Thursday, January 31, 2008

Humility and Humor


The following are a few extracts from an interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) about Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov).

On humility and humor:
When one approached the Elder, one felt that he had a very deep humility, a humility which was not a result of ascetic effort per se, effort to seem humble, but was an alteration and transfiguration of his being. He himself often repeated the words of Saint Siluan, who said, too, that ascetic humility is one thing and the humility of Christ, declared with the transfiguration and theosis of one's whole being, is another. For the reason, you saw the Elder Sophrony also in moments when he engaged in humor, because his humor was very well-aimed, very fine. That is, when one met him, one could not understand with the external criteria of moral deontology that he was a saint. He himself was uncomfortable when he felt that someone approached him with the feeling that he was a saint. He made his humor. He said his jokes. He told various stories. He created a very pleasant atmosphere, but simultaneously you saw a depth. He did not have that humor which offends you, I would say, or in any way creates a scattered, confused condition, a pouring out, an amusement of the intellect. Rather, even his jokes had great depth. And finally, in all moments when one approached the Elder – even when God granted one to walk with him, to converse, to laugh together – one understood that all came out of a soul and heart of a man wholly transfigured. For this reason, even his fine humor and jokes touched one personally.

On self-spying:
Another thing he used to tell me at times is that we must not spy on ourselves. He said that there is, of course, the teaching of self-examination in the Patristic Tradition. But probably this, too, is something for the first stages of the spiritual life. He used to say that one must surpass this because it creates other problems. It becomes tiresome for a man to spy on his own self, to see what virtues he has, what passions he has, for then he is mixed up in a vicious cycle of thoughts and most of the thoughts are satanic. Thus, when he spies on his own self and analyzes himself, he may end up in schizophrenia as well, as the Elder characteristically used to say. What he stressed more is that, when man wants to repent and live another life, he must work positively, that is, keep God's will, God's commandments. What does God tell me? I must pray. What does God say? I must have love. What does God say? I should do that. To keep God's will – and then automatically he is also healed internally. That is, he sees that he cannot keep God's will perfectly and likewise he sees that he cannot do without God either, in which case prayer, searching, begins.

On laughter and repentance:
Furthermore, as he characteristically said, when Orthodox monastics speak with people, they are open: they laugh, they discuss, they act like Englishmen. But when they enter into their cells, the first thing they do is to cry. In other words, this repentance must not be expressed, nor should others understand this person is repenting and crying. Rather this should be projected, not imposed, just as the Grace of God does not impose, but is projected. Thus, the Elder Sophrony would tell us to repent, to humble ourselves, and this is better expressed, of course, with prayer. We should give ourselves to prayer, to the words "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me." We should say it very frequently, to keep God's commandments, because thus man's rebirth will come as well.

From Divine Ascent: A Journal of Orthodox Faith, Number 5 (Autumn 1999), 31-44, published by the Monastery of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco in Manton, CA.

The photograph above shows Fr Sophrony with the future Metropolitan Hierotheos at the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist (Maldon, Essex).

1 comment:

Maximus Daniel said...

beautiful!
I have a deep love for Elder Sophrony! St. Silouan was the first Saint I ever read about, thanks to Fr. Sophrony! And to know that these two knew each other and laughed together sounds like heaven to me!