Elder Sophrony: Prayer and the experience of spiritual liberty

AND he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.

But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

Luke 22:25-26

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An Orthodox monk feeds a small bird

“It is natural that he should be after the likeness of His Creator – that he should recoil from exercising control over others while himself being free and independent by virtue of the Holy Spirit within him.”

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POWER tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton (1834-1902).

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PRAYER affords an experience of spiritual liberty of which most people are ignorant.

The first sign of emancipation is a disinclination to impose one’s will on others.

The second – and inner release from the hold of others on oneself.

Mastery over the wish to dominate is an extremely important stage which is closely followed by dislike of constraining our brother.

Man is made in the image of God, Who is humble but at the same time free.

Therefore it is normal and natural that he should be after the likeness of His Creator – that he should recoil from exercising control over others while himself being free and independent by virtue of the Holy Spirit within him.

Those who are possessed by the lust for power cloud the image of God in themselves. The true life departs, leaving a tormenting void, a distressing tedium. Life is bereft of any meaning.

When the Holy Spirit by its gentle presence in our soul enables us to master our passions we realise that to look down on others is contrary to the spirit of love.

And if I have not charity everything else – even the gifts of prophecy, of understanding all mysteries, or of performing miracles – profits me nothing (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3).

Elder Sophrony of Essex, in “His Life Is Mine”, tr. Rosemary Edmonds (SVS Press 1977), p. 73. Available here.

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Theotokion

THOU hast queenly power over all creation, O Mistress: with the medicine of thy intercession, quickly set my soul at liberty, for it is cruelly ruled over by the passions, O Bride of God; and make me a servant of thy son and God.

At Matins, on Thursdays of the Third Tone. My amateur translation, from Analogion.

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O LORD and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, needless meddling, lust for power and idle talk.

But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of sound discretion, humility, patience and love.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to condemn my brother, for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The Prayer of St Ephraim (my translation).

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