The Undistorted Image: St Silouan the Athonite.

2C89E989-50BB-433A-8B82-86ED3FD4ABFCAbove: Bishop Jack Nicholls and friend.

Long-time beloved friend, saint and sage, – and sometime bishop of Sheffield – Jack Nicholls reads St Silouan every day. Other friends of his in heaven include St Seraphim. This page shares some of Silouan’s thoughts, in his own words, and those inspired by him in his disciple, the righteous Sophrony (Sakharov). Bishop Jack embodies the unconditional welcome of Silouan and steers souls to Love and maturity: he is able to love much because he has been forgiven much (Luke 7:47); yet more wonderfully, he passes both on freely. Jack’s is real Mission, and this page is a tribute of love to him.

Georges Florovsky[1]

… humility, required by a constant and continuous self humbling and self-denial, is not just a denial, a subtraction or a reduction of the self. On the contrary, it is a recovery of the true self… there is here indeed a paradoxical tension. The purpose of the spiritual quest is high and ambitious, a consortium divinae naturae, a participation in divine nature.[2]

The way [of life in Christ, theōsis etc.]… is the method of radical self renunciation. Grace is given only to the humble and meek. Moreover, humility itself is never a human achievement. It is always the gift of God, granted freely, gratiae gratis data… Love is both the starting point and the core of Christian endeavour. But the novelty of Christian Love is so often overlooked and disregarded. According to Christ himself, the only true love is ‘love for enemies’… St Paul was emphatic at this point. God loved us while we were his enemies. The cross itself is the perennial symbol and sign of that love. Fr Silouan not only spoke of love, he practiced it. In a humble, and yet daring manner, he devoted his life to prayer for enemies, for the perishing and alienated world. This prayer is a dangerous and ambiguous endeavour unless it is offered in utter humility. One can easily become conscious of one’s love, and then it is corroded and infected by vanity and pride. One cannot love purely, except with the love of Christ himself, infused and operating in the humble heart.

Staretz Silouan[3]

Christ-like love cannot suffer any man to perish, and, in its care for the salvation of all men, walks the way of Calvary.[4]

The test of this way of love, was, for the saint, love of one’s enemies. In reality, in Christ, there are no enemies, no one is rejected by God’s love. The ‘enemies’ are those who reject the Creator’s love, but they are not outside that Love. Nor are they outside the prayer of those who pray in that love… the saints behold hell and embrace it, too, in their love. To love the enemy, the true enemy of God, is to embrace the hell that they have brought upon themselves. ‘Keep your mind in hell, and despair not.’… God embraces all things, even the bottomless abysses of hell, for there is no domain outside his reach.

Spirituality as ontology – salvation on the deepest level of human being

The language of being…  describe[s] the nature of the change [that] has to take place as we respond to the gospel and seek to follow Christ. ‘He who is’ is a Person addressing persons. So, in emptying himself in the incarnation and death on the cross, Christ, as Son of God, is not veiling the nature of God, appearing as less than God, as it were, but precisely revealing what it is to be God. Kenōsis constitutes God, kenōsis reveals the mystery of God’s love: and we shall see God as He is… God is humility.

[1] Georges Florovsky’s preface of The Undistorted Image by Sophrony Sakharov.

[2] 2 Peter 1:4

[3] Unless otherwise indicated, from Saint Silouan, by Sophrony Sakharov.

[4] The Undistorted Image, ed. Sophrony Sakharov, p.66.





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[Revd Dr] Andrew Teal Chaplain, Fellow, Lecturer in Patristic & Modern Theology, Pembroke College, Oxford. Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford Warden, Community of the Sisters of the Love of God. ADVANCE NOTICE: Inspiring Service. November 23rd 2018 The Pichette Auditorium, Pembroke College Oxford. A panel of speakers to inspire adventurous and fulfilling service. Speakers: Lord David Alton of Liverpool, a leading lay British Catholic; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Revd Prof Frances Young, leading British Methodist; and The Most Revd & Rt Hon Prof Rowan Williams (Baron Williams of Oystermouth), formerly Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the world-wide Anglican Church.

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