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The 100th Anniversary of the the Glorification of St. Seraphim

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    Priest Sergei SVESHNIKOV The 100th Anniversary of the the Glorification of St. Seraphim Lecture Given at the Celebration in the Western American Diocese of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 14, 2003
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      Priest Sergei SVESHNIKOV

      The 100th Anniversary of the the Glorification of St.

      Lecture 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
      humility?others 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
      goal?to 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 God's 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.

      Prokhor's 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 Sarov Monastery.

      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 Seraphim's 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
      humblest obedience.

      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 David's 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 piety."

      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 piety?the 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 world?for 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!

      Monterey, California
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