Blessed Praskovya Ivanovna (Pasha of Sarov) fool for Christ’s of Diveyevo and the disciple of St. Seraphim of Sarov
Commemorated on September 22
’’God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound those who are mighty.” (1 Cor 1:27)
We are fools for Christ’s sake. (I Cor. 4:9-10)
Keep Thy Mind in Hell and Despair Not:
A Word of God for Our Generation
Archimandrite Zacharias Zakharou
As Jonas was a sign to the Ninevites, so also are the “friends” of Christ in every age a sign for their generation, according to His unfeigned promise that “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). They are the sign of God for their generation because God speaks through them and by their words they provide an answer to all the problems of their own age. They become the sign of God when, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the way of Christ is revealed to them: descent (even unto hell), and ascent, according to the example and way which Christ showed. One cannot be holy, a friend and a disciple of the Teacher, that is to say of Christ, if one has not traversed this road to the end and “known the mysteries of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:10). It is only on this condition that one may become a “light in the world” proclaiming “the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16) for his generation…What is the “word of life” which God revealed to our generation through him?
If one has “ears to hear” and the “mind to understand” the “words of the unlettered” Silouan, he will recognize their divine origin, despite their simplicity. He will remember the answer St. Silouan gave to Father Stratonicos’ question “How do the perfect speak?” that “The perfect never say anything of themselves… They only say what the Spirit inspires them to say.” (1) He will see that his words are given by the Holy Spirit and that not even one of his words is a product of human reasoning, but all his words are born of a pure heart, one which is “enlarged” (II Cor. 6:11) according to the gift of Christ.
So, today the word under consideration is the word of Christ to Silouan: “Keep thy mind in hell, and do not despair.”
Timewise, our generation is nearer to the second coming of Christ than ever before. Christ’s word, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8), implies moreover that our generation finds itself in greater want and tribulation, and has need of salvation, than ever before…This revealing word from Christ Himself, “keep thy mind in hell and do not despair,” offered by St. Silouan to his contemporaries who are of like passions, provide the answer to these ..
What is, I wonder, the mystery of God which is enclosed in the words:
“Keep thy mind in hell and do not despair”? It is evident that knowledge of this mystery brought Silouan victory over the power of the enemy and a perfect likeness to his Master, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Silouan witnesses to in another part of his writings:
“He who has humbled himself has conquered the enemy. No enemy can come near the man who in his heart esteems himself deserving of eternal fire. No earthly thoughts find place in his soul heart and mind, he lives entirely in God. And the man who has come to know the Holy Spirit, and learned humility of Him, has become like to his Teacher, Jesus Christ, Son of God, and resembles Him” (12).
Why did this word of the Lord free Silouan from the fight with the enemy and add to his stature strength of spirit and stability of life?
This happened because the word of the Lord placed Silouan on the very way of the Lord Himself. By following the way of the Lord one’s heart is enlarged and man becomes unapproachable to his enemies.
…The sign of Jonas represents the way the Lord walked, and the apostle says that victory came into the world by Christ’s descent into hell and His ascent which followed (see Eph. 4). Hence, when the Lord proposes hell to Silouan (and through Silouan to our despairing generation), the Lord is offering him the possibility for descent, for going down. This is a spiritual journey and St. Silouan’s biographer, Archimandrite Sophrony, says that “those led by the Holy Spirit do not cease condemning themselves in their journey downwards” towards Christ, Who is the head of the inverted pyramid, and Who holds all the weight of the pyramid on His shoulders, and takes away the sin of the world.
This humble journey downwards is also the way that the Holy Church shows us…So, by descending into hell, we do nothing other than follow the Lord. This is the way of the Lord Himself. However, the way of the Lord leads to life, and for this reason we should not despair.
Source: Archimandrite Zacharias Zakharou. Keep Thy Mind in Hell and Despair Not: A Word of God for Our Generation // Alive in Christ: The Magazine of the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania,
Orthodox Church in America. 1997. Vol. XIII. N 3. P. 15-21, 34.
Holy Father Silouan, pray to God for us.
O Father ask our good Master to show us His mercy and to give the renewal of peace to our hearts which are seeking the tranquility which the Holy Spirit brings.
Troparion St Silouan the Athonite, Tone 4:
By thy prayers thou didst receive Christ as thy Master on the path of humility; and in thy heart the Holy Spirit witnessed unto thy salvation. For this cause all people called to live in hope are now rejoicing and celebrating thy memory. O holy Father Silouan, pray to Christ to save our souls.