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Iconography and Hand painted icons


In the Divine Liturgy we live Christ. Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany. The Divine Liturgy is the Greatest Mission of the Church. Saint Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex the Athonite

Σωφρόνιος του Έσσεξ_Elder Sophrony of Essex_მამა სოფრონი_ Старец Софроний (Сахаров) Эссекс_e1434ba1430fa5dSaint Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex the Athonite
Hieromartyr Cindeus the Presbyter, of Pamphylia (283-305)
Martyrs Januarius and Pelagia, of Nicopolis in Armenia (c. 310)
Commemoration of the Miracle (451) of Great-martyr Euphemia the All-praised, of Chalcedon (304)
Blessed Equal-to-the-Apostles Olga, Princess of Russia, named Helen in holy baptism (969)
Saint Sabinus, a saint venerated near Poitiers in France, said to have been a disciple of St Germanus of Auxerre, confessor (5th century)
Venerable Nicodemus of Hilandar, Mt. Athos, instructor of St. Gregory Palamas (1320)
New Martyr Nicodemus of Elbasan and Mt. Athos (1722)
New Monk-martyr Nectarius of St. Anne’s Skete, Mt. Athos, at Vryoulla, Ephesus (1820)
Icon of the Mother of God of Rzhevsk (1539)
Translation of the relics of Venerable Benedict of Nursia, writer of the Rule of Saint Benedict (c. 547)
Repose of cave-dweller Anastasia of St. Cornelius of Padan Hermitage, in Olonets (1901)

Commemorated on July 11

Saint Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex the Athonite (+1993), disciple of St. Silouan the Athonite

Words of Eternal Life

Our greatest missionary work in life takes place in the Divine Liturgy. The Fathers of the Church would always build an Altar of Sacrifice in whatever country or city they traveled to. And this is so, because when the heart is sweetened by the Divine Liturgy, it then seeks God. It then desires to live an Orthodox ecclesiastical life, the heart of which is the Holy Eucharist.

I told the brotherhood that it should always be a priority for it to perform the Divine Liturgy in the Monastery. The prayers of the Divine Liturgy should not be intoned for personal gratification because at that moment the priests are expressing the prayers of all those praying in Church. And for this reason the priests should not be praying with self-centered feelings. We do not celebrate as individuals.

***

“One can celebrate the Liturgy everywhere…, but IF one has the possibility why not celebrate it in a place which is as perfect as possible.  The Liturgy is not like a piece of news that is in the newspapers, which is read and then thrown away by the evening – the Liturgy is an event in eternity.”

***

Σωφρόνιος του Έσσεξ_Elder Sophrony of Essex_მამა სოფრონი_ Старец Софроний (Сахаров) Эссекс_6234555We 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 Priesthood is not given to man as a reward for virtues, but as a gift for the edification of the Church. Someone becomes a Priest in order to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and to sanctify the people. Also, the Priesthood has a social significance, since he will deal with the construction of the church and the suffering of the Christians. So he also needs these qualifications, besides the spirituality.”

“The Divine Liturgy occurred one time forever. It has eternality. Every time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, we rise up to its height. If we live some aspects of the Divine Liturgy, then we will understand its greatness, as happened with St. Seraphim of Sarov who saw angels coming to the church during the Small Entrance. We follow the Divine Liturgy, because we do not live it, or until we live it.”

“The Divine Liturgy teaches us to live with the heart. By celebrating the Divine Liturgy we keep the command of Christ: ‘Drink this in remembrance of Me’ (Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24). That’s why we say: ‘Remembering this saving command….’ This is not a psychological fact, but spiritual. Thus, every time we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, we are obedient to the word of Christ, and we penetrate the Divine Mystagogy in the Liturgy of Christ.

What God did once, remains now forever. This happens with the Divine Liturgy. One time Christ celebrated it in the Upper Room with the Mystical Supper, and this remains forever. The Christian, depending on the sacrifice he makes and his infiltration of Grace with this ‘spirit’ of the Divine Liturgy, receives Grace from God, and is purified of the passions. The Divine Liturgy in its perfection is the supplication and prayer for the entire world. This is the so-called royal officiation-priesthood. Thus, man reaches the end of the age. He does not wait for the day of the Lord, but this day of the Lord comes to him. So by Grace he becomes timeless.”

***

Paint your icon as a poem, where every word is weighed and considered, in harmony.  The icon shows what kind of person you are.  There are many craftsmen, but few real iconographers.  Make an icon, a beautiful icon, not like a worker, but like an artist.”

***

Σωφρόνιος του Έσσεξ_Elder Sophrony of Essex_მამა სოფრონი_ Старец Софроний (Сахаров) Эссекс_e14344924349I 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

“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!”

Σωφρόνιος του Έσσεξ_Elder Sophrony of Essex_მამა სოფრონი_ Старец Софроний (Сахаров) Эссекс_31712981102071405_nPrayer at Daybreak of Saint Sophrony of Essex, ‘If someone reads this prayer in the morning with contrition and attention, the whole day will be blessed.’
https://iconandlight.wordpress.com/2020/07/08/prayer-at-daybreak-of-saint-sophrony-of-essex-if-someone-reads-this-prayer-in-the-morning-with-contrition-and-attention-the-whole-day-will-be-blessed/

It was really like Pascha … the Repose of Elder Sophronius of Essex the Athonite —
https://iconandlight.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/it-was-really-like-pascha-the-repose-of-elder-sophronius-of-essex-the-athonite/

Stand on the edge of the abyss and when you feel that it is beyond your strength, break off and have a cup of tea. Elder Sophrony(Sakharov) of Essex
https://iconandlight.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/stand-on-the-edge-of-the-abyss-and-when-you-feel-that-it-is-beyond-your-strength-break-off-and-have-a-cup-of-tea/

We are not wonderworkers. We are just priests, trying to help people to be reconciled with God. Saint Sophrony the Athonite of Essex
https://iconandlight.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/we-are-not-wonderworkers-we-are-just-priests-trying-to-help-people-to-be-reconciled-with-god-saint-sophrony-the-athonite-of-essex/

Troparion Saint of England, Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex:

O pure rose from your Mother Russia, O Father Sophrony, the protector of your British Garden of love and grace, who wisely moves those pure in heart like babes against the darkness, illumining them with fiery stylus of the Spirit, the great theologian and standing first with good deeds, teaching and writing divine and universal translations. As he is a friend of the Lord, let us honor him, as His holy disciple and Saint, that he might protect those who love him as an offering.

Kontakion Saint of England, Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex:

As a queen bee, O Father, you gave birth to the rational bees gathered around you into the honeycomb of Light, O Father, and gathered the honey of incorruption and the pure beeswax fashioned by your God, exalting the isle of Britain, O Venerable Sophrony.

Megalynarion.

O universal Father Silouan, come and teach the Truth to the people, together with Sophrony, and intercede on behalf of all and together with all the Saints of Athos.

in Tone VIII:
Spec. Mel.: ‘The Martyrs of the Lord’.

A holy, precious, divine and luminous lamp * is not to be left hidden under the bushel of life, * rather, the Lover of mankind raiseth him to a high summit * through the gift of miracles; * by his intercessions O Christ, grant unto Thy people great mercy.

In thy body likened unto a buoyant boat * thou wast carried freely across the sea of life * by the gentle breezes of thy peaceful spirit. * Thou, O wise one, having found the pearl of great price, * went and sold all that thou didst have, and bought it. * Fervently protecting it, thou didst find blessedness in its divine virtues.

If an Idiomelon be appointed. Glory …, in Tone VI:

Having preserved that which is in the image of God, and set thy mind as master over the pernicious passions through fasting, thou didst ascend to that which is in the likeness of God, as far as thou wast able; for manfully compelling thy nature, thou didst strive to subdue that which is lower to that which is better, and to enslave the flesh to the spirit. Wherefore, thou wast shown to be the summit of monastics, a citizen of the desert, a trainer of those who run the good race, a most excellent rule of virtue. O venerable father Sophrony, in purity thou now beholdest the Holy Trinity in the heavens, not by reflection as by a mirror, praying directly for those who honor thee with faith and love.

At the Aposticha, these stichera: In Tone I:
Spec. Mel.: Of the heavenly orders.

Thy festival, O God-bearer, * hath arrived brighter than the sun; * illuminating those who in faith have recourse unto thee, * filling them with the sweet fragrance of immortality * and radiating healing unto their souls, O holy Father, * fervent intercessor for our souls.

Through the struggles of abstinence * thou didst obtain victory over the sensual passions of the body, * and here on earth exhibiting a zeal like that of the bodiless ones in heaven, * thou didst subdue the desires of the flesh * making them serve the needs of the spirit, * O wonder-worker, Sophrony; * wherefore now, as a dweller in the heavenly habitations, * do thou ever intercede on behalf of our souls.

In Tone VI:

O most blessed God-bearer Sophrony! * subjugating unto thy spirit all the subtleties of the flesh, * and having strengthened thyself with the pains of fasting, * like gold purified in the forge, * thou dost appear as a most radiant receptacle of the Holy Spirit. * Gathering together a multitude of monastics, * and with thine instructions, as with a ladder ascending into heaven, * thou hast elevated them unto the pinnacle of virtues. * Remember us also, who honor thy sacred memory, * and unceasingly intercede that our souls may be saved. [Twice].


When we choose Christ we are carried beyond time and space, beyond the reach of what is termed ‘tragedy’. Tragedy is to be found solely in the fortunes of the man whose gaze has not gone beyond the confines of this earth. Saint Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex the Athonite

Σταυρός_Ανάσταση_Μονή Τιμίου Προδρόμου Έσσεξ-St. John The Baptist Monastery-Essex-England-Монастырь святого Иоанна Крестителя (Эссекс-RastignΧριστός ανέστη! Αληθώς ανέστη!
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
ХристосВоскрес! Воистину Воскрес!
ქრისტეაღსდგა! ჭეშმარიტადაღსდგა!

«Rejoice!». «Peace be unto you!»

Saint Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex the Athonite

The 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…

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.

Different people have different ideals. There is the ambition for power, as with Boris Godounov. In pursuit of his aim he did not stop at bloodshed. Successful, he found that he had not got what he expected. ‘I have reached the height of power but my soul knows no happiness.’ Though the concerns of the spirit prompt a nobler quest, the genius in the realm of science or the arts sooner or later realises his inability to consummate his initial vision. Again, the logical denouement is 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.

Σωφρόνιος του Έσσεξ_Elder Sophrony of Essex_მამა სოფრონი_Старец Софроний (Сахаров) Эссекс_933925640-2333I 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 (cf. John 11.35). He grieved over the hard-heartedness of the Jews who slew the prophets (cf. Matt. 23.37). In Gethsemane his soul was ‘exceeding sorrowful, even unto death’ and ‘his sweat was as it were 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).

We may say that even today mankind as a whole has not grown up to Christianity and continues to drag out an almost brutish existence. 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’…

God reveals Himself, mainly through the heart, as Love and Light. In this light man contemplates the Gospel precepts as the reflection on earth of celestial Eternity, and the Glory of Christ as of the only-begotten of the Father- the glory the disciples saw on Mount Tabor…

Would you like to experience the grace of Christ? Then seek this grace from Him Who can bestow it. If it seems that it is not for you, since you cannot believe, my advice is to set your heart on believing and you will be able to believe. Through faith you arrive at faith. Persist in wishing for faith and it will be granted to you.

From the book: Archimandrite Sophrony, His Life is mine, Chapter 4: The Tragedy of Man. London 1977, p. 37-40.