Abbot Isaiah of Sarov

Abbot Isaiah of Sarov

Father Isaiah was the sponser of St. Seraphim when he was tonsured as a monk. He followed Abbot Pachomius who received St. Seraphim as a novice and tonsured him as a monastic. Here we presented his life as published by the Sarov Hermitage.

Abbot Hieromonk Isaiah

The eighth abbot of the Sarov Hermitage, Hieromonk Isaiah, was a worthy successor of the reverent elder Pachomius. He was from the city of Suzdal[1], from a family of merchants. Zubkov was his last name. Being twenty-two years old he left the world and entered the Lavra of the Kievan Caves, where he labored for seven years as a novice.

In 1770, while visiting his home in Suzdal on personal business, he learned of the conditions at the Sarov habitation, that the place was secluded and suitable for the salvation of the soul. There were many great elders there of insightful and ascetic life, who were adorned with piousness and fear of God. Having learned that several hermits also lived there in small dwellings in the forest at some distance from the cloister, Isaiah, with his spirit enkindled, entered the Sarov desert as a novice. He was tonsured a monk at the Hermitage in 1772, a Hierodeacon on April 27th of the same year, and a Hieromonk in 1777 on July 6th . He was elected treasurer in 1785 and with the common brethren’s consent abbot in 1794.

Altogether, he lived in Sarov for 37 years. Isaiah zealously endorsed the benefits of the soul-saving monastic life and would not stop encouraging the spiritual flock entrusted to him – the sincere brothers of the hermitage – to monastic feats. He thus acquired the trust and the goodwill of the brethren which gradually increased. In deeds he fulfilled the vows of the monastic life he had taken, and at the same time he was a caring, wise, and kind Shepherd of his reason endowed flock.

Most of all he was distinguished by the fear of God, humility, meekness, patience, kindness, non-possessiveness, and love for the neighbor in the true sense of the Gospel. While glorifying God with his life he gained the affection not only of the brotherhood, who respected him for his pious life and admonitions, but also of many of those outside of the monastery. The fame of his virtues soon reached the furthest places and attracted to him many other devout monks for the community life of the Hermitage as well as lay people, who sought salvation.

While pleasing God himself with fasting and tearful prayer he numerous times gave to the entrusted to him monastics the following noteworthy spiritual edifications imbued with wise experience and the spirit of fatherly love, “(1) The foundation and the affirmation of all virtues for a monk desiring to save himself is in staying in his cell; (2) praying unceasingly; (3) guarding your body from gluttony, and (4) the tongue from wordiness. If someone neglects these four virtues, that person not only undermines the foundation of all virtues, but also invites the source of passions and the abyss of agitation into himself.

The cell for a monk is like a coffin for the dead; the dead in the coffin never move and a monk who dwells in his cell never sins. As long as he stays alone in his cell, separated from the world and does not see, hear and talk to those in the world, God and good deeds are with him. A silent person is feared by demons since they do not find out the secrets of the heart in those who are perfect if they keep the lips silent, he who loves talkativeness will not escape sin. For this reason, brethren, let us not be lazy; do not delay to do good deeds, every hour, every day, every week, and every month, all the time, year after year. Always expect the last trump; as long as the life of this age has not passed, and the soul has not separated from the body, let us hasten in earnest, and acquire for ourselves the Kingdom of Heaven with feats and virtues, and the endless joy and the endless peace, the adobe with God and angels and all the saints, and the sweet singing, and unceasing glorification. Indeed, what a man acquires in this world with his labor, that he will receive in the future age in peace, like a farmer, whatever grain he sows, the same he would reap.

Why do we waste the saving time given to us for salvation, pleasing our body all of the time of our life? What good will we get from our flesh? Shall we start caring for our salvation and do virtuous deeds of Christ when the mortal end will seize us unprepared? Now, while we have time, let us not be lazy to do virtuous deeds. Our temporary life runs fast like the water, the days of our years vanish like the smoke in the air; the life of man rises like a cloud from earth. Shall we start to labor to fulfill the virtues of the Fathers when the end of our life comes and the deathly demise? What shall we, wretched sinners do, what intercessor shall we have? Labor, pray, strive unceasingly every hour before the deathly end, before the separation of the soul from the body, before the descent into hell and bitter torments. Then no one will help, neither the father, nor the mother, nor the children, nor the tears of repentance. Then already virtues may not be obtained, no repentance and forgiveness of sin. Then Neither God nor angels can be entreated that we may not perish in sin, and regain the soul for the blessed life.”

[1] A city to the North-East of Moscow in Vladimir region founded in 1024.