Saint Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833)

Saint Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833)

Jesus told Saint Seraphim of Sarov: "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved."

A rare gem from eastern Christianity

All is subordinated to this Peace: conversion to the Church, true hope, the absence of passions, the forgiveness of sins, refraining from judging the neighbor, and above all interior silence. « The power of prayer is prodigious because, stronger than anything that exists, it brings down the Holy Spirit », the holy hermit used to explain. He would incessantly repeat to his visitors and use as a kind of greeting when going to meet them, with a great burst of fervor: "My joy, Christ is risen!"


This simple phrase pronounced by him was enough to change the heart of his listener and everyone around him. His voice had an angelic tone. People came from all parts to hear his wise words. He was found dead on January 14, 1833, kneeling against his bed. The Russian Orthodox Church canonized him in 1903. His feast day is on January 14. Nicknamed "the transfigured one" during his life for experimenting the illumination by the Holy Spirit, Seraphim of Sarov remains one of the jewels of the eastern Christianity.

The life of Saint Seraphim, several times visited by Mary herself

He was born Prokhor Moshnin in Kursk, Russia. Having received an apparition of the Virgin Mary while very young, Prokhor entered the monastery of Sarov at age 20, and took the predestined name of Seraphim, the "torch". There he prepared himself first for the monastic ordination then for the priesthood, but out of a desire to become more like his Lord Jesus Christ, he decided to purify his soul by becoming a hermit. For about 10 years, he imitated the life of Jesus by spending most nights in prayer, standing on a rock. This achieved a long and difficult spiritual ascension where he was at the same time gratified by apparitions of the Virgin Mary and persecuted by the devil.


Left permanently infirm by a severe beating by thieves, Seraphim went back to his monastery where he lived as a recluse in a small cell, with an icon of Mary and a candle as his only source of light... it was in front of that same icon that he died one evening in prayer... Jealous of his reputation, a monk locked him inside his cell, but the Virgin Mary freed him on November 25, 1825. Thus he continued his mystical course which led him to contemplate for years « the beauty of paradise's dwellings, the saints, prophets, martyrs and apostles radiant with an infinite joy. »

The Virgin Mary led him to a mystical union with the Holy Spirit

It is said that a nun once saw the Mother of God enter his cell and converse with him. After this episode, he finally opened the doors of his cell to « pour on others» the light which brightened his spirit. His life, « until then mysterious and hidden in God », suddenly sprang up with a deep cry of Love for humankind. Priests, religious men and women, emperors, all came to prostrate themselves before the holy starets, that "earthly angel" who called each one of his visitors « my joy.» All came to find with him physical healing and interior illumination.


At that time Seraphim founded several monasteries and composed a rule of daily prayers. But it was especially through his dialogues with Nicolas Motovilov, a witness of his mystical union with the Holy Spirit, that we touch upon the essence of his message. « The goal of Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God » the starets declared, adding that this grace is granted to all who practice the « prayer of the heart » and undertake, in the name of Christ, « deeds of Love. »

A « Luminary of the Holy Spirit for the whole world »

Thus, for Saint Seraphim, the true faith « isn't based on words of earthly wisdom, but upon the manifestation of the power of the Spirit. » On this subject, Seraphim reminds us that the Lord doesn't give us any rule other than to love one another in order to find the strength to unite ourselves to the Holy Spirit. Beatitude, peace, meekness, familiar conversation with the Mother of God and the saints, gift of healing, clear-sightedness, unconditional love of neighbor as of his own cross: such are for him the signs of « acquisition » of the Holy Spirit.


A living witness of the coming on earth of the Paraclete announced by Christ 2000 years ago, Seraphim of Sarov, veritable prophet of our modern times, is indeed such as Archbishop Benjamin described him: "the Luminary of the Holy Spirit for the whole world."


( Read Entretien avec Motovilov, a book adapted from )