SAINT SERAPHIM OF SAROV AND TEACHINGS

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

SAINT SERAPHIM OF SAROV AND
TEACHINGS

Although it can be stated that Saint Seraphim was certainly literate, he did not write any theological treatises or spiritual works. The teachings of the Saint have been principally recorded by the monks of Sarov and in particular Hieromonk Gury, a friend of Motovilov. In 1837, the first biography of Saint Seraphim was compiled by Hieromonk Sergios in Zagorsk (presumably under the direction of Archimandrite Anthony). As a supplement to this Life, Father Sergios included thirty-three counsels or instructions of Saint Seraphim. These were eventually edited by Metropolitan Philaret and published in an appendix to Father Sergios’ Short Sketch of the Life of Starets, Monk, and Hermit of the Monastery of Sarov.

In 1904, an expanded collection of forty-three instructions was published. Selections and digests of these instructions can be found in most biographies of the Saint. The complete set is available in English in Volume One of the Little Russian Philokalia. These instructions give indisputable evidence of Saint Seraphim’s knowledge of the Philokalia, compiled by Saints Nikodemos and Makarios and the whole hesychastic tradition, as well as a deeply personal life with Christ in the Holy Spirit.

But perhaps the most important episode we have from the Saint’s life is known under various titles such as "A conversation with the Saint" and "On the acquisition of the Holy Spirit." This conversation took place between Starets Seraphim and Nicholas Morovilov in November of 1831. The discourse appears along with the INSTRUCTIONS in most biographies of the Saint. Father Seraphim was saying to Nicholas, "When thou was a child…they instructed thee to go to church, to pray, to do good works, telling thee that there lay the goal of the Christian life… Prayer, fasting, works of mercy–all this is very good, but it represents only the means, not the end of the Christian life. The True end IS THE ACQUISITION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT… Thou knowest, dost thou not, what a means to earn money? Well, it is the same with the Holy Spirit. The aim of some men is to grow rich, to receive honors and distinctions. The Holy Spirit Himself is also capital, but ETERNAL CAPITAL. Our Lord compares our life to trading and the works of this life to buying: ‘Buy from Me gold…that thou mightiest become rich’ (Revelation 3:18). The only valuables on earth are good works done for Christ: THESE WIN US THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. No good works can bring us the fruits of the Holy Spirit unless they are done for love of Christ. That is why the Lord Himself said, "The one who gathereth not with Me scattereth’ (Matthew 12:30).

"In the Parable of the virgins, it was said to the foolish virgins when they had no oil, ‘Go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves’ [Matthew 25:9] …What…could be termed lacking when…they had preserved their virginity…one of the greatest virtues? …I dare to think that what they were lacking WAS THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. For the ESSENTIAL THING IS NOT JUST TO DO GOOD BUT TO ACQUIRE THE HOLY SPIRIT AS THE ONE ETERNAL TREASURE WHICH WILL NEVER PASS AWAY…Among works done for the love of Christ, prayer is the one that most readily obtains THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, BECAUSE…IT IS WITHIN REACH OF ALL MEN
Toward the middle of this conversation, both Father Seraphim and Nicholas Motovilov became illumined, much as Moses of the Old Testament after he came down from Mount Sinai. Motovilov related: "Then I looked at the Starets and was panic-stricken. Picture, in the sun’s orb, in the most dazzling brightness of its noonday shining, the face of a man who is talking to thee. Thou seest his lips moving and the expression in his eyes. Thou hearest his voice. Thou feelest his arms round thy shoulders. And yet, thou seest neither his arms, nor his body, nor his face. Thou dost lose all sense of thyself. Thou canst see only the blinding light, which spreads everywhere. It lights up the layer of snow covering the glade. It ignites the flakes that are falling on us both like white powder…This ineffable light went on shining all the time he was talking."

The Repose and Burial of Saint Seraphim

A week before the repose of Father Seraphim, on the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, in the year 1832, the elder, as he was wont, attended the Divine Liturgy. Abbot Niphon was serving. Father Seraphim received the Mysteries and after the Divine Liturgy struck up a conversation with the Abbot. Sant Seraphim asked Niphon About many of the brothers, especially the younger ones. Saint Seraphim did not forget to remind him for the last time to lay him in his coffin when he died. Saint Seraphim, asking forgiveness of both the Abbot and the brethren, then returned to his cell.

Saint Seraphim had prophesied earlier to the brethren concerning the circumstances surrounding his death. He foretold that a fire would alert the monks about it. As the time of his earthly sojourn drew near, he grew weaker and weaker in the flesh. His cypress coffin, fashioned by his own hands, was awaiting him in his cell. He pondered upon death and wept. "My life is shortening! In spirit, I feel as if I had just been born, and to everything bodily I am dead." He bade farewell to Bishop Arsenios, supplying him with candles for his funeral service.

Now it was a Sunday, on the 1st day of the Month of January, in the year 1833, that Starets came to church and partook of the Holy Mysteries. He, thereupon, bade farewell to his fellow monks and the novices. He said to them, "Be not dejected. Be alert. The present day prepares a crown." Three times that day he was observed to leave his cell and meditate over the location where he had requested to be buried. He was also heard to be intoning pascal odes–not the expected Nativity-Theophany hymns.

On the 2nd of January in the year 1833, Saint Seraphim fell asleep in the Lord. On entering the cell, Priest-monk Paul of the Sarov Monastery and the Novice Aniketos entered the door to his cell and found the coarse linen was smoldering–probably as a result of a fallen candle. Saint Seraphim was found kneeling before the Umileniye holy icon, wearing his usual white smock and his mother’s copper cross which was still suspended from his neck. The awestruck fathers prepared the Elder Seraphim for burial, following monastic regulations.

On the day of his burial, there were gathered from the surrounding provinces. On the day of his burial, there was such a throng of people in the Cathedral that the candles melted from the heat–even during a Russian January. Their beloved Father Seraphim was buried on the south side of the Cathedral’s sanctuary, besides the grave of the recluse Mark who died fifteen years earlier. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)

______________

"Glory Be T GOD
For
All Things!"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: