My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 19th of July, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates that he was for
the Recovery of the holy Relics of our Venerable
Father SERAPHIM Wonder-worker of Sarov.
Saint Sarov was born to Isidore Ivanovitch and Agatha (Agathia) Photievna Moshnin on the night of the 19/20 of July, in the year 1759, at Kursk in Russia. The name given to him at Baptism was Prokhor (Prochoros), after the disciple of the Seventy and the companion and co-worker of Saint John the Evangelist. Prokhor was raised devoutly Orthodox by his mother, his burly father having died in 1760 from a long-standing kidney complaint. Like many Saints, various signs in his life as a child pointed out foreordained to bring glory to our Lord’s name in some special way. At the age of nineteen, Prokhor joined the Sarov Monastery. For the next sixteen years, he lived a communal life. In his novitiate, he served in various obediences until the time of his tonsure. He received the name Seraphim. He, thereafter, was ordained to the Diaconate and the Priesthood. Beginning in 1794, Father Seraphim departed the community to live for the next 31 years as a hermit. This solitary conduct of life and its various ascetic practices, however, prepared him for a future ministry in service to others. He would become a brilliant light set on a hill that no one could eclipse. In 1825, Father Seraphim emerged from seclusion. He commenced serving as a true starets, that is, A SPIRITUAL TEACHER OR ELDER, WHO WAS BLESSED BY GOD’S GRACE. He WAS ACCOUNTED WORTHY OF GIFTS OF SUPERNATURAL HEALING, KNOWLEDGE, AND FORESIGHT. This grace enabled him to be of the most extraordinary service to a great number of people from all walks of life, as well as his fellow monastics–especially the sisters of the Diveyevo (Diveevo) Women’s Monastery. His labors of love for God and neighbor continued until the 2nd day of the month of January, in the year 1833, when the Venerable Seraphim reposed at the age of 73, having served as a Starets for just over seven years. He departed this earthly sphere while at prayer. On the 19th day of July, in the year 1903, that is, seventy years later, the Church canonized Saint Seraphim. In attendance at his canonization were Tsar Nicholas II, Tsaritsa Alexandra, the grand dukes, many bishops, and tens of thousands of the faithful who has flocked from all across Russia to Sarov for the occasion. Saint Seraphim remains one of the best-loved Saints of the Russian Orthodox faithful. At the time of this writing, the Saint’s holy relics are preserved in the Diveyevo Women’s Monastery.
Prayer on a Rock
After twelve years of living as an anchorite, Father Seraphim found it difficult again into the requirements and demands and distractions entailed it community living. While Abbot Esaias preferred to have the holy elder at hand, he gave him his blessing to take up his life of solitude in his hut. Father Seraphim, therefore, returned to his hut and his animal friends of the forest. In apparent response to the physical attack, however, at some point during the year after his return to the hermitage (March of 1804-1805). Father Seraphim undertook what was to become his most challenging podvig. This ascetical contest only became known at the end of his life. He contended as the stylites of old. Crippled as he was, he did not ascend a pillar but spent ONE THOUSAND AND NIGHTS (SOME SAY ONE THOUSAND AND ONE) IN PRAYER ON A GRANITE ROCK. He only interrupted his exercise for the necessary care of the body, that is, rest and food. The estimated contestant gave up tending his garden. He no longer went to the monastery to take part in common worship or to bring back food. He subsisted solely on a soup he made of water and wild aeropodium, which he collected in summer and dried for winter use.
By night he took up vigil upon a flat-topped boulder, located in the forest. It was situated about halfway between his cell and monastery. By day, he prayed upon another stone which he had dragged into his cell lest human eyes should see him. When this feat was revealed at the end of the Saint’s life one of the brethren said in astonishment: "This is above human strength." Father Seraphim replied, "Saint Symeon the Stylite stood for 47 years upon a pillar. Are my labors compatible to this? The brother responded that he must have been helped by grace. Saint Seraphim agreed and affirmed, "Yes, otherwise human strength would not have been sufficient. When there is contrition in the heart, then God is also with us." The unearthly Seraphim completed his work as a "stylite."
Saint Seraphim, Prophet
By the very nature of his role as a Starets, the Holy Spirit worked through Saint Seraphim to guide the faithful, and this often took the form of prophetic utterances. Many are found recorded in the various biographies of the Saint. A few reflections follow.
On one occasion there came to him a Father Anthony. He visited Father Seraphim and other fathers, bidding them farewell, as he believed his death was imminent. But Father Seraphim prophesied: "Thou wilt indeed be leaving the monastery, but thou art not yet going to die. Instead, thou will be appointed to lead a large and famous monastery elsewhere." Sometimes later, verily, Anthony was appointed by Metropolitan Philaret to serve as acting head of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity-Saint Sergios in Zagorsk.
Regarding apostasy in Russia, he said: "At that time Russian bishops will become so ungodly that their impiety will exceed that of the Greek bishops who lived in the reign of Theodosios the Younger (408-450 A.D.) . They will not even believe in the most important dogma of the Christian Faith–the Resurrection of Christ and the General resurrection.
Father Seraphim also maintained Orthodoxy AS THE ONE AND TRUE Church when speaking of Roman Catholicism. In the Diveyevo Chronicles, it is written therein: "He urged us to stand firmly for the Truth of the dogmas of the Orthodox Church, giving as an example Saint Mark of Ephesus who showed unshakable zeal in defense of the universal Eastern Faith at the Council of Florence. He gave various instructions on Orthodoxy, explaining its essence and stressing THAT IT ALONE CONTAINED THE TRUTH OF CHRIST’S FAITH INITS INTEGRITY AND PURITY. He also gave instructions as to how to defend the Faith… Father Seraphim had a special love and reverence for these Saints who zealously defended the Orthodox Faith, such as Saint Clement the Pope of Rome, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Basil the Great, Sant Gregory the Theologian, Saint Athanasios of Alexandria, Saint Kyril of Jerusalem, Saint Epiphanios of Cyprus, Saint Ambrose of Milan, and those like them. He called them the pillars of the Church. He often referred to their lives and labors as examples of firm and resolute faith. He also loved to speak of the Saints of our own Church–Peter, Alexis, Jonas, Philip, Dimitri of Rostov, Stephen of Perm, Sergios of Radononezg, and other Russian Saints. He held their lives AS MODELS OF THE WAY TO SALVATION. With regard to the lives of the Saints as related to the Menology and in the works of many of the Fathers of the Church, Father Seraphim knew them so well that he could quote whole passages by heart.
Saint Seraphim, Healer
Saint Seraphim is known as a Wonder-worker (Miracle-worker), through whom God wrought manifold miracles. The miracles associated with Saint Seraphim are so numerous that they are far beyond recording. God alone knows of all those left unrecorded.
In 1822, before the angelic Seraphim had completely ended his reclusion, a soldier, named Michael Vasileevich Manturov, came to see him. The ailing military man, who had served in Lithuania for many years, contracted some form of wasting disease in his legs. He was forced to resign his commission and return home. He lived approximately 25 miles from Sarov. However, the best medical help was unable to diagnose the disease, let alone provide a cure. When the disease progressed to the point that pieces of bone were dropping from his legs, he eas resolved to see Starets Seraphim. He hoped that God would help where the physicians could not. Manturov was carried by his serfs to the cell of the then reclusive Saint. Afer Manturov uttered the customary prayer, Father Seraphim came out and kindly asked, "What brings thee to see poor Seraphim?" Manturov fell at the elder’s feet, imploring him to be healed. The elder asked him thrice, "Dost thou believe in God?" Menturov responded each time with a strong positive affirmative. Saint Seraphim said to him "My joy, if thou so believest, then believe also that to the faithful everything is possible to God; and so believe that God will also heal thee, and I, poor Seraphim, shall pray. The Saint then took some oil from the lamp burning in front of the Virgin in his cell. He anointed Manturov’s legs and proceeded to wrap them in pieces of canvas. He told the old soldier, "By the grace given me by the Lord, thou art the first whom I heal." Father Seraphim then stuffed handfuls of blessed bread into Manturov’s pockets and told him to return to the monastery guesthouse. The invalid, who normally could hardly stand, began to carry out this order. Then, upon realizing that he was walking without help, he returned to the Saint and fell at his feet in thanksgiving. Father Seraphim raised him to his feet and asked, "Is this healing Seraphim’s doing? Nay, nay, by joy, only God wrought this. Thou owest thy cure to the Lord and His Holy Mother." Later, in thanksgiving, Manturov sold his lands and freed his serfs. He moved to Diveyevo. He served Father Seraphim until 1831 as an intermediary with the sisters of the Women’s Monastery. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George