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The majority of the texts in this book are taken from St Sophrony’s collection of drafts which did not reach book form in his lifetime, because he was so occupied in taking care of the monastery and those who visited with need of his prayer and counsel. The texts began in handwritten form, often on already used paper, so that not a scrap of paper – each one a gift from God – would be wasted. The final drafts were typewritten. Some texts were in files; others were on loose papers, many of which were not in any particular order.
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In the present book as elsewhere, St Sophrony writes much about theology. Every contemporary Christian must be a theologian, not in an academic sense, but in the deep ontological meaning of this word. For St Sophrony theology became his inner state. He lived the doctrinal heritage of the Church as the reality of his everyday life. For him Christology and Triadology were not abstract study or the mental gymnastics of logical exercises, but actual life in God. He felt them as a source of never-diminishing inspiration, which moved his heart to fervent prayer. In this state of theology, St Sophrony tried to convey in words the state in which he himself lived, with his mind in the presence of God. Because of his permanent abiding in prayer, around the Elder always reigned an atmosphere of living communion with Christ. People were intuitively drawn to him. Thus, as it were naturally, a monastic community gathered around him. Monastic asceticism in such an atmosphere was a natural way of life. The very presence of the Elder, his inner life and his state – even when he was silent – inspired people to live in Christ, and in particular to become monks and nuns. Seeing the Elder and conversing with him, it was easy to understand why he said that ‘monasticism is plenitude of life’.
‘God clearly wishes to be with us as with His equals. That is why He also revealed Himself to us in His Truth through the Incarnation, so that we could see with our eyes, and our hands could handle, the Word of eternal Life (cf. 1 John 1:1) coming down from the bosom of the Father. Having such an obvious and tangible testimony, we do not now stray among the conjectures of our created reasoning, nor do we stumble, because we walk in the Light of the Sun which never sets’.
‘Faith brings us to the threshold of the uncreated world. Through faith we become capable of apprehending our being in the perspective of eternity. The might of faith is great and its beauty beyond description. When we enter definitively into the Kingdom of the Father, faith will be totally transformed into pure love’.
Chapter 1. Reflections on Monastic Life
Chapter 2. The Life of our Monastery
Chapter 3. The Path I have Travelled
Chapter 4. On Faith
Chapter 5. The Person-Hypostasis
Chapter 6. On Prayer
Chapter 7. Creativity
Chapter 8. The Service of Mothers to the Church and the World
Chapter 9. On Marriage
Chapter 10. Knowledge of God, Knowledge of Humanity
Chapter 11. Mankind and Human History
Chapter 12. Spiritual Life
Chapter 13. Spiritual Striving
Index of Scriptural References