Saint Seraphim is one of the Orthodox Church's most beloved holy elders.
St. Seraphim was born in western Russia in 1754. According to tradition, he was sickly as a child but was healed through the Kursk Root Icon of the Theotokos. At age 19, he became a monk, then a priest, and lived in the wilderness as a hermit for 25 years. There he devoted his entire life to ceaseless prayer and truly acquired the "peace that passes all understanding." At one point, Seraphim was beaten by a band of thieves, which left him with a hunched back. In 1815, in obedience to a vision he received, he began to admit visitors (always greeting them with "Christ is risen!") and offer the loving advice he is reknowned for. At age 74, St. Seraphim died in prayer before an icon of the Theotokos.
The saint was buried, but his relics were uncovered in 1903 when he was glorified as a saint. His relics were lost during the Bolshevik persecution in Russia, but were rediscovered in the basement of a museum in 1991. This rejuvenated the faith of Russians who were just beginning to come out of the Soviet darkness.
St. Seraphim's best known saying is: "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved." This reflects the common Orthodox belief that the best form of evangelism is to be a faithful Christian of firm faith, ceaseless prayer, and good works.
This icon was painted in the 19th century, featuring beautifully embossed gold and colored inlays.
Wikipedia information below...
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Saint Seraphim of Sarov (Russian: Серафим Саровский) (30 July [O.S. 19 July] 1754 (or 1759) – 14 January [O.S. 2 January] 1833), born Prokhor Moshnin (Прохор Мошнин), is one of the most renowned Russian monks and mystics in the Orthodox Church. He is generally considered the greatest of the 19th century startsy(elders) and, arguably, the first. He is remembered for extending the monastic teachings of contemplation, theoria and self-denial to the layperson, and taught that the purpose of the Christian life was to acquire the Holy Spirit.
Seraphim was glorified (canonized) by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1903. The date of his death is his major feast day. Reverence for him is not limited to the Orthodox; Pope John Paul II referred to him as a saint in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
One of his "spiritual children", Nicholas Motovilov, wrote most of what we know about him today.
Perhaps Seraphim's most popular quotation amongst Orthodox believers is "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved."
Born 19 July 1754, he was baptized with the name of Prochor, after Saint Prochorus, one of the first Seven Deacons of the Early Church and the disciple of John the Evangelist. His parents, Isidore and Agathia Moshnin, lived in Kursk, Russia. His father was a merchant, but Seraphim had little interest in business. Instead, he began a life that was very devout to the Orthodox Church at a young age. According to Orthodox tradition, as a small boy he was healed by awonderworking icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), Our Lady of Kursk. It is claimed that during his life he experienced a number of visions.
In 1777, at the age of 19, he joined the Sarov monastery as a novice (poslushnik). In 1786 he was officially tonsured(took his monastic vows) and was given the religious name of Seraphim, which means "fiery" or "burning" in Hebrew. Shortly afterwards, he was ordained a hierodeacon (monastic deacon). In 1793 he was ordained as a hieromonk(monastic priest) and became the spiritual leader of the Diveyevo convent, which has since come to be known as theSeraphim-Diveyevo Convent. Soon after this, he retreated to a log cabin in the woods outside Sarov monastery and led a solitary lifestyle as a hermit for 25 years. During this time his feet became swollen to the point that he had trouble walking.
One day, while chopping wood, Seraphim was attacked by a gang of thieves who beat him mercilessly until they thought he was dead. He never resisted and was beaten with the handle of his own axe. The thieves were looking for money, but all they found in his hut was an icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary). The incident left Seraphim with a hunched back for the rest of his life. However, at the thieves' trial he pleaded to the judge for mercy on their behalf.
After this incident Seraphim spent 1,000 successive nights on a rock in continuous prayer with his arms raised to the sky, an almost super-human feat ofasceticism, especially considering the pain he was already in from his injuries.
In 1815, in obedience to a reputed spiritual experience that he attributed to the Virgin Mary, Seraphim began admitting pilgrims to his hermitage as a confessor. He soon became immensely popular due to his reputation for healing powers and gift of prophecy. He was often visited by hundreds of pilgrims per day and was reputed to have the ability to answer his guests' questions before they could ask.
As extraordinarily harsh as Seraphim often was to himself, he was kind and gentle toward others — always greeting his guests with a prostration, a kiss, and exclaiming "Christ is risen!", and calling everyone "My joy." He died while kneeling before an icon of the Theotokos at the age of 74. This icon is currently in the house of the catholic Community of Beatitudes in Bad Driburg, Germany.
The available information about relations between Seraphim of Sarov and Russian Old Believers tradition is somewhat contradictory. From one hand, in all the memoirs and biographies, and in the collections of his sayings, he is undoubtedly portrayed as a convinced supporter of the Reformed Church and official hierarchy. From the other hand, on icons of St. Seraphim he is usually depicted with a lestovka in his left hand, and in some cases even in old Russian, Old-Believers-style monastic garments (with a peculiar klobuk, and an old-fashioned cast bronze cross), as it is with these objects that he is depicted on the only lifetime portrait of him. The lestovka used by St. Seraphim is preserved up to this time among his personal belongings.
According to some sources, the known problems with the beatification of Seraphim of Sarov did happen exactly due to his general support and sympathy towards the Old Believers tradition, in which case the negative assessment of the old rite, ascribed to him, would have been interpreted as inventions of his followers, who tried to put their teacher in the most favorable light in the eyes of the official church functionaries. It was also suggested that St. Seraphim could have descended from a family of Edinovertsy (old-rite uniates), or from a family of secret, cryptic Old Believers (that were widespread in northern and eastern areas of Russia), possibly with consequent gradual shift towards edinoverie.
Despite of some (alleged) controversy, St. Seraphim was known, at least at the level of official hagiography, for his rejection of the Russian old rites. The majority of old believers authors doubt virtually all the facts known about St. Seraphim, as well as the very legitimacy of his beatification, and his name is invariably used in interdenominational polemics.
Transfiguration of Father Seraphim of Sarov as accounted by Nicholas Motovilov (1809-1832):
'Then Father Seraphim gripped me firmly by the shoulders and said: "My friend, both of us, at this moment are in the Holy Spirit, you and I. Why won't you look at me?"
"I can't look at you, Father, because the light flashing from your eyes and face is brighter than the sun and I'm dazzled!"
"Don't be afraid, friend of God, you yourself are shining just like I am; you too are now in the fullness of grace of the Holy Spirit, otherwise you wouldn't be able to see me as you do."
In 1903, Seraphim of Sarov was glorified (canonized as a saint) by the Russian Orthodox Church. As part of this process, on 3 July 1903, his relics were translated (removed) from their original burial place to the church of Saints Zosimus and Sabbatius, where they had remained until the day of the glorification. Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra provided a new cypress coffin to receive the relics.
On 18 July 1903, Metropolitan Anthony officiated at the Last Pannikhida (Memorial Service) in the Dormition Cathedral at Sarov, with the royal family in attendance. These would be the last prayers offered for Seraphim as a departed servant of God; from that time forward, prayers would instead be addressed to him as a saint.
At 6.00 pm the bells rang for All-Night Vigil, the first service with hymns honoring Seraphim as a saint, during which his relics would be exposed for public veneration. This occasion is celebrated to this day as the feast day of the Uncovering of the Relics of St. Seraphim. Since in Orthodox liturgical practice the day begins at sunset, the feast is celebrated on 19 July (the Russian Orthodox Church follows the traditional Julian Calendar, so 19 July corresponds to 1 August on the modern Gregorian Calendar). At the time of the Litia during vespers, Seraphim's coffin was carried from the church of Saints Zosimus and Sabbatius and into the Dormition Cathedral. During Matins, as the Polyeleos "Praise ye the Name of the Lord..." was sung, the coffin was opened. After the Matins Gospel, Metropolitan Anthony and the otherhierarchs venerated the relics. They were followed by the royal family, the officiating clergy, and all the people in the cathedral.
On 19 July, Seraphim's birthday, the late liturgy began at 8 o'clock. At the Little Entrance, twelve archimandrites lifted the coffin from the middle of the church and carried it around the Holy Table (altar), then placed it into a special shrine which had been constructed for them.
The festivities at Sarov came to an end with the consecration of the first two churches dedicated to St. Seraphim. The first such church had been constructed over his monastic cell in the wilderness of Sarov. The second church was consecrated on 22 July at the Diveyevo convent.
Following the Bolshevik Revolution the Soviet authorities severely persecuted all religious groups. As part of their persecution of Christians, they confiscated many relics of the saints, including St. Seraphim, and the whereabouts of his relics became forgotten. In 1991, St. Seraphim's relics were rediscovered after being hidden in a Soviet anti-religious museum for seventy years. This caused a sensation in post-Soviet Russia, and indeed throughout the Orthodox world. A crucession (religious procession) formed to escort the relics, on foot, all the way from Moscow to Diveyevo Convent, where they remain to this day.
"Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved."
"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."