How can we become like St. Seraphim of Sarov, and how can we acquire the joy with which the saint met every person? Here are several stories about this on his feast day:
Metropolitan Barnabas (Kedrov) of Cheboksary and Chuvash:
When the relics of St. Seraphim were discovered for the second time in St. Petersburg, I had some doubts: Are they really his relics? I started praying. But I couldn’t find an inner calmness about it.
Then St. Seraphim himself appeared to me in a dream once in Cheboksary. He came out on the solea of the left altar in the Elokhov Theophany Cathedral in Moscow—it still has this niche—and he spoke directly to me:
“They are my relics. Believe, do not doubt, pray to me.”
Then he suddenly disappeared. I woke up and believed!
I was in Moscow soon after that, and I visited the Theophany Cathedral. And what did I see?! There, where St. Seraphim appeared to me, lay his newly-discovered relics! They had been brought from St. Petersburg. This strengthened my faith even more.
Ever since, I venerate the wonderworker of Sarov even more and I try to go to Diveyevo twice a year to venerate his relics.
Fulfillment of the prophecies of the Sarov wonderworker
Metropolitan Kirill (Pokrovsky) of Stavropol and Nevinnomyssk:
St. Seraphim of Sarov was especially venerated in my family. We had many icons of him at home. We tried to read his akathist every week. We had a family tradition of reading akathists according to the day of the week: on Monday—to the archangels and angels, on Tuesday—to St. John the Forerunner, on Wednesday—to the Holy Cross and so on, depending on the saints being celebrated that day. But we read the Akathist to St. Seraphim constantly, at least once every two weeks for sure, if we didn’t manage it weekly. Later, St. Seraphim called us one after the other—three brother priests—to serve in Diveyevo. By the way, among Batiushka Seraphim’s prophecies we find: “There will come a time when families will be saved in Diveyevo.”
We will never forget the first days and years of our ministry in Diveyevo. I remember how we learned about the greatest of events in the winter of 1990-1991: The relics of St. Seraphim were discovered in the Leningrad Museum of Atheism! Preparations for the transfer of the relics began. We had to get the churches, cells, and territory of the monastery in order. A huge amount of work was carried out over a year: Holy Trinity Cathedral was completely plastered inside and out, the foundation was strengthened with stone stylobates, the dome was restored, crosses were mounted, a granite floor was laid inside, an iconostasis was installed, and a canopy was made over the relics of the saint. The rooms in the bell tower were renovated, where a little later, upon her arrival, the first abbess of the reborn monastery, Matushka Sergiya, lived. A temporary guest trapeza made of glass was also built on the territory of the monastery.
The feast of the meeting of the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov was the greatest celebration. Several of the saint’s prophecies were fulfilled then. During his lifetime, Batiushka Seraphim promised the Diveyevo sisters that he would rest with them. And that’s what happened. When they found his relics, it became clear that they couldn’t be taken to Sarov, a closed zone1—all of Russia wouldn’t be able to go there. The only solution was to transfer his relics to Diveyevo. Thus, as promised, Batiushka Seraphim came to his beloved Diveyevo children.
Also, before his repose, St. Seraphim handed the sisters a candle stub, saying they would greet him in Diveyevo with this candle. In the soviet years, it was kept by the monastery’s last pre-revolutionary nun, Schemanun Margarita (Lakhtionova). This candle was put into a large deacon’s candle, which was carried by my older brother, Archdeacon Vladimir, now deceased.
There was another prophecy that I witnessed being fulfilled: “They will sing Pascha in the middle of the summer.” About 100 hierarchs, hundreds of priests, and thousands and thousands of laymen greeted the relics of Batiushka Seraphim at the walls of the Diveyevo Monastery. When the bishops accompanied by His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II started carrying the reliquary onto the territory of the monastery through the bell tower, they sang: “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered…”, “Today, a sacred Pascha is revealed to us…”, and they broke out into, “Christ is Risen!” And throughout these days, His Holiness the Patriarch and all the clergy and laity greeted each other with the words, “Christ is Risen!”, and responded, “Indeed He is Risen!” Even today, the Paschal joy is constantly felt in Diveyevo.
Like the saint
Abbess Sergiya (Konkova), abbess of the Holy Trinity St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent:
When I was still in the world, our family’s spiritual father was Archimandrite Seraphim (Shinkarev), a monk of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. He was from Kursk and was named in honor of his saintly fellow countryman. He even looked like St. Seraphim of Sarov, with the same bent and mop of gray hair.
Later, when I was tonsured, I really wanted the name of my spiritual father, but they named me Sergiya, since I had spent my whole childhood and youth under the patronage of St. Sergius in Sergiev Posad. But St. Seraphim himself greatly revered the abbot of the Russian Land and even asked that an icon of the appearance of the Mother of God to St. Sergius be placed in his coffin.
I think St. Seraphim has led me through life through my spiritual father. And he helps me in everything in my abbacy. It isn’t easy to manage such a large flock—more than 500 nuns.
I constantly remind the sisters: “We are all servants of the Queen of Heaven and Batiushka Seraphim.” Just imagine, I say, if you, a servant of the Heavenly Queen and Batiushka Seraphim, can you, for example, let someone go disconsolate, or somehow behave improperly with him? You can’t, you mustn’t. Pray to the Mother of God and Batiushka Seraphim—they’ll teach you.
Contrary to weather forecasts
No work is done in the monastery or in the sketes without a prayer to Batiushka Seraphim. One of our sisters once pleaded:
“Batiushka Seraphim! Do you really not see? Everything in the garden is drying up…”
And two hours later, contrary to all weather forecasts, it began to rain heavily.
Here’s a winter story. One day, on a snow-covered road near Nizhny Novgorod, a reputable car stalled out. Time passed, and no one came. It was cold, winter, white all around. It was getting dark and there was no cell phone reception. The driver didn’t know what to do. He was looking around when suddenly he saw a man in a “white canvas robe down to his feet” (as the driver described him—Ed.) and in bast shoes. “Lightly dressed,” was all the shivering man had time to think when Batiushka Seraphim disappeared. And the car suddenly started. This astonished Muscovite made it to Diveyevo and recognized the man from the road on an icon. He took off his trendy sheepskin coat and left it for the “lightly dressed” man.
“Batiushka is radiant with sunlight, he doesn’t need a sheepskin coat,” the nuns responded. “Read his Conversation with Nikolai Motovilov.”
“What do you need?”
“Just read the story with Motovilov, their conversation in a wintery forest clearing…”
How Batiushka Seraphim keeps us from getting discouraged
Nun Theophania (Udaltsova), nun of Holy Trinity St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent:
In the early 1990s, we came to the now well-maintained St. Nicholas Skete in Avtodeevo. It was completely uninhabited then. One of the sisters arrived there and went to settle in in the sisters’ building, and there instead of a floor was a hole (the floors were redone) and such a thin board… She walked across it, sat down on the bed, and began to cry.
But we didn’t lose heart, and we came to an understanding of the goal of the monastic life as the rejection of ourselves and co-crucifixion with the Lord. We were encouraged with the words of Batiushka Seraphim: “My joy, Christ is Risen!” We constantly prayed to the saint. We sisters lived in love with each other. And overcoming difficulties together always brought joy.
Nun Theophania (Udaltsova) One day we had to paint the windows for a feast, and we had just been given a drum of paint, but we didn’t know how to open it. We pleaded like little children: “Batiushka Seraphim! St. Nicholas the Wonderworker!” Ten minutes later, a car stopped.
“What do you have here?” asked the driver, getting out.
“Diveyevo Skete,” we said.
“I’m going to Diveyevo right now. I have tools. What do you need?”
“We don’t know how to open this drum,” we answered dumbfoundedly.
He took out a chisel and a hammer and some other tools and opened the drum for us.
There are many such stories. Through the prayers of Batiushka Seraphim, the Lord does not leave those who pray to His saint.
The secrets of acquiring St. Seraphim’s joy
Schema-Archimandrite Iliy (Nozdrin). Photo: Alexei Loven Schema-Archimandrite Iliy (Nozdrin):
How joyous it is to be with God! St. Seraphim fasted, prayed, and read the Gospel every day. He would read the entire New Testament in a week. He lived entirely by God, and he couldn’t help but rejoice.
And we have several fasts throughout the year. Non-church people don’t understand why. And why did St. Seraphim fast? It’s necessary for the soul to be pure. It is said: For into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin (Wisdom of Solomon 1:4).
But why pray? After all, if we want to learn something, even completely mundane knowledge or some trade, we go to the teacher and talk with him. It’s the same with the Lord—in prayer.
But first you purify your soul to draw nearer to Christ. More precisely, if someone aspires for the Lord, He Himself purges every branch that brings forth fruit in Him, so it might bear more fruit (cf. Jn. 15:2).
If we, like St. Seraphim, are ever with God, all our difficulties, sorrows, illnesses, and disorders will dissolve into this joy, when we feel that the Lord is with us.
As St. Seraphim of Sarov said, the mind should be swimming in the Gospel. Without Christ, the heart is empty. Only the Lord, Who alone is the way and the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6), gives the soul rest in this vain world, and joy in the Holy Spirit, like that of St. Seraphim, which no one can take from us (cf. Jn. 16:22).