July 11, 2020

Synaxarion of our Venerable and God-Bearing Father Sophrony of Essex

By Athanasios, Hieromonk of Simonopetra


On the 11th of this month (July), we commemorate our Venerable and God-bearing Father Sophronios, the Hagiorite, Founder and Builder of the Sacred and Stavropegic Monastery of the Honorable and Glorious Forerunner and Baptist John in Essex of England, where he venerably reposed in the Lord in the year 1993.


Sophronios greatly shined in his life,
Now he more than shines in the chorus of the Saints.
On the eleventh Sophronios was placed with the Spirit of God.

This our God-bearing and most theological father Sophronios, was born in the year 1894 in Moscow of Russia, where he also passed the years of his youth. Having initially completed a regular education, he later graduated from the Higher School of Fine Arts with a specialized talent in the art of painting. Due to his sharp-witted nature and deep-thinking he occupied himself for a period of seven years, as he himself repeatedly writes, with internal meditation, as it is taught within Buddhism, which he considered a great sin and fall. Enlightened by the Philanthropic Lord he returned with strong mental eagerness to the study of the Holy Fathers of the Church and he moved to France, after the October Revolution in Russia, where he took classes in theology at the Institute of Saint Sergius in Paris. There he lived in deeper repentance and decided to move and settle on the Holy Mountain of Athos, where he found the Russian Sacred Monastery of Saint Panteleimon. Later he was found worthy to receive ordination as a Hierodeacon and to come to know and associate through an unbreakable spiritual bond with the divinely-taught Elder Silouan the Athonite who had settled there. Receiving his most-precious writings, as a most-rich spiritual inheritance, he subsequently published them in France.

In the harsh Athonite wilderness of Karoulia, where he first went to hasten his hesychastic desire by occupying himself in neptic work, he then moved, at the bidding of the Monastery, to the Kathisma of the All-Holy Trinity, near the port of the Sacred Monastery of Saint Paul. There he gave himself over to new supernatural spiritual struggles, becoming a visionary of the uncreated divine light, praying unceasingly with great heartache and repentance on behalf of the world during the course of the second World War, deeply suffering with all those affected by the catastrophes brought about by men. He was ordained a priest, at the intense supplication and encouragement of Athonite monks, undertook the work of confession and received the ministry of spiritual fatherhood in the Sacred Monasteries of Saint Paul, Dionysiou, Gregoriou, Simonopetra and Xenophontos, brotherhoods, as well various other Athonite monks, being found worthy of many divine gifts, as he himself confesses in his divinely-illumined books.

A short time later he moved to the Skete of Saint Andrew which is under Vatopaidi in Karyes, where he received documentation after being compelled to depart his beloved Garden of the Lady Theotokos in order to go to Athens, where he was to undergo medical therapy due to his greatly declining physical health. After this, desiring to publish the wondrous life and manuscripts of his spiritual father Elder Silouan, he went to Paris where he created the first core of what would unfold as the monastic brotherhood of the Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner in Essex, England.

The blessed Father settled there in 1959, with much labor and various forms of difficulties, with poor material goods impossible to describe, giving over the building to Christ, together with his spiritual children, as well as those today who have multiplied, and as to an ever-flowing spring, the faithful hasten, desiring to cast off their spiritual problems and receive guidance along the path of sanctification. At the same time he continued writing his various divinely-wise in the Holy Spirit books, which were translated in various languages and became known in the West and throughout the inhabited world, helping the faithful in their spiritual life and the orderly unification of many thirsty people of other faiths into the body of the Orthodox Church.

With much mental power and a most-deep sense the blessed man angelically celebrated, like another Basil the Great and divine Chrysostom, the Divine Liturgy, which sweetens the present advancement of the spiritual journey and is the center of his theological and dogmatic teachings, which is exactly in line with the ancient fathers and ecclesiastical teachers. These ancient thoughts he wondrously recast and presented anew in our contemporary times, always on the basis of the authority of the hypostatic authority of the Holy Trinity and the emphasis on being like God and the uniqueness of every human person. Full of divine wisdom and deep honor and love towards all people, the blessed Father was found worthy of the gifts of wonderworking and foresight, contributing to upholding faith in God, ascribing to Him humbly every heavenly blessing, which he richly received as divine gifts towards his person. Being equal in life, having suffered in his physical health and distressed by the thorn of many illnesses, he attained, like another Abraham, deep old age, keeping to the last moment the prayer and his peaceful character and the wisdom of the Spirit, as well as being occupied as much as possible with the art of iconography.

As a high tree and a ship bearing many divine virtues and gifts, he departed in peace to his beloved Lord, delivering his spirit on the morning of Sunday the 11th of July 1993, leaving behind for the Church the priceless treasures of his books with his spiritual teachings, always referring to and weightily commenting on and explaining the words of the Lord to his spiritual father the venerable Silouan: "Keep your mind in Hades and despair not."

He was buried by his beloved spiritual children, as a seed of Orthodoxy in the British land, in the crypt of the monastery cemetery, whose foundation he established, where he rests since then as a daily benefactor through signs and wonders, for the faithful who call upon his boldness before the Lord which is not ashamed. For this, at the saint-loving insistence of His Most Divine All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, through the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Holy Mother Great Church of Christ, during the session of the 27th of November 2019, the holiness of the person was recognized and proclaimed, writing his name in the lists of the Saints of our Orthodox Mother Church, to the great joy of Christians throughout the earth, whether they knew him personally, or came to know him through reading his books which are rich containers of Grace.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You showed yourself to be a child full of longing, of the Venerable Father Silouan the Athonite, Christ-minded and divine interpreter Sophronios; you shined upon the West, with your divine words, and with your divinely-inspired life, you guided towards the Light, raising them to God, by your prayers Father, whom they behold forever.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
With longing you sought, the fire of the Spirit, you became all fire divinely-inspired one, having become a partaker, and you saw, as much as is humanly possible to see, the Light of Christ, and you were showered with many graces, for which reason you thoroughly illumine the Church, all-blessed Sophronios.