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Elder Sophrony (Sakharov): On Pride

Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) (23 September 1896 – 11 July 1993) – also referred to 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.
These excerpts are taken from Elder Sophrony’s book, We Shall See Him as He Is, written late in his life.

 

Sophrony “Pride is the dark abyss into which man plunged when he fell. Heeding his own will, he became spiritually blind and unable to discern the presence of pride in the impulses of his heart and mind. It is only when the uncreated Light descends on us through our belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ that we can perceive the metaphysical essence of pride. The grace of the Holy Spirit enlightens man’s heart and discloses the malignant, fatal tumor within him. He who has experienced divine love finds himself revolted by the poisonous fumes emanating from the passion of pride. Pride separates man from God and shuts him up in himself.
The manifestations of pride are innumerable but they all distort the divine image in man. Outside Christ, without Christ, there is no resolving the tragedy of the earthly history of mankind. The atmosphere reeks with the smell of blood. Day after day the universe is fed with news of the slaying or torture of the vanquished in fratricidal conflicts. Black clouds of hate screen the heavenly Light from our eyes. People make their own hell for themselves. Unless and until we allow repentance to change us totally there will be no deliverance for the world – deliverance from the most terrible of all curses, war. Better be killed than kill is the attitude of the humble man of love [cf. Matt. 10.28; 5:21-22].”   (p. 30 -31)

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Fr. Seraphim (Aldea) – Making Your Theology be Reflected in Your Practical Life

Fr. Seraphim (Aldea) – was tonsured as an Orthodox monk in 2005 at Rasca monastery in Bucovine, North Moldavia. He has a PhD in Modern Theology from the University of Durham (UK) for a thesis on Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)’s Ecclesiology. He is currently obeying God’s calling to found the Monastery of all Celtic Saints on the Scottish Isle of Mull. This will be the first Orthodox monastery in Celtic Britain in over a millennium (See http://www.mullmonastery.com).

 

seraphim-aldea“The great thing about having this theology is that then it must be reflected in your practical life. And if you look at humanity the way Father Sophrony looked at humanity, very hot contemporary issues are instantly solved.

Questions concerning immigration, questions concerning war, or how to behave in times of war, questions concerning the use of guns and the right to kill other people in any context: all these extremely controversial issues suddenly become perfectly boring because it’s so clear, everything is so clear. Once you have his mind, his theology all these issues are perfectly clear.

You cannot be a Christian in his sense and allow for war or use of guns against other human beings at the same time. That can only mean two things. Either you have a wrong theology and that is reflected in your practical life, or you have a correct theology but you don’t allow that to affect your practical life.

…He used to say that somebody who has correct theology but that correct theology is not reflected in his life is like a bird with one wing. Forever looking up and thinking it will get there not knowing he is already condemned to forever be on Earth. If you don’t allow your theology to inform your life, your values, your choices, then you’ve missed the point and you’ll never fly.”

~ From a lecture delivered in 2016 reflecting on the theology of Elder Sophrony of Essex

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Fr. Seraphim (Aldea): Foundation of True Prayer.

Fr. Seraphim (Aldea) (1965 –  ) – was tonsured as an Orthodox monk in 2005 at Rasca monastery in Bucovine, North Moldavia. He has a PhD in Modern Theology from the University of Durham (UK) for a thesis on Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)’s Ecclesiology. He is currently obeying God’s calling to found the Monastery of all Celtic Saints on the Scottish Isle of Mull. This will be the first Orthodox monastery in Celtic Britain in over a millennium (See http://www.mullmonastery.com).

 

seraphim-aldea“Prayer in the most early stages is something you have to do.  You do it because your spiritual father says so, because the Holy Fathers say so, and because Christ Himself says so.  Although this is not really prayer, by following someone else – the way the Apostles did – you lay the foundation for real prayer; this foundation is obedience.  You do something not out of your own will, but because someone else tells you to.  You may not be aware of it, but in doing this, you have declared war on your own nature, because it is deeply un-natural in our fallen world to oppose your own will, to reject your own logic and to let go of self-control.  It is against reason, against instinct, against all the things we have become in order to survive.  

When you start praying, you have in fact started your wandering through the desert.  It may last less than forty years; it may last until the day you die.  You may see the Promised Land while still in this life; you may die in the desert, and only enter the Kingdom after you have departed this life.

The one thing that matters is that you start; as long as you keep going, you will be all right.  The advice you will find in all the Fathers is to keep praying, keep yourself on the path; although you may feel it has no effect and that it leads to nowhere, in reality the fruits of this cross are already present in you.  The roots of the prayer are already growing in your flesh and soul, and that is a painful process; that is why you are in pain.

During these long years, you will not be levitating, you will not be swallowed in light, but you will become more humble, more aware of how weak and limited you are, and less inclined to judge other people.  These fruits are the foundation upon which real prayer will be built at the right time.  If you do not go through this process of transformation, if your faith does not survive this desert, if you do not conquer this hell by patience and humility, you will not reach the Resurrection of true prayer.” 

~ Excerpt from the booklet, “On Prayer”, published by The Orthodox Monastery of All Celtic Saints

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David Bentley Hart: “Saint Origen”

David Bentley Hart (born 1965) is an American Orthodox Christian philosophical theologian, cultural commentator and polemicist.  Here, in one short essay published in First Things in 2015, Prof. Hart addresses three topics that institutional Orthodoxy would prefer to avoid:  apokatastasis, Saint Origen, and the church’s chronic propensity to sleep with worldly empire (e.g., Byzantium and Russia)

 

DB-Hart

“Saint Origen”

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Father Seraphim (Aldea): Elder Sophrony on hypostasis, or person.

Fr. Seraphim (Aldea) –  was tonsured as an Orthodox monk in 2005 at Rasca monastery in Bucovine, North Moldavia.  He has a PhD in Modern Theology from the University of Durham (UK) for a thesis on Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)’s Ecclesiology. He is currently obeying God’s calling to found the Monastery of all Celtic Saints on the Scottish Isle of Mull.  This will be the first Orthodox monastery in Celtic Britain in over a millennium (See http://www.mullmonastery.com).

 

seraphim-aldea“In general terms, Fr. Sophrony used ‘hypostasis’ to refer to the ontological state of a being that has fully actualized its nature.  And very frequently this is opposed with the idea or state of an ‘individual’.

Although they appear to be synonymous, the two concepts [‘hypostasis’ and ‘person’] carry different meanings for Father Sophrony.  While ‘hypostasis’ denotes an ontological state  of existence, the ‘personal’ principle, or ‘personhood’, refers to a process.  It’s almost as if ‘hypostasis’ is the destination of a process [‘personhood’].”

~ Fr. Seraphim (Aldea) from a lecture on the theology of Fr. Sophrony (Sakharov) delivered in 2016.

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Isaac of Nineveh: On Silence

Isaac of Nineveh – 7th century ascetic and mystic,  born in modern-day Qatar, was made Bishop of Nineveh between 660-680.  Here he speaks of the importance of silence in monastic life.

Isaac Neneveh“Love silence above all things. It brings thee near the fruit which the tongue is too weak to interpret. At first we compel ourselves to be silent. Then from our silence something is born which draws us toward silence. May God grant thee to perceive that which is born of silence. If thou beginnest with this discipline, I do not know how much light will dawn in thee through it. Concerning what is said about the admirable Arsenius: that Fathers and brethren came to see him, but that he sat with them in silence and dismissed them in silence – do not think, my brother, that this happened by the action of his will alone, though in the beginning he had to compel himself. After some time some delight is born in the heart from the exercise of this service and by force it draws the body towards remaining in silence.”
“If thou placest all labors of this discipline [solitary life] on one side and silence on the other, silence will outweigh them.”  

~St. Isaac of Nineveh, from Ascetical Treatises 65 

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Christos Yannaras: “Christian life”

Dover Beach

Christos Yannaras“Increasingly, Christian life seems to be nothing more than a particular way of behaving, a code of good conduct. Christianity is increasingly alienated, becoming a social attribute adapted to meet the least worthy of human demands – conformity, sterile conservatism, pusillanimity and timidity; it is adapted to the trivial moralizing which seeks to adorn cowardice and individual security with the funerary decoration of social decorum.”

Christos Yannaras

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