Archimandrite Sophrony left many gifts to those who revered and loved him, but to some he bequeathed the healing mystery of the Name ‘I AM,’ set like a jewel within the mysteries of self-emptying kenosis and of perichoresis, co-inherence. Recently, in a woodland skete just like many to be found on the Holy Mountain but blessing England with its humble presence over many decades, there was an opportunity to remember Archimandrite Sophrony and his Athonite legacy to those who turn and see, his transmission of turning as profound metanoia, and of seeing as luminous theoria, the living and life-giving foundation of Orthodox Hesychasm, which opens hearts to glory through the Name ‘I AM.’ For all who received this legacy, the Archimandrite’s luminous humour and wondrous joy still inspire reverence for the hallowing Name ‘I AM,’ lived as mysteries of self-emptying kenosis and perichoretic co-inherence, mysteries which sustain openness to deification, theosis, whilst guarding them from profaning scrutiny and presumptuous ambition. The Name ‘I AM,’ revealed on Mount Sinai and transmitted anew in the ‘I AM’ sayings of the Gospel of Saint John, was for Father Sophrony the heart of the Orthodox Christian Tradition as well as the quintessence of his personal experience of Athonite Hesychasm.
Without the self-emptying of deep turning, metanoia, the unveiling of ‘I AM’ runs the risk of descending into confusion between ‘I AM’ and me, so Father Sophrony never tired of reminding those who opened their hearts to him of the hallowing grace of self-emptying metanoia which purifies the heart with a vision of uncreated light. This uncreated grace has always been present at the heart of living Hesychasm but has sometimes been suppressed out of fear of delusion, leaving hearts bereft of illumination and therefore cut off from all remedy for delusion. Wisdom preserves this therapeutic remedy by undoing confusion between me and ‘I AM,’ opening hearts to communion which is healthy co-inherence of uncreated grace in the midst of our created nature. Co-inherence of uncreated and created energies is free of confusion when the uncreated light of wisdom discerns difference without division, unveiling the wisdom of Chalcedon at the heart of Orthodox Hesychasm. Saint Maximus saw that Chalcedon’s wisdom of ‘no confusion’ and ‘no division’ was a key that opens the eye of the heart to the mysteries of the Name, self-emptying and co-inherence. Archimandrite Sophrony transmitted these mysteries of the Name ‘I AM,’ inspired by Saint Silouan the Athonite, as mysteries of self-emptying love.
Abiding in a woodland monastery over half a century after Father Sophrony was here inspiring elders whose legacy still breathes joy into our lives, we are reminded that to turn and see is still the hallowing work of the Holy Name, undoing confusion and healing division. We remember the legacy that brought life to Hesychasts in the past as a legacy bringing joy to us now. We remember God in the midst where the Name ‘I AM’ unveils his saving presence, faithful to the sacred legacy of elders who inspired saints in age after age. We welcome wisdom home in our midst, ending her exile from our lives by offering her purity of heart in which to dwell, knowing that it is her presence that purifies the heart not presumptuous striving or ambitious stress. The whole ethos of spiritual life is transformed when wisdom undoes separation and heals division. Grace is permitted to be grace when the Name is taken to heart so that the eye of the heart opens and sees. Great peace is ineffable but real when God’s ‘I’ awareness and ‘AM’ presence unveil mysteries of self-emptying co-inherence in our midst. There is no end to the glory of this grace which awakens unceasing prayer of the Holy Spirit in the heart, crying Abba, Father. We are overwhelmed with gratitude as this prayer empties us of our noise, to fill us with its stillness. We are hallowed by the Name so that the Kingdom comes, emptying us of division and filling us with wholesome union. The woodland sings because the Name ‘I AM’ blesses elders and saints now, today, just as wisdom opens us once again to their experience of self-emptying co-inhernce.