added a few links, a couple words, and changed to past tense throughout
On [[September 23]], 1896, Sergei Symeonovich Sakharov was born to Orthodox parents in Russia. As a child, Sergei would pray daily, later recalling that he would pray for 45 minutes without stress. Even as a child, Sergei experienced the Uncreated Light. He read widely, including such Russian greats as Gogl, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Pushkin.
Due to great artistic talent, Sergei studied at the Academy of Arts between 1915 and 1917
, and then at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture between 1920 and 1921. Sergei used art as a "quasi-mystical" means "to discover eternal beauty", "breaking through present reality...into new horizons of being" . Later, this would help him to differentiate between human intellectual light and God's Uncreated Light.
It was around the time of his study at the Moscow School that Sergei would see Christianity's focus on personal love as being necessarily finite; he
falls from the Orthodoxy of his youth and delves into Indian mystical religions based on the impersonal Absolute.
In 1921, Sergei left Russia
: partly to continue his artistic career in Western Europe, and partly because he was not a Marxist. After first going to Italy, he went to Berlin, and then settled in Paris in 1922.
Sergei's 1922 arrival in Paris lent itself to artistic exhibitions of Sergei's works, which attracted the attention of the French media. However, he was growing increasingly frustrated by the inability of art to express purity, and however much he tried he couldn't escape this reality. He also grew to see that rational knowledge was entirely unable to provide an answer to the problem of death.
In 1924, Sergei came to the
realisation that Christ's precept to love God with all of one's being was not merely a psychological thing, but ontological; that this total love was the only way to relate to God; and that love had to be a personal thing by definitional necessity , and on Holy and Great Saturday of that year, he returns to Christianity. He experiences the [[Uncreated Light]] in a strength unmatched to the end of his life and, as a result, distances himself from his artwork.
Sergei then became among the first students of the [[St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute (Paris, France)|St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute]] in Paris. He was lectured by Fr [[Sergei Bulgakov]] and [[Nicholas Berdyaev]], but while both influenced Sergei, problems with each (Bulgakov's [[sophiology]] and Berdyaev's anti-[[asceticism]]) limited the influence they had on the future Elder.
In 1925, finding formal theological study to be inherently unfulfilling, Sergei
leaves the Institute and Paris to become a monk on [[Mount Athos]].
Sergei arrived at Mt Athos in 1926, where he entered the [[St. Panteleimon's Monastery (Athos)|Russian Orthodox Monastery of St. Panteleimon]] with the intent of learning how to pray and to have the right attitude towards God. He was
tonsured with the name of Sophrony. In 1930, Fr Sophrony was ordained to the [[diaconate]] by St [[Nikolai Velimirovic|Nicolai (Velimirovic) of Zicha]], and he becomes a disciple of St [[Silouan the Athonite]], who would prove to be Fr Sophrony's greatest and life-long influence. St Silouan had no formal system of theology, being largely uneducated, but his life exuded theology , and this is what taught Fr Sophrony, and what Fr Sophrony would later systematise.
Between 1932 and 1946, Fr Sophrony
would exchange letters with Fr David Balfour, a Catholic who converted to Orthodoxy. These These letters reveal Fr Sophrony's knowledge of many Fathers of the Church, force Fr Sophrony to articulate his theological thought , and to demonstrate the differences between Western and Eastern thought. Many of Fr Sophrony's later thoughts would arise out of the same topics addressed in this correspondence.
In 1938, St Silouan [[September 24|
reposes]]. Following the saint's instructions, Fr Sophrony left the monastery grounds to reside in the Athonite desert ; first at Karoulia, then at a cave near St Paul's Monastery. During his residence in this desert was World War II's duration (1939-1945 ), which proved to be a time of such intense prayer that Fr Sophrony's health was affected. This taught him the interdependence of all humanity. In 1941, Elder Sophrony was ordained to the priesthood. He becomes a [[Geronta|spiritual father]] to many Athonite monks.
There are a number of possible reasons as to why Elder Sophrony left Mt Athos. It may have been due to his deteriorating health, or to publish St Silouan's works, or to complete his theological education; it may simply have been due to the problems of being a non-Greek on Mt Athos after the close of World War II. Nonetheless, Elder Sophrony felt compelled to move to Paris, where Balfour
helps him gain a passport. The faculty of St Sergius Institute allow Elder Sophrony to sit the examinations of the whole course and to provide for his needs; however, upon his arrival, the faculty insist on Elder Sophrony denying, by silence, the grace present in the [[Church of Russia|Moscow Patriarchate]]. Elder Sophrony refuses to do this and , therefore , does not reenter the Institute. Elder Sophrony settles in Russian House, an old-age home, in St Genevieve-des-Bois, where he assists the priest and acts as the father confessor. He has a major operation on a stomach ulcer.
1950 sees Elder Sophrony working with [[Vladimir Lossky]] on the ''Messager de l’Exarchat du Patriarche Russe en Europe Occidentale'', which he
does until 1957. Lossky influences Elder Sophrony's thought on many contemporary issues , and complements Elder Sophrony's work on Trinitarian thought and its application to the Church and humanity; however, Lossky would not talk about a deified human nature, nor about the idea of God-forsakenness in a positive view, as Elder Sophrony did.
In 1952, Elder Sophrony
produces a second edition, professionally done, of ''Staretz Silouan'', bringing much fame to both St Silouan and Elder Sophrony. Based on Lossky's criticism that he could find no theological value in the Saint's works, Elder Sophrony included a theological introduction to St Silouan's writings.
By 1958, Elder Sophrony had a number of people living near him, seeking the monastic life. A property at Tolleshunt Knights, Maldon, Essex, England was inspected, and the next year the Community of St John the Baptist was formed at this site, under the omophorion of Metropolitan [[Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh]]. The
Monastery has both monks and nuns, something that has continued to the present, and has six members. In 1965, the Monastery would move under the omophorion of the [[Church of Constantinople|Ecumenical Patriarchate]], adding the title '[[Patriarchal]]' to its name. Later, the Ecumenical Patriarchate elevated the monastery to '[[Stavropegic]]'.
In 1973, a more complete translation of the life of St Silouan, under the title ''Monk of Mt Athos'', was published, followed by the publication of ''Wisdom of Mt Athos'', the writings of St Silouan. Elder Sophrony seemed to move to his own works after this, publishing ''His Life is Mine'' in 1977 and ''We Shall see Him As He Is'' in 1985. This last book, a very frank, open spiritual autobiography, was published to mixed reviews: where the West generally enjoyed the book, the Russians generally
criticised the book. Some of the criticism was so stinging that it, along with increasing illness, discouraged Elder Sophrony from writing again.
In 1987, the Ecumenical Patriarchate
glorifies St [[Silouan the Athonite]], no doubt assisted by his fame from Elder Sophrony's works.
===Events of and after his repose===
Mother Elizabeth, the eldest nun, reposed soon after, on the 24th. This was in accordance with Elder Sophrony's words that he would repose first, and she would repose soon after.
''On Prayer'', a book containing Elder Sophrony's writings on prayer
- particularly the Jesus Prayer - is published posthumously.