Love Could Not Bear That

Icon of St. Silouan
St. Silouan the Athonite (source)

Over the last week the many statements, opinions, and responses to the bombing in Boston have been broad, varied, and filled with emotion. They expressed, appropriately so, shared pain, sorrow, grief, and anger. They offered gratitude, pride, and support for the courage, compassion, and love shown by the many heroes who responded and cared for the dead, the injured, and those still in danger. Others, not surprisingly, focused not so much on the bombing but specifically on the alleged bombers and generally on Islam. They were vicious and malicious.

These last reactions reminded me of the hermit in a story from the life of St. Silouan (1866-1938), a monk of Mount Athos. The story is told by Archimandrite Sophrony on page 48 of his book, St. Silouan the Athonite.

I remember a conversation between [Silouan] and a certain hermit who declared with evident satisfaction,
‘God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire.’
Obviously upset, [Silouan] said,
‘Tell me, supposing you went to paradise, and there you looked down and saw someone burning in hell-fire – would you feel happy?’
‘It can’t be helped. It would be their own fault,’ said the hermit.
[Silouan] answered him in a sorrowful countenance:
‘Love could not bear that,’ he said. ‘We must pray for all.’

I am not condoning or excusing the bombing in Boston or any other act of violence. I recognize, however, how easily “all atheists” can be replaced with the name of our favorite person or people to blame. This is true not only for the bombing in Boston but for all the times we or those we care about have been hurt by another. Sometimes they are guilty. Other times they are not. Regardless, “Love could not bear that.”

Icon of St. Silouan
St. Silouan the Athonite (source)


  1. Perfectly expressed. It takes no great faith to be forgiving when all is going well. But the challenge of the roots of who we are spiritually, is when we encounter these types of situations, how we react and whether we are up to willingly offering forgiveness and love to all those caught up in the act, perpetrators and victims alike…because in the end that is what love and forgiveness truly are. They are for ALL, not just the few. It is challenging, it is hard for many, but growing towards this understanding is what is asked of us. There can be no peace in the world until peace is achieved within the individual, and this peace comes from practising forgiveness and love of ALL.


    1. Stephanie, your comment reminds me of a quotation from, I think, C. S. Lewis. It was something like this: everyone likes the idea of forgiveness until it is time to forgive another. I agree that peace in the world has to begin as an interior reality, peace in the heart. I am often quick to see and condemn the evil around me but not so quick to look at the evil within me.

      God’s peace and blessing be upon you,


  2. Why does the wisdom of your simple, direct truth not find it’s way into the mainstream press?  (It doesn’t sell newspapers, they say).  How sad a reflection on the ‘civilized’ people we say we are.  Again our thanks for interrupting the silence.


  3. I absolutely agree–thank you for this!
    When I was young and came home terribly upset after the Sunday School class in which we were introduced to the concept of Hell, I asked Mother to tell me the truth–did SHE believe in Hell? She said, “No, honey, I can’t believe a loving God would create such a place, but I think human beings sometimes create Hell on earth for others.” I have been everlastingly thankful that my mother had the courage to go against the Bible on that issue!


    1. Sr. Ann, your mom sounds like a wise woman. I remember a seminary professor who said there might be a hell but that does not mean anyone is there. Let us pray there is not.

      Peace be with you,


  4. Yes, yes! Thank you much, Mike, for voicing to call us to awareness!! I most deeply believe that compassion- not only for thevictims & Boston, but also, and perhaps more so, for the alleged perpetrators. By God’s love for us, we are called to radical & universal compassion, I believe.
    Thank you, again.


  5. We heard a quote just today of the former pope, the phrase “He descended into Hell” conforms that Hell, if such a place exists, is empty! If Jesus went there, He must’ve freed all who were there


      1. YES! I continue to believe, hopefully, that we will be engaged in “growing”/being transformed even after we cross over into another form of life. Could that not be true of every person? As I have read “near death experiences” – many of them – a lot of the persons who report an encounter with Divine Light and Divine Love (for which there are no words, really) are not Christian believers. Hence, my hope that as all persons encounter that LOVE, they begin the process of transformation – even in the so-called “after-life.” Does that make sense?


  6. Here is a subject that intrigues me and maybe you as well. Are we alone in the universe? We must not think so because we are looking for other life forms. We just hope when we find one that they are somewhat friendly or inferior to us.

    If you use history as a guide we may be toast. A large percentage of the native people on the North/South American continents were wiped out when explorers from Europe arrived. Here is a web site (below) that got me going on this.

    Aliens may not be that forgiving and we may not have much of a chance to express our love for them. Do you think it is a waste of time to think about this? We want to find something because we don’t want to be alone in the Universe anymore. Much to lonely and it doesn’t fit the pattern of the Universe, i.e., multiples of everything, birth, death and rebirth (like stars and planets, etc..). What are your thoughts?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: