In truth, St. Silouan’s word [‘Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not’] expresses a great spiritual science, the only one that can effectively oppose the all-destroying corruption and devastation perpetrated by the spirit of wickedness in these last times, and in such apocalyptic fashion. By a prophetic attitude of self-blame, the negative energy that comes from the experience of hell is transformed into energy for converse with God, which conquers the passions and raises life to the ontological level. Through the greater pain of voluntarily condemning himself to hell by virtue of the Lord’s commandment, the believer can triumph over every other pain and temptation, and prove the love of Christ to be stronger than death, as is He who ‘conquered death by death’. Whatever is done willingly, and in fulfilment of a commandment of God, is inspired by divine wisdom and leads to eternal victory. This victory renders man supra-cosmic, like Christ, who by His extreme humility overcame the world.
Archimandrite Zacharias, Christ, Our Way and Our Life. A Presentation of the Theology of Archimandrite Sophrony, (Saint Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2003) 275.
This is the final paragraph of this book, which I was delighted to rather unexpectedly receive as a profession gift. I have not read it yet, and although I’ve dipped into it, I’m exercising great self-restraint in not starting it until I’m finished some other books as I’m already trying to read too much at the same time! But it connects very well with themes that have spoken to me strongly in Metropolitan Zizioulas’ books, especially Communion and Otherness, where he speaks of the monastic or ascetic way as the way of the descent into hell (from which I posted a long quote here). Indeed it appears that Archimandrite Sophrony was an important influence on Zizioulas.
P.S. I’ve just seen that Father Stephen has been posting on Archimandrite Sophrony as well.