Sunday, January 2, 2011

St. Seraphim of Sarov

Today, the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Orthodox Church commemorates one of the most amazing Saints of our times, Saint Seraphim of Sarov.

Saint Seraphim was born in the town of Kursk in 1759. From tender childhood he was under the protection of the most holy Mother of God, who, when he was nine years old, appeared to him in a vision, and through her icon of Kursk, healed him from a grave sickness from which he had not been expected to recover. At the age of nineteen he entered the monastery of Sarov, where he amazed all with his obedience, his lofty asceticism, and his great humility. In 1780 the Saint was stricken with a sickness which he manfully endured for three years, until our Lady the Theotokos healed him, appearing to him with the Apostles Peter and John. He was tonsured a monk in 1786, being named for the holy Hieromartyr Seraphim, Bishop of Phanarion (Dec. 4), and was ordained deacon a year later. In his unquenchable love for God, he continually added labours to labours, increasing in virtue and prayer with titan strides. Once, during the Divine Liturgy of Holy and Great Thursday, he was counted worthy of a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who appeared encompassed by the heavenly hosts. After this dread vision, he gave himself over to greater labours.

In 1794, Saint Seraphim took up the solitary life in a cell in the forest. This period of extreme asceticism lasted some fifteen years, until 1810. It was at this time that he took upon himself one of the greatest feats of his life. Assailed with despondency and a storm of contrary thoughts raised by the enemy of our salvation, the Saint passed a thousand nights on a rock, continuing in prayer until God gave him complete victory over the enemy. On another occasion, he was assaulted by robbers, who broke his chest and his head with their blows, leaving him almost dead. Here again, he began to recover after an appearance of the most holy Theotokos, who came to him with the Apostles Peter and John, and pointing to Saint Seraphim, uttered those awesome words, "This is one of my kind."

In 1810, at the age of fifty; weakened with his more than human struggles, Saint Seraphim returned to the monastery for the third part of his ascetical labours, in which he lived as a recluse until 1825. For the first five years of his reclusion, he spoke to no one at all, and little is known of this period. After five years, he began receiving visitors little by little, giving counsel and consolation to ailing souls. In 1825, the most holy Theotokos appeared to the Saint and revealed to him that it was pleasing to God that he fully end his seclusion; from this time the number of people who came to see him grew daily. It was also at the command of the holy Virgin that he undertook the spiritual direction of the Diveyevo Convent. He healed bodily ailments, foretold things to come, brought hardened sinners to repentance, and saw clearly the secrets of the heart of those who came to him. Through his utter humility and childlike simplicity, his unrivalled ascetical travails, and his angel-like love for God, he ascended to the holiness and greatness of the ancient God-bearing Fathers and became like Anthony for Egypt, the physician for the whole Russian land. In all, the most holy Theotokos appeared to him twelve times in his life. The last was on Annunciation, 1831, to announce to him that he would soon, enter into his rest. She appeared to him accompanied by twelve virgins-martyrs and monastic saints-with Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Theologian. With a body ailing and broken from innumerable hardships, and an unspotted soul shining with the light of Heaven, the Saint lived less than two years after this, falling asleep in peace on January 2, 1833, chanting Paschal hymns. On the night of his repose, the righteous Philaret of the Glinsk Hermitage beheld his soul ascending to Heaven in light. Because of the universal testimony to the singular holiness of his life, and the seas of miracles that he performed both in life and after death, his veneration quickly spread beyond the boundaries of the Russian Empire to every corner of the earth.

There are a couple of books about his life and works.

The newest book out about him is An Extraordinary Peace: St. Seraphim Flame of Sarov

However, my favorite book about him is the:
Little Russian Philokalia: Saint Seraphim of Sarov  This book is no longer being published so you have to search for a copy.  I found one and was amazed by it!  So naturally, as I always do, will quote from the book, underneath the Kontakion.

Thou didst love Christ from thy youth, O blessed one,
and longing to work for Him alone thou didst struggle in the wilderness with constant prayer and labor.
With penitent heart and great love for Christ thou wast favored by the Mother of God.
Wherefore we cry to thee:
Save us by thy prayers, O Seraphim our righteous Father.
Having left the beauty of the world and what is corrupt in it, O saint,
thou didst settle in Sarov Monastery.
And having lived there an angelic life,
thou wast for many the way to salvation.
Wherefore Christ has glorified thee, O Father Seraphim,
and has enriched thee with the gift of healing and miracles.
And so we cry to thee:
Rejoice, O Seraphim, our righteous Father.
“Where God is, there is no evil.  Everything that comes from God brings peace and profit and leads a man to humility and self-condemnation.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“How pateintly He endures our transgressions; and when He chastises, how mercifully He chastises.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“If you do not know God, it is impossible for love of Him to be awakened in you; and you cannot love God if you do not see Him.  The vision of God comes from knowledge of Him...”  Little Russian Philokalia
‘Faith without works is dead’ (James 2:26), and the works of faith are: love, peace, long-suffering, mercy, humility, rest from all works...bearing of the Cross and life in the Spirit.  Only such faith cannot be without works; one who truly believes will unfailingly have works as well.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“If a man has no core whatever for himself because of love for God and virtuous deeds, knowing that God will take care of him - such hope is true and wise.  But if a man takes care of his own affairs and turns with prayer to god only when unavoidable misfortunes overtake him and he sees no way of averting them by his own power, only then beginning to hope in God’s aid - such hope is vain and false.  True hope seeks the Kingdom of God alone...”  Little Russian Philokalia
“He who loves himself cannot love God.  But he who, for love of God, does not love himself, loves God.  He who truly loves God considers himself a pilgrim and a stranger on this earth; for in his yearning toward God with soul and mind, he contemplates him alone.”  Little Russian Philokalia
Those who have truly decided to serve the Lord God should practice the remembrance of God and uninterrupted prayer to Jesus Christ, mentally saying Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“The heart of one who weeps tears of tender feeling is illumined by rays of the Sun of righteousness - Christ our God.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“One should always endure any trial for the sake of God with gratitude”  Little Russian Philokalia
“For this reason let us love humility and we shall see the glory of God; for where humility issues forth, there the glory of God abounds.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“One must be in obedience to a superior: for though this he who is obedient prospers mightily in the formation of his soul; and in addition he obtains by this means an understanding of things and comes to heartfelt contrition.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“We must not judge anyone, even if with our own eyes we have seen someone sinning, or walking in transgression of God’s commandments.  For according to the word of God: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged’ (Matt. 7:1)”  Little Russian Philokalia
“One should likewise nourish the soul with knowledge of the Church: how she has been preserved from the beginning up to the present, what she has endured in one or another time...”  Little Russian Philokalia
“One must by every means strive to preserve peace of soul and not to be disturbed by offenses from others; for this one must in every way strive to restrain anger and by mean of attentiveness to keep the mind and heart from improper feelings.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“In order to free oneself from judging -, one must take heed of oneself, not to accept outside thoughts from anyone and to be dead to everything.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“A man should turn his attention to the beginning and end of his life; however, toward the middle part, where occur fortunes or misfortunes, he should be indifferent.” Little Russian Philokalia
“One should not undertake ascetic labors beyond one’s measure, but should strive to make our friend - the flesh - faithful and capable of performing virtues.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“The Christian heart, when it has received something Divine, does not demand anything else in order to convince it that this is precisely from the Lord; but by that very effect it is convinced that this is heavenly, for it senses within itself spiritual fruits: love, joy, peace and the rest (Gal 5:22)”  Little Russian Philokalia
“Fear of God is acquired when a man, renouncing the world and everything that is in the world, concentrates all his thoughts and feelings on the single thought of God’s law, and immerses himself entirely in contemplation of God and in a feeling of the blessedness promised to the saints.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“He who would be saved should ever have his heart disposed to repentance and broken, according to the Psalmist: A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; a broken and humbled heart God will not despise (Ps. 50:17).”  Little Russian Philokalia
“On Fridays and Wednesdays, and especially during the four fasts, partake of food once in the day, and an angel of the Lord will join himself to you.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“Absolute silence is a cross upon which a man must crucify himself with all the passions and desires.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“The path of the active life consists of fasting, continence, vigils, prostrations, prayer and other bodily ascetic labors, which comprise the narrow and grievous path, which according to God’s word leads to eternal life (Matt. 7:14).”  Little Russian Philokalia
“One should approach the contemplative life with fear and trembling, with contrition of heart and humility, with much experience of the Holy Scriptures, and if one can find him, under direction of some experienced elder; and not with audacity and self-esteem.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“Likewise one must endeavor to read through the writings of the FAthers, and strive as much as possible, according to one’s strength, to fulfill what they teach, and in this fasion, little by little ascend from the active life to the perfection of the contemplative.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“Living then in this monastery, observe this: standing in church, be attentive to everything without neglect, learn the whole order of the Church services.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“An abbot should be well versed i the Holy Scripture; he should be studying day and night in the Lord’s law...The distinguishing characteristics of an abbot should be his love for those subject to him...” Little Russian Philokalia
“Of course, every good deed done for Christ’s sake gives us the grace of the Holy Spirit, but prayer gives it to us most of all, for it is always at hand, so to speak, as an instrument for acquiring the grace of the Spirit.”  Little Russian Philokalia
“For example, if prayer and watching gives you more of God’s grace, watch and pray; if fasting gives you much of the Spirit of God, fast; if almsgiving gives you more, give alms.  Weigh every virtue done for Christ’s sake in this manner.”  Little Russian Philokalia

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About Me

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Northwest Arkansas, Arkansas, United States
My name is Ignatios Jason Rogers and I was received into the Holy Antiochian Orthodox Church at St. Nicholas in Springdale, AR on Christmas Eve of 2006. I am currently seeking the monastic path and hopefully one day will be able to enter a monastery.