Sunday, April 22, 2007

St. Seraphim of Sarov

If you've not heard the story of St. Seraphim of Sarov you should. So, I will tell it to you now. He was a sickly child and was healed when his mother held him up to a local "miracle-working" icon, The Mother of God. He entered the monastary as a novice in Sarov when he was 18. He was a devout and excellent prayer and lived simply especially in his eating. When he did eat, it wasn't much. He grew ill after one prayer retreat in the woods and was healed again in the presence of The Mother of God.

He took the monastic vows at 27 and given the name Seraphim which means "fiery" or "burning." This reflected his prayer life most appropriately. Once on retreat deep in the wilderness he was attacked by robbers demanding everything he had. He simply placed his axe on the ground and crossed his arms over his chest. The robbers beat him with his axt handle until he bled from his mouth and ears. They trampled him and drug him along the ground. The robbers only quit when they thought he was dead. After he recovered and the robbers were caught, Seraphim spoke out on their behalf. Seraphim walked hunched over for the rest of his life.

One day he was teaching his student, Motovilov about the Christian life and what it took to be a real follower of Christ. Seraphim said, "It is necessary that the Holy Spirit enter our heart. Everything good that we do, that we do for Christ, is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but prayer most of all, which is always available to us."

Motovilov asked how he could see the grace of the Holy Spirit and how did he know whether He was with him or not. Seraphim told the stories and examples of the saints and the apostles, but Motovilov was still confused. Seraphim took him by the arm and said, "My friend, we both are in the Holy Spirit right now!" It was as if scales fell from Motovilov's eyes and he saw the face of Seraphim shining brighter than the sun. Motovilov felt a peace in his heart and a gentle warming of his entire body. Seraphim said, "Do not fear, dear fellow. You would not even be able to see me if you yourself were not in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Thank the Lord for His mercy toward us." This is how Motovilov came to understand the presence of the Holy Spirit and transfiguration.

St. Seraphim of Sarov is someone for us all to look at and admire and learn from. He is a true part of our Canonical Heritage of persons, materials, and practices.

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