I remember one memorable visit. A monk, a hermit, came to see us. He was about seventy years of age. He lived at a deserted spot between the Monastery and the hermitage, in a ravine by a stream in a wood. His face, ravaged, all wrinkles, looked grey and long unwashed; the dark-grey hair of his head and beard looked dirty, his greyish-blue eyes were sunk deep in their sockets. We had a long talk with him, and this is what he told us:
‘It is many years now that my soul suffers when I think of us monks. We have renounced the world, left our parents and our Motherland, given up everything that usually constitues life for people. We have pronounced our vows before God, the holy angels and our brethren to live according to Christ’s law. We have renounced our own will, and in effect lead a martyr’s life, and still we make no progress towards goodness. Will many of us be saved? I shall be the first to perish. I see others, too, who are slaves to their passions. And when I meet people of the world, I see that they live in profound ignorance, listless and unrepentant. And thus, little by little, without even noticing, I was drawn to pray for the world. The thought distressed me that if we, monks who have renounced the world, do not find salvation, what must it be like in the world? My sorrow gradually increased and I started weeping tears of despair. And now, last year when I was in such despair, tired of weeping, lying face down on the floor, the Lord appeared to me and asked, “Why weepest thou?” I was silent. “Dost thou not know that it is I Who will judge the world?” I still kept silent. The Lord says, “I will have mercy on every man who, if only once in his life, has called upon God”…The thought crossed my mind, “So what is the use of us tormenting ourselves day after day?” To which the Lord replied, “Those who suffer because of My commandment will be My friends in the Kingdom of Heaven: the others I will merely have mercy upon.” With this the Lord retired.
Excerpt taken from the book: St. Silouan the Athonite, By: Archimandrie Sophronius (Sakharov)