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Striving for Knowledge of God: Correspondence with David Balfour


The letters Archimandrite Sophrony wrote to David Balfour are a treasury of wisdom, distilled from Fr. Sophrony’s reading of the Fathers of the Church, from his conversations with St. Silouan, and from his own experience. Most of the letters in this collection were written to someone new to the Orthodox Church and to Orthodox monasticism. Also included are later letters with further theological and spiritual insights. Thus these letters provide a rich source of teaching about Christian faith and life.


Archimandrite Sophrony was born in Russia on 22 September, 1896. He trained as an artist at the Moscow School of Fine Art. After the October Revolution he settled in France, where he continued to work as an artist. For a brief period he read Theology at the St. Sergius Institute, but in the Autumn of 1925 left to become a monk at the Monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mount Athos in Northern Greece. In 1930 he was ordained Deacon by St. Nikolai Velimirovich. About this time he met Staretz Silouan, who became his spiritual guide. After the Staretz’ death in 1938, Fr. Sophrony spent seven years living as a hermit in the “desert” of Athos. He became a priest in 1941 and soon after was elected spiritual confessor for several of the monastic communities on the Athonite peninsula. On returning to France in 1947 he edited and published the writings Silouan had entrusted to him, adding an introduction. Because of serious illness he was unable to return to the Holy Mountain.

In the Spring of 1959, helped by friends, he moved to England with a small group of men and women. For many years he received people from all walks of life for spiritual direction.

He died on 11th July 1993 at Tolleshunt Knights in the community which he had founded and inspired till the end of his days.