Elder Sophrony: When We Choose Christ We are Carried Beyond Time and Space, Beyond the Reach of what is Termed “Tragedy” Friday, Mar 28 2014 

SophronyContinued from here….

In refusing to accept Christ as Eternal Man and, more importantly, as True God and our Saviour – whatever the form the refusal takes, and whatever the pretext – we lose the light of life eternal.

‘Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the founda­tion of the world’ (John 17.24).

There, in the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, must our mind dwell. We must hunger and thirst to enter into this wondrous Kingdom.

Then we shall overcome in ourselves the sin of refusing the Father’s love as revealed to us through the Son (cf. John 8.24).

When we choose Christ we are carried beyond time and space, beyond the reach of what is termed ‘tragedy’.

The moment the Holy Spirit grants us to know the hypostatic form of prayer we can begin to break the fetters that shackle us.

Emerging from the prison cell of selfish individualism into the wide expanse of life in the image of Christ, we perceive the nature of the personalism of the Gospel.

[…] It is a recognised fact that the ego is the weapon in the struggle for existence of the individual who refuses Christ’s call to open our hearts to total, universal love.

The persona, by contrast, is inconceivable without all-embracing love either in the Divine Being or in the human being.

Prolonged and far from easy ascetic effort can open our eyes to the love that Christ taught, and we can apprehend the whole world through ourselves, through our own sufferings and searchings.

We become like a world-wide radio receiver and can identify ourselves with the tragic element, not only in the lives of individual people but of the world at large, and we pray for the world as for our own selves.

In this kind of prayer the spirit beholds the depths of evil, the sombre result of having eaten of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’.

But it is not only evil that we see – we make con­tact, too, with Absolute Good, with God, Who translates our prayer into a vision of Uncreated Light.

The soul may then forget the world for whom she was praying, and cease to be aware of the body. The prayer of divine love becomes our very being, our body.

The soul may return to this world. But the spirit of man, having experienced his resurrection and come near existentially to eternity, is even further persuaded that tragedy and death are the consequence of sin and that there is no other way to salvation than through Christ.

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): from His Life Is Mine, London 1977, p. 37-40 @ Pemptousia.

Elder Sophrony: Aware of the Breath of the Holy Spirit, the Christian is Assured of the Inevitable Victory of Light Sunday, Mar 9 2014 

SophronyContinued from here….

I was still a young man when the tragedy of historical events far outdid anything that I had read in books.

(I refer to the outbreak of the First World War, soon to be followed by the Revolution in Russia.)

My youthful hopes and dreams collapsed. But at the same time a new vision of the world and its meaning opened before me.

Side by side with devastation I contemplated rebirth. I saw that there was no tragedy in God.

Tragedy is to be found solely in the fortunes of the man whose gaze has not gone beyond the confines of this earth.

Christ Himself by no means typifies tragedy. Nor are His all-cosmic sufferings of a tragic nature.

And the Christian who has received the gift of the love of Christ, for all his awareness that it is not yet complete, escapes the nightmare of all-consuming death.

Christ’s love, during the whole time that He abode with us here, was acute suffering. ‘O faithless and perverse generation,’ He cried. ‘How long shall I suffer you?’ (Matt. 17.17).

He wept for Lazarus and his sisters (if. John 11.35). He grieved over the hard­heartedness of the Jews who slew the prophets (if. Matt. 23.37).

In Gethsemane his soul was ‘exceeding sorrowful, even unto death’ and ‘his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground’ (Matt. 26.38; Luke 22.44).

He lived the tragedy of all mankind; but in Himself there was no tragedy.

This is obvious from the words He spoke to His disciples perhaps only a short while before His redemptive prayer for all mankind in the Garden: ‘My peace I give unto you’ (John 14.27).

And a little further on: ‘I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John 16.32,33).

This is how it is with the Christian: for all his deep compassion, his tears and prayers for the world, there is none of the despair that destroys. Aware of the breath of the Holy Spirit, he is assured of the inevitable victory of Light.

The love of Christ, even in the most acute stress of suffering (which I would call the ‘hell of loving’), because it is eternal is free of passion.

Until we achieve supreme freedom from the passions on this earth suffering and pity may wear out the body but it will only be the body that dies. ‘Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul’ (Matt. 10.28).

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): from His Life Is Mine, London 1977, p. 37-40 @ Pemptousia.

Elder Sophrony: Adam’s Sin was a Movement towards Self-Divinisation Sunday, Mar 2 2014 

SophronyThe tragedy of our times lies in our almost complete unawareness, or unmindfulness, that there are two kingdoms, the temporal and the eternal.

We would build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, rejecting all idea of resurrection or eternity. Resurrection is a myth. God is dead.

Let us go back to Biblical revelation, to the creation of Adam and Eve and the problem of original sin. ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5).

The commandment given to the first-called in Paradise indicates this and at the same time conveys that, although Adam possessed absolute freedom of choice, to choose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would entail a break with God as the sole source of life.

By opting for knowledge of evil-in other words, by existentially associating with evil, by savouring evil-Adam inevitably broke with God, Who can in no way be joined with evil (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-15).

In breaking with God, Adam dies. ‘In the day that thou eatest there­of,’ thus parting company with me, rejecting my love, my word, my will, ‘thou shalt surely die’ (Gen. 2:17).

Exactly how Adam ‘tasted’ the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not important. His sin was to doubt God, to seek to determine his own life independently of God, even apart from Him, after the pattern of Lucifer.

Herein lies the essence of Adam’s sin – it was a movement towards self-divinisation.

Adam could naturally wish for deification – he had been created after the likeness of God – but he sinned in seeking this divinisation not through unity with God but through rupture.

The serpent beguiled Eve, the helpmeet God had made for Adam, by suggesting that God was introducing a  prohibition which would restrict their freedom to seek divine plenitude of knowledge – that God was unwilling for them to ‘be as gods knowing good and evil’ (Gen. 3:5).

I first met with the notion of tragedy, not in life but in literature. The seeds of tragedy, it seemed to me in my youth, are sown when a man finds himself wholly captivated by some ideal. To attain this ideal he is ready to risk any sacrifice, any suffering, even life itself.

But if he happens to achieve the object of his striving, it proves to be an impudent chimera: the reality does not correspond to what he had in mind. This sad discovery leads to profound despair, a wounded spirit, a monstrous death.

[…] The fate of the world troubled me profoundly. Human life at whatever stage was unavoidably interlinked with suffering. Even love was full of contradictions and bitter crises. The seal of destruc­tion lay everywhere.

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): from His Life Is Mine, London 1977, p. 37-40 @ Pemptousia.

Silouan the Athonite: In the sweetness of the Holy Spirit the soul loses her fear of suffering Wednesday, Jan 15 2014 

Silouan the AthoniteThe Father so loved us that He gave us His Son; but such was the will of the Son too, and He became incarnate and lived with us on earth.

And the holy Apostles and a multitude of people beheld the Lord in the flesh, but not all knew Him as the Lord;

yet it has been given to me, a poor sinner, through the Holy Spirit to know that Jesus Christ is God.

The Lord loves man and reveals Himself to man.

And when the soul beholds the Lord she humbly rejoices in the Master’s compassion, and from that hour her love for her Creator is greater than her any other love:

though she may see all things and love all men, yet will she love the Lord above all.

The soul suddenly sees the Lord and knows that it is He. Who shall describe this joy, this gladness?

The Lord is made known in the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit pervades the entire man – soul, mind and body. After this wise is God known in heaven and on earth.

The Lord in His boundless mercy granted this grace to me, a sinner, that others might come to know God and turn to Him. I write out of the grace of God. Yea, this is truth. The Lord Himself is my Witness.

The Merciful Lord gave the Holy Spirit on earth, and by the Holy Spirit was the Holy Church established.

The Holy Spirit unfolded to us not only the things of the earth but those too which are of heaven.

The Prophets, the beloved of the Lord, rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, wherefore the words that they spake were mighty and pleasant, for every soul would hear the word of the Lord.

Filled with love the holy Apostles went into all the world, preaching salvation to mankind and fearing nothing, for the Spirit of God was their strength.

When St Andrew was threatened with death upon the cross if he did not stay his preaching he answered: ‘If I feared the cross I should not be preaching the Cross.’

In this manner all the other Apostles, and after them the martyrs and holy men who wrestled against evil, went forward with joy to meet pain and suffering.

For the Holy Spirit, sweet and gracious, draws the soul to love the Lord, and in the sweetness of the Holy Spirit the soul loses her fear of suffering.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): from St. Silouan, Wisdom From Mount Athos – The Writings of Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, by Sofronii (Archimandrite), trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 1974) pp. 19-23 @ Kandylaki.

Elder Sophrony: Sacred tradition is the eternal and immutable dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church Tuesday, Nov 26 2013 

SophronyFor the Staretz [St Silouan] the life of the Church meant life in the Holy Spirit, and Sacred Tradition the unceasing action of the Holy Spirit in her.

Sacred Tradition, as the eternal and immutable dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church, lies at the very root of her being, and so encompasses her life that even the very Scriptures come to be but one of its forms.

Thus, were the Church to be deprived of Tradition she would cease to be what she is, for the ministry of the New Testament is the ministry of the Spirit ‘written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stones, but in the fleshly tables of the heart’.

Suppose that for some reason the Church were to be bereft of all her books, of the Old and New Testaments, the works of the holy Fathers, of all service books—what would happen?

Sacred Tradition would restore the Scriptures, not word for word, perhaps—the verbal form might be different—but in essence the new Scriptures would be the expression of that same ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints’.

They would be the expression of the one and only Holy Spirit continuously active in the Church, her foundation and her very substance.

The Scriptures are not more profound, not more important than Holy Tradition but, as said above, they are one of its forms—the most precious form, both because they are preserved and convenient to make use of.

But removed from the stream of Sacred Tradition, the Scriptures cannot be rightly understood through any scientific research.

If the Apostle Paul had the ‘mind of Christ’, how much more does this apply to the whole body of the Church of which St Paul is one member!

And if the writings of St Paul and the other Apostles are Holy Scripture, then new Scriptures of the Church, written supposedly after the loss of the old books, would in their turn become Holy Scripture, for according to the Lord’s promise God, the Holy Trinity, will be in the Church even unto the end of the world.

Men go wrong when they set aside Sacred Tradition and go, as they think, to its source—to the Holy Scriptures. The Church has her origins, not in the Scriptures but in Sacred Tradition.

The Church did not possess the New Testament during the first decades of her history. She lived then by Tradition only—the Tradition St. Paul calls upon the faithful to hold.

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): from St. Silouan the Athonite, by Archimandrite Sophrony @ Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Elder Sophrony: Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany Saturday, Sep 21 2013 

SophronyWe Orthodox live Christ within the Divine Liturgy, or rather Christ lives within us during the Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy is a work of God. We say: “Time is a creation of the Lord”. Among other things it means now is the time for God to act.

Christ liturgizes, we live with Christ. The Divine Liturgy is the way we know God and the way God becomes known to us.

Christ celebrated the Divine Liturgy once and this passed into eternity.

His divinized human nature came to the Divine Liturgy. We know Christ specifically in the Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy we celebrate is the same Divine Liturgy which was done by Christ on Great Thursday in the Mystical Supper. The 14th through the 16th chapters of the Gospel according to John is one Divine Liturgy.

So in the Divine Liturgy we understand Holy Scripture. The early Church lived without a New Testament, but not without the Divine Liturgy. The first records, the written hymns, exist in the Divine Liturgy.

In the Divine Liturgy we live Christ and understand His word.

As Christ cleansed His Disciples with his word and said to them: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3) and He washed the feet of His Disciples with water, during the Sacred Washing, so also in the first section of the Divine Liturgy He cleanses us that we might attend later His Table of love.

The purpose of the Divine Liturgy is to convey Christ to us. The Divine Liturgy teaches us an ethos, the ethos of humility. As Christ sacrificed Himself, so also should we sacrifice ourselves. The type of the Divine Liturgy is the type of impoverishment for us.

In the Divine Liturgy we try to be humbled, because we have the sense that there is the humble God. Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany.

The Body of Christ appears. Every member of the Church is an icon of the Kingdom of God. After the Divine Liturgy we must continue to iconify the Kingdom of God, keeping His commandments.

The glory of Christ is to bear fruit in every member His fruit. This explains His word: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit” (John 15:8).

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): Translation by John Sanidopoulos @ Mystagogy from I Knew A Man In Christ: The Life and Times of Elder Sophrony, the Hesychast and Theologian (Οίδα άνθρωπον εν Χριστώ: Βίος και πολιτεία του Γέροντος Σωφρονίου του ησυχαστού και θεολόγου) by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou.

Silouan the Athonite: The closeness of the saints and the presence of the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Oct 23 2012 

In heaven all things live and move in the Holy Spirit. But this same Holy Spirit is on earth too.

The Holy Spirit dwells in our Church; in the sacraments; in the Holy Scriptures; in the souls of the faithful.

The Holy Spirit unites all men, and so the Saints are close to us; and when we pray to them they hear our prayers in the Holy Spirit, and our souls feel that they are praying for us.

The Saints live in another world, and there through the Holy Spirit they behold the glory of God and the beauty of the Lord’s countenance.

But in the same Holy Spirit they see our lives, too, and our deeds. They know our sorrows and hear our ardent prayers.

In their lives they learned of the love of God from the Holy Spirit; and he who knows love on earth takes it with him into eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, where love grows and becomes perfect.

And if love makes one unable to forget a brother here, how much more do the Saints remember and pray for us!

The holy Saints have attained the Kingdom of Heaven, and there they look upon the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ; but by the Holy Spirit they see, too, the sufferings of men on earth.

The Lord gave them such great grace that they embrace the whole world with their love.

They see and know how we languish in affliction, how are hearts have withered within us, how despondency has fettered our souls; and they never cease to intercede for us with God.

The Saints rejoice when we repent, and grieve when men forsake God and become like brute beasts.

They grieve to see people living on earth and not realizing that if they were to love one another, the world would know freedom from sin.

And where sin is absent there is joy and gladness from the Holy Spirit, in such wise that on all sides everything looks pleasing, and the soul marvels that all is so well with her, and praises God.

Call with faith upon the Mother of God and the Saints, and pray to them. They hear our prayers and know even our inmost thoughts.

And marvel not at this. Heaven and all the saints live by the Holy Spirit and in all the world there is naught hidden by the Holy Spirit.

Once upon a time I did not understand how it was that the holy inhabitants of heaven could see our lives.

But when the Mother of God brought my sins home to me I realized that they see us in the Holy Spirit, and know our entire lives.

Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938; Eastern Orthodox): from St. Silouan the Athonite, by Archimandrite Sophrony Chap. XII, pp. 395-397; longer extract @ Kandylaki and Full of Grace and Truth.

Elder Sophrony: Communicating in the Divine Being through Prayer Tuesday, Jan 5 2010 

SophronyOften one can remark a disposition [in some people] to draw a parallel between prayer in the Name of Jesus and yoga or “transcendental meditation” and the like.

[…] All contemplation arrived at by [these other] means is self-contemplation, not contemplation of God.

In these circumstances we open up for ourselves created beauty, not First Being. And in all of it there is no salvation for man.

The source of real deliverance lies in unquestionable, wholehearted acceptance of the Revelation, “I am that I am…I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”. God is Personal Absolute, Trinity One and Indivisible.

Our whole Christian life is based on this Revelation. This God called us from nonbeing into life.

Knowledge of this Living God and discernment of the manner of His creation releases us from the obscurity of our own ideas, coming  from beneath, about the Absolute; rescues us from our attraction unconscious but for all that ruinous to withdrawal from existence of any sort.

We are created in order to be communicants in the Divine Being of Him Who really is. Christ indicated this wondrous way: “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life”.

Apprehending the depths of the Creator’s wisdom, we embark on the suffering through which Divine eternity is to be attained.

And when His Light shines for us we unite in ourselves contemplation of the two extremes of the abyss on the one side, the darkness of hell, on the other, the triumph of victory. We are existentially introduced into the province of Uncreated Divine Life.

And hell loses power over us. We are given grace to live the state of the Incarnate Logos Christ Who descended into hell as Conqueror.

Then by the power of His love we shall embrace all creation in the prayer: “O Jesus, Gracious Almighty, have mercy upon us and Thy world”.

Revelation of this Personal God imparts a wondrous character to all things. Being is not some determined cosmic process but the Light of the indescribable love between Divine and created persons.

It is the free movement of spirits filled with wise knowledge of all that exists, and consciousness of self.

Without this there is no sense in anything but only death. But our prayer becomes a living contact of our created persona and the Divine Person that is, something absolute.

And this is expressed when we address the Word of the Father: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Unoriginate Word of Thine Unoriginate Father, have mercy upon us. Save us and Thy world”

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): On Prayer p.168-170 (taken from a more extended version at Orthodox.net).


Elder Sophrony: We Shall Not Care What People Think Of Us Thursday, Dec 3 2009 

SophronyWe shall not care what people think of us, or how they treat us.

We shall cease to be afraid of falling out of favor.

We shall love our fellow men without thought of whether they love us.

Christ gave us the commandment to love others but did not make it a condition of salvation that they should love us.

Indeed, we may positively be disliked for independence of spirit.

It is essential in these days to be able to protect ourselves from the influence of those with whom we come in contact. Otherwise we risk losing both faith and prayer.

Let the whole world dismiss us as unworthy of attention, trust or respect – it will not matter provided that the Lord accept us.

And vice versa: it will profit us nothing if the whole world thinks well of us and sings our praises, if the Lord declines to abide with us.

This is only a fragment of the freedom Christ meant when He said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8.32).

Our sole care will be to continue in the word of Christ, to become His disciples and cease to be servants of sin.

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox); H/T to TheHandmaid


Elder Sophrony: Fear of God Friday, Oct 16 2009 

SophronyFear of God…has many degrees and forms, of which just now let us consider the one most effective for our salvation: fear of proving unworthy of God made manifest to us in Light that never sets.

This righteous apprehension liberates us from all earthly terrors. Our Fathers, dauntless servants of the Spirit, withdrew into the desert to live among wild beasts and poisonous snakes, in conditions of utmost poverty such as people of our day cannot imagine. And they did this to be free to weep over their remoteness from their beloved God.

…Hermits weep when they contemplate the black abyss within themselves: the roots of the ‘knowledge of evil’ grow deep and are not to be torn up by one’s own strength.

Those who are ignorant of this state of the spirit will never understand. Because this mystery is hidden from casual eyes is does not mean that God is a ‘respecter of persons’ [cf. Acts 10:34] but that grace is entrusted only to those who entrust themselves to Christ-God. And this grace is also the gift of God’s love, without which tears will not flow…

…Inestimable are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Every true gift is none other than a flame of love. But for our hearts to become capable of receiving the love of Christ in its glowing manifestations we must all, every one of us, endure many trials.

…Gifts from on High are commensurate to our ascetic struggle. All who walk the way of Christ’s commandments are regenerated in their very following of Him – some more, some less, depending on the ardour manifested.

Through being crucified together with God the Word-made-flesh, grace descends on the believer, likening him to God made man. This great gift also embraces in itself  life-giving theology through a real dwelling in the Light of love.

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): We Shall See Him As He Is (Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, Essex, UK, 1988), pp. 19-20.

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