Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) (1896 – 1993) – also known as Elder Sophrony, was best known as the disciple and biographer of St Silouan the Athonite and compiler of St Silouan’s works, and as the founder of the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Maldon, Essex, England.
Below is an account of an encounter of Uncreated Divine Light; the Uncreated Thaboric Light of Gregory Palamas. It is written by a modern holy elder, Archimandrite Sophrony, described above. Five years before his repose in England at the age of 97, he recorded his experiences of Uncreated Light. These experiences had begun many years earlier, when he had been living as a monk on Mt. Athos in Greece, and, like all Orthodox monks, had been practicing, daily, the Jesus Prayer:
“Now at the close of my life, (he writes,) I have decided to talk to my brethren of things I would not have ventured to utter earlier, counting it unseemly. At the beginning of my monastic life on Mt. Athos, the Lord granted me unceasing prayer. I will relate what I remember well enough, since we are talking of the prayers which marked me indelibly. This is how it often used to be:
Towards evening at sunset I would shut the window and draw three curtains over it, to make my cell as quiet and dark as possible. With my forehead bent to the floor, I would slowly repeat words of prayer, one after the other. I had no feeling of being cooped up, and my mind, oblivious to the body, lived in the light of the gospel word. Concentrated on the fathomless wisdom of Christ’s word, my spirit, freed from all material concerns, would feel flooded, as it were, with light, from the celestial sun.
At the same time, a gentle peace would fill my soul, unconscious of all the needs and cares of this earth. The Lord gave me to live in this state, and my spirit yearned to cling to his feet in gratitude for this gift. This same experience was repeated at intervals for months, perhaps years. Early in the 1930s—I was a deacon then—for two weeks, God’s tender mercy rested upon me. At dusk, when the sun was sinking behind the mountains of Olympia, I would sit on the balcony near my cell, face turned to the dying light.
In those days, I contemplated the evening light of the sun, and at the same time, another light, which softly enveloped me, and gently invaded my heart, in some curious fashion making me feel compassionate and loving towards people who treated me harshly. I would also feel a quiet sympathy for all creatures in general. When the sun had set, I would retire to my cell, as usual, to perform the devotions preparatory to celebrating the Liturgy, and the light did not leave me while I prayed.
Under the influence of this light, prayer for mankind and travail possessed my whole being. It was clear that the inescapable, countless sufferings of the entire universe, are the consequence of man’s falling away from God, our creator, who revealed himself to us. If the world loved Christ and his commandments, everything would be radically transformed, and the earth would become a wonderful paradise.”