MUNICH: 26 May 2003


Epistle of the Synod of Bishops on the 100th Anniversary of the Glorification of St. Seraphim of Sarov

To the Clergy & Flock of Our Russian Church Abroad,
Beloved in the Lord


Many of us, when discussing the darkness of mankind's contemporary vicissitudes, the evil, hatred, enmity, divisions and temptations which hold sway in today's world, consider that in all of this the "mighty of this world" are to blame, those who do not understand us, do not share our views. Observing events in the world, which everywhere suffers and is the object of malice, we love to point out the sins, errors and failings of those who surround us, our enemies, forgetting that folk wisdom tells us "to look to our own garden." Let us remember the Apostle Paul, who warned the early Christians that because of us believers many will not turn to God, will not come to the Church, because they will not see in us true followers of the risen Christ who shine with His holiness, love, humility, loving-kindness; who in their behavior, words and deeds would establish the kingdom of God in the midst of this sinful world. In our families and communities people do not see that they are supposed to be an example, a living and persuasive preaching of Orthodox Christianity, to enkindle the hearts of men, inspiring them to serve God. And in actual fact, if we look at our life, the life of the Orthodox man is far from resplendent with the virtues of the Gospel. Even though we may call ourselves Orthodox Christians, yet do we not strive to acquire within ourselves the spirit of Christ, the spirit of love, patience, peace, a good disposition, mutual help.

Yet let us not despair, brethren and sisters, but let us, to the extent we are able, strive towards God, looking to the example of Saint Seraphim, the wonder-worker of Sarov, and let us try to lead a virtuous life, that men "may by [our] good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation" (I Pet. 2: 12). It is obvious from the life of Saint Seraphim that he was an example of true Christianity. He lived as a witness to the resurrection of Christ, as one who knew the Resurrected One, and proclaimed this truth by his holy life, embodying in his way of life the words of the Apostle Paul: "Remember the Lord Jesus Who rose from the dead!" By his paschal joy in the resurrected Christ, his holiness of life, ascetic struggles and instructions he led many who were "alienated from the life of God" (Eph. 4: 18) to His grace, mercy and love. The saint always taught: "Acquire the spirit of peace (or, save yourself), and a thousand will be saved around you;" and he fulfilled these words in deed. One of the pastors of our Church has related how a certain engineer, a parishioner of his, was working for some firm where enmity and turmoil was rife among the staff, and he did not know what to do, how to withstand this temptation. Later he decided to pray, and results were immediately forthcoming: he not only grew calm himself, but all those with whom he came into contact grew calmer and sensed the sweet savor of his life, for there was within him a peaceful spirit and peaceful prayer. This is our plea: where there is darkness, where there is sorrow, where it is difficult for men to bear the cross of their life, we must be the light of Christ, His presence. This can be a modest candle, or it can be the light of the sun, like Saint Seraphim, of which his conversation with Motovilov bears witness "concerning the purpose of the Christian life;" but, in any event, we must exert ourselves, actively striving towards God, to be a light for the fallen world which surrounds us, illumining it and making it less evil and dark. We must never forget that, despite our sinfulness and unworthiness, we are still emissaries of God, and He is sending us into this world "which lieth in evil," that we may sanctify it, may bear unto men the spiritual joy over the victory of Life over death, and to give them heart.

Fathers, brethren, sisters and children, dear in the Lord! With a sense of paschal celebration we greet all of you‹the children of our Church Abroad, all of our compatriots, both those with whom we are in communion and all those with whom we still hope for unity in the Truth‹on the remarkable jubilee of the centennial anniversary of the glorification of Saint Seraphim, which will be solemnly marked not only by the whole Church of Russia, but by the whole Orthodox world as well. The Apostle Paul writes: "Remember those who have the rule over you..." (Heb. 13: 7). Obeying this order, let us also comport ourselves during the festive divine services in our churches so as to honor with prayers and hymns the memory of our great Russian saint. Let us all try to study his life and meditate on his personality. It is clear that our praises are too inadequate to comprehend the full height of the glory he has with God and his full significance for us. Yet let us praise him, for this is essential and important for ourselves. It is important because, in honoring the saint, we, whether we intend to or not, compare our own life with his life; and clearly perceiving the acute difference between our life and his, we are moved, if only a little, to imitate him. And this brings great benefit to us, which the Apostle Paul also points out when he gives us the direct order, that when we remember our instructors, we imitate their faith and their life. And it should also be said that only such honor shown Saint Seraphim as is, according to the Apostle's command, joined with the imitation of his faith and piety, his active striving towards God, is fully consistent with our glorification of his memory.

Celebrating during this time, so difficult for Russia and the whole world, the glorious centennial anniversary of the ecclesiastical glorification of Saint Seraphim, let us cry out from the depths of our hearts: "Save us by thy supplications, O Seraphim our venerable father!" (from the troparion). To him let us pray that Christ arise in the heart of each of us, so that it may become a Life-bearing Tomb in which the risen God-man will shine forth with divine light, the light of eternity. Let God arise also in the hearts of all the people of Russia! Let the enemies of God and our suffering homeland be scattered! Let Rus' rejoice and be glad in its risen Savior and in His saint, who calls the Russian nation to repentance, rebirth, return to its historical roots. May the Lord help us to take up his call: "Acquire the spirit of peace..." Let us listen, absorb this, and go forward.

Home Page |News | Dioceses | History | Our Legacy