Letters to His Family

The book consists of letters Archimandrite Sophrony wrote to his family in Moscow between 1958 and 1986, addressed in particular to his sisters Maria and Alexandra, as well as a talk recorded there in 1975. The talk and letters are rich in historical interests and in spiritual teaching, as well as providing insight into Archimandrite’s Sophrony’s life and his understanding of the state of mankind in the modern era.


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Childhood years. Youth. Paris. Mount Athos. Wrestling with God. First meeting with St Silouan. The question of creativity. Being is Person. The revelation given to Moses. Christ – God Incarnate. His new book and its fundamental idea.


Letter 1
Impressions of his first meeting with his family since their separation. On the ‘straitness’ of life on earth.
Letter 2
On writing books. On prayers he composed. The privileges of desert life. On the true meaning of freedom. On the book ‘Staretz Silouan’ and its translation into English. On repentance.
Letter 3
On searching for the will of God. Prayer is never without result. On the book ‘Staretz Silouan’ and his responsibility for it. On the unity of vision in the writing of the Holy Fathers.
Letter 4
On prayer and its forms in the contemporary world. On liturgical prayer. How to pray.
Letter 5
The Holy Synod of 1905 on liturgical reform. On liturgical prayers and the service of the Liturgy.
Letter 6
On living on two different levels. On loving other people.
Letter 7
On the founding of the monastery. On suffering for others. The image and likeness of God and caricatures of these. Reviews of the translation of ‘Staretz Silouan’.
Letter 8
On the founding of the Monastery of St John the Baptist. Articles about the monastery.
Letter 9
On the contemporary world. On the arrangement of the church and on the services.
Letter 10
On his icon-painting. On the Fall of man and the tragedy of the world.
Letter 11
On his everyday life.
Letter 12
On the tragedy of the world, and on his own privileged life.
Letter 13
On the present age.
Letter 14
On the Resurrection. On St Symeon the New Theologian and Staretz Silouan. Christ inevitably suffers in this world.
Letter 15
From notes made during a visit to the Holy Land.
Letter 16
His journey to the Holy Land. The contrast between the greatness of man and how man appears in historical reality. Discerning between ‘permissible relaxation’ and abstinence for people living in the world. On salvation.
Letter 17
On Holy Unction.
Letter 18
On the mystery of human interrelatedness.
Letter 19
Nameday wishes.
Letter 20
On the drifting away of contemporary people from the awareness of their eternal dignity. On being children of God.
Letter 21
On a misunderstanding and subsequent reconciliation. On pastoral responsibilities. On preparing for death.
Letter 22
On the restoration of the church. The Paschal services.
Letter 23
Christ vindicates God before the world, and before God, He vindicates the world. On the world’s apostasy. For peace in the world, the most necessary thing of all is that man be reborn in spirit.
Letter 24
The moment of death is a great event in our life.
Letter 25
On the death of his sister and his prayer for her.
Letter 26
On death. The restoration of the old village church. On Western Church art and the idea of an Orthodox place of worship.
Letter 27
From prayer for one’s family to prayer for all mankind. On the darkness of ignorance in which humanity is living. On the revelation of eternity in the soul.
Letter 28
On despondency, melancholy and despair. On the universality of Christ-like human persons. On the meaning of sin. On the future life.
Letter 29
Paschal greetings.
Letter 30
On self-giving. On victory over the world.
Letter 31
On intuition, dreams, and common sense. On true judgment. On prayer for the sick.
Letter 32
On intuition. On holiness.
Letter 33
On scientific ignorance.
Letter 34
His imminent journey to Spain. On the necessity for Christians to be open to anything. On unity. On contemporary humanity. On genuine victory.
Letter 35
On his journey to Spain.
Letter 36
On man’s inter-relations and on human blindness.
Letter 37
Birthday greetings.
Letter 38
On the Lord’s prayer. On forgiveness. On the consequences of not believing in Christ’s resurrection.
Letter 39
On his illness. On the meaning of our coming into the world. On the principle of the person and the assimilation of divine life.
Letter 40
On icons and contemporary culture. On the spiritual recovery of contemporary society. Without humility, there is no love.
Letter 41
On man’s free choice whether or not to accept the gift of life.
Letter 42
On Christ’s commandment about ‘these little ones’. On the contemporary world.
Letter 43
Divine Love is crucified in this world. On whether existence is imposed on us. On suicide. On the meaning of being. On icons of Christ and icon-painters.
Letter 44
On the death of their sister Shura in a state of despair.
Letter 45
On the essence of despair. On prayer for his departed sister. On the Antichrist.
Letter 46
On absolute judgment. The best way to die. On prayer for his sister.
Letter 47
On contemporary humanity and on human relations. On the love of Christ.
Letter 48
Old age as the most important stage in our life.
Letter 49
On contemporary church life. On his article ‘The Unity of the Church in the Image of the Holy Trinity’. On the correlation of general and particular in church life.
Letter 50
Impressions of the cathedrals at the Kremlin in Moscow.
Letter 51
On the icon ‘The Saviour with golden hair’.
Letter 52
On his commitments and on the lack of time.
Letter 53
On the desert and on prayer for the world during the war. On his ministry.
Letter 54
On his new book. On the knowledge of Him who is the Principle of all that exists. On the meaning of faith.
Letter 55
On human ingratitude and how we should deal with it. On compassion. On ways to achieve peace in the whole world.
Letter 56
On prayer.
Letter 57
On prayer for the world. On the corruption in humanity. Sift of priesthood and monasticism.
Letter 58
On Mother Elisabeth. On the construction of the new refectory.
Letter 59
On his brother Nicholas. How there could be peace on earth. On reaching the understanding of absolute truth. On the contemplation of the fallen state which is a condition of repentance. On the touch of the Holy Spirit.
Letter 60
On old age. On the limits of knowledge, theology, and wisdom. On despair. On bad influences over children.
Letter 61
On his journey to Italy. On the Turin Shroud.
Letter 62
On his old aye. On the success of His Life is Mine.
Letter 63
On the fallen state of contemporary people.
Letter 64
On the division within man, and what light Scriptural revelation can shed on overcoming it.
Letter 65
On the darkness and light in man. ‘And despair not’.
Letter 66
On the fearful age we live in, and the end of history.
Letter 67
On love which never fails.
Letter 68
On faith in God and His Resurrection. On his new hook.
Letter 69
On his book, ‘We Shall See Him as He Is’.


Letter 70
On his journeys. On old age.
Letter 71
On old age.
Letter 72
‘While you breathe, don’t forget those who are suffocating.’
Letter 73
On the Russian nation. On the ideal understanding of man. On the heart. On contemporary life.
Letter 74
On his journey abroad and about his fatigue.
Letter 75
On their meeting. On human malice.
Letter 76
A conversation with his father. On heaven. On modern man.
Letter 77
About Spain. On haste, and on despair. On the true meaning of our existence.

Index of Biblical References

Saint Sophrony, started his monastic life on Mount Athos. His acquaintance with Saint Silouan became the landmark of his life. He lived as a cenobitic monk at St Panteleimon’s monastery and later as a hermit in the caves of Karoulia. After twenty two years on the Holy Mountain, he travelled to Paris for medical treatment, where he served as a parish priest. In 1959, he founded our monastery in Essex, England, where he served as the abbot and spiritual father. Towards the end of his life he withdrew to live once more as a recluse.

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Letters to His Family
Letters to His Family
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