Saturday, May 13, 2017

Letter of Father Sophrony
to his sister Maria (In the Soviet Union).

   On the Resurrection. On St Symeon the New Theologian and Staret Silouan. Christ inevitably suffers in this world.
The Old Rectory Easter 1961

   Maria, my dear, to you and to everyone of you I send my Paschal greeting and my very best wishes.
   May the Lord preserve you, all of you. May the joy of the Resurrection never leave you!. Were it not for the resurrection of the dead, everything that happens on earth in the world of man would lose its meaning. If man dies in the sense of 're­turning to nothingness', as he was before his coming into the world, then to what purpose, for what, does anything at all, take place?.
Certainly, it is not from the absurdity that is in­herent in man's death that we are led to belief in immortality. From real knowledge by experience - and in that sense it is fully scientific - originates not only our belief, but also a fore­taste of eternity in the experience given to us.
   Symeon, whose works you are now reading, says in one of his 'Homilies' on the Resurrection, that when the Church sings: 'We have seen the resurrection of Christ' , it means that it is really possible to see it, that is, to live it, to be assured of it. That is what I wish you now, during these holy days. You, and everyone, each person in the world.
   The experience of the resurrection, living it, is accompa­nied by the vision of Light that St Symeon writes so much about. I am glad that you have a copy of his 'Hymns' now. But read them slowly and calmly. I often heard from ascetics that reading Symeon led them to despair. A certain bishop who loved Staretz Silouan told me that he loves the Staretz more than St Symeon the New Theologian, because in no one else he found such love as in him, Silouan. He said to me: 'When you read St Symeon, despair approaches your soul, but when you read Staretz Silouan, hope grows in your heart.' It is not the first time I meet what you have experienced. But in any case, for all his 'severity', St Symeon is always writing about the very same things as all the other Fathers.
   You know my love for you. I beg you to believe in it with­out any doubts, but do not expect frequent letters from me. It is not because I forget you, but because for the present it is better like that for us all. Whatever happens, God will even­tually be victorious by the power of His love. But in this world, Christ inevitably suffers. Were it not for that, we Chris­tians could not have the boldness in prayer that we need. If, contrariwise, I live in ease, with the gratifications of the flesh, like other people do, authentic strength of soul, and the capacity to draw near to God, will not manifest themselves in me. It is not a matter of 'cultivating' suffering. No - that is utterly inappropriate and ludicrous. It is a matter of knowing that through suffering we become aware of our spiritual free­dom, aware of what separates us from the world of animal, which are moved not by the mind, but by natural desires and instincts. It is always pleasant for me to recall you. I am sorry that it is hard to see you and speak face to face with you. Write to me about those who are ill and those who are in good health, so that I can pray for you all according to each one' need. I will remember you all at the Lord's tomb, God willing. I am well; God be praised for everything so far.
Your loving Sophrony.

Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) (2015), Letters to his family, Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, Essex, London.