Today we celebrate the Feast of my beloved patron, Our Holy Father Seraphim the Wonderworker of Sarov.
We don’t actually have a collection of writings by this great saint and yet he is one of the most popular saints both in Russia and all over the Orthodox world, even outside of Orthodoxy many Catholics and Anglican honor him and are acquainted with his teachings.
How is that the teachings of a man who hardly wrote anything are so widely known and followed?
How is it that a monk who never left the grounds of his monastery is so honored all over the world?
How is it that a man who lived as a hermit for 25 years has touched the hearts of millions of people all over the world?
I think that the life of St. Seraphim can best be summed up by his most famous quotation:
“acquire the peace of God in your heart, and a thousand souls around you will be saved!”
One of my favorite stories about St. Seraphim which I think best illustrates the impact he had on those around him is the time that a woman came to see him, troubled with many things, many sins and problems in her life. Like hundreds before her that day, she stood in line to see the Elder and tell him all her woes. When her turn came to enter his cell, she opened the door and stood there looking at him. St. Seraphim was as always praying before the icon of the Tenderness Mother of God. He turned and looked at her, he just looked at her, and she fell to the floor weeping. That was all, he just looked at her and her whole life was changed. All her problems and woes vanished! She got up and walked out and her whole life was changed.
How can this be, how can just a look change someone’s life.
When we think of really changing our lives we might think of going to a counselor or spiritual father and spending hours discussing our problems. We might perhaps think of some sort of vacation that will finally bring us some peace and relaxation. We might think of changing our jobs or moving to another part of the country.
All St. Seraphim did was look at her … but he looked at her with the love and compassion of Christ. He looked at her with the eyes of Christ. Most likely, she had never seen that look before, she had never felt love like this before. The love of Christ. The powerful, transforming love of the God-man Jesus Christ.
St. Seraphim had achieved the goal of every monk of every Orthodox Christian, he had achieved union with Christ in this life! This is what gave him such tremendous power and influence, it was the presence of Christ within him. Christ Himself, dwelling within St. Seraphim, in everything he did, in every gesture, every word and every glance.
He didn’t have to write books, he didn’t have to give conferences to thousands of people. His was a ministry to individuals. He just quietly and humbly met each person, accepting each individual right where they were with all their pain and sin and suffering and then healed and transformed them by the love and compassion of Christ.
This is what attracted so many people to him when he was alive and this is still what attracts all of us to him today. We experience his love and compassion. This Christ-like love that he had did not diminish when he reposed, it increased! This is why so many Christians people love and honor him today.
Just as when he was alive, Christ continues to pour out His infinite love and compassion on His people through St. Seraphim.
The saints are not dead, they are alive with Christ. They are more alive than we are! And they continue to care for us bringing the healing mercy of Christ to us and leading us to Him.
The life of St. Seraphim seems extraordinary to us but it shouldn’t be. We are all called to union with Christ, we are all called to theosis, deification. When St. Seraphim said, “acquire the peace of God in your heart and a thousand souls around you will be saved”, he was telling us exactly what he was experiencing. This was reality for him and he knew that what he was experiencing was not just for him but for all Orthodox Christians.
My dear brothers and sisters, we are all gathered here today to celebrate the memory of this great saint, this great lover of God and mankind. And it is good that we are here today to celebrate his memory, it is good that we sing these hymns in his honor, it is good that we venerate his holy icon and decorate it with flowers. But let us do more, let us not just honor his memory but let us follow him, let us follow his example on the path of prayer and humility.
St. Seraphim saw hundreds of people each day and every person he greeted with a deep bow to floor, kissing their hands and proclaiming, “O my joy, Christ is risen!” It is within this profound humility that Christ revealed Himself, healing and transforming each person that came to see St. Seraphim.
The path of prayer, repentance and humility is the path that St. Seraphim traveled. My dear brothers & sisters let us begin today to really follow the example of this great saint, let us strive with all our being to acquire the peace of Christ, let us truly long for the only thing that is of value in this life, what we were created for .. to have Christ dwelling within us.
+ Through the prayers of Our Holy Father Seraphim, Lord Jesus Christ Our God, have mercy on us. Amen.