Holy Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex, the Theologian, 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
Klaus Kenneth talks about Elder Sophrony
2.) I would be very happy if you could describe in some words your meetings with Father Sophrony. What represents actually Essex for you as an Orthodox?
Let me repeat once more: each meeting with father Sophrony in the following 10 years was marked by his mystic love. He would often come to my room and we would sit up to 2 hours together and share our thought. In the beginning, in my foolish pride, I thought I could teach him with my experiences and religious knowledge. And here is one of the great mysteries of his Love: he let himself ‚teach’ by me. Love always considers the other ‚higher‘ than oneself, so he was not playing a ‚game‘ with me, but was always authentic. This authenticity was teaching me more than many words from the scripture.
Father Sophrony was a ‚living Bible‘, the ‘word’ had become ‘flesh’ in him. This was what he taught me from the very beginning (we spoke in French mostly):
Méfie-toi des gens, qui ont une bibliothèque dans leur tête, mais qui n’ont jamais connu le Christ en personne; qui ont le coeur vide.
My God, I could talk and talk long time about our wonderful exchanges.
The other thing of course was his love. Often we would sit in silence for long minutes and he would only put his arm around me and silently pray. For me this was like he would have an invisible syringe and pump all his love into my soul, heart and body.
He gave me the feeling, to be the most important person for him in the whole world. But of course he was alike with everybody, I suppose. (T)his love never faded away from me, but grew and grew and so when finally father Sophrony ‚disappeared‘, I never felt a ‚loss‘, because such eternal Love cannot disappear. When visitors and pilgrims in Essex go down into the crypt, where he reposes, I think so often: why should I go there? He is not dead. But sometimes I go anyway down and then I embrace the ‚wooden box‘ and – this is not at all spooky – it is like his arms come out and continue to embrace me as so often before. Difficult to describe. Mystic of Love.
You feel it or you don’t. This is what makes the monastery (of St. John the Baptist) so unique. And you can tell immediately, which other monastery in the world was ‚in contact‘ with Essex and father Sophrony: not law but Love reigns. I experienced so many examples there with visitors, but too much to tell here.
4.) Which is the most important spiritual advice that you received over the years from Father Sophrony?
There are so many things he told me. To become a model for others. Never to preach about theological things which I have not experienced first. To be regular in prayer. Always to speak from the heart and not only from the head.
We spoke so much and every time he left my room, I wrote on a paper everything we had shared. Unfortunately – by God’s permission – I lost all these papers. When I told this mishap to father Sophrony, he smiled and said: ‚Don’t worry Klaus, I pray for you and at the given moment you will remember the right word. But even better: read my book ‚To see Him as He is‘, there you find everything we spoke about. He then left and came back with a copy of his book and dedicated it for me. I am happy about it.
…In a time of rapidly progressing apostasy, Father Sophrony’s heritage is giving so much hope and richness to us Westerners (and to the East and orthodox countries as well). It is so easy to follow him, whereas priests who impose R&R without love and understanding, drive – even orthodox – people away. Believe me, I know, what I am saying here.
Tudor Petcu , a Romanian writer, interviews Klaus Kenneth on Elder Sophrony.
Through the intercessions of our Father among the Saints Silouan the Athonite, 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!
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.