St. Seraphim of Sarov
Since tonight with the Great Vespers service we begin the commemoration of St. Seraphim on the Old Calendar I am posting a few excerpts from the book “In the Footsteps of a Saint” (St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2006). This is a translation of a short life and instructions of St. Seraphim from a book on elders of Sarov. The first excerpt is a description of the saints from this life; the second is from his instructions.
His memory was solid, his mind bright, and his gift of speaking abundant. His conversation was so effective and comforting that everyone hearing him found benefit for his soul. Some of those gathered acknowledged that the conversation warmed their hearts, as if a veil has been removed from their inner eye. If illumined their minds with the light of spiritual enlightenment. It aroused in the soul resolution to change and strength to improve for the better. All his words and reasonings he based on the Word of God and the tradition of the Fathers, and he confirmed most of it with excerpts from the New Testament.
Through the purity of his spirit he had the gift of discernment. He gave instruction to some before they explained their circumstances, touching directly upon the inner feelings and thoughts of their hearts.
The special qualities of his conversation and conduct were love and wisdom that proceeds from humility. Whosoever it might be that came to him—a poor man in rags, or a rich man in fine apparel, and regardless of the sins they were burdened with—he embraced all with love. He bowed to the ground before all, gave blessings, and kissed the hands of many who were not ordained. He never admonished anyone with severe reprimand of a harsh reproach, nor did he lay a heavy burden on anyone. He himself bore the Cross of Christ with all its afflictions.
In speaking he convicted some—but gently, softening his words with humility and love. He strove to awaken the conscience through his counsel, indicating the way of salvation in such a manner that the listener at first would not even understand that the matter concerned his own soul. Afterwards, the power of his words, full of grace, inevitably produced results. None departed from him without direction—neither the rich, not the poor, nor the simple, nor the learned, nor the dignified, nor the ordinary folk. There was enough living water for all, flowing from the mouth of the humble and poor Elder. All felt his affable love, and its power. Floods of tears broke forth that times even from those with hard and stony hearts. He went to great lengths to take care of those in whom he saw a disposition for good… He fortified them with counsels and instructions, indicating the way of salvation and rousing them to love through his own love. ( In the Footsteps of a Saint, pp. 19-20)
Concerning peace of soul
If a man does not abandon worldly concerns he cannot have peace of soul. Peace of soul is obtained through afflictions. The Scriptures say, “We have gone through fire and water and Thou hast led us to rest” (Psa. 65:12). He who desires to be pleasing to God must pass through many afflictions. How can we extol the holy martyrs for the suffering they endured for the sake of God if we are not able to endure a little fever?
Nothing is so helpful in the acquisition of interior peace as silence, and to keep conversations with others as short as possible; but one should converse with oneself unceasingly.
Nothing is better than peace in Christ, for in it every warfare of the spirits of the air and earth is destroyed. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12)
The sign of a wise soul if when a man has his mind descend within himself and has activity in his heart. Then the grace of God envelops him and he abides in a peaceful state and through it in a most peaceful state. In a peaceful state, that is, with a good conscience. In a most peaceful state since the mind contemplates within itself the grace of the most Holy Spirit, in accordance with the word of God: His place is in peace” (Psa. 75:3). (ibid. pp. 26-7)
Through the prayers of our venerable Father Seraphim, may our Lord Jesus Christ grant us His peace and great mercy!