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Sophrony (Sakharov)

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Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), also Elder Sophrony, was best known as the disciple and biographer of St Silouan the Athonite and compiler of St Silouan's works, and as the founder of the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Maldon, Essex, England.


Early Life

  • 1896 Sep 23: Sergei Symeonovich Sakharov born to Orthodox parents in Russia. Sergei, as a child, would pray daily, and up to 45mins without stress. Experience of Uncreated Light occurs. Read Gogl, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin.
  • 1915: Due to great artistic talent, Sergei studied at Academy of Arts until 1917.
  • 1920: Studied at Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture until 1921. Sergei used art as a "quasi-mystical" means "to discover eternal beauty", "breaking through present reality...into new horizons of being". This would help him to differentiate between human intellectual light and God's Uncreated Light.
At around this time, Sergei would see Christianity's focus on personal love as finite; he develops an interest in, and delves into, Indian mystical religions based on the impersonal Absolute.
  • 1921: Left Russia, partly to continue artistic career abroad, and partly because he was not a Marxist. Went first to Italy and then Berlin.


  • 1922: Arrived in Paris. Artistic exhibitions attracted attention of French media.
Frustrated by inability of art to express purity.
Saw rational knowledge as unable to provide answer to the biggest question, the problem of death.
  • 1924: Due to Sergei's realisation that Christ's precent to love God totally was not psychological but ontological, and the only way to relate to God, and the necessity of love being personal, Sergei returns to Christianity on Great Saturday. Experiences Uncreated Light (in a strength unmatched to the end of his life), distances himself from his art.
St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute begins. Sergei among first students. Was lectured by Fr Sergius Bulgakov and Nicholas Berdyaev; however, while both influenced Sergei, problems with each (sophiology and anti-asceticism, respectively), meant that influence on Sergei was limited.
  • 1925: Finding formal theological study to be unfulfilling, Sergei leaves the Institute and Paris for Mount Athos.

Mt Athos

  • 1926: Fr Sophrony arrived at Mt Athos, entering Russian Orthodox Monastery of St. Panteleimon, desiring to learn how to pray and have to right attitude to God.
  • 1930: Fr Sophrony ordained to the diaconate by St Nicolai of Zicha. Becomes disciple of St Silouan the Athonite, Fr Sophrony's greatest influence. While St Silouan had no formal system of theology, his living of theology taught Fr Sophrony volumes, which Fr Sophrony would later systematise.
  • 1932-46: Fr Sophrony exchanges letters with Fr David Balfour, a Catholic who converted to Orthodoxy. These letters reveal Fr Sophrony's knowledge of many Fathers of the Church, and forces 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.
  • 1938: St Silouan reposes (September 24). Following St Silouan's instructions, Elder Sophrony left the monastery grounds to reside in the Athonite desert; first at Karoulia, then at a cave near St Paul's Monastery.
The Second World War was a time of such intense prayer that Fr Sophrony's health was affected, teaching him the interdependence of all mankind.

Paris revisited

  • 1947: Circumstances (possibly to publish St Silouan's works, possibly to complete his theological education, possibly due to deteriorating health, possibly due to difficulties of being non-Greek after WW2) forced Elder Sophrony to move to Paris. Balfour helpes him gain a passport.
The faculty of St Sergius allow Elder Sophrony to sit the examinations of the whole course, providing for his needs; however, upon arrival, this is blocked by faculty insistence on Elder Sophrony denying by silence the grace of the Moscow Patriarchate, which he refused to do.
Elder Sophrony settles in Russian House, an old-age home, in St Genevieve-des-Bois, assisting the priest and acting as father confessor. He has a major operation on a stomach ulcer.
  • 1948: Elder Sophrony produces first mimiographed edition of Staretz Silouan on hand-roneo. In it, Elder Sophrony outlines St Silouan's principles of theology, and explains many fundamental concepts (prayer for the whole world, God-forsakenness and the idea of all humanity being connected).
  • 1950: Elder Sophrony works with Vladimir Lossky on the Messager de l’Exarchat du Patriarche Russe en Europe Occidentale until 1957. Lossky influences Elder Sophrony's thought on many contemporary issues and compliments 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.
  • 1952: Elder Sophrony produces a professional second edition of Staretz Silouan. This book brought much fame to both St Silouan and Elder Sophrony, and included a theological introduction to St Silouan's works, based on Lossky finding no theological value in the Saint's works.

Essex, England

  • 1958: Elder Sophrony had many people living near him and seeking the monastic life. A property at Tolleshunt Knights, Maldon, Essex, England was inspected.
  • 1959: Community of St John the Baptist formed at Tolleshunt Knights under Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh. Monastery has both monks and nuns, and numbers six.
  • 1965: Monastery of St John the Baptist, with blessing of Patriarch Alexy, moved under the Ecumenical Patriarchate's omophorion. Later, the Ecumenical Patriarchate would upgrade the Monastery to Stavropegic.
  • 1973: Publication of a more complete translation of Monk of Mt Athos (the life of St Silouan).
  • 1975: Publication of Wisdom of Mt Athos (the writings of St Silouan).
  • 1977: His Life is Mine published.
  • 1985: We Shall See Him As He Is published, to mixed reviews: the West generally enjoyed the book, the Russians generally criticised the book. Some criticism was so stinging that it, along with illness, discouraged Elder Sophrony from writing again.
  • 1987: Ecumenical Patriarchate glorifies St Silouan the Athonite.
  • 1993 Jul 11: At Elder Sophrony's repose, there were 25 other monastics at his monastery.


  • The Undistorted Image: Staretz Silouan, 1866-1938, 1948, 1952. Faith Press, 1958 (ISBN B0007IXVB0).
  • The Monk of Mount Athos: Staretz Silouan 1866-1938, Mowbray, 1973 (ISBN 0264646185). St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997 (ISBN 091383615X).
  • Wisdom from Mount Athos: The Writings of Staretz Siloan 1866-1938, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975 (ISBN 0913836176).
  • His Life is Mine, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1977 (ISBN B000B9E2WW). St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997 (ISBN 0913836338).
  • We Shall See Him As He Is, 1985. Essex, England: Stravropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, 1988.
  • Saint Silouan, the Athonite, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press; reprint edition, 1999 (ISBN 0881411957).
  • On Prayer, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1998 (ISBN 0-88141-194-9).


  • Christ, Our Way and Our Life by Archimandrite Zacharias. "A Presentation of the theology of Archimandrite Sophrony." (ISBN 1-878997-74-2).
  • I Love Therefore I Am by Nicholas V. Sakharov. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2003 (ISBN 0-88141-236-8).


  • "No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the afflictions which the Lord sends are not great men imagine them beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will of God. But the Lord Himself guides with His grace those who are given over to God's will, and they bear all things with fortitude for the sake of God Whom they have so loved and with Whom they are glorified for ever. It is impossible to escape tribulation in this world but the man who is giver over to the will of God bears tribulation easily, seeing it but putting his trust in the Lord, and so his tribulations pass."
  • "There are three things I cannot take in: nondogmatic faith, nonecclesiological Christianity and nonascetic Christianity. These three - the church, dogma, and asceticism - constitute one single life for me." - Letter to D. Balfour, August 21, 1945.
  • "If one rejects the Orthodox creed and the eastern ascetic experience of life in Christ, which has been acquired throughout the centuries, then Orthodox culture would be left with nothing but the Greek minor [key] and Russian tetraphony." - Letter to D. Balfour.
  • "There are known instances when Blessed Staretz Silouan in prayer beheld something remote as though it were happening close by; when he saw into someone's future, or when profound secrets of the human soul were revealed to him. There are many people still alive who can bear witness to this in their own case but he himself never aspired to it and never accorded much significance to it. His soul was totally engulfed in compassion for the world. He concentrated himself utterly on prayer for the world, and in his spiritual life prized this love above all else." -- St Silouan the Athonite, p.228.
Succession box:
Sophrony (Sakharov)
Preceded by:
Abbot of the Patriarchal Stavropegic
Monastery of St. John the Baptist

Succeeded by:
Archimandrite Kyrillos
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