Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More from Archimandrite Sophrony

It's always good when a post generates email responses, as did yesterday's. In the late 1970's a friend who owned a bookshop gave me a little volume which has remained a favourite over the years: His Life is Mine - the book by Archimandrite Sophrony, published in 1977 by St Vladimir Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York, from which I quoted yesterday. You will be blessed if you get a copy! (I notice that, although from the Russian Orthodox tradition, this book is now stocked by Christian bookshops of all persuasions.) Here are two more passages (pages 55, 60):

"We shall not care what people think of us, or how they treat us. We shall cease to be afraid of falling out of favour. We shall love our fellow men without thought of whether they love us. Christ gave us the commandment to love others but did not make it a condition of salvation that they should love us. Indeed, we may positively be disliked for independence of spirit. It is essential in these days to be able to protect ourselves from the influence of those with whom we come in contact. Otherwise we risk losing both faith and prayer. Let the whole world dismiss us as unworthy of attention, trust or respect – it will not matter provided that the Lord accepts us. And vice versa: it will profit us nothing if the whole world thinks well of us and sings our praises, if the Lord declines to abide with us. This is only a fragment of the freedom Christ meant when He said, 'Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (John 8:32). Our sole care will be to continue in the word of Christ, to become His disciples and cease to be servants of sin." 

* * * * * * * * * *

"Those with no experience of prayer find it hard to believe how prayer broadens the horizons of the spirit. Sometimes prayer consumes the heart like fire; and when the heart succumbs to the burning flame, unexpectedly there falls the dew of divine consolation. When we become so conscious of our frailty that our spirit despairs, somehow, in an unknown fashion, a wondrous light appears, proclaiming life incorruptible. When the darkness within us is so appalling, that we are paralyzed with dread, the same light will turn black night into bright day. 

"When we properly condemn ourselves to eternal infamy and in agony descend into the pit, of a sudden some strength from Above will lift our spirits to the heights. When we are overwhelmed by the feeling of our own utter nothingness, the uncreated light transfigures and brings us like sons into the Father's house.

"How are these contrasting states to be explained? Why does our self-condemnation justify us before God? Is it not because there is truth in this self-condemnation and so the Spirit of Truth finds a place for Himself in us? 

"Even remote contact with the Divine releases the soul from all passions, including envy, that vile offspring of pride. The man who continues with a humble opinion of himself will be given greater knowledge of the mysteries of the world to come. He will be delivered from the power of death."


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