“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you shall be saved” – St. Seraphim of Sarov
“Стяжи духъ миренъ и тогда тысячи вокругъ тебя спасутся” – Преподобный Серафимъ Саровскій.
Our father among the saints Seraphim of Sarov was a Russian ascetic who lived at the Sarov Monastery in the 18th century, and is one of the most beloved Orthodox saints of recent times (1759–1833). He is credited with acquiring in a most full way, the grace and the Spirit of God. He spent 1,000 days and nights on a rock praying to God for forgiveness. He was a hermit, spiritual guide and priest. He led many Christian souls along the path in of apostolic Christianity in Russia during the 19th-century.
Born on July 19, 1754, his parents, Isidore, a merchant, and Agathia Moshnin, lived in Kursk, Russia. At the age of 10, Seraphim became seriously ill. During the course of his illness, he saw the Mother of God in his sleep, who promised to heal him. Several days later there was a religious procession in Kursk with the locally revered miracle-working icon of the Mother of God. Due to bad weather, the procession took an abbreviated route past the house of the Moshnin family. After his mother put Seraphim up to the miracle-working image, he recovered rapidly. While at a young age, he needed to help his parents with their shop, but business had little appeal for him. Young Seraphim loved to read the lives of the saints, to attend church, and to withdraw into seclusion for prayer.
For 45 years he led the life of a contemplative, first in the monastery and then in an isolated hut. He started as meek and labor-loving monk but later he relocated to live deep in the forest alone with only his pet bear, Misha, to keep him company. But, his solitude was interrupted when he was attacked by bandits. So he returned to the community and in 1825, after fifteen years in silence, he began to receive visitors again and to spend his energies in their spiritual direction. Eight years before his death he opened his cell to visitors so that they might seek his advice. It was said he could supply answers before visitors had time to ask their questions. He counseled tough cases of conscience and reportedly worked miracles, healing the sick. Gentle but firm with others, he was very severe with himself. He spent many nights in continual prayer. Depth in spiritual prayer was open, he said, to all Christians. Through his teaching and his life, he revived monasticism as a helpful force to common believers in the Russian Orthodox Church.
St. Seraphim emphasized that the whole purpose of life was to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Doing good in Christ’s name was but a means to this end. He saw contemplation, self-denial and meditation as means of bringing oneself to union with God. Once while discussing the topic with his disciple Motovilov, he became so shining that Motovilov could not at first look at him. His eyes were flashing like lightning, and his face shone like the sun. When finally able to lift his eyes to gaze upon his master, Motovilov was filled with peace and joy. This peace and joy, said Seraphim, was the peace and joy Christ promised the disciples at the last supper when he said, “My peace I give unto you,” and “your sorrow will be turned to joy.”
By means of his faith and asceticism he performed a number of miracles. His fame and humility brought a steady stream of visitors, religious and royalty alike, to him for advice. The Holy Royal Passionbearer Tsar Nicholas wanted to appoint Seraphim as the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg, but this was not to the austere monk’s taste. He remained a private meditative counselor until his death. The Church proclaimed him a saint in 1903. His humility and concern for people made Sarov a center of pilgrimage until the events of the 1917 revolution.