Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | November 14, 2010

Archimandrite Zacharias: Knowing the Lives of Saints

Easy to see that I’ll want to keep on hand more from Archimandrite Zacharias’s “Remember Thy First Love“. His gentle writing is consistent with the gentle mercies he finds in scripture. The way he paints each of the encounters with Zacchaeus, Nathanael and the Samaritan woman in each of the chapters devoted to them unfolds the language in ways that make the scenes breathe more fully with the depth of tenderness Christ used in approaching each person. I’ll admit that most of the times I’ve read through these stories, this gentleness has been hidden from me. So I find the good Archimandrite’s reading very helpful. There is much to be appreciated in this humble vision.

From the examples of Zacchaeus, Nathanael and the Samaritan woman, we see that it is possible to meet God anywhere and at any point in our life. We can glorify Him in our joys and sorrows, in life and in death, and even when we are in the deepest hell.

Father Sophrony would sometimes say to me, ‘If I had never known the lives of the Saints, I would have fallen into despair many times; but being familiar with them, I was able to bear more.’ It is important to know the lives of the Saints for they contain descriptions of the various phenomena and stages of the spiritual life. When we come to experience these for ourselves, we recall what we have read in order to be confirmed and reassured on the way of salvation. During times of testing, great consolation can be derived even from indirect knowledge of the spiritual life. This gives us the courage to say, ‘Lord, let me experience this for myself,’ which is exactly what God wants. He never forces anything on us, for He is noble and kind, and He wants us to know our freedom. (However, that is where our tragedy also lies.) He offers us His words and saving commandments, leaving it up to us to conduct our experiment with Him so that we can verify His truth, that His truth may become the law of our being.

One way of conducting our experiment is to ponder God’s ways with man. This leads to an understanding of the great honour in which God holds man. We begin to realise that man was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world and that God has cared for him tremendously since the time of his creation and throughout the tragedy of his fall. He has given us His only-begotten Son, Who came down to earth and purchased man, sold under sin, with the immense price of His precious Blood. God’s ineffable dispensation towards man is the surest indication of how sublime and wonderful is man’s calling. With the grace of God, man is great; without grace he is nothing but sinful dust. According to Elder Sophrony, when man is aware of having been in the mind of God before all worlds, and of God’s caring dispensation towards him he is inspired to deep gratitude and humility, and this disposition of the heart attracts God’s grace.


  1. I’m really liking what you are posting by him. I think I have a suggestion to the kids for a Christmas gift for a change. Elder Sophrony seems to have raised some really good spiritual children.

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