Thursday, April 26, 2012

Elder Sophrony and Renewal

     We have all been given a unique calling as Christians. Sometimes we lose sight of this calling and at other times we may never have been properly introduced to it. For Elder Sophrony our calling as Christians means," believing in the resurrection of the dead; hoping for the 'adoption of sons' by the heavenly Father; receiving the divine image of being; becoming through the gift of the Father's love what he Himself is by His nature-a God". In all that we find in his profession we discover that our God desires for us something very special, which is to become what He is.
     With churches just about on every corner in our cities it's hard to see in our culture that we have accepted the gift that our God is offering us. Rather, it seems that evil in our churches is on the rise. With my own ears I have heard Christians justify abortions, claim that immoral acts are natural, and many have even tried to use the scriptures to support positions that are contrary to living a life in God. Elder Sophrony was no stranger to this in his time and claimed, "Christianity in its true dimensions has never yet been properly grasped by the great mass of people". It would seem that the understanding that we are called to be what God is has been lost.
     Sometimes we who think of ourselves as 'spiritual' need to be on our guard. For we are not strangers to the evil that we often see taking place in our churches. The scriptures teach us that there is no sin that we don't have in common with others (cor.10:13).In some ways we to are responsible for evils that we see because we to have failed in many ways to become what God is. Knowing our common weakness that we share with others the Lord instructs us not to Judge but says to clean up our own lives in order to help those around us see God (Matt.7:5).Elder Sophrony would say that this clean up takes " maximum" or ongoing effort and only then will it be given us to discover the mystery of becoming what God is.
     The demands that God puts before us might seem discouraging because many of us constantly fall short. I know in my own life it's been a series of ongoing failures but I have learned not to give up. The scriptures are clear that this work of becoming what God is comes from what God is doing in us (Philp1:6). No matter how many times we fail it's in our return to Him that we find God ever the more pleased in our commitment. When it comes to our return Elder Sophrony speaks of it as an "ever new creation". Speaking of those times that we return to God the elder would say, "The mind is filled with wonder. 'Being, how is it possible?' And we echo the Psalmist's praise of the wondrous works of the Lord. We apprehend the meaning of Christ's words, I am come that [men] might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.' More abundantly'--this indeed so". God never gives up on his people and is always offering them a chance at renewal and the abundance of his divine life.
     Looking into the Elder's teachings there really is one way that we can expect renewal in our churches. Only by learning to live as 'gods'. Through the gospel our Lord gives us an ongoing opportunity to share his divine nature. Our own personal failures or circumstances can never separate us from access to the divine life. Our God is always making us a way to escape our sinful condition (1cor. 10:13) and holds nothing back from us. We need only to cry out Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy on me a sinner and discover that this action becomes as the Elder would say, an" infinite creation".
     There is so little time that we spend here and God has so much to offer. Each day in itself holds "infinite" possibilities for each of us. There is more that God wishes to offer you so you should except great things for your life. In this expectation know that God wishes your brothers and sisters in Christ to know their value as well. It is through our own response to God that we can expect change not only in our lives but from everyone around us. We were all destined to become what God is by grace and it is only natural for those that see this life in us to desire it for themselves, which is the only way of spiritual renewal.

(Note: for those who don't understand the Byzantine tradition on divinization. Man does not become another person of the Trinity. He participates in what God is making him a god by grace and never by nature.We are not born eternal beings but become so by participation in what God is. As it says in 2peter 1:4 "you may become partakers of the divine nature")

The teaching from Elder Sophrony were from his book On Prayer (click)


  1. I agree with you but it's so hard not to become discouraged. Not by my own failings but by the little time that is actually available each day to devote to God in prayer.I find that as I get older I become more and more exhausted and depressed by life's demands. If a strong prayer life is essential to growing more Christlike, to becoming divinised, I despair that I will ever make any progress in the spiritual life as I struggle to find the energy and time for prayer. It was much easier when I was younger and had less commitments. I wish there were monasteries for married people!

    1. Strong does not always mean time spent. Do not despair my friend. Remember the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20)even the one who came in at the end of the day received the same wage. Make the most of the little time that you have. God holds nothing back of himself.