Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex, disciple of St. Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938) and founder of the Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England.
Reposed in the Lord on July 11, 1993
Words of Eternal Life by Father Sophrony
“It is essential to read the Gospel, that incomparable book. Then our life will be built up on the basis of the Word of God. And we will begin to think and make decisions in the spirit of the Divine commandments. How beautiful, when one begins to think like the Creator of this world!”
“The human soul is the image of God. It finds rest only when it attains perfection.”
“We do not think about how to change the world with our own powers. We strive to receive strength from God in order to act at all times with love.”
Ms. Olga: My name is Olga. I’m from Russia. I’m a first-year student here. I actually have two short questions, if that’s possible. The first one: Could you tell, share with us a story about your spiritual father, Sophrony (Zakharov), if that’s possible. Perhaps some memorable moment or something you’ve learned from him, just a life story, something since you knew him personally. I mean, I would profit from it, I think, at least…Thank you.
Archim. Zacharias: …About Fr. Sophrony, I will say one thing only. One day, I entered his office. I used to seek for an opportunity always to have a contact with him. I would go two, three, several times every day to see him. I never asked questions, but I knew he would say something to me, and every time he said something, it was an opening of a horizon, of a spiritual horizon. I could tell you many times when just one word made me understand many things, many things from the lives of the prophets and of the holy apostles and of the saints; just one word.
But one day, I went to see him in his office, and he says to me, “To all who enter this room”—it was his confessional as well—“to all who enter this room, I put myself under them, in order to be able to help some.” And this is the task of the priests. Unless we… We must never have a confidence in the ordination the Church gave us and to walk with authority, but we must try and put ourselves under the people we are trying help, under the people we are trying to serve. If we put ourselves humbly under the people we are serving, they will come to a sense of honor to open their heart and receive our word.
That was the thing which struck me more than anything in Fr. Sophrony’s life. I remember once someone came for prayers. He was suffering from gradual paralysis of his extreme members, and they brought him to pray for him. He was not a man of faith, but his mother-in-law was very pious, his wife hardly believing, and he didn’t believe at all. They brought him for Fr. Sophrony to pray for his healing. Many times we saw healings, many times; not every time, but many times, and we became so used to them that we didn’t pay any attention, and he didn’t pay attention himself to those things.
And this man Fr. Sophrony wanted to help, and I even went with Fr. Ephrem, your friend, to London to his house, and I performed an unction with holy oil, and they gave him one or two books to read, trying to revive him, because he was not faithful, and he was seeking healing from a priest.
Well, he somehow became more soft, more accepting, and they brought him a second time to Fr. Sophrony for prayers. And he told me why the first time he was not healed. Father said he was not healed because of the presence of that person and for that reason: one other person who was there. They brought him the second time. Fr. Sophrony read the three customary prayers from the prayer book, and hardly he finished the third prayer and he lifted up his epitrachelion with sadness, and he says to him, “We are not wonderworkers. We are just priests, trying to help people to be reconciled with God.”
And this man looked at him with a very nice face, pale and shining, and with a smile, and he said to him, “Yes, my body has not been healed, but while you were reading the prayers, my soul was healed, and now I believe.” And Fr. Sophrony, after that, he was so happy and so rejoicing, more than when he saw healings after his prayer, because that was his target. He always said that there is not a greater miracle in the whole universe than the union of man’s heart with the spirit of God, and that was the miracle to which he was ministering, the miracle which he was targeting and to which he was ministering. That was one thing that struck me the most.
Father Zacharias, a monk of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Tolleshunt Knights by Maldon, Essex, England, a disciple of Father Sophrony (of blessed memory) who was a disciple of St. Silouan of Mount Athos.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O Sophrony, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.
Through the prayers of Fr. Sophrony of Essex, of all the ascetic Fathers and all the saints, O Lord of compassion and hope, have mercy on us and save us!