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Act of the Canonization of St. Seraphim of Sarov

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    Act of the Canonization of St. Seraphim of Sarov The Act of the Most Holy Synod 29 January 1903 In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Seventy
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2003
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      Act of the Canonization of St. Seraphim of Sarov

      The Act of the Most Holy Synod
      29 January 1903

      In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

      Seventy years ago, on January 2nd, 1833, at the Sarov Hermitage, there
      departed peacefully to the Lord the blessed elder Hieromonk Seraphim, who
      by his exalted, truly Christian, ascetic life acquired love for himself
      and faith in the active power of his holy prayers from his contemporaries
      even during his lifetime, and after his blessed repose memory of him,
      confirmed by ever more frequent signs of the mercy of God, manifested
      through faith in his prayerful intercession before God for those who have
      recourse to him, is spreading far and wide among the Russian Orthodox
      people and is honored by them with profound reverence.

      His whole life is comprised of highly edifying examples of truly Christian
      asceticism, ardent faith in God, and self-denying love for his neighbors.
      While yet a youth, he left his parentsÕ home in the city of Kursk and,
      unbeknown to anyone, entered the Monastery of Sarov. There he began his
      life with the first degrees of obedience, and humbly passed through them,
      winning from all love for himself and respect for his meekness and
      humility. In eight years he passed through the preliminary test of his
      readiness to enter upon the path of the monastic life, and on August 18th,
      1786, he received the monastic tonsure and the new name Seraphim. Two
      months later, he was ordained to the rank of hierodeacon.

      Fortified by humility, Father Seraphim mounted from glory to glory in the
      spiritual life. As a hierodeacon, he spent all his days, from morning to
      evening, in the monastery, celebrating the services, observing the
      monastic rule and performing obediences, and in the evening he withdrew to
      a hermitÕs cell, spending the night-time there in prayer. Early in the
      morning, he would again appear in the monastery to carry out his duties.
      On September 2nd, 1793, he was ordained to the rank of hieromonk, and with
      exceptional zeal and intense love he continued to struggle in the
      spiritual life. Yet prayers, fasting, obedience, povertyÑthe toil of the
      monastic life, which for others is difficult in an of itselfÑ were no
      longer enough for him. There was within him a thirst for ever more intense
      struggles. He left the monastic community and withdrew, to undertake these
      struggles, to a lonely hermitÕs cell in the dense pine forests. Fifteen
      years he spent there in perfect solitude, fasting strictly and constantly
      exercising himself in prayer, the reading of the word of God and bodily
      labors. Imitating the ancient stylite saints, deriving strength and
      comfort from the help of grace, he spent a thousand days and nights
      standing on a rock, lifting up his hands to heaven, repeating the prayer:
      ÒO God, be merciful to me, a sinner!Ó When he was finished with his
      hermitÕs life, he again went to the Monastery of Sarov, and there, as in a
      tomb, he enclosed himself in reclusion for fifteen years, for the first
      five of which he imposed upon himself a vow of silence. Filled wholly with
      the radiance of the Holy Spirit through the constant elevation of his mind
      and heart in prayer to God, he was repeatedly deemed worthy of visions
      from the world beyond.

      Having matured in the spiritual life, he, already an elder, dedicated
      himself wholly to the active service of others. Rich and poor, highborn
      and low, came daily to his cell in the thousands, and, prostrating
      themselves before the stooped-over elder, laid bare the secrets of their
      conscience, confided in him their sorrows and needs, and with sincere love
      and gratitude hung upon his every word. He greeted everyone with love and
      joy, addressing them: ÒLittle father! Little mother! My joy!Ó He blessed,
      instructed and edified everyone; heard the confessions of many; healed the
      sick; allowed many to kiss the bronze crucifix which hung from his neck (a
      gift from his mother), or the holy icon which stood on a table in his
      cell. To some he gave as a blessing antidoron, or holy water, or pieces of
      dried bread; on others he traced the sign of the Cross with oil from his
      hanging-lamp; a few he embraced and kissed, greeting them with: "Christ is

      Spiritual joy imbued the elder to such an extent that they never saw him
      sad or despondent, and this joyful state of his spirit he strove to impart
      also to others. Of the Christian virtues he was most of all adorned with
      meekness and innocence, extreme humility and a lack of acquisitiveness.

      Having completed his earthly sojourn, pure of soul, humble and full of
      love, the elder peacefully, serenely fell asleep in the Lord, kneeling
      before the icon Òof CompunctionÓ of the Mother of God, his head bowed, his
      hands folded upon his breast. After his blessed repose in the Lord, memory
      of his exalted ascetic life not only did not fade, but gradually grew and
      became established among all classes of the Orthodox people of Russia. In
      the depth of its heart, the Orthodox nation honors the blessed elder as a
      true favorite of God, and believes that in his intercession before the
      Lord, even after his departure from this world, he does not forsake all
      who have recourse to him. And the Lord God, Who is wondrous and glorious
      in His saints, has been well-pleased to manifest many wondrous signs and
      healings through the intercession of Father Seraphim.

      Sharing fully the faith of the people in the holiness of the
      ever-memorable Elder Seraphim, the Most Holy Synod has repeatedly
      acknowledged that it is must issue the necessary decrees for the
      glorification of the righteous elder. In 1895, His Grace, the Bishop of
      Tambov submitted to the Most Holy Synod the report of a special Commission
      investigating the miraculous signs and healings wrought through the
      prayers of Father Seraphim for those who asked his aid with faith. This
      investigation, begun by the Commission on February 3rd, 1892, was
      concluded in August of 1894, and was conducted in 29 dioceses of European
      Russia and Siberia. Ninety-four instances of the gracious aid received
      through the prayers of the Elder Seraphim were investigated by the
      Commission, the majority of which were fully confirmed by the necessary
      affidavits of witnesses. Yet this number of cases of gracious aid obtained
      through the prayers of the elder far from corresponds to their actual
      number: in the archives of the Monastery of Sarov, according to the
      testimony of the above-mentioned Commission, are preserved hundreds of
      letters from various persons, reporting on the benefactions they have
      received in turning to the Elder Seraphim in prayer. Since these
      statements were not only not investigated, but were nowhere registered,
      the Most Holy Synod asked His Grace, the Bishop of Tambov, to direct the
      abbot of the Sarov Hermitage to collect and record accounts of the more
      remarkable cases of gracious aid through the prayers of the elder (those
      which had not hitherto been recorded), and to keep a careful record of any
      new miraculous signs wrought through the prayers of Father Seraphim in the
      future. After this, His Grace, the Bishop of Tambov, twiceÑat the
      beginning and the end of the year 1897Ñpresented to the Most Holy Synod
      collections of copies of the written statements of various persons
      concerning miraculous signs and healings wrought through the prayers of
      Father Seraphim. Still not finding it timely then, on the occasion of the
      aforementioned petitions of His Grace, the Bishop of Tambov, to enter into
      final discussions on the glorification of the ascetic of Sarov, the Most
      Holy Synod reiterated that the abbot of Sarov Hermitage was to continue to
      record as many new miraculous signs as might be worked through the prayers
      of the elder.

      This past year, 1902, on July 19th, the date of the Elder SeraphimÕs
      birth, His Imperial Majesty was pleased to take note of both the prayerful
      struggles of the departed one and the universal ardor of the people for
      his memory, and to express the desire that the work already begun by the
      Most Holy Synod toward the glorification of the revered elder might be
      brought to a conclusion.
      Having reviewed the circumstances of this important case in great detail
      and with all possible care, the Most Holy Synod has found that the
      multitude of cases of the gracious help received through the prayers of
      the Elder Seraphim, which have been investigated in an appropriate manner,
      do not allow any doubt whatever as to their validity, and in their nature
      belong among the events which manifest the miraculous power of God, which
      is being poured forth, through the mediation and aid of Father Seraphim,
      upon those who with faith and prayer have recourse in their spiritual and
      bodily infirmities to his gracious intercession.

      Also, desiring that the most precious remains of the ever-memorable Elder
      Seraphim be the object of reverent veneration by all who flee to his
      prayerful intercession, the Synod ordered His Grace, the Metropolitan of
      Moscow, to conduct an examination thereof. On January 11th of this year,
      Metropolitan Vladimir of Moscow, and Bishops Dmitri of Tambov and Nazary
      of Nizhegorod, joined by Archimandrite Seraphim of SuzdalÕ and the
      procurator of the Moscow Synodal Chancery, Prince Shirinsky-Shikhmatov,
      and four other clergymen, conducted a detailed examination of the coffin,
      and the remains themselves, of Father Seraphim, concerning which they drew
      up a special affidavit, which they all signed. Hence, the Most Holy Synod,
      fully confident of the veracity and authenticity of the miracles wrought
      through the prayers of the Elder Seraphim, giving praise to the Lord God
      Who is wondrous in His saints, and Who ever showers His benefactions upon
      the Russian Realm, which is firm in its ancestral Orthodoxy, and Who now,
      in the days of the blessed reign of the most pious Sovereign, Emperor
      Nicholas Alexandrovich, as of old, has been well-pleased to reveal through
      the glorification of the piety of the ascetic a new and great sign of His
      benefactions for the Orthodox Russian nation, has submitted to His
      Imperial Majesty its most dutiful report, in which it has set forth its
      decision as follows:

      1) To acknowledge as among the choir of the saints glorified by the grace
      of God the most reverent Elder Seraphim, who lies in the Sarov Hermitage,
      and his most precious remains as holy relics, and to place them in the
      special coffer prepared by the fervor of His Imperial Majesty, to receive
      the veneration and honor of those who have recourse to him with prayer;

      2) to compose a special service to the venerable father Seraphim, and
      prior to the composition of such, but after the day of the glorification
      of his memory, to use the general service of a monastic to celebrate his
      memory both on the day of his repose (January 2nd) and the day of the
      uncovering of his holy relics; and

      3) to have the Most Holy Synod announce this to all the people.

      Attached to this report were submitted for the MonarchÕs discretion the
      original report on the examination of the most precious remains of Father
      Seraphim and a brief account of instances of his miraculous assistance of
      those who had recourse to his aid. To the humble report of the Most Holy
      Synod on this, the Sovereign Emperor, on January 26th of this year,
      deigned to write in his own hand: ÒI have read [this] with a sense of true
      joy and profound compunction.Ó Hearing these most merciful words, the Most
      Holy Synod, by a decision dated January 29th, 1903, resolved to order His
      Grace, Metropolitan Anthony of St. Petersburg and Ladoga, together with
      Their Graces, [the Bishops] of Tambov and Nizhegorod, to perform, on July
      19th of this year, the solemn uncovering of the relics of the venerable
      father Seraphim, wonder-worker of Sarov
      The Most Holy Synod proclaims this to the pious children of the Orthodox
      Church, that they may render glory and thanksgiving to the Lord Whose good
      pleasure this has been, and that they may receive this revelation of a new
      helper and wonder-worker as a new blessing from heaven upon the reign of
      our most august Monarch, who undertakes tireless labors for the good of
      the Orthodox nation of Russia, and in his royal love and care embraces all
      his faithful subjects of every calling and station.
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