Saint Silouan (Orthodox, 1866-1938)

Saint Silouan is a saint very close to us and essential to the understanding of Eastern Christian spirituality.

Saint Silouan was born Simeon Ivanovich Antonov in 1866, in the village of Sovsk in Russia's Tambov region. He died on September 24, 1938, on Mount Athos in Greece.

Childhood and youth

His parents were devout Russian Orthodox Christians who raised their children in the faith. His father, an illiterate man, was full of gentleness and wisdom.

As a young man, Simeon grew uncommonly strong physically. Once during a fight with two other young villagers, Simeon, out of fear of looking ridiculous in front of the girls if he didn't defend himself, struck his opponent with such violence that it took his aggressor two months to recover.

As time went by, the desire to serve God in a monastery grew in his heart. During his military service he stood apart from the others, his thoughts constantly on Mount Athos, while his comrades spoke about music and vodka.

Monk

In 1892, Simeon finally went to the Russian monastery St Panteleimon, also called Rossikon (Monastery of the Russians) on Mount Athos where he became a monk. He received from the Holy Theotokos (Mother of God) the gift of unceasing prayer.

For Simeon, the Mother of God was a compassionate and stimulating presence in spiritual combat, because of her humility, the purity of her prayer, her generosity towards God, and her life in the Holy Spirit.

He became a fervent ascetic, living a deep spiritual life. He had a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, in glory, in the church of the Prophet Elijah adjoining the mill of the monastery.  Following the Mother of God's withdrawal of the grace of unceasing prayer, he was oppressed by profound grief and great temptations for fifteen years. After which he received this teaching from the Lord, "Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not."

Until the end of his life, and even through illness and the fatigue of age, he would wake up and rise in the middle of the night to pray.

Various occupations

After having the charge of working in the mill, Simeon was sent to a farm in Kalamareia, then he was named constructions book-keeper and manager of the workmen. He held this last post until his death (except for the year and a half he spent as a hermit at the old Rossikon, in the company of some tempered ascetics). In all his activities, he gave prayer a prominent place and he prayed for all human beings.

Canonization

Despite being appreciated as a monk, he wasn't particularly sought after by the other monks, since he was a simple man. However, many pilgrims coming to Mount Athos visited him, sometimes bishops or academics come to listen to his wise counsel.

He died on the morning of September 24, 1938, in the monastery's infirmary, during matins.

Saint Silouan was canonized by the Patriarch of Constantinople on November 26, 1987.

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Source: Archimandrite Sophrony, Starets Silouane, moine du mont Athos, Vie - Doctrine - Ecrits - Edition Présence, Belley,