TABOR - Tradition and Contemporaneity in the Romanian Orthodox Church
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Elder Sophrony as a spiritual father in the Holy Monastery of Saint Paul
The venerable Monastery of Saint Paul (Agios Pavlos), which lies on the lower slopes of Athos, has, over the centuries, been blessed by the Holy Triune God and the Most Holy Mother of God in receiv- ing and nurturing saintly and virtuous men, full of grace and the blessing of God, starting with its first Founder, Our Blessed and God-bearing Father Paul of Xeropotamo, right through to the late former Abbot Andreas, who departed this life twenty years ago and who, as is well known, not only saw Our Lady the Mother of God with his corporeal eyes, but also actually conversed with Her.Certainly, a prominent position in the spiritual firmament of the Monastery deserves to be accorded to Elder Sophrony Sakharov who, for more than three years, lived a short distance from the Monas- tery, in the cave hermitage of the Holy Trinity.The blessed Elder gained the respect of the fathers of the Monastery from very early on and in a short space of time, with the blessing of the Abbot, Archimandrite Seraphim became their confes- sor. He had earlier been ordained priest in the Katholikon (Main Church) of our Holy Monastery on 2 February 1941, the feast of the Lord’s Presentation in the Temple (Candlemas).Through his gift of foresight, Elder Sophrony warned of the approach of German officers who were coming to the Monastery of Saint Paul to announce its impending dissolution for harbouring the Monk Grigorios, a brother of the Monastery who had been wrongly sentenced to death by a German military court. The timely notification of the Abbot by Elder Sophrony and the fervent interces- sions by the fathers of the monastery at his orders changed the course of events and the danger was averted by timely action. What is remarkable is that Elder Sophrony also foresaw this change and consoled Abbot Seraphim, explaining that the danger had passed, as was later shown to be the case. He really did save the Monastery of Saint Paul from the dire straits in which it found itself on this occasion.Because of his failing health, Elder Sophrony left for the Vatopaidi Skete of Saint Andrew on 11 January, 1949, so that the fathers there, who had facilities for medical and pharmaceutical care, could look after him. The fathers of Saint Paul’s were greatly saddened by his departure since they were grateful for the absolute confidence they had in Elder Sophrony as a spiritual guide.When, twenty-four years after Elder Sophrony had left the Hermitage of the Holy Trinity, I, in my unworthiness, arrived in the Holy Monastery of Saint Paul, the older fathers told me with great emotion of the above occasion when he saved the monastery and attributed it to the Elder’s gift of foresight. May his holy prayer, which we invoke, accompany all of us. Amen.