Feast of St. Silouan of Mount Athos (September 24)   2 comments

Above:  St. Silouan of Mount Athos Eastern Orthodox Church, Walla Walla, Washington

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith (1946-)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-50977



Eastern Orthodox Monk and Poet

Also known as Saint Silouan the Athonite, Saint Silvanus the Athonite, and Staretz Silouan

Born Simeon Ivanovich Antonov

St. Silouan of Mount Athos comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Simeon Ivanovich Antonov, born in the village of Shovsk, in the Tambov region of the Russian Empire, on January 17, 1866, came from a devout Russian Orthodox family.  As a young man, he went to church.  He also worked as a carpenter, drank too much vodka, socialized with local young women, and fornicated.  One night, our saint had a dream, in which a snake crawled down his throat.  He woke up and heard a female voice say,

Just as you found it loathsome to swallow a snake in your dream, so I find your ways ugly to look upon.

Simeon later identified the source of that voice as St. Mary of Nazareth, the Theotokos.  The dream-vision had a profound effect on our saint.  Even as he lived morally during his compulsory military service, he knew that the monastic life was holier.

In 1892, Simeon, 27 years old, arrived at Mount Athos, Greece.  He became a monk, as Silouan (Russian for “Sylvanus”) at the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon. Our saint remained there for the rest of his life.  St. Silouan worked at the monastery mill.  He also fasted, prayed without ceasing, felt remorse for his sins, found inner peace, and wept for the sins of the world.  St. Silouan valued love for enemies more highly than many other loves.  He also prayed for all people and provided spiritual counsel to pilgrims who sought him out.

Our saint, aged 72 years, died on Mount Athos on September 24, 1938.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople glorified/canonized him in 1987.

I have met and conversed with many Protestants–right, left, and center.  Many of them–right, left, or center–have shared a harsh and undue critique of monastics (most of them, at least) as being useless.

But how is a live devoted to prayer useless?  If one affirms the efficacy of prayer, how can one then criticize a person for devoting his or her life to prayer?  If one affirms the efficacy of prayer, how can one describe those who devote their lives to prayer as useless?  Rather, one should thank God for such holy and useful lives.  And one needs to get over one’s Protestant Reformation hangover.

St. Silouan said:

A monk is a man who prays for the whole world….I tell you that when we have no more men of prayer the world will come to an end and great disaster will befall–as, indeed, is happening already.

Prayer is a state of being.  This is why one can pray without ceasing.  If one is in proper spiritual zone, to to speak, one can do nothing but pray, regardless of what else one is doing.  I do not pretend to have reached that spiritual zone.  I do, however, thank God for those who have.


Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your servant Saint Silouan of Mount Athos,

who grieved for his sins and those of the world.

Teach us to recognize and grieve our sins and to intercede for others,

and may as many people as who will

repent, seek your face, take up their crosses, and follow you.

Furthermore, teach us live intensely in you every moment of our lives.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Ezekiel 18:21-32

Psalm 1

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Matthew 19:10-12





2 responses to “Feast of St. Silouan of Mount Athos (September 24)

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  1. I loved reading about him and I so agree with him. Right now, in many places in the world, are monks who spend their existence praying for the world! I believe prayer to be the highest calling in the Christian life!

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