Elder Sophrony as a theologian of the divine name
ILARION ALFEYEV, Elder Sophrony as a theologian of the divine name, The paper aims at analysing
Fr Sophrony’s theology of the Di vine Name in the context of the controversy which took place in the
Russian monasteries on Mount Athos in 1912-1913, resulting in the expulsion of about a thousand
Russian monks from the Holy Mountain. Fr Sophrony, who arrived there a few years after the end
of the controversy, was deeply infl uences by it, and his theol ogy of the Name bears clear traces of
the doctrine of ‘imyaslavtsy’ (pnomatodoxoi, venerators of the Name).
It is somewhat regrettable that, apart from a very superfi cial and one-sided study by Papoulidis (Oi
rosoi onomatolatrai tou Agiou Orous, Thessaloniki 1977), very little is available in Greek about
this important controversy. There are, however, numerous studies on the subject published recently
in Russian, English and French, based on previously unknown documents.
In view of these recent discoveries and new studies, one may come to more balanced conclusions about the theological basis of onomatodoxia. Unlike the venerators of the Name, Fr Sophrony never
used the controversial phrase ‘The Name of God is God Him self’. However, like the onomatodoxoi,
he did acknowledge that the Name of God is a divine energy and as such can be called ‘the nature
of God’ (theotis). He regarded the Name of God as a bearer of divine presence, a bridge between
humans and God, not a human creation, but a product of the synergy between God and humans.
According to Fr Sophrony, every name of God is ontologically connected with God and points to
certain qualities of God. It can be attributed both to one Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity and to all
three Hypostases (Persons). The Mysteries, or Sacraments, of the the Church are accomplished
through the invocation of the Name of God, and this Name is at the heart of divine worship. The name ‘Jesus’ is the New Testament substitute for the Old Testa ment name Yahweh. This name does not act in a magic way: its power is contained not in its external appearance, but in its inter nal content. The invocation of the name of God may lead to the contemplation of the divine light.
KEYWORD: Fr Sophrony, Mount Athos, Name of God