Legacy of Saint Sophrony: a Gospel of Name and Glory

The spiritual legacy of Saint Sophrony the Hesychast has great potential and generous capacity because it is founded on the grace of the Holy Name, together with its Gospel of revelatory Glory.  The ‘I AM’ theophanies of the Name in the Gospel of John and the Apocalypse were decisive for Saint Sophrony, inspiring his vision of Holy Orthodoxy in ways that are still being uncovered.  The Name does not fluctuate or waver like liberal speculations, nor does it fixate and fossilise like traditionalist opinions, but renews the Hesychast tradition of Holy Orthodoxy as a living infusion of the hallowing Spirit.  Saint Sophrony bore witness to the illumining Name as the uncreated light of deifying glory, transmitting the Gospel of Glory to the eye of the purified heart.  He did not just go along with Patristic opinions or think about Patristic literature but searched out their living source to its very foundation.  Only the wisdom of God truly searches out the living roots of graced deification, not mere opinions, even learned Patristic opinions.  Saint Sophrony was not a nominal Hesychast, but lived the truth of the Name with profound freedom.  He turned and saw God hidden in the midst, opening to a timeless life of glory, rather than closing down his mind within safe repetition of conventional Patristic opinions.  

Saint Sophrony saw graced personhood unveiled when self-obsessed personality falls away, unveiling the face of grace.  The Name uncovers transcendence and realisation of glory in the purified heart, never neglecting to refine realisation in the uncreated fire of deifying glory.  Capturing closed captivity and releasing loose laxity, great freedom sustains great peace in radical openness.  When doubts arise, wisdom resolves them, releasing them by penetrating through to the glory that cures them.  Incompleteness remains unripe until completeness heals the deficiencies and excesses of fixated opinion.  The Spirit is unfathomable in its hallowing of God-bearing elders, inexhaustible in its deifying of glorified saints.  Spiritual birth always puts to death the spiritual death that parodies rebirth in the Holy Spirit in subtle ways.  Saint Sophrony was refined by fire in the glory of grace imparted through Saint Silouan, emerging to transmit the Name only when confusion was consumed and division was deferred.  It can sometimes take a life-time in the desert for complete transmission to mature, as the life of Saint Seraphim of Sarov proves.  But those in a hurry to acquire crowds of disciples do not hesitate to proceed without purification in refining fire.  That is why blind guides are always more numerous than humble seers.  Blind guides love to blind the blind with their brilliant sophistry, whereas humble seers are dismissed as deluded fools, despised as deceived pretenders, left to rot on the dung heap of sophisticated parodies.  Somehow, however, saints still happen to arise, even in times of blind confusion and seasons of divisive separation. 

Saint Sophrony never set himself up to be a celebrated founder of monasteries but grace just drew around him those who sought an elder to listen to his wisdom, just as he himself had listened to Saint Silouan.  Monasteries sometimes do not have a clue what really gathers disciples round an elder, because they are often founded as institutions rather than centres of grace and enlightenment.  Saint Sophrony spoke from the heart rather than from conventional, ecclesiastical opinion, still less from personalist philosophical conclusions.  The heart speaks transcendence to awaken transcendence, not from subtle sophistical strategies to stimulate clever sophistry.  Transcending sectarian preconceptions, the wisdom of Saint Sophrony unveiled the original face of ‘I AM,’ opening the Name to unveil God.  Confusing this with existentialist personalism, clever visiting theologians went away to give lectures on personalist ontology, missing the crucial point.  Others left to argue about Patristic theology, never suspecting that they were denigrating Christ when they neglected to glorify the saving light of his Holy Name.  Few remember to hallow the Name, so few awaken to the coming glory.  The legacy of Saint Sophrony was not so much his many fine books but the Name unveiled, not extensive monastery buildings but a Gospel of glory concealed in a hallowed Name.