Morning Prayer of Elder Sophrony

O Lord Eternal and Creator of all things,
Who imbued me with the desire to seek Thee, the one true God:
Hear my prayer.
I have no life, no light, no joy or wisdom, no strength except in Thee, O God.
Because of my unrighteousness, I dare not raise my eyes to Thee.
But Thou said to Thy disciples,
‘Whatsoever you shall ask in prayer believing, you shall receive.’
and ‘Whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do.’
Wherefore I dare to invoke Thee.
Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit.
Teach me to pray aright.
Bless this day which Thou givest unto me, Thine unworthy servant.
By the power of Thy blessing enable me at all times to speak and act to Thy glory
with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love, gentleness, peace, courage and wisdom,
aware always of Thy presence.

Of Thine immense goodness, O Lord God, show me the path of Thy will,
and grant me to walk in Thy sight without sin.
O Lord, unto Whom all hearts be open,
Thou knowest what things I have need of.
Thou art acquainted with my blindness and my ignorance,
Thou knowest mine infirmity and my soul’s corruption;
But neither are my pain and anguish hid from Thee.
Wherefore I beseech Thee, hear my prayer
and by Thy Holy Spirit, teach me the way wherein I should walk;
and when my perverted will would lead me down other paths,
spare me not, O Lord, but force me back to Thee.
By the power of Thy love, grant me to hold fast to that which is good.
Preserve me from every word or deed that corrupts the soul;
from every impulse unpleasing in Thy sight and hurtful to my brother-man.
Teach me what I should say and how I should speak.
If it be Thy will that I make no answer,
inspire me to keep silent in a spirit of peace
that causes neither sorrow nor hurt to my fellow man.
Establish me in the path of Thy commandments
and to my last breath let me not stray from the light of Thine ordinances,
that Thy commandments may become the sole law
of my being on this earth and all eternity.

Yea, Lord, I pray to Thee, have pity on me.
Spare me in my affliction and my misery
and hide not the way of salvation from me.

In my foolishness, O God, I plead with Thee for many and great things.
Yet am I ever mindful of my wickedness, my baseness, my vileness.
Have mercy upon me.
Cast me not away from your presence because of my presumption.
Do Thou, rather, increase in me this presumption,
and grant unto me, the worst of men,
to love Thee as Thou hast commanded, with all my heart, and with all my soul,
and with all my mind, and with all my strength: With my whole being.

Yea, O Lord, by Thy Holy Spirit, teach me good judgment and knowledge.
Grant me to know Thy truth before I go down into the grave.
Maintain my life in this world until I may offer unto Thee worthy repentance.
Take me not away in the midst of my days, nor while my mind is still blind.
When Thou shalt be pleased to bring my life to an end,
forewarn me that I may prepare my soul to come before Thee.
Be with me, O Lord, at that dread hour and grant me the joy of salvation.
Cleanse me from secret faults, from all iniquity that is hidden in me;
and give me a right answer before Thy judgment-seat—

Yea, Lord, of Thy great mercy and immeasurable love for mankind.

Faithful Struggle – Suffering In and Through Christ Jesus

Here is what one Elder within the Body of Christ has said about how we, as disciples of Christ Jesus, view and relate to suffering:

“When we decide to follow Christ, every day of our life becomes a day of suffering, of weeping, of pain. Sometimes this question arises in us: ‘Lord, why hast Thou created us thus, that we must go through so much suffering?’ We do not manage to understand that this negative experience is the way of salvation.

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 forever. 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.

One cannot love without suffering. The greatest pain is that of loving to the utmost. Christ loved so much that He gave Himself up to a terrible death. The saints too. Paradise always costs this price. Prayer for the world is the fruit of extremely deep and acute suffering.” Archimandrite Sophrony of Essex

Theophany — The Moment of True Knowledge

Archimandrite Sophrony

“Of a certainty no initiative of mine provoked the happenings in my inner life. But God of His providence, which is known only to Him, vouchsafed to visit me and, as it were, communicate His eternal Being. His holy hand mercilessly cast me, His creation, into indescribable depths, where, stunned and appalled, I contemplated realtities that transcended my understanding… By ‘knowledge’ I mean ingress into the Act of Eternity: ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God’ (John 17:3). In the hours when Divine Love touched me I ‘recognized’ the approach of God. ‘God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.’ (1 John 4:16). After my visitation from on High I read the Gospel with a different awareness — profoundly and gratefully rejoiced at finding confirmation of my own experience. This wondrous congruity between the most vital elements of my consciousness of God and the data of the New Testament Revelation is incalculably dear to my soul — a gift from above, God Himself praying in me. I believe this.”

Archimandrite Sophrony, We Shall See Him As He Is, pg. 7-8

Sharing and Speaking Our Participation in the Life of God

Everyone of us has been in the position of seeing something beautiful or reading something that sets off a series of deep understandings or participating in the life of another in such a way that we are overcome with the presence of God in them or the circumstance – alone. At one and the same time such a moment is both wonderful and painful. We are changed and yet we are alone in our change.

There is a profound sense of aloneness. When we are deeply moved the need to share it – “pass it on” – is a given. It is part of being legitimately human to desire to share what has changed us. We desire our transformation to be set in community.

Transformation, and the circumstances that attend it, is meant to be shared. Therein lays yet another opportunity for transformation. The sharing – effective communication – of that which has changed us is also transformative.

Archimandrite Sophrony, in his book about the life of Elder Silouan, The Monk of Mount Athos, reflects on this joy and burden. Even though he is speaking of this need to share such things in the life of Elder Silouan, it is not just the profound experiences of participation in the life of God on the part of the “Elders.” It is a need that true for all of us.

We all need to struggle with this necessity. It is a real way in which we “work out our salvation.” Here is the excerpt from the Archimandrite’s book:

“The ascetic in spiritual contemplation beholds things which for the overwhelming majority of people are a mystery, but afterwards he is faced with the impossibility of communicating this mystery – translated into mortal language it is construed quite differently by him who hears it. The language of human words and concepts is able only to a very limited extent to convey one man’s inner state to another. The indispensible condition for mutual understanding is a common or identical experience. Without it there cannot be understanding because each one of us introduces the compass of his own experience, and it is therefore unavoidable that we should speak in different tongues. Yet, since we all share a common nature, it is equally possible to provoke by words a fresh experience in the soul of another, and thus awaken new life in him. If this applies to human intercourse, how much more so does it apply where divine action is involved. The word of God does, in fact, given a certain inner disposition of the soul, offer new life – the eternal life which is contained within it.

No reader of the Gospels can fail to notice the apparent lack of logical sequence in Christ’s conversation. Consider, for example, the exchanges with Nicodemus, with the woman of Samaria, with the Disciples at the Last Supper. Christ’s interest is directed not so much to what a man says as to what there is in his heart of hearts, and to what he is capable of receiving from God.” Archimandrite Sophrony, The Monk of Mount Athos, pg.115

God bless you in this ascesis of sharing the unsharable and expressing the inexpressible!!

Fr. Thomas