Wisdom of Saint Sophrony

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Wisdom is the state of seeing that seeing (theoria) sees when seeing turns (metanoia) and sees as it is seen by God, turning round to know God, as God is known by God (theosis) in Holy Trinity.  The grace of wisdom was always the inspiration of wisdom in Scripture and Patristic Tradition, the state of enlightened vision inspiring holiness in stillness.  Saint Sophrony bore witness to awakened wisdom in uncreated light, which inspired his life on the Holy Mountain, in Paris and in Essex, giving his writings profound insight into the living tradition of stillness (hesychia) in Holy Orthodoxy.  His life of stillness in an Athonite cave did not cease when he left the Holy Mountain but continued to transfigure all he said and did in Paris and in Essex.  To meet him was to be pierced by that light, but it was God himself who communicated the grace of enlightening wisdom, God who invites us now to turn and see, who opens the eye of the heart to the light of uncreated glory.

Saint Sophrony was acutely aware when he fell short of glory, precisely because uncreated light of wisdom was inspiring his heart.  To imbibe and absorb that wisdom as his disciple was to experience grace, directly turning and seeing as wisdom sees. Awareness of falling short of glory becomes searing, but the wisdom of turning and seeing is also searing, purifying the heart with uncreated fire.  Enlightened awareness cleanses the heart, enlightening the mind in the heart, opening decisively to the ineffable mysteries of glory.  Stillness centres in God where light opens to glory in the heart, so that life is lived from inside out, from God through God, in God.  Holy Trinity becomes life itself for those, like Saint Sophrony, who turn and see, but without grace, enlightened awakening remains hidden with Christ in God.

Saint Sophrony encountered many folk, each of whom interpreted their experience of him in different ways, valid for them but manifold, for wisdom is indeed manifold, not uniform.  The Saint spoke openly of uncreated light but suffered rejection in some quarters as a consequence.  For Saint Sophrony, costly wisdom was the wisdom of white martyrdom, but the Staretz generously shared from his heart nonetheless.  For some, Christian wisdom became the joy of their life, and they too suffered rejection in their turn, paying the price of communicating with uncreated fire.  Those who want an easy life stay well clear of uncreated fire, preferring status and security in conventional circles to desert exposure to the flame.  Uncreated joy comes with a price, the price of costly wisdom that Saint Sophrony paid, sharing wisdom anew in each generation, sustaining those who turn and see.

Leave-taking of Holy Theophany