Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex
Reposed in the Lord on July 11, 1993
About Elder Sophrony of Essex by Hieroschemamonk Raphael Noica
The first thing that would hit you about Fr. Sophrony was that warmth, that feeling of freedom. [Together] with that warmth I felt something that I hadn’t felt until then anywhere and anytime in my life. A feeling of freedom. What kind of freedom? I didn’t know, I didn’t understand why I felt so free — in the beginning, in his presence, then at his monastery… I met him in August 1962…I stayed as a guest at his monastery for a month. […]. And some years after that I’d keep asking myself: but what freedom? To do what? For I wouldn’t do immoral things, let’s say, in other places either. And I didn’t understand, but I was amazed by this feeling of freedom, until an Athonite monk from Vatopedi gave me the answer one day: “Because he, Fr. Sophrony, was a free man”. And then I understood, that was the answer: It wasn’t about the freedom to do things, but the freedom to be – you, who you are. Right or wrong, poor or rich, a sinner or a saint, in his presence you had the freedom to be who you were…and if you wanted to be saved, he would take you from where you were!
Translation by Ioan Calineac (Testimonies About Elder Sophrony of Essex by Hieroschemamonk Raphael Noica)
Words of Eternal Life by Father Sophrony
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.
When we choose Christ we are carried beyond time and space, beyond the reach of what is termed ‘tragedy’.
The Staretz would say that for Christ there are no enemies — there are those who accept “the words of eternal life,” there are those who reject and even crucify; but for the Creator of every living thing, there can be no enemy. So it should be for the Christian, too, who “in pity for all must strive for the salvation of all.”
If anyone performs deeds to the glory of God which bring him both temporal and eternal renown, the man of prayer feels not envy but joy at our common salvation. My brother’s glory will be my glory, also. What blessedness to behold fellow humans radiant with the Holy Spirit!
We 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.
Prayer is like a strong hand clinging fast to God’s raiment, at all times and in all places: in the turmoil of the crowd, in the pleasant hours of leisure, in periods of loneliness. At first the struggle for prayer seems to be beyond our strength but if she persists the soul will eventually be able to contain within herself at the same time sorrow and joy; despair and hope.
“The Fathers of the fourth century left us certain prophecies, according to which in the last times salvation will be bound up with deep sorrows.”
“We must have the determination to overcome temptations comparable to the sorrows of the first Christians. All the witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection were martyred. We should be ready to endure any hardship.”
O Holy and God-bearing Father Sophrony, pray to Christ our God that we too may receive the Heavenly Light of Christ’s Eternal Kingdom!