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Saint Sophrony, a Man of the Word of God

By Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou

As Saint Silouan says and Saint Sophrony explains, the word of God can resound in the heart of man in unison with prayer. As a result of his fall, man is divided at all levels. He has one thing in his mind, another in his heart and desires yet another with his senses. He has no hypostasis. God, however, cannot speak to man for as long as his being is fragmented. Through the labour of repentance, his mortal nature is strengthened, his being is healed and gathered in one tight knot. Then God can give a word, because, when God speaks to man, He addresses Himself to his hypostasis, to his heart, that is, to the place where his whole being is concentrated. This dialogue is personal, and it imparts a new knowledge from on high about man’s spiritual regeneration.

The Lord forewarns us that when we are called to courts, we must not meditate before what we shall answer, for at that moment, He Himself will give us ‘a mouth and wisdom, which all our adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist’ (cf. Luke 21:15.). Yet, this is relevant not only in time of persecution, since the word of the Lord is always true. In times of peace it applies in the following way: the Lord gives us a word when we voluntarily take ourselves to court, that is, when we judge ourselves in the light of the Commandments with a spirit of self-condemnation. As this act is pleasing to God and in accordance with His commandment, the Lord puts words of repentance in our mouth, which beget prayer powerful enough to change our state, justify our existence and raise us above our trials.

Often, this word is a verse from Scripture, which corresponds to our state. This indicates that we need to be diligent in reading the Scriptures, so that we may carry the words of the Holy Spirit like burning coals in our memory and in our heart. God can rekindle them within us at the right time, thus answering to our need. The word of God purifies, enlightens and sanctifies the mind. Especially in our times, when our mind is so easily polluted with the darkness and uncleanness of this world, we have a greater need than ever to dedicate time to the word of God, as it was given in Holy Scripture and in the writings of His Saints.

The most impressive gift in Saint Sophrony was the word preceding from his mouth as the fruit of prayer. Although expressed in human terms, it carried the anointing of the Uncreated. For this reason, it would attract and shake the whole being of those who approached him. His writings are thoughts with which he prayed for years. They were engraved in the depths of his being as with a red-hot chisel and they became one with his nature. The Spirit contained in these words is imparted to those who read them and works changes within them in the measure in which they are able to receive it.