Monday, November 21, 2011
A Conversation with Elder Sophrony of Essex
Elder Sophrony of Essex
For the complete interview, please visit the Orthodox Blog
The abbot of the Great and Holy Monastery of Vatopedi, Archimandrite Ephraim, spoke with Elder Sophrony of blessed memory at the Holy Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England on 20 September 1992.
From this meeting, one is struck by Elder Sophrony’s spirituality and ascetic vision, and can appreciate the value of his contribution to the contemporary life of the Church.
The abbot of the Great and Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi, Archimandrite Ephraim, in the garden of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex (1992) with Elder Sophrony, among the many pilgrims who found spiritual comfort near the venerable Elder
Elder Sophrony: “O Heavenly King and Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who art in all places and fillest all things, treasury of blessings and giver of life, come and abide in us and cleanse us of all that defileth, and save our souls, oh Thou who are good.” Welcome, holy abbot…
If during our conversation I do anything unusual, please forgive me. These days I don’t hear or see very well.
Archimandrite Ephraim: Considering your age, you’re doing very well.
E.S.: Ninety-six years old…I’ll tell them to bring us the letter from Vatopedi from our archives.
A.E.: Yes, I would like to see it.
E.S.: You know, I’m one of your own.
A.E.: This is a blessing for us.
E.S.: I don’t know. It is a blessing for me, that they gave me leave with such willingness. And circumstances have shown that God blessed it. After I left the Holy Mountain, though, I became very ill. I had a stomach ulcer and I suffered from gastrorrhagia, I was also very poor. I had to undergo a difficult operation, and they had to remove nearly my whole stomach. For twelve years I had great difficulty eating. I got something later on, but it’s fake.
A.E.: It was God’s will, Elder, that you came here.
E.S.: I’ll tell you what, abbot, I’m always afraid to say that something [from God] happens to me, but it seems to me that nothing took place according to how I imagined it, but everything came from God.
A.E.: This is what the conscience of the Church also witnesses to, it seems that it was from God. And that it is a work that has a history behind it. And [this monastery’s] history has been stamped by God, that’s what the facts witness to.
E.S.: Yes, but I am only bold enough to say, “Lord have mercy on me and save me.” Only to a certain extent can I say that it happened according to the providence of God.
A.E.: Elder, your monastery is an oasis in the desert [of a culture] of materialism.
E.S.: We’re just…eh! How can I explain it to you…we’re thankful to those who rule this country, and to the queen, and other officials. But Orthodox life outside of Greece is difficult. Not all of our thought: theological, ascetical…connects with the tradition of the West, with the Catholics and Protestants. But these are the ones who rule this place.
A.E.: From everything I have observed here, Elder, you live wisely. During the years that you have been here, you have acted with great discernment, which is why you’ve been able to help people greatly in hidden ways. And this is a very important thing for a spiritual person.
E.S.: Well…let me tell you. You’re an abbot. And I was, in a certain way, an abbot. And I was always hung from a thread above the abyss, shouting at God for everyone, for everything…because nothing happens by human strength.
A.E.: And I’m sure that you must have had many difficulties here, Elder.
E.S.: Oh…it’s better not to talk about them…. But even this, to a certain extent, is a question for us. Recently, I published a book, a spiritual autobiography [We Shall See Him as He Is].
A.E.: We’ve read it, Elder.
E.S.: Of what interest would a purely factual biography have been? I only recount spiritual events in this book. And the book has appeared, somehow, at just the right time.
A.E.: What you have provided is a living witness.
E.S.: I didn’t write a theological text, I only wrote down my experience, from fear and because I’m bold to say, “Lord have mercy, Lord save me.” But…I don’t understand…. I became ill many times with fatal sicknesses and yet I’m still alive. I don’t know why…
A.E.: The Church needs you, which is why God has extended your life. Your life is a miracle. We are amazed at how you are still living considering the illnesses you have had and still have. Many spiritual people are amazed that you’re still alive.
E.S.: In 1986 they invented a machine that can diagnose cancer and they opened me up and found that I had the worst type of cancer, and they were expecting me to die. There was no chance of an operation, of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or something similar. They left me to waste away…. Six years have passed and I’m living in my seventh year since then, and I don’t know how. After the stomach operation I had, which completely cut up my insides, for twelve years I couldn’t eat. Two years after that, I was a bit better.
A.E.: Your Elder, St. Silouan, wanted you to see his official canonization by the Church.
E.S.: And I don’t know how the providence of Christ made it happen. He placed me at the feet of my Elder. The contemporary spiritual, theological problem concerns the person [πρόσωπο]…I lived completely by revelation. Revelation reveals that “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). If He says, “I am” it means that He is a person. This is why in one of the chapters in the book to which I referred earlier I note that the word “I” has great significance. For it expresses the person. God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Science cannot say this. Only revelation can say this. And we need to base ourselves on revelation, which the Lord never refuted…. So, when I sent the book that is right behind you to His All Holiness [the Ecumenical Patriarch], I didn’t want to write a theological textbook, but simply to describe the experience of an Orthodox monk.
This interview continues here.
- A Commentary On The Divine Liturgy by St. Nicholas Cabasilas, ISBN: 0-913836-37-0
- A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos Trans. by Effie Mavromichali, ISBN: 960-7070-31-3
- A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections On God excerpted by St. Theophan the Recluse from the works of St. Ephraim the Syrian, Trans. by Antonina Janda, ISBN 0-912927-40-2
- Against False Union ( with a prologue by Photios Kontoglou) by Alexander Kalomiros, Trans. by George Gabriel, ISBN: 0-913026-49-2
- Akathist To Jesus Conqueror of Death, by St Nikolai Velimirovich, Trans. by Interklima, Copyright 2009, English Edition, by St Paisius Monastery, Safford, AZ
- An Athonite Gerontikon by Archimandrite Ioannikios, Holy Monastery of St Gregory Palamas Kouphalia, Greece 1991
- Byzantine Theology by John Meyendorff, ISBN: 0-8232-0967-9
- Christ Our Way and Our Life by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, ISBN 1-878997-74-2
- Christ The Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene, ISBN 0-938635-85-9
- Commentary on The Gospel of St Luke by St Cyril of Alexandria Trans. by R.Payne Smith, Studion Publishers, Inc. ISBN:0-943670-01-2
- Concerning Frequent Communion by Nikodemos the Hagiorite, Trans. by George Dokos, ISBN: 960-86778-5-8
- Confronting Controlling Thoughts by Antony M. Coniaris, ISBN: ISBN: 1-880971-88-7
- Conversations with Children by Sister Magdalen, ISBN: 1-874679-21-5
- Counsels from the Holy Mountain by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, ISBN: 0-9667000-2-3
- Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria, Trans. by Sebastian Brock, ISBM: 0-87243-173-8
- Dance, O Isaiah by Constantine Platis, unknown printing 2000
- Diary Of A Pilgrimage from the Ancient Christian Writers series, by Egeria, Trans. by George E. Gingras, ISBN: 0-8091-0029-0
- Drinking from the Hidden Fountain by Thomas Spidlik, ISBN: 0-87907-348-9
- Elder Ephraim of Katounakia Trans by Tessy Vassiliaou-Christodoulou, ISBN: 960-7407-33-4
- Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels, Spiritual Awakening vol 2, Trans by Fr. Peter Chamberas, Holy Monastery 'Evangelist John The Theologian' Souroti, Greece 2007
- Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels, With Pain And Love for Contemporay Man vol1, Trans by Cornelia A. Tsakiridou & Maria Spanou, Holy Monastery 'Evangelist John The Theologian' Souroti, Greece 2006
- Epistles by Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Holy Monastery of the Evangelist John the Theologian, Souroti, Greece 2002
- Father Arseny Trans. by Vera Bouteneff, ISBN 0-88141-180-9
- Flame in the Snow, A Life of St Seraphim of Sarov by Julia de Beausobre, ISBN: 0-87243-223-8
- From St. Isaac The Syrian to Dostoyevsky by Archimandrite Vasileios, Trans. by Dr.Elizabeth Theokritoff, ISBN: 1-896800-34-3
- Grace For Grace: The Psalter And The Holy FathersCompiled and Edited by Johanna Manley, ISBN: 0-9622536-1-8
- Hesychia and Theology by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Trans. by Sister Pelagia Selfe, ISBN: 978-960-7070-60-9
- His Life is Mine by Archimandrite Sophrony, ISBN: 0-913836-33-8
- I Love Therefore I Am by Fr. Nicholas V. Sakharov, ISBN: 0-88141-236-8
- In The Light of Christ, St Symeon The New Theologian by Archbishop Basil Krivocheine Trans. by Anthony P. Gythiel, ISBN 0-913836-91-5
- Isaac of Ninaveh ( Isaac The Syrian) The Second Part, chapters IV-XLV, Trans. by Sebastian Brock, ISBN: 90-6831-709-1
- Missionary Lettersof Saint Nikolai Velimirovich vol 1, Trans. by Hierodeacon Serafim, New Gracanica Monastery, Grayslake, IL
- Monastic Wisdom, The Letters of Elder Joseph The Hesychast, ISBN: 0-9667000-0-7
- Mount Athos Renewal in Paradise by Graham Speake, ISBN: 0-300-093535
- Nil SorskyTrans. and Edited by George A. Maloney, ISBN: 0-8091-9810-7
- Not of This World,Compiled and Edited by James S. Cutsinger, ISBN: 0-941532-41-0
- On Prayer by Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov Trans.by Rosemar Edmonds, ISBN 0-88141-194-9
- On The Apostolic Preaching by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Trans. by John Behr, ISBN: 0-88141-174-4
- On The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ by St Maximus The Confessor, Trans. by Paul M. Blowers & Robert Louis Wilken, ISBN: 0-88141-249-x
- On The Human Condition by St Basil The GreatTrans. by Nonna Verna Harrison, ISBN: 0-88141-294-5
- On The Incarnation by St. Athanasius, ISBN: 0-913836-40-0
- On The Mother of God by Jacob of Serug, ISBN: 0-88141-184-1
- Once Delivered to The Saints by Fr. Michael Azkoul, ISBN: 0-913026-84-0
- Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ by Father Justin Popovich Trans. by Asterios Gerosterios, ISBN: 1-884729-02-9
- Orthodox Psychotherapy by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Trans. by Esther Williams, ISBN: 960-7070-27-5
- Orthodox Spiritual Life According to Saint Silouan The Athonite by Harry Boosalis, ISBN: 1-878997-60-2
- Orthodox Spirituality and The Philokalia by Placide Deseille Trans. by Anthon P. Gythiel, ISBN 978-0-9717483-7-8
- Orthodox Spirituality by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, ISBN 960-7070-20-8
- Passions and Virtues According to Saint Gregory Palamas by Anestis Keselopulos, ISBN: 1-878997-75-0
- Patristic Theology by John S. Romanides, ISBN 978-960-86778-8-3
- Prayers by the Lake by St Nikolai Velimirovich, The Serbian Orthodox Metropolinate of New Gracanica, Grayslake, IL 1999
- Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy by John McGuckin, ISBN: 0-88141-259-7
- Santa Biblia Antigua Version de Casiodoro De Reina Revisada por Cipriano de Valera(1602) Revision de 1960, Holman Publishers 2008
- St John of Damascus, The Fathers of the Church series, Trans. by Frederic H. Chase, Jr., ISBN: 0-8132-0968-4
- St Seraphim of Sarov, A Spiritual Biography by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, ISBN: 1-880364-13-1
- St Silouan The Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony, ISBN 0-88141-195-7
- St. Symeon The New Theologian, On The Mystical Life, The Ethical Discourses, Trans. by Alexander Golitzin 3 vols. ISBN: 0-88141-142-6 and - 143-4, and 144-2
- Standing In God's Holy Fire by John A. McGuckin, ISBN: 1-57075-382-2
- Symeon The New Theologian, The Discourses, Classics of Western Spirituality, ISBN: 0-8091-2230-8
- Symeon The New Theologian, The Practical and Theological Discourses and The Three Theological Chapters, Trans. by Dr. Paul McGuckin, Cistercian Publications Inc. 1982
- The Acquisition of The Holy Spirit by I.M. Kontzevitch, ISBN: 0-938635-73-5
- The Adam Complex by Dee Pennock, ISBN: 1-880971-89-5
- The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac The Syrian, Trans. by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, ISBN: 0-913026-55-7
- The Authentic Seal by Archimandrite Aimilianos, ISBN: 960-85603-3-0
- The Book of Mystical Chapters, Trans. and introduced by John A. McGuckin, ISBN: 1-59030-007-6
- The Boundless Garden by Alexandros Papadiamantis Edited by Lambros Kamperidis and Denise Harvey, ISBN 978-960-7120-23-6
- The Church Fathers ( Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, published by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 37 vol. set
- The Enlargement of The Heart by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, ISBN 0-9774983-2-8
- The Faith of Chosen People by St Nikolai Velimirovich, The Free Serbian Diocese of America and Canada, Grayslake, IL 1988
- The Faith of The Saints , A Catechism by St. Nikolai Velimirovich, ISBN:1-932965-06-8
- The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Pseudo-Macarius, ISBN: 0-8091-0455-5
- The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios by Dionysios Farasiotis, ISBN: 978-1-887904-16-2
- The Heart by Archimandrite Spyridon Logothetis, ISBN 960-86639-4-6
- The Hidden Man of The Heart by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, ISBN 978-0-9800207-1-7
- The Holy Bible NKJV, Thomas Nelson, 1992
- The Homilies of Saint Gregory Palamas by Christopher Veniamin, 2 vols. ISBN: 1-878997-67-X; ISBN: 1-878997-68-X
- The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus Edited by Holy Transfifuration Monastery 1979, ISBN 0-943405-03-3
- The Life of St. Anthony by St. Athanasius the Great, Eastern Orthodox Books, Willits, CA
- The Lives of The Holy Prophets by Holy Apostles Convent, ISBN: 0944359-12-4
- The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain by Hieromonk Alexander Golitzin, ISBN: 1-878997-48-3
- The Luminus Eye by Sebastian Brock, ISBN: 0-87907-524-4
- The Mind of the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Trans. by Esther Williams, ISBN: 960-7070-39-9
- The One Thing Needful by Archbishop Andrei of Novo- Diveevo, ISBN: 91-2927-29-1
- The Orthodox Ethos, Studies in Orthodoxy Edited by A.J. Philippou, Hollywell Press Oxford 1964
- The Orthodox New Testament 2 vols., Published by The Holy Apostles Convent 1999, ISBN: 0-944359-17-5 & 0-944359-14-0
- The Philokalia, The Complete Text compiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware Vol 4 ISBN: 0-571-11727-9
- The Philokalia, The Complete Text compiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware Vol2 ISBN: 0-571-15466-2
- The Philokalia, The Complete Text compiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos WareVol 3 ISBN: 0-571-17525-2
- The Philokalia, The Complete Textcompiled by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, Trans. by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware, Vol 1 ISBN: 0-571-13013-5
- The Philokalia: Master Reference Guide Compiled by Basileios S. Stapakis, Trans by G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, ISBN: 1-880971-87-9
- The Prologue of Ohrid, Trans. by Fr. Timothy Tepsic, vol 1 ISBN: 978-0-9719505-0-4; vol 2 ISBN: 978-0-9719505-1-1
- The Psalter Trans. by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, ISBN: 0-943405-00-9
- The Spiritual World of St Isaac the Syrian by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, Michigan 2000
- The Way of A Pilgrim trans.by R.M. French, ISBN 345-24254-8-150
- We Shall See Him As He Is by Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov, ISBN 0-9512786-4-9
- Wisdom. Let Us Attend: Job, The Fathers, and The Old Testament by Johanna Manley, ISBN: 0-9622536-4-2
- Words of Life by Archimandrite Sophrony, Trans. by Sister Magdalen, ISBN1-874679-11-8
- Writings from The Philokalia On Prayer of The Heart, Trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, ISBN: 0-571-16393-9