Mount Athos: Tears in Silent Gardens

A Visit to St. Silouan the Athonite

What shall I render unto Thee, O Lord,
for that Thou hast poured such great mercy on my soul?

Grant, I beg Thee, that I may see my iniquities, and ever weep before Thee,

for Thou art filled with love for humble souls, and dost give them the grace of the Holy Spirit.

St. Silouan the Athonite

Photo: Photo:     

It’s one of those radiant spring days on the Holy Mountain, when the silky sun rays play with you like little kittens, spreading the innocent joy of being embraced by a heavenly touch.

My heart is leaping, and I am walking fast, trying to keep up with Father S., who despite his long cassock and light leather slippers is soaring full speed up the very steep hill.

Luscious green surrounds our climb, and the serene bubbling of a mountain stream reminds me of heavenly tabernacles. I am very excited, because we’re on our way to see the chapel of St. Silouan the Athonite himself! This famous Russian spiritual giant paved the way to the Kingdom of Heaven with his utmost humility, copious tears, and prayers of repentance. His amazing love for the whole world and his tearful lamentations for those yet unable to recognize God’s love pierce through my soul like lightning.

His passionate plea for repentance, forgiveness and love for our enemies makes me stop and think about my life choices. If you haven’t yet heard of St. Silouan, you absolutely must read the book about him written by Archimandrite Sophrony. When I read it the first time many years ago, I had no idea that one day I would be visiting his very chapel! And now I am going to visit the place of his numerous spiritual battles. Oh, how merciful is our Most Holy Virgin and Theotokos!

So who is this St. Silouan? Born Simeon Antonov, this simple Russian Orthodox son of a pious peasant family was born in a small village in the Tambov Region of Tsarist Russia. At the age of twenty-seven, he came to Mt. Athos and became a monk who dedicated his entire life to the Jesus prayer and repentance. According to records kept by the St. Russian Panteleimon Monastery, he came to the monastery in 1892, was tonsured in 1896, and finally took the vows of the schema in 1911. He worked diligently at the monastery mill and later stayed at the Kalamarey Metoch, the Old Nagorny Rusik and the Oeconomia before passing away in the Lord in 1938. Yet, as Simeon Antonov became the Elder Silouan, he transformed his own life and the lives of many people who encountered this tearful man who loved to weep for the whole world, praying for everyone’s salvation and having an all-forgiving love for his enemies.

Early in his years at the monastery, St. Silouan received the gift of ceaseless Jesus prayer, granted to him by the Most Holy Theotokos when he was praying in front of Her Icon. That beautiful prayer dwelled in his heart day and night, and his only wish was to never lose sight of the amazing light of God’s love inside his soul. As he wrote:

O merciful God, forgive me.

Thou seest how my soul is drawn to Thee, her Creator. Thou hast wounded my soul with Thy love, and she thirsts for Thee, and wearies without end, and day and night, insatiable, reaches toward Thee, and has no wish to look upon this world, though I do love it, but above all I love Thee, my Creator, and my soul longs after Thee.

But one day, he did lose the feeling of God’s presence due to a lack of spiritual vigilance, as vain thoughts bombarded him, tearing his heart to pieces. Even though he fought the full battle, with almost no sleep, just 15–20 minutes a day on his stool, working a full day in the mill and dedicating much time to prayer, yet still he was unable to fight this demonic invasion! The fear of death and cold despair overwhelmed him, and hopelessness crippled his soul.

The miracle-working icon of Christ the Savior associated with the miracle of the apparition of our Lord to to St. Silouan The miracle-working icon of Christ the Savior associated with the miracle of the apparition of our Lord to to St. Silouan After many weeks and months, when he was at rock bottom, he thought, “It is impossible to reach God through prayer.” On that very day, as he was praying during the vespers and as he looked at the icon of Jesus Christ the Savior in the church of the Holy Prophet Elias, he saw the Living Christ.

As he shared in his book later, “The Lord mysteriously revealed himself to the young novice,” and St. Silouan’s entire being was filled with the amazing grace of the Holy Spirit, his body ignited by the same flames of the Lord witnessed by the Holy Apostles!

This glorious vision of God’s Light lifted his soul to the heavenly gardens, where he saw the unseen and heard the unspoken. Christ’s humble gaze, His all-forgiving and all-loving eyes were imprinted in his soul, and he could never forget this vision…

“Well, come on in,” said Father S. “This is this very same chapel where St. Silouan was praying every day, and this is the icon from where our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the Saint,” he explained, pointing toward the church Iconostasis.

“Let’s read the Akathist.”

We started reading, and as I was pronouncing the words, my soul was filled with the joy of being inside this prayer-rich chapel, the very place where the Lord Jesus showed such wonderful grace to a humble monk from Russia!

We both left with our eyes filled with tears. St. Silouan the Athonite, please teach me your prayers and pray to God for my sinful soul!


The Night Before Communion: At the Prayer Room.


There is nothing coincidental in this life, one of the many experienced monks on Mount Athos shared with me. Especially here. Pay attention to what is happening to you. Each moment of our lives is the moment when God teaches us something very important.

It happened toward the end of my trip. I was preparing for Holy Communion, and as I was anticipating the night service. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t oversleep and set my alarm for 1:30 am. I thought that 30 minutes would be enough to get ready. I did not know exactly why I needed these extra thirty minutes, but soon I found out.

If you ever find yourself in the Archondarik (guest house) of the Russian St. Panteleimon Monastery, you will experience its absolute serenity during the period of rest, when the pilgrims, novices and monks are resting from the long day. Dimly lit hallways hide the struggling and elated souls, fighting and soaring hearts. Who is behind each door? It is a mystery. The quiet rules of this monastic hotel are very strict—you can’t disturb your brothers during these pre-prayer hours!

As I silently opened the door and walked out, I was planning to just go out and wait for the monks to open the massive entrance gates of the monastery at 2 am. But something stopped me, and I glanced at a small reception area with two small glass tables and a few Russian-language church newspapers laying open in the darkness. A small balcony door was slightly ajar, and the sea wind fluttered the curtains. Complete silence enveloped me. Suddenly I noticed another wooden door which was usually locked—now wide open.

I went inside and was stunned by the sharp feeling that this room must have heard many repentant cries and honest prayers. The atmosphere was almost electric! There were a couple of prayer books, an open hardbound Gospel, and a Psalter in Church Slavonic. In front of me was an icon of Jesus Christ with the crown of thorns. The icon depicted Jesus’ pain so realistically that it was hard to look at it for a long time. I opened a prayer book and read my morning prayers. After I finished, I decided to look at the other icons on the wall. A Virgin Mary, Abbess of Mount Athos, St. Nicholas, and… Then I noticed another icon of Jesus with His thorny crown. Jesus’ eyes were filled with deep sadness and an invisible question which digs down into the depths of my soul… as if He were asking me, why are you still sinning? Look what I endured for you…   

Then I discovered this framed text which read:


Christ appeared to a certain Holy Elder, who was always meditating on the sufferings of Christ on the Cross and weeping bitterly, and told him in detail how He had endured His sufferings and how much blood He had shed for the salvation of the human race, beginning from Thursday evening until the burial:

- I uttered 109 heartfelt sighs.

- Blood flowed from My Body—225,000 drops.

- There were 118 armed soldiers.

- 230 people tormented Me alongside the soldiers.

- There were 348 people involved in total.

- 3 soldiers led Me to the crucifixion.

- They tormented and dragged Me by the hair and beard, 77 times.

- I stumbled and fell to the ground (starting from the garden to the Chief Priest’s house), 7 times.

- I endured blows on the mouth and cheeks, 105 blows.

- They slapped Me on the face, 20 times.

- I was dragged by the crowd from the beginning to the end of My suffering, 707 times.

- I was hit hard, 1,199 times.

- They beat Me with canes and clubs, 40 times.

- When they put a crown of thorns on Me, 5 points pierced My skull down to the marrow, 3 of them broke and remained in My head, and were buried with Me.

- Blood flowed from the piercing of the crown of thorns, 3,000 drops.

- And the wounds on My head from the piercing of the crown numbered 1,000.

- A crown of thorns was laid on My head and fell from it, 8 times.

- Carrying the Cross on the way to Golgotha, I fell to the ground, 5 times.

- I suffered 21 mortal blows.

- They lifted Me from the ground by my hair and mustache, 23 times.

- They spit in My face, 73 times.

- I received 25 blows to the neck.

- They slapped Me on the face and mouth, 5 times.

- Much blood flowed from My mouth and nostrils, and 2 teeth were knocked out of Me.

- They tormented Me by the nose, 20 times.

- They beat me on the bridge of my nose, three times.

- They dragged Me by the ears, 30 times.

- There were 72 great wounds.

- I received the strongest blows to the chest and head, 38 times.

And in His suffering He had 3 great afflictions:

1. “In My affliction I have not seen a single penitent, and it is as if My blood were shed in vain.”

2. “My Mother stood at the Cross and wept bitterly.”

3. “When my hands and feet were nailed to the Cross."

Thus the words of the Prophet came true: “... All My bones are gone.”

[Excerpt from the book, The Great Mirror, Chapter 525, (1911).]


Tears filled my eyes, it was impossible to hold them back… Why do we still torment Christ? Why do I add my sins to Him every single day? How could He endure all this suffering?

With Christ’s look of sadness imprinted on my heart, I slowly opened the door.

A canopy of galaxies covered the Garden of the Most Holy Theotokos.

“Lord Jesus Christ, save me, a sinner!”

Andrey Gidaspov
The Parishioner, Vol. 12, Spring 2024


Linda4/20/2024 6:44 am
Thank you for posting this! I have been contemplating about how it happened, how much our Lord has been humiliated and hurt prior to His crucifixion and now I finally have my answer. THanks!
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