Archimandrite Sophrony

I’m stealing this from John Sanidopoulos because something reminded me of this quote and I googled for it and found it on his blog and thought that those who don’t know it might appreciate it. It sort of reminds me, in a rather different way, of a quote from Saint Augustine that I posted recently: if we tell people that the things that they know are not true, we will just put them off and destroy our own credibility in the process. Of course learning to do this properly is by no means easy…

Elder Sophronius Sakharov relates the following story:

I remember a conversation [Staretz Silouan] had with a certain Archimandrite who was engaged in missionary work. This Archimandrite thought highly of the Staretz and many a time went to see him during his visits to the Holy Mountain. The Staretz asked him what sort of sermons he preached to people. The Archimandrite, who was still young and inexperienced gesticulated with his hands and swayed his whole body, and replied excitedly, I tell them, “Your faith is all wrong, perverted. There is nothing right, and if you dont repent, there will be no salvation for you.”

The Staretz heard him out, then asked, “Tell me, Father Archimandrite, do they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the true God?”

“Yes, that they do believe.”

“And do they revere the Mother of God?”

“Yes, but they are not taught properly about her.”

“And what of the Saints?”

“Yes, they honour them but since they have fallen away from the Church, what saints can they have?”

“Do they celebrate the Divine Office in their churches? Do they read the Gospels?”

“Yes, they do have churches and services but if you were to compare their services with ours how cold and lifeless theirs are!”

“Father Archimandrite, people feel in their souls when they are doing the proper thing, believing in Jesus Christ, revering the Mother of God and the Saints, whom they call upon in prayer, so if you condemn their faith they will not listen to you . . . But if you were to confirm that they were doing well to believe in God and honour the Mother of God and the Saints; that they are right to go to church, and say their prayers at home, read the Divine word, and so on; and then gently point out their mistakes and show them what they ought to amend, then they would listen to you, and the Lord would rejoice over them. And this way by God’s mercy we shall all find salvation . . . God is love, and therefore the preaching of His word must always proceed from love. Then both preacher and listener will profit. But if you do nothing but condemn, the soul of the people will not heed you, and no good will come of it.”

* This excerpt was taken from the book Saint Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophronius Sakharov.


There are three things I cannot take in: nondogmatic faith, nonecclesiological Christianity and nonascetic Christianity. These three – the church, dogma, and asceticism – constitute one single life for me.

Father Sophrony

I am stealing this quite unashamedly from Koinonia, but it is too good not to steal. Of course you would also do well to read Father Gregory’s post on the evangelism of the faithful from which it was excerpted.

In truth, St. Silouan’s word [‘Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not’] expresses a great spiritual science, the only one that can effectively oppose the all-destroying corruption and devastation perpetrated by the spirit of wickedness in these last times, and in such apocalyptic fashion. By a prophetic attitude of self-blame, the negative energy that comes from the experience of hell is transformed into energy for converse with God, which conquers the passions and raises life to the ontological level. Through the greater pain of voluntarily condemning himself to hell by virtue of the Lord’s commandment, the believer can triumph over every other pain and temptation, and prove the love of Christ to be stronger than death, as is He who ‘conquered death by death’. Whatever is done willingly, and in fulfilment of a commandment of God, is inspired by divine wisdom and leads to eternal victory. This victory renders man supra-cosmic, like Christ, who by His extreme humility overcame the world.

Archimandrite Zacharias, Christ, Our Way and Our Life. A Presentation of the Theology of Archimandrite Sophrony, (Saint Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2003) 275.

This is the final paragraph of this book, which I was delighted to rather unexpectedly receive as a profession gift. I have not read it yet, and although I’ve dipped into it, I’m exercising great self-restraint in not starting it until I’m finished some other books as I’m already trying to read too much at the same time! But it connects very well with themes that have spoken to me strongly in Metropolitan Zizioulas’ books, especially Communion and Otherness, where he speaks of the monastic or ascetic way as the way of the descent into hell (from which I posted a long quote here). Indeed it appears that Archimandrite Sophrony was an important influence on Zizioulas.


P.S. I’ve just seen that Father Stephen has been posting on Archimandrite Sophrony as well.