Re: [orthodox-synod] Hieromartyr Seraphim of Dmitrov - part 1
- HIEROMARTYR SERAPHIM, BISHOP OF DMITROV
and those with him
Bishop Seraphim, in the world Nicholas Ioannovich Zvezdinsky, was born
on April 7, 1883, into a family of yedinovertsy, converts from the Old
Believers. His father had secretly left his father, a prominent member of the
priestless sect of the Old Believers, and then been ordained at a young age
in St. Petersburg. John Zvezdinsky set about converting his erring brothers
to the Church of Christ. Soon his zealous words had won him many followers.
His brothers became yedinovertsy, and in Moscow the schismatics joined the
Orthodox yedinovertsy Church in their thousands.
Seraphim was called Nicholas in Holy Baptism in honour of the hierarch
St. Nicholas. In the second year of his life he lost his meek and prayerful
mother. Thereafter he lived under the supervision of his father, his kind
nurse and his sister. Early in the morning he would be brought into the
church for Mattins, where he would go to sleep. His father was very insistent
that he should not remain at home, saying:
"Let him sleep, but in the church."
The strict customs of yedinovertsy worship instilled in the young
Nicholas the habit of attending services without laziness; he learned
chanting and reading on the kliros. He would stand on a little stool by the
analoy, look into the Psalter and clearly and loudly read the words of the
Prophet David. Once he went through the royal doors into the altar, to the
astonishment of his father, who was standing by the altar. The people praying
were not offended, but saw in this a sign from God that the young boy would
himself become a church-server standing before the altar of God.
After leaving primary school near the yedinovertsy church, Nicholas was
transferred to the Zaikonospasskoye school in Nikolskaya street in Moscow. On
the way to the school there were many chapels, and the young pupil and his
companions did not pass them by but went into all of them, praying for
success in their studies. With the kopeks given to him for his breakfast,
Nicholas would buy candles and place them before the wonderworking icons: to
the All-good Quick Hearer, to the Great Martyr Panteleimon in his chapel, to
the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God at the Vladimir gates, to St. Sergius
at the Elijah gates, or to St. Nicholas in Nikolskaya street.
Kolya was good at his studies, but suffered a lot from his boisterous
school-fellows, who, seeing his quiet and meek bearing, would take away his
breakfast or the little money which his father had given him for his
schooling and food.
After leaving the school, Kolya went to the seminary. Two of his peers
there were the future bishops Gabriel Krasnovsky and Nicanor Guduchi. The
young Kolya was very attracted to another quiet orphan brought up without a
mother by a nanny - Tanya, the daughter of some neighbouring factory-owners
who considered themselves higher than clergy children. Kolya did not draw
close to Tanya, but only admired her from a distance.
At this point the Lord visited Kolya with a wonderful visitation. Kolya
fell ill with inflammation of the lymph glands. This illness had carried a
class-mate of his to the grave, and the young Nicholas was bound to go the
same way. He suffered unbearable pain. For two months he could not sleep. His
temperature was high. The doctors explained to the sorrowing father that the
infection of the blood was irreversible and they had no way of saving him.
Having lost his wife, and standing now at the death-bed of his beloved
son, the father sobbed inconsolably, begging the Lord to save the life of his
son. The Lord heard his prayer.
The abbot of Sarov used to visit Fr. John in connection with the
conversion of the schismatics, of whom there were many near Sarov. This time
the igumen brought with him an icon of the God-pleasing Sarov elder Seraphim
who was beginning to be glorified throughout Russia by his miracles.
"Father Protopriest!" said the igumen. "Do not despair of the life of
your son. The elder Seraphim works glorious miracles and is able to intercede
before the Lord for the healing of your Kolya. Ask him - he will console
Touched, the father went up to the bed of his suffering son Kolya and
said to him:
"Here's your doctor, Kolya, ask him, and he will heal you!"
And the dying youth quietly and firmly took hold of the icon of the
elder Seraphim in his hand and tearfully began to pray for help and healing.
His prayer was heard. He had not slept for two months already, but now in his
tears he softly fell into a peaceful sleep. And, O wonder! On waking, he did
not feel the slightest pain, but everything around him was wet from the pus
which had flowed out.
"What's this?" the thought flashed through his head. "Am I healed?"
And he felt a heavenly sweetness in his heart and clearly knew that he
was delivered from the terrible disease.
The news of the miraculous healing through the prayers of the elder
Seraphim were immediately sent to Sarov: "To his Reverence, the Abbot of the
Sarov monastery, Igumen Hierotheus. Your Reverence, deeply respected Igumen
Hierotheus! It is good to keep the secret of the king, but it is commendable
to preach the wonderful works of God, says the Scripture.
"I have the honour to inform your Reverence of the following event in my
family: my son Nicholas, 18 years of age and a pupil in the third class of
the Moscow theological seminary, fell ill this last January 12, 1902 with a
swelling under the right armpit (lymphatic inflammation). At that time I
informed you of my son's illness and suffering. His illness got worse from
hour to hour, and the patient became exhausted and began to have fainting
spells. This lasted until January 28. On that unforgettable day, at six
o'clock in the evening, I received from your Reverence the book The Life of
the Elder Seraphim and his icon on white tin-plate. I brought this icon to my
suffering son; I asked him to cross himself and with faith to kiss the image
of the saint. With difficulty he crossed himself, kissed the icon and placed
it on the painful place... O wonderful miracle! The illness disappeared, the
sufferings ceased, the patient became calm. During the night, as he was
sitting in his bed, he was praying and several times kissed the icon. At 5
o'clock in the morning he lost consciousness and fell asleep; an hour later
he woke up and asked for his sister, saying:
"'I'm all wet, I must have been sweating profusely'.
"But she saw that the abscess had burst, and that the bed and the
bedsheets were all covered with pus. At the present time my son is completely
"Such is the mercy of God which has been shown to my son Nicholas
through the prayers of the holy Elder Seraphim. I and my children witness to
this with our signatures and the seal of our names. Your Reverence's
fervently grateful fellow-struggler in prayer and obedient servant,
Protopriest John Zvezdinsky, dean of the yedinovertsy churches and of the
Moscow yedinovertsy church of the Holy Trinity.
"July 30, 1902, No. 144, Moscow. Nicholas Zvezdinsky, Michael
Zvezdinsky, Anna Zvezdinsky."
This healing was the more miraculous in that, as became clear at the
inquiry, two doctors, an allopath and a homeopath, were called to the side of
the sick youth. Both witnessed to the seriousness of the patient's condition.
But their remedies did not help him, and the doctors themselves did not
ascribe the healing to them. The witnesses of the event and the sick youth
himself firmly believed that the healing was the work of God through the
prayerful intercession of the God-pleaser Seraphim.
The doctors gave their witness concerning the miraculous recovery under
On receiving the news, the Holy Synod petitioned the emperor concerning
the opening and glorification of the holy relics of the Elder Seraphim, who
was unceasingly pouring forth streams of miraculous help to all those who
called on him with faith. When the emperor acceded to their request, the
Synod ordered Protopriest John Zvezdinsky to compose the service to the
God-pleasing wonderworker Seraphim of Sarov, which Fr. John did with zeal,
displaying a wonderful gift and warmth of faith and love for the Elder
The troparion and kontakion were composed by Fr. John in gratitude for
the saving of the life of his son.
The youth Nicholas, who had been healed in body, was also healed in
soul. His heart no longer yearned for Tanya, it burned with love for God and
his merciful healer, it burned with desire to give his miraculously prolonged
life to the glory of God.
Soon he became a reader in the seminary and began to preach to the glory
of the Holy Trinity.
His fiery words set the hearts of people on fire, his listeners burned
with love for God and the Church of Christ. Hierarchs, teachers and students
marvelled at the depth of his words. He was particularly eloquent when
speaking about Holy Communion.
Nicholas Zvezdinsky graduated as one of the best students, and in 1905
entered the Moscow Theological Academy.
In his third year Kolya lost his father, who died on January 6, 1908.
His father's house was occupied by his successor, another rector of the
Trinity-Vvedensky church. His sister was living with her husband, and his
nanny went to live in the country.
At this point the Lord sent Nicholas a spiritual father who took the
place of his father. Near the Holy Trinity Lavra in the quiet Zosima
hermitage there lived a hermit, Hieroschemamonk Fr. Alexis. The fiery student
was led to him.
Fr. Alexis embraced his young spiritual son with all his heart, took him
completely under his direction and became his elder. Kolya felt that through
the power of the prayers of the holy hermit everything earthly had left him
and his spiritual heart was set on fire. He conceived a desire for a pure
monastic life. At the shrine of St. Sergius, Kolya, together with two student
friends of his from the Academy, vowed to devote the whole of his life to God
The first student received the tonsure and became the future Archbishop
Philip of Astrakhan. The second was attracted by a girl and broke his vow.
But just before his marriage he unexpectedly fell down dead.
"God exists, and is a jealous God," said the rector of the Academy in
his funeral speech.
The youth who had vowed to betroth himself to God was not allowed by God to
betray Him, and the jealous God took him to Himself before he could betray
Him. The sorrowful bride decided to devote herself to God for her betrothed;
she took the tonsure and by her strict fulfilment of her monastic vows strove
to redeem her guilt before God of having drawn the youth onto another path
than that which he had sworn to follow.
The young Nicholas Ivanovich fulfilled the oath that he had made at the
shrine of St. Sergius.
On September 26, 1908, he received the monastic tonsure and was ordained
to the diaconate. The enemy fought strongly against the ascetic, not wanting
him to become a monk. By night he was assailed by fears with regard to
everything spiritual. When this did not work, the devil used the girl whom
Nicholas Zvezdinsky had loved so long and so tenderly. Unexpectedly she began
to look for him. But although the young student felt drawn towards her and
earthly happiness, still, calling on God, he rejected this temptation and
hastened his steps to the elder Alexis, who in his hermit's cell blessed him
not to delay in taking the tonsure.
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