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In the autumn of 1892, a young peasant – his name was Simeon – from the province of Tambov reached Mt Athos. Although he was unlearned and ignorant in the ordinary sense – two winters at the village school were all he could boast of in the way of scholarship – tireless inner striving gave him a personal experience of Christianity identical with that of many of the early ascetic Fathers.
Saint Sophrony went to Mt. Athos in 1925 and there, at the Monastery of St. Panteleimon, became amanuensis to Staretz Silouan whose writings were pencilled in laborious, unformed characters on odd scraps of paper.
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Revelation concerning God declares, ‘God is love’, ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’. How difficult for us mortals to agree with this! Difficult, for both our own personal life and the life of the world around us would appear to testify to the contrary.
Indeed, where is this light of the Father’s love if we all, approaching the end of our lives, in bitterness of heart can lament with Job, ‘My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart … If I wait, the grave is mine house . . . Where is now my hope?’ And that which from my youth my heart has sought secretly but fervently – ‘Who shall see it?’
Christ Himself attests that God is concerned for all creation, that He does not ignore a single small bird, that He clothes the grass of the field, and His concern for people is so incomparably great that ‘the very hairs of our head are all numbered’.
But where is this Providence that is attentive to the last detail? We are all of us crushed by the spectacle of evil walking unrestrained up and down the world. Millions of lives that have often hardly begun – before they are even aware of living — are strangled with incredible ferocity.
So whyever is this absurd life given to us?
And lo, the soul longs to meet God and ask Him, ‘Why didst Thou give me life? … I am surfeited with suffering. Enveloped in darkness. Why dost Thou hide Thyself from me? I know that Thou art good but wherefore art Thou so indifferent to my pain?’
‘Why art Thou so . . . cruel and merciless toward me?’
‘I cannot fathom thee.’
The Staretz’ Life and Teaching
I. Childhood and Early Years
II. Arrival on Mt. Athos
III. Monastic Striving
IV. Portrait of the Staretz
V. The Staretz’ Doctrinal Teaching
VI. Pure Prayer and Mental Stillness
VII. The Imagination and the Ascetic Struggle against its Various Aspects
VIII. Uncreated Divine Light and Ways of Contemplation
IX. Grace and Consequent Dogmatic Consciousness
X. Spiritual Trials
XI. ‘Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not.’
XII. The Divine Word and the Bounds of Created Nature
XIII. On the Purport of Prayer for the World
XIV. The Staretz’ Demise
The Writtings of Staretz Silouan
I. Yearning for God
II. On Prayer
III. On Humility
IV. On Peace
V. On Grace
VI. On The Will of God and on Freedom
VII. On Repentance
VIII. On the Knowledge of God
IX. On Love
X. We are Children of God and in the Likeness of the Lord
XI. On the Mother of God
XII. On the Saints
XIII. Concerning Shepherds of Souls
XIV. Concerning Monks
XV. Concerning Obedience
XVI. Concerning Spiritual Warfare
XVII. Concerning Intrusive Thoughts and Delusions
XVIII. Adam’s Lament
XIX. Reminiscences and Conversations
XX. Thoughts, Advice and Observations on Asceticism
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. Read more…
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