Saint Seraphim of Sarov (Russian: Серафим Саровский) (30 July [O.S. 19 July] 1759 – 14 January [O.S. 2 January] 1833), born Prokhor Moshnin (Прохор Мошнин), is one of the most renowned Russian monks and mystics in the Orthodox Church. He is generally considered the greatest of the 19th century startsy (elders) and, arguably, the first. He is remembered for extending the monastic teachings of contemplation, theoria and self-denial to the layperson, and taught that the purpose of the Christian life was to acquire the Holy Spirit. Seraphim was glorified (canonized) by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1903. The date of his death is his major feast day. His canonization has something of an ecumenical character; Pope John Paul II referred to him as a saint in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope. One of his "spiritual children", Nicholas Motovilov, wrote most of what we know about him today. Perhaps Seraphim's most popular quotation amongst Orthodox believers is "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved."
On Acquisition of The Holy Spiritby St. Seraphim of Serov
Saint Seraphim of Sarov was born in 1759, in city of Kursk. His parents were pious Orthodox Christians, examples of true spirituality. At the age of ten, Seraphim was miraculously healed from a serious illness by means of the Kursk icon of the Theotokos. As a boy, he immersed himself in church services and church literature. He began monastic life at the hermitage of… See more details below
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Saint Seraphim of Sarov was born in 1759, in city of Kursk. His parents were pious Orthodox Christians, examples of true spirituality. At the age of ten, Seraphim was miraculously healed from a serious illness by means of the Kursk icon of the Theotokos. As a boy, he immersed himself in church services and church literature. He began monastic life at the hermitage of Sarov at the age of nineteen. He was tonsured as a monk when he was twenty-seven, and soon afterwards was ordained a deacon. The intensity and purity of Seraphim's participation in the Divine services are evident as he was allowed to see angels, and during the liturgy on Holy Thursday, he saw the Lord Himself.
At thirty-four, Seraphim was ordained as a priest, and was assigned as the spiritual guide of the Diveyevo convent. At this time, he also received a blessing to begin life as a hermit in the forest surrounding Sarov. He lived in a small cabin, devoting himself entirely to prayer, fasting, and the reading of the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers. Seraphim would go to the monastery on Sundays to receive Holy Communion; and then return to the forest.
In 1804, Seraphim was attacked by robbers and almost beaten to death. Permanent injuries sustained from this attack caused him to always be bent over and the need of a staff to walk. After this event, the Saint began more fervent prayers, incessant for a thousand days and a thousand nights; spending the better part of his time kneeling on a stone near his cell crying out, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner." He then spent three years in absolute silent seclusion. Obeying the request of the elders of the monastery, Seraphim returned to the monastery in 1810, but continued to live in prayer, and silent seclusion for another ten years. In obedience to a heavenly vision, Seraphim ended his silence and began to speak for the benefit of others. The Saint greeted all who came to him with a prostration, a kiss, and the words of the Pascha greeting: "Christ is Risen!" He called everyone, "my joy." In 1825, he returned to his forest cell, where he received thousands of pilgrims from across Russia. Granted the gift of clairvoyance, the wonder-working Saint Seraphim of Sarov gave consolation and guidance to all. Saint Seraphim died on January 2, 1833, while kneeling before an icon of the Theotokos. An example of the grace of the Holy Spirit at work within the life and words of Saint Seraphim has been preserved for us. In November of 1831, a pious Orthodox Christian named Nicholas Motovilov met with Saint Seraphim, and recorded his conversation. The notes by Motovilov were transcribed and published by Sergius Nilus, who wrote the following introduction:
This revelation is undoubtedly of worldwide significance. True, there is nothing essentially new in it, for the full revelation was given to the Apostles from the very day of Pentecost. But now that people have forgotten the fundamental truths of Christian life and are immersed in the darkness of materialism or the exterior and routine performance of "ascetic labors," St. Seraphim's revelation is truly extraordinary, as indeed he himself regarded it.
"It is not given to you alone to understand this," said St. Seraphim towards the end of the revelation, "but through you it is for the whole world!" Like a flash of lightning this wonderful conversation illumined the whole world which was already immersed in spiritual lethargy and death less than a century before the struggle against Christianity in Russia and at a time when Christian faith was at a low ebb in the West. Here God's Saint appears before us in no way inferior to the prophets through whom the Holy Spirit Himself spoke.
We record everything word for word without any interpretations of our own.
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