True Knowledge of God

The Elder Sophrony made a strong distinction between the knowledge we gain by rational speculation and the knowledge of God that comes as a gift of grace. He used the term “dogmatic consciousness” to express the knowledge of God as found in the lives of the saints and great ascetics. It is not a contradiction of the dogma of the Church, but an existential encounter with God that ineffably confirms the teaching…

Grace and “the Inverted Pyramid”

Fr. Sophrony [Sakharov], in his book on St. Silouan, presents this theory of the “inverted pyramid.” He says that the empirical cosmic being is like a pyramid: at the top sit the powerful of the earth, who exercise dominion over the nations (cf. Matt. 20:25), and at the bottom stand the masses. But the spirit of man, by nature [unfallen nature as given by God], demands equality, justice and freedom of spirit,…

Silent Sentinels and the Saints among Us

I originally ran this post last December. I have watched the film mentioned in it many times. The thoughts in the post came back to me again today. Like many, I recall my highschool years somewhat vividly. Our school was of moderate size with a personal history for most students that increased its impact. It opened in 1965 with grades 7 through 12, among the earliest accomodations in our county to the…

Kinder, Gentler

The following quote (of St. Seraphim of Sarov) is framed and mounted in the narthex of my parish. I first obtained the quote from my Archbishop: You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never…

Myrrhbearers and the Truth

The second Sunday after our Lord’s Pascha is always remembered as the “Sunday of the Myrrhbearers,” when the Church remembers the women and men who cared for our Lord’s body after His death on the Cross. Joseph and Nicodemus are the two men remembered. Mary and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Cleophas, Salome, Susanna and Joanna (and in some accounts Mary, the Mother of God) are those numbered…

Through the Prayers of Our Holy Fathers…

It is a phrase that is heard frequently in Orthodox services: “Through the prayers of our holy fathers, have mercy on us and save us!” The meaning of that phrase is enlarged and enlightened in the writings of the Elder Sophrony. The following excerpt is from his book, St. Silouan the Athonite. Prayer for the whole world, for all Adam, in many instances distracts the monk from putting himself at the service…

Father Sophrony’s Prayer

A dear friend shared this with me: Fr Sophrony’s Prayer O Eternal Lord and Creator of all things, in your inscrutable goodness you have called me into this life and have given me the grace of baptism and the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  You have instilled in me the desire to seek your face.  Hear my prayer! I have no life, no light, no joy, no strength, no…

The Alpha and the Omega

As Christ walked in the midst of the people of Israel an event that was far more than historical took place. The One who was in the midst of them is also the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Strange paradox that you should meet and encounter a person who is Himself the beginning and the ending of all things. This paradox has led to many of the more…

Words on Prayer from the Elder Cleopa of Romania

This short interview on prayer is perhaps the last film of the Elder Cleopa of Romania, one of the greatest spiritual figures of 20th century Orthodoxy. Many times in his life the authorities sought to arrest him and he would flee to the wilderness. His words are filled with reference to the Scriptures and bear the weight of an authentic life.