Monday, November 21, 2011
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.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Coqui, the singing frog of Puerto Rico. It is about one inch long
Coqui, the singing frog of Puerto Rico. It is about one inch long
and can sing with a volume of 100dB within 65 feet of its physical
Among my dearest memories from my homeland, the island
of Puerto Rico, U.S., is the sweet melodious chant of the
Coqui which began every evening at sunset and continued
long after I was already asleep. This song was my lullaby for
the first twenty years of my life.
I took it for granted. I was as certain the Coqui would sing for
me again the following night, as I was certain the sun would
rise again in the morning sky. But for my last twenty-six years
of residence in the mainland, I haven't had the joy of knowing
that my little friends are outside, resting on the leaves of
Bromeliads and serenading me into sleep. I now realize the
wonder of God's creation and the magnificence of this gift.
It is the same when it comes to God's blessings that he bestows
upon us in the Church. Just today, I was remembering the
aroma from the relics of the Apostle Paul, which I have had the
privilege of venerating many times during my pilgrimages
Reliquary of the Apostle Paul in the Church of the Apostol Paul
in Thessaloniki, Greece
I can think of many other relics, the relics of the Apostle Andrew,
St Gregory Palamas , St Demetrius, St Stephen the First Martyr,
St Basil the Great, St John Chrysostom, etc and I can't help feeling
overwhelmed by the fact that I actually was there and venerated all
of these awesome saints of our Orthodox Church. The reality of
these blessings begs the question, "Why me?".
But it is not only the possibility of venerating the wonder-working
relics of the saints, gushing with Holy Myrrhon, that amazes me.
What about the fact that we, as Orthodox Christians may partake
of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at every Divine
Liturgy celebrated in our parishes, if we are prepared.
Fr Zacharias Zacharou, the disciple of Blessed Elder Sophrony
of Essex tells us that Fr Sophrony, until the very end of his life
had an inspiration for the Divine Liturgy. It was as if every Divine
Liturgy was the first, so much so, that by the time he (Elder
Sophrony) stood in front of the Holy Altar, he was already rapt in
his spirit, in communion with God.
Consider the comfort it is to know, that if we fall into sin, our Lord
is always willing to receive us in repentance through the sacra-
mental act of absolution by our priest. This is a labor of love
constantly taking place in our communities, an Orthodox priest
willing to sacrifice the opportunity of spending time with his family
on Saturday night, so that he may help us to be reconciled to God
and receive in this way sacramental absolution of our sins.
I am afraid that many times I have behaved as if these blessings
were only the playing out of the routine of my life but they are not.
They are a precious gift from God to us. Why me?, I asked and the
answer is as simple as it is fathomless. It is so because God loves
From now on, every time I listen to my recording of the melody of
the Coqui, I want to remember that God's mercies are also
new every morning and that the daily blessings from the life in
Christ are nothing less than miraculous indeed.
Below video of Puerto Rico's National Forest
Monday, November 7, 2011
(ASH) THE ASCETICAL HOMILIES OF SAINT ISAAC THE SYRIAN, Revised Edition, translated by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, are sublime treatises on the life of prayer and stillness—hesychasm—and have been treasured by monastics and layman alike. The book includes among other things an introduction discussing what we know of the Saint's life and the manuscripts of the homilies and the various translations of them, with maps, and Appendices with homilies by Saint Isaac only in the Syriac, a Glossary of special terms, and more. Includes all the homilies by Saint Isaac in the first edition plus two newly translated from the Syriac that were omitted from the first edition. A major work of scholarship. Fine cloth bound edition, 6 x 9-3/4 in, printed in two colors on archival paper. Appendices B and D and the Epilogue on the Persian Church are not included, but are available as a free download from www.thehtm.org 608pp. e$70.00 Order from St Nectarios Press and Bookstore
- A Commentary On The Divine Liturgy by St. Nicholas Cabasilas, ISBN: 0-913836-37-0
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- 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
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- Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria, Trans. by Sebastian Brock, ISBM: 0-87243-173-8
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- 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
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- 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
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- 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
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- 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
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- The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus Edited by Holy Transfifuration Monastery 1979, ISBN 0-943405-03-3
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- The Lives of The Holy Prophets by Holy Apostles Convent, ISBN: 0944359-12-4
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- 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