TABOR - Tradition and Contemporaneity in the Romanian Orthodox Church
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Tradition and innovation in the theology of elder Sophrony

ANDREW LOUTH, Tradition and innovation in the theology of elder Sophrony
Tradition and innovation are in fact deeply interwoven in the theology of Fr Sophrony. Although
Fr Sophrony was initially criticized by his fellow Orthodox for speaking so freely about his personal
experience of God, in doing this he was only following the mainstream of the theology of the Russian
emigres, amongst whom he may be counted, for whom theology and personal experience were
inseparable. Again, Fr Sophrony might be regarded as innovative in the emphasis he lays on sin and
darkness, to the point of fi nding parallels with the Western teaching of St John of the Cross on the
Dark Night of the Soul. But this emphasis on the darkness of sin is well represented in the Lenten
offi ces of the Church, and his notion of a human solidarity in sin that is experienced as the darkness
of separation, from other human beings and from God, is entirely traditional, as is his understanding
of the vicarious nature of ascetical experience, to be expected in a century such as the twentieth
that knew so much of the horror of suffering and evil. This led Fr Sophrony to an understanding of
the humility of God, and to explore the notion of divine kenosis, fi nding in such divine self-emptying
the revelation of Gods essential nature as Iove, in this developing in innovative ways doctrines
that had become characteristic of Russian Orthodoxy.
KEYWORDS: Fr Sophrony, Tradition, Cross, Russian Orthodoxy