Asceticism, Catechism, Discernment, Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Elder Sophrony of Essex, Elder Zacharias of Essex, Empirical Dogmatics, Letters to His Family, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, Patristic Theology, Protopresbyter John S. Romanides, St. Silouan the Athonite, Synergy, The Spiritual Perfecting of Christians, Theosis
Question 5 (Bishop Basil): Father Zacharias, you used a very interesting phrase, that man “needed to convince God that he was His”, which sounds like something very important. How do we do that? Or how did St. Silouan or Elder Sophrony do that? How do we convince God? What is it that we must do?
Answer 5: In the English translation of his book, St. Silouan speaks about a “noble love”, which in the original is called, “the great science” — the science, that is, of learning to go down (humbling) before God, because all the gifts of the Holy Spirit came by the Lord’s coming down. As we read in the Epistle to the Ephesians, “When he ascended up on high, He (the Lord) led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8). And the Apostle says in wonder: “Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?” (Eph. 4:9). Therefore, if we want to follow Christ and know totus Christus, the whole Christ, we must learn this way of Christ of “going down/being humbled”. Only this gives us the possibility of convincing Him that we are His.
Question 6 (Bishop Basil): Is self-emptying a part of it?
Answer 6: Yes, and self-emptying, as we said before, comes through repentance.
Question 7 (Bishop Basil): Is that an act of my will or is that something that God does before He comes in?
Answer 7: I think it is always a combination of the two. But given the fact that God always wants to give us all that He has, it is up to us to respond to His wish, to His desire, and, by accepting His Cross, to convince Him that we are His. You see, our God is a “difficult” God, and that is why many fall away from Him. He is difficult because He has conceived something very great for us, and He wants to give us everything; but how can He entrust to us all heaven, all eternity, before we are tried? In order to receive something very great we need to be tried. In common life, for instance, we have to prove ourselves in order to receive something — say, a promotion of some kind — so how much more do we have to prove ourselves if we are to receive the divine life? And this is not because God is mean or unkind, but because He doesn’t want to give us the divine life and then for us to give “that which is holy unto the dogs” (Matt. 7:6), thereby bringing on ourselves even greater desolation. God does all this for our sakes. He has conceived something exceedingly great for us: He created us in His Image and Likeness, giving us the capacity for (recapitulation) receiving the revelation to come at the end of time through His Son (Logos).
Excerpt from: THE ENLARGEMENT OF THE HEART “Be ye also enlarged” (2 Corinthians 6:13) in the Theology of Saint Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sofrony of Essex by Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex, England