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Saint Sophrony of Essex Icon - S567

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Saint Sophrony was born to Orthodox parents in Russia in 1896 and was named Sergei Sakharov. As a child he prayed for long periods of time every day, and even experienced the Uncreated Light. As he came of age, he became a talented artist and attended university in Moscow. At the same time, he fell away from Orthodoxy and delved into Indian eastern religions.

In his mid-20s he traveled to Paris and became very preoccupied with the philosophy of art, leading him to ponder the deeper mysteries of human life. He experienced a reawakening of the personal love of God, and returned to the Orthodox faith in 1924. He distanced himself from his artistry and enrolled in theological studies. Sergei was not satisfied with formal education, and joined the Monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mount Athos, receiving the name Sophrony.

On the Holy Mountain, Fr. Sophrony became a disciple of St. Silouan, who was uneducated but filled with theology from his own experience. When St. Silouan reposed in 1938, Fr. Sophrony withdrew to the solitary lifestyle and became a spiritual father to many monks. After World War II, Fr. Sophrony returned to Paris to publish St. Silouan's works, assist the Orthodox community there, and receive treatment for his ill health.

Fr. Sophrony established the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England, in 1958. He was a spiritual father to monks and nuns, and he continued to publish St. Silouan's works and write books of his own in the 1970s-80s. Fr. Sophrony predicted in 1993 that his death was approaching, saying he would be ready by the time the monastery crypt was completed on July 12. He reposed on July 11, 1993.

Saint Sophrony was a great hesychast in the true Athonite tradition, and a sign to our generation that holiness is still possible in the modern day. He was glorified on November 27, 2019, with his feast day established on the day of his repose, July 11.

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