Elder Sophrony of Essex (1896-1993)

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Elder Sophrony of Essex was born in Russia, but departed as a young man in 1921 for the intellectual and artistic hubs of Europe. He finally settled in Paris where he found success as an artist. During this time, he engaged in the practices of oriental mysticism. These were years of struggle as he searched for eternal beauty beyond the realities of time and space. Art was his way of accessing the spiritual experiences he had long desired. After some time, he returned to Christianity and became one of the first students of the Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris. His calling to monasticism followed, and he moved to Mt Athos where he joined the Russian monastery of St Panteleimon. It was there that he met St Silouan, the man who would teach him humility, prayer, repentance, ascetic obedience and love for the whole world. Fr Sophrony remained the disciple of St Silouan until the Elder’s repose in 1938. The young monk then left the monastery under obedience to take up residence in the Athonite desert. After a brief return to Paris, he established himself in Essex, England, at the monastery he founded in 1959.

Elder Sophrony wrote seven books, including the life and teachings of St Silouan: a true masterpiece that provides a glimpse into the life and teachings of a 20th century Saint. He also wrote extensively on many spiritual topics, including his experiences in the Uncreated Light, mindfulness of death, the deification of man and spiritual mourning. He was a theologian who lived the truth of his teachings. His writings reveal a man who struggled for the pure and undefiled experiences of the spiritual life. A man with depth of insight, acute understanding and a highly developed intellect is present in his remarkable writings, though the humility of the meek monk is never hidden.

Source: June-July 2014 Lychnos Edition