Saint Sophrony the Athonite (+July 11, 1993) is one of the most beloved Orthodox Christian elders of our times. In this audio recording he talks about his spiritual father, St. Silouan the Athonite and his writings. He also gives us a simple way to find out if a book is Orthodox or not. The feast of St. Silouan the Athonite is celebrated each year on September 24th.
Essex Monastery, December 4th, 1989
English translation adapted after the Romanian version of Fr. Rafail Noica, Cuvantari Duhovnicesti I (2)
Saint Sophrony the Athonite:
Why did I believe that Christ the All-Pure appeared to St. Silouan and spoke to him, and not a man or some other spirit? Because he, being a simple and almost illiterate Russian peasant, suddenly received the spirit of prayer for the whole Adam — a thing which the most famous theologians cannot comprehend.
One of the most important aspects of what I heard from St. Silouan is the description of his prayer, in which he received the answer from Christ: “keep thy mind in hell and despair not.”
Two things impressed me from the beginning when he spoke of the moment of the Lord’s appearance to him.
The vision lasted only for a moment, but in that moment the eternity was revealed to him. It was clear to me that the Lord Himself appeared to him, because He made him partaker of His own state — that which Silouan mentiones in his writings: “The Lord has compassion for all…” And that’s why, I think, he writes further: “I have I began to do as the Lord taught me (…) and my mind was made clean (…) and the Spirit of God beareth wordless witness to salvation.”
Someone asked St. Philaret of Moscow, the brilliant Russian hierarch, “When it comes to books or teachings, how do you know if they are Orthodox or not?”
And he replied: “By [seeing] the spirit in which they are written.”
When we read the writings of the Staretz [Elder], at every step we encounter the consciousness of a “primitive” man, and at the same time, the highest knowledge hidden in this “primitivism.” When I was listening to the Staretz, I naturally received his words, perceiving their dogmatic content. And his testimony was more important to me than anything I had received since childhood from my teachers, and from every man, whoever he might have been.