100th Anniversary of the the Glorification of St. Seraphim
Given at the Celebration in the Western American Diocese
of the Anniversary, 2 August 2003
One of the organizers of the celebration of the glorification
of St. Seraphim of Sarov was a Russian patriot, General
Vladimir Feodorovich von der Launitz, governor of Tambov
in 1903. The General devoted his whole life to serving the
Tsar and Fatherland, and was finally killed by a terrorist
revolutionary while leaving church. When he was asked how
such a grand ecclesiastical celebration is organized, Vladimir
Feodorovich crossed himself with a sweeping motion and responded,
St. Seraphim will help! These words of the Russian
nobleman of an ancient boyar family were meant to express
that which united over three hundred thousand people gathered
from all corners of Russia in the Sarov monastery in July
1903: the hope with which the faithful turn to the God-pleasing
saint for almost two centuries now, beseeching him for prayers
and intercession before the Lord.
Even during the temporal life of the elder, a variety of
people streamed to see him: government figures and peasants,
merchants and soldiers, the rich and the poor, the old and
the young: and every one of them was greeted by St. Seraphim
with the words My joy, Christ is risen! and
each was consoled, given guidance, teaching or healing of
physical ailments and spiritual ills. Every one of them
took with them in their hearts a part of his spiritual wisdom,
passing on his words from mouth to mouth.
What was so special that these people found in the warm-hearted
Seraphim? Our contemporary, Valentina Dmitrievna Sologub,
an Orthodox journalist, wrote that every epoch expresses
its own holiness, the Lord reveals the saint that is most
needed by the people. Some saints are examples of humilityothers
of prayer and serving the needy; some heal, others teach
the endurance of suffering... Saint Seraphim, the
great laborer-for-God and example of spiritual struggle,
shone brightly in the rays of Divine light, and this light
was seen by many.
St. Seraphim spent some forty years in fasting, seclusion,
solitary living, labors of silence and nocturnal prayer,
piously studying the Word of God, Scripture and the Lives
of Saints before the doors of his poor cell were opened
to visitors. During this whole time, St. Seraphim strove
to only one goalto acquire the Holy Spirit, which
he attested to in words spoken to the novice John Tikhonov:
My joy! I beseech you, acquire the spirit of peace,
then thousands around you will be saved!
Prokhor Isidorovich Moshnin, later to become Saint Seraphim
of Sarov, was born in July 1759 in the city of Kursk. His
parents were famed for their care for Gods temples
and tending to the needy and misfortunate. The special intercession
of the Queen of Heaven on behalf of Prokhor was expressed
while he was still a child. Prokhor, in return, came to
love the reading of the Bible and other religious books
at an early age.
Prokhors elder brother, Aleksei, was a merchant and
owned a store in Kursk. The young Prokhor was also taught
business in the shop. But his heart lay far away from all
earthly matters, and he gathered his treasure where no
worm abides, no corruption decays, no thieves can steal.
And so, at the age of seventeen, after a pilgrimage to the
relics of the first Russian monastics, SS. Anthony and Feodosii
of Kiev of the Caves, Prokhor was accepted as a novice in
Prokhor humbly and earnestly observed the monastic rules
and obediences. Prokhor spent seven years as a novice. After
exhaustive examination, the abbot of the monastery interceded
before the Church authorities to tonsure him as a monk.
Prokhor was elevated to the angelic order with the name
of Seraphim, meaning fervent, for they saw in
him an earthly angel and a man of heaven and saw in his
heart a burning love for the Lord. This fire, which was
to warm thousands of souls, gave Fr. Seraphim the strength
to rise ever higher along the ladder of spiritual struggle,
and the Lord strengthened his zeal with visions.
The purity of heart, restraint, constant striving of his
soul to God created of Fr. Seraphim a man capable of seeing
the invisible world. Protecting himself with humility, he
rose from one level of spiritual power to another.
Only a few of Saint Seraphims spiritual labors are
known. Many were performed in seclusion from the eyes of
mankind, visible only to God. St. Seraphim did not carelessly
assume the most difficult labors, but acted wisely and only
with the blessing of the abbot, under whom he was in the
Spending his life in solitude, labor, reading and prayer,
fasting and restraint, Fr. Seraphim gradually added seclusion
and silence. Only after long struggles of the greatest self-denial,
a burden no emulator of the Saint could bear, the Lord opened
the cell of the elder and showed the world a lantern, the
likes of which, when lit, is not hidden but placed in full
view for the multitudes. Even the face of the saint emanated
a wondrous light, impossible to behold, according to the
same Novice John.
The Lord glorified His righteous one with the gift of miracle-working.
As during the life of the holy elder, through his prayers,
the Lord opened the eyes of the blind, healed the lame and
sick, saved those in need, cast out demons, so after his
blessed repose, those who turn to him receive speedy intercession
and blessed aid.
No less is St. Seraphim known for the gift of perspicacity.
Rising with his spiritual gaze to the heavenly abodes, the
vision of the saint pierced the hidden fates of both individual
persons and of Russia herself. Preserve yourself through
silence! warned Fr. Seraphim, and showed a peasant
where to find a lost cow. Preserving himself through silence,
the saint wrote a letter, from which, seventy years later,
Royal Martyr Tsar Nicholas II learned of the terrible fate
awaiting Russia and the Dynasty.
The living link between Saint Seraphim and the Royal Family
is instructive for all for whom the fate of Russia is important.
In accordance with some witnesses, during the life of the
saint, the Most August ancestor of the Tsar-Martyr, Emperor
Alexander I, visited the elder.
In 1903, through the initiative of His Imperial Highness,
Emperor Nicholas II, the life and works of the Saint were
glorified, and his relics were placed in a splendid crypt
commissioned by the pious Tsar.
Father Seraphim was not alone in his reverence for the God-given
royal throne and the Anointed of God, but directed others
to this saving path. Often during discussions with the judge
of Simbir, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Motoviloff, the saint
explained how the Tsar must be served and how we must
treasure his life, recalling Davids warrior
chief, Abishai, who said Of us you have many, Master,
but we have only you. If we are all slain, yet you remain
alive, then Israel is whole. If you are no more, what is
to become of Israel? What happened to Russia, with
no Tsar to lead is known to all. Speaking of Christian deeds,
St. Seraphim noted that after Orthodoxy, [the fervor
and zeal of the subjects for the Tsar] is the first duty
of us Russians, and the main foundation of true Christian
Fr. Seraphim wrote a letter to the Tsar which many years
later would glorify him; he enclosed the letter with soft
bread and gave it to Motoviloff for safekeeping with the
words: You will not live to see it, but your wife
will, when in Diveevo [Monastery] the whole Royal Family
will arrive, and the Tsary will come. Let her give this
to him. Receiving this letter in 1903 and reading
it, the Tsar wept inconsolably.
Saint Seraphim had foreseen the Russian revolution, and
rivers of blood, and the destruction and desecration of
churches, and the moral decline of bishops. But he saw also
the renascence of a great Russia. Not until the end,
said the saint, will the Lord be wrathful and allow
the complete destruction of the Russian Land, for in her
mostly is preserved Orthodoxy and the remains of Christian
piety. We have the Orthodox Church, without
any stain. For these good deeds, Russia will always be famed
and fearsome and inconquerable to her enemies, having faith
and pietythe gates of hell shall not prevail.
As we see, the salvation and resurrection of Russia was
seen by the saint specifically in the Orthodox faith. Our
obligation is not only to rejoice to the stream of people
who rushed in the late 80's and early 90's to the churches
of Russia; not only to support with all our might this blessed
process of renascence and healing of our Fatherland; but
also to preserve the purity of Orthodoxy ourselves and rear
our children in its spirit. The words of St. Seraphim apply
not only to his contemporaries almost two centuries ago,
but to us as well: We, living on earth, have strayed
far from the path of salvation; we incur the wrath of the
Lord also with the failure to observe the holy fasts; now
Christians eat meat during the holy Great Lent and other
fasts, Wednesdays and Friday fasts are not observed; but
the Church has a law: those who do not observe the holy
fasts and Wednesdays and Fridays sin greatly. If we
are not faithful to our Church even in the small things,
what more can we hope for?
Celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the glorification
of St. Seraphim, it is worth remembering that the procession
of the cross in 1903 from Diveevo to Sarov, in the prophecy
of St. Seraphim, would return from Sarov to Diveevo, and
the wondrous elder, reposing now with the sleep of the Seven
Youths of Ephesus, will arise once more and preach repentance.
The town of Diveevo, having become a world-wide home,
will shine brighter than all others, not only Russian, but
all the cities of the worldfor the light of faith
in Christ through this resurrection from the dead of the
Great Elder Seraphim will be established in the whole world.
Then all will avidly turn to all the well-springs of Orthodoxy
to learn of the origin and path of this wonder of history.
There is still some time, let us repent, let us struggle,
let us convert those around us to the holy faith of Orthodoxy
through example. And how are we to manage such a great task?
Saint Seraphim will help!
Saint Seraphim, pray to God for us!