St. Seraphim of Sarov the Wonderworker
Commemorated on January 2 and on July 19/August 1
Saint Seraphim Of Sarov
From the notes of his spiritual son, Nicholai Alexandrovich Motovilov
Once I was in great sorrow, reflecting on what would happen to our Orthodox Church if the evil of our time would continue to increase more and more; and being convinced that our Church was in an extremely lamentable condition, both because of the immorality of the flesh which was increasing, and likewise—if not indeed even much more—because of the impiety of spirit through the godless philosophies which were being spread everywhere by the newest false teachers, I very much desired to know what Batiushka Seraphim would tell me about this.
After having spoken in detail about the holy Prophet Elijah, he answered to my question, among other things, the following:
“Elijah the Tishbite, in complaining to the Lord against Israel that in its entirety it had bent the knee to Baal, said in prayer that he alone, Elijah, had remained faithful to the Lord, but they were already seeking to take away his soul also… And what, Batiushka, did the Lord answer him to this? I have left seven thousand men in Israel who have not bent the knee to Baal. And so, if in the kingdom of Israel, which had fallen away from the kingdom of Judea which was faithful to God, and had become completely corrupted, there remained still seven thousand men faithful to the Lord, then what shall we say of Russia? I suppose that in the kingdom of Israel at that time there were no more than three million people. And how many, Batiushka, are there now in our Russia?”
I replied: “About sixty million.” And he continued:
“Twenty times more. Then judge for yourself how many we have now who are still faithful to God! So it is, Batiushka, so it is: Whom He did foreknow, He also did forechoose; and whom He did forechoose, He also did predestinate; and whom He did predestinate, He will also watch over and glorify. And so, what is there for us to be downcast about!… God is with us! (Rom. 8:29-31.) He that trusteth in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, and the Lord is round about His people (Ps. 124:1-2). The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth even forevermore; the sun shall not smite thee by day nor the moon by night (Ps. 120:6-8).
And then I asked him what this meant, and why he was saying this to me. “Because,” Batiushka Father Seraphim replied, “in this same way the Lord will preserve, as the apple of His eye, His people, that is, Orthodox Christians who love Him and serve Him with all their heart and all their mind, both in word and deed, day and night. And such are they who preserve entirely all the rules, dogmas, and traditions of our Eastern Orthodox Church, and who with their lips confess the piety which has been handed down by the Church, and who act in very deed in all circumstances of life according to the holy commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In confirmation of the fact that there remain yet many in the Russian land who are faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and who live piously in an Orthodox way, Batiushka Father Seraphim said once to an acquaintance of mine—either Father Gurias, who was the guestmaster of Sarov, or Father Simeon, who was in charge of the Masleshchensky Yard—that once, being in the Spirit, he saw the whole Russian land, and it was filled and as it were covered as with smoke rising of the prayers of the faithful who were praying to the Lord…
The Universal Luminary, St. Seraphim of Sarov,
Archbishop Benjamin, Paris, 1932, pp. 116-8
How is that the teachings of a man who hardly wrote anything are so widely known and followed?
How is it that a monk who never left the grounds of his monastery is so honored all over the world?
How is it that a man who lived as a hermit for 25 years has touched the hearts of millions of people all over the world?
I think that the life of St. Seraphim can best be summed up by his most famous quotation:
“acquire the peace of God in your heart, and a thousand souls around you will be saved!”
One of my favorite stories about St. Seraphim which I think best illustrates the impact he had on those around him is the time that a woman came to see him, troubled with many things, many sins and problems in her life. Like hundreds before her that day, she stood in line to see the Elder and tell him all her woes. When her turn came to enter his cell, she opened the door and stood there looking at him. St. Seraphim was as always praying before the icon of the Tenderness Mother of God. He turned and looked at her, he just looked at her, and she fell to the floor weeping. That was all, he just looked at her and her whole life was changed. All her problems and woes vanished! She got up and walked out and her whole life was changed.
How can this be, how can just a look change someone’s life.
All St. Seraphim did was look at her … but he looked at her with the love and compassion of Christ. He looked at her with the eyes of Christ. Most likely, she had never seen that look before, she had never felt love like this before. The love of Christ. The powerful, transforming love of the God-man Jesus Christ.
St. Seraphim had achieved the goal of every monk of every Orthodox Christian, he had achieved union with Christ in this life! This is what gave him such tremendous power and influence, it was the presence of Christ within him. Christ Himself, dwelling within St. Seraphim, in everything he did, in every gesture, every word and every glance. (https://www.holycross-hermitage.com/blogs/articles-sermons/113627334-sermon-for-the-feast-of-st-seraphim-2015 )
The first third of the nineteenth century,differed little from our own era, at least in terms of its spirit. You will recall the impact that the Enlightenment, the public figures of this era, Napoléon Bonaparte, and the French Revolution . Our own era and that era have a very great deal in common. Napoleon’s acts are well known: hundreds of thousands killed, churches robbed and ruined, throughout all of Europe; the lives of many destroyed. The spiritual influence of Napoleon was huge in his time. Napoleon is buried in the center of Paris, No one goes there to pray or ask him for something; for modern man, Napoleon is just a museum piece—a relic of the past. Today his influence is negligible.
St. Seraphim of Sarov spend five years in silence, abiding in unceasing prayer and nearly ten years in reclusion;one does indeed need reclusion and silence in order to achieve anything, one does indeed need to plunge very deeply into oneself and one does need ascetic struggle. It is only upon this foundation that one can go out and become a beacon and true preacher of Christ in our world.
It was only after such prolonged preparation that he was able to open himself to the world – or, rather, it was not he who opened himself to the world, but the Mother of God herself who ordered him to go out to people and be open to the world. Then he became a true spiritual guide and healer of souls for those who came to him. He showed who can be a spiritual director.
St. Seraphim was send by God in such a difficult spiritual time, to remind the Orthodox people of the meaning of their lives.
He especially opened the meaning of a Christian life to Nicholas Motovilov; he said, “You have been taught improperly, O theophile. You were taught that the meaning of life is in the doing of good deeds. Well, I say that the meaning of spiritual life is in acquisition of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. That is, the goal of our lives is a relationship with God, a direct relationship, through prayer through the fulfillment of God’s will, through spiritual struggle, though good deeds, which are the means by which to obtain a status such that the Grace of God, the Holy Spirit, settles in our hearts, in our souls – and we will have a true relationship with God. This is the goal of our Christian life.”
And so, when one, by spiritual struggle, by work on himself, cleanses his soul, his heart, and all within himself, then the Lord will settle in him, as he settled in the great multitude, the assembly of God-pleasers, which were people just as we are, and who became inhabitants of the Kingdom of God, all while still living on this earth.
In the 19th century, St. Seraphim of Sarov shines brightly, a true “seraph.” For him, the Spirit was warmth in a world grown cold. He was a light in the midst of the forest, in a time of great cultural stirring.
Every day, hundreds, thousands, millions call upon his name for help, St. Seraphim of Sarov did not run the government, did not gather thousands of armies, and did not lead them on aggressive campaigns; he simply prayed, fasted, humbled her soul, and endured all offenses—but his influence on human history is incomparably greater than that of any Napoleon, although history textbooks don’t talk about it…
Saint Nikolai Velimirovič spoke: ”The greatest treasure of any realm is the saintly and good men who live in it. Compared to this wealth, all other wealth is as nothing. Devout Christian emperors considered holy men in their realms as the greatest of God’s blessing.” Proverbs 21:30 – 31. There is no wisdom, there is no courage, there is no counsel against the ungodly. A horse is prepared for the day of battle; but help is of the Lord.
History is determined neither in the Kremlin, nor in the White House, nor in Brussels, nor in Strasbourg but God is the Lord of history… God is above everything.
We don’t need to think that history is dispensed by the powerful of this world, in the political sphere; True history takes place in the human heart, and if the person purifies himself with prayer, repentance, humility, and patience in suffering, then his participation in his own destiny, and in that of those around him—and in all of human history—will increase immeasurably.
The Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov, Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
God is above everything… St.Paisios of the Holy Mountain
Troparion of St. Seraphim of Sarov, Tone 4
You loved Christ from your youth, O blessed one, and, longing to work for Him alone, you struggled in the wilderness in constant prayer and labor. With penitent heart and great love for Christ you were favored by the Mother of God. Therefore we cry to you:“Save us by your prayers, venerable Seraphim, our father!”
Tone 1 (to Seraphim) (Oh, the marvelous wonder)
Great are Your mysteries, O Christ our God!
You have given us the holy monk Seraphim to be a light for us,
a strong defender against the enemy,
intercessor before God for monastics and all the Orthodox faithful,
his own monastery’s strength and boast.
For now he intercedes with You, O Lord,//
asking for our souls peace and great mercy.
Tone 5 (Rejoice, O life-bearing Cross)
Rejoice, O venerable Seraphim, emulator of the Angels, Living piously on earth, you taught the fear of the Lord to many who flocked to you. Illumined by the grace of the Holy Spirit, you beheld the future as though it were the present, and filled with joy and tender contrition many who were sorrowful in soul. Therefore, we entreat you:“Pray to the Lord for those who honor you!”
From an Akathist
Akathist Hymn to Saint Seraphim of Sarov
Our glorious God, in His infinite wisdom and inexhaustible mercy, has bestowed a holy wonderworker upon those of us struggling through these harsh times. We have been granted to behold the life and teachings of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, who was born in eighteenth century Russia, and thereby obtain spiritual instruction from a zealous yet gentle priest and monk. May all true believers never complain of lack of guidance on the path of prayer, but rather turn to the humble and friendly elder, and say:
Rejoice, Saint Seraphim, spiritual father of all the faithful.
Your truths, Father Seraphim, are the same as the eternal truths of the apostles and the holy fathers. Yet, we need to hear these words again and again for our spiritual fortification. Each generation testifies of Jesus Christ, nurturing those around them as well as those who come after them. Saint Seraphim, we therefore implore you to count us among the thousands whom you have guided, as we offer you these praises:
Rejoice, lamp who shines through the thickets of confusion.
Rejoice, enlightenment of those who pursue clarity of mind.
Rejoice, candle who burns brightly under a sky of foreboding.
Rejoice, illumination of all who adore Christ and Him only.
Rejoice, radiance who spreads forth, unafraid of malicious forces.
Rejoice, courage of those who desire integrity amid corruption.
Rejoice, brilliance who pours out, undaunted by vicious intruders.
Rejoice, confidence of all who desire holiness under oppression.
Rejoice, ray who pierces the congestion of lifestyle choices.
Rejoice, hope of those who decide to travel on the path of prayer.
Rejoice, flame who burns away the noise of daily survival.
Rejoice, resolve of all those who cultivate interior silence.
Rejoice, Saint Seraphim, spiritual father of all the faithful.
Let us stay aboard the great ship of the Church, for Jesus Christ will steer us through all storms, dangers, conflicts, afflictions, infirmities, darkness and foreboding. Let us follow in the humility of Saint Seraphim, and therein we shall behold the glory of God which overcomes all adversity and rewards all suffering for His Name. In simplicity of soul and with the faith of the fathers, we rightfully praise our holy teacher, Saint Seraphim:
Rejoice, compass who points the way to inward peace.
Rejoice, elder who directs mankind to things divine.
Rejoice, courageous star who shines in the gloomy skies.
Rejoice, monk whose prayers illuminate the longest night.
Rejoice, gentle wind who stirs the faithful to prayer.
Rejoice, righteous gale who renders the demons asunder.
Rejoice, holy protector of those who give their whole being to God.
Rejoice, blessed guardian of those who let nothing impede their service to others.
Rejoice, merciful intercessor for those who persevere under misfortune.
Rejoice, faithful companion of those who quickly repent of wrongs.
Rejoice, beautiful aid to those who live according to Scripture.
Rejoice, gracious preservation of those who run with patience.
Rejoice, Saint Seraphim, spiritual father of all the faithful.
Copyright Akathist© 2014 by Natalia J. Garland