomers also have such an experience…

I have no strength to speak any more. But keep the word that God gave me, and you will live in peace. And when your heart overcomes all the small psychological obstacles and reaches love on our small scale, then, strange as it may be, you will be prepared to receive the state of grace in which one embraces the whole world in his love. This state cannot be created artificially. We always go the way of elementary school only. But a change is taking place with us, and our heart no longer loves the opposite of what the Lord has commanded.

Although I am like a ruin and a ruin, yet what I say to you stands. This is the truth of our life in the great God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, Who has clothed Himself in our flesh by revealing Himself to us and what we should be. In other words, when we see Christ incarnate, we contemplate God’s eternal idea of ​​man8. The Lord, with His appearance, with His commandments, carries our mind into such spheres as the state of the Deity Himself before the creation of the world. It’s scary to talk about, but it starts with the simplest of actions. The abbot says: “Please bring coal to the kitchen.” You fill the bucket and carry it. And this act prepares you for the great reception of love. If you don’t, you won’t achieve anything. However, we must know the ultimate goal of the monastic life from the very beginning. Then we will be able to find the right path. Not when we claim to be above the commandments, that we have supposedly already undergone deification, no! – Namely now, when we are full of passions and sin, we gradually, through obedience, through serving others, through the manifestation of love and patience, prepare ourselves for the higher state…

May God protect you. And my prayer is that all of you will truly receive inspiration from above.


1 Jan 15:17.

2 See Matt. 7:7.

3 See John 17:3.

4 See Archim. Sophronius. “St. Siluan of Athos”. p. 260.

5 1 Cor. 12:31–13:13.

6 See Onion. 12:4.

7 See Onion. 15:13.

8 See Archim. Sophronius. “We shall see God as He is.” p. 239.

N.B.: Venerable Sophronius of Aton (Sakharov) was canonized on 27.9.2019 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Source: From the book “Spiritual Conversations”, Volume 1.

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