Venerable Serapion of Zarzma (†900)

Memory 29 October (11 November)

Saint Serapion of Zarzma was the son of a Klarjeti aristocratfamed for his wealth and good deeds. Serapion had twobrothers, who were still young when their mother died.Their father also reposed soon after.

From childhood St. Serapion longed to lead the life ofa hermit.With his younger brother, Ioane, he set off for Parekhi Monastery,where he requested the spiritual guidance of “the spiritual fatherand teacher of orphans,” the great wonderworker Mikael of Parekhi.

The older brother remained at home to continue the family traditionof caring for wanderers and the poor.

St. Mikael perceived in the young Serapion true zeal for a divineministry and blessed him to enter the priesthood.

Once, while he was praying, St. Mikael was instructed in a visionto send his disciples Serapion and Ioane to Samtskhe to found a monastery.

Serapion was alarmed at the thought of such a great responsibility,but he submitted to his spiritual father’s will and set off forSamtskhe with several companions. He took with him a wonder-workingicon of our Lord’s Transfiguration.

The monks climbed to the peak of a very high mountain and,having looked around at their environs, decided to settle there and beginconstruction of the monastery. But soon the villagers chased themonks away, and the holy fathers located the exact place that theirshepherd, St. Mikael, had seen in the vision.

At that time a faithful nobleman named Giorgi Chorchaneliruled in this mountainous region. Once, while he was out hunting,Giorgi saw smoke over the dense forest and sent a servant to discover the cause. He was soon informed that two remarkable monks had settledin that place. Immediately he set off for the spot, humbly greetedthe monks, venerated the wonder-working icon, and asked for the fathers’blessings.

Overjoyed and inspired by Serapion’s preaching, the prince fell onhis knees before him and promised to help him in every way to establishthe new monastery. Having donated this land and the surroundingarea to the monastery, he presented the monks with a deed assigningownership of all the territory the monks could cover on foot in one dayto the future monastery. The prince sent his servant to accompanythem.

The brothers walked over unexplored territory, through dense forests, and over rocky paths. Two local residents, the God-fearing Iaand Garbaneli, accompanied them. But not all the local people receivedthe monks so warmly: the residents of Tsiskvili met them with hostilityand tried to block their path.

That very same night a miracle occurred: an earthquake split therocks that were holding back Lake Satakhve and washed away the entirevillage of Tsiskvili. Only two brothers survived. To this day thisplace has been called “Zarzma” [the word “zari” is often used to denotea tragic occurrence].

The brethren began to search for a suitable place to build theirchurch. St. Serapion wanted to construct the church on a high hill, butIoane and the other brothers objected. “It is not necessary, Holy Father,to build in this place,” they said. “It is high and cold here, and thebrothers are dressed only in rags.”

To resolve this question, the holy fathers filled two small iconlamps with equal amounts of oil. Serapion placed one of them at thetop of the hill, Ioane placed the other near a stream on the southernside of the hill, and they began to pray. At daybreak Serapion’s lamphad already gone out, but Ioane’s lamp continued to burn until midday.Thus they began to build the church in the place that Ioane hadchosen.

The monks faced many obstacles in the construction of theirchurch. The area was covered with dense forest, and the stonesnecessary for building could be found only in the river. At GiorgiChorchaneli’s suggestion, they salvaged the stone from a church thathad been destroyed by the earthquake.

After three years of construction, the monastery was completed,and the wonder-working icon of the Transfiguration was placed in thealtar of the church. The monks fashioned cells, and St. Serapion establishedthe rules of the monastery.

When he was approaching death, Mikael of Parekhi sent two ofhis disciples to Serapion and Ioane. When he learned that the constructionof the monastery was completed, he rejoiced exceedingly andblessed its benefactor, Giorgi Chorchaneli. Then he took the withered branch of a box tree and presented it to him, saying, “My son, plantthis tree near the church and, if it blossoms again, know that it is God’swill that you zealously continue the work you have begun in Hisname.” After some time the branch blossomed, and this miracle becameknown to many.

When the blessed Serapion sensed the approach of death, hesummoned the brothers, bade them farewell, and appointed HieromonkGiorgi his successor as abbot. He was buried with great honoron the eastern side of the altar at the monastery church.

By thy holy tears thou didst bring to life the barren wilderness andcomplete many good works. Thou didst shine forth as a radiant star of theChurch by thy miracles, O Holy Father Serapion. Pray to Christ God tohave mercy on our souls!

Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze


For further information on the book THE LIVES OF THE GEORGIAN SAINTS by Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze contact St. Herman Press:
St. Herman Press, P.O. Box 70, Platina, CA 96076
http://www.stherman.com/catalog/chapter_five/Lives_of_the_georgian_saints.htm

11/12/2007

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