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Excerpts from The New Saint of the Russian Church, Seraphim of Viritsa

Translated from the Greek by Fr. Nicholas Palis

“God is wondrous in his saints” (Ps. 67:36)

Publisher's Note

In the summer of 2002 the brother in Christ, Anthony Danilin from Moscow, a Theology student at the Aristotelian University of Thessalonica, would be going to his homeland for vacation. We asked him to seek advice from venerable spiritual persons of the Church and to bring us some noteworthy biography of a sanctified and charismatic Elder to benefit the souls of pious believers of the Greek Orthodox Church.

He took an interest in it. Upon returning, he enthusiastically spoke to us about the newly revealed Saint Seraphim of Viritsa. Simultaneously, another person from Russia, Fr. Nektarios, a monk at a Greek monastery, spoke to us about the same Saint and urged us to publish his wondrous life. He, furthermore, communicated with the Brotherhood “SAINT ALEXIUS OF MOSCOW," which circulated this noteworthy work, and asked for permission to also publish it in Greek.

The brother in Christ, Theodore who is responsible for the Brotherhood, a zealot of good works, joyously gave his permission. Already, with God’s help and the Saint’s blessing, it is seeing the light of publication for God’s glory, the newly revealed Saint SERAPHIM of Viritsa’s honor, and spiritual encouragement of struggling Orthodox Christians in these times of great apostasy.

St. Seraphim is a contemporary sanctified figure of the Russian Church adorned especially with the grace of prophecy and miracle working. Truly “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and unto the ages” (Heb. 13:7). Our Lord Himself assured us. “He who believes in me, the works I am doing he shall also do, and greater than these he shall do” (Jn. 14:12).

We wish good study and rich spiritual benefit and progress to the humble and faithful readers.

Excerpt from his Life

In September of 1920, Basil Mouraviov became a novice in the Lavra of Saint Alexander Nevsky. Then on 16 (29) of October 1920 he became monk with the name Barnabas. The same year in the female monastery of the all Holy Virgin Mary of Iveron of St. Petersburg his wife also became a nun. She took the name Christina in her tonsure.

After a little while, Father Barnabas was ordained deacon. Then on August 29, 1921, on the day of the Beheading of the precious Forerunner, St. John, Metropolitan Benjamin Kazanski ordained him presbyter.

In 1927 Father Barnabas put on the great habit and was renamed Seraphim in honor of St. Seraphim of Sarov. Then he also became the spiritual father of the Lavra. Before receiving the great habit, Father Barnabas conducted a very strict 40 day fast, during which he did not eat anything.

Before even becoming a monk, Basil once saw a dream which he later related to his spiritual father, monk Barnabas of the Gethsemane Skete. So, he told him the following, “I saw in my dream that I was going to the monastery of Saint Nicholas on a pilgrimage. I lost the road and was wandering in the forest. Suddenly, I saw an old man with a satchel on his back passing before me with an ax in his hand. I asked him directions to the monastery of Saint Nicholas. He answered me”:

“Come, let’s go together. I am also going there.”

Once I carefully looked at my fellow traveler, I realized that it was Saint Seraphim of Sarov and asked him:

“Dear Father, perhaps you are Father Seraphim?”

“Yes, I am Seraphim,” he answered me, and silently we continued our road in the forest. Father Seraphim found a tree trunk and sat down, putting down his satchel and his ax. I also sat next to him. Suddenly I saw Father Barnabas coming towards me. When he approached us, he sat next to me so that I ended up between him and Father Seraphim. Both elders very joyfully greeted one another and then began discussing. But I couldn’t hear anything of what they were saying and then I awoke. Father Barnabas when he heard this story laughed and said:

“You were between us and didn’t hear what we said!”

This vision shows that it was not by chance that in monastic tonsure Basil received the name Barnabas, and in the great habit, he was named Seraphim. Father Seraphim himself many times used to say that he always felt the presence of his protector, the venerable Seraphim of Sarov. He faithfully followed this saint’s example in his life, as we will realize from the following narration.

The clairvoyant Elder of the St. Alexander Lavra quickly became known among the Christians of Petersburg. Father Seraphim usually liturgized at the Lavra cathedral chapel of the Holy Protection. Every day, he confessed the people. The people who wished to discuss with him always waited for him. He received the visitors in his cell. When there were many visitors, or when Father Seraphim was sick, they wrote their problems on papers and sent them to the Elder through his helpers and always received his answers. One woman who frequently visited the elder said that many times when she would come to see the elder, she could not approach him because of the people who awaited him. However, the elder, always on his own, called her without seeing her.

In 1927 Archbishop Alexius Simanski visited Father Seraphim to seek his advice. The Archbishop’s friends suggested that he go abroad. They were ready to help him to save the archbishop from certain imprisonment and probably from execution as well. Before the archbishop even asked his question, the elder Father Seraphim told him:

“Many people today would want to go abroad. But to whom shall they leave Russia? Do not fear anything, Your Eminence. Russia needs you. You will become patriarch and for 25 years you will be at the head of the church. After patriarch Tikhon, we will not have a patriarch for many years. Metropolitan Sergius will not be patriarch even one year and after him, you will be patriarch. A war will occur, a dreadful war, a World War. This war will make our people return to God. The same people who now have authority in their hands and are closing the churches will then be opening them.”

Many people would come to Father Seraphim for confession. Every day for many hours Father Seraphim confessed the people. From this confession, his feet began hurting. Once, he confessed people for two days and nights straight. The Saint Alexander Lavra and its Elder were a great consolation for the faithful Christians in those years.

They say that at the end of the 20's decade, a possessed woman visited the elder. Father Seraphim took a little oil from the vigil lamp that burned before the Panaghia’s icon and anointed her with it. Immediately the demon left the woman.

The Elder’s spiritual gifts and his gift of consoling people made him known even beyond the city of Saint Peter. People from all parts of Russia would come to Lavra to receive his blessing, to be consoled, and to seek his advice. Father Seraphim would say the following about his own self:

“I am the storage room where people’s afflictions gather.”

The years were difficult and Passion week came for Saint Alexander Lavra. In one night almost all the Lavra’s monks were captured. Some were exiled, and others were imprisoned in concentration camps. Many had a martyric end. Most of the Lavra monks were sent to the Solovki concentration camp.

In 1933 Father Seraphim went to the little city of Viritsa and remained there. They say that a spiritual child of his, a general, helped him to go to Viritsa. The doctors found in Father Seraphim many illnesses, and it seemed that soon the Elder would die. For this reason the authorities left him free and allowed him to stay in Viritsa.

Here in Viritsa all the Elder’s spiritual gifts were fully revealed: his clairvoyance, the grace of prayer, and miracle working.…They say that many years before the Second World War began, the Elder told a spiritual child of his named Eudokia:

“Build your house here, because a war may occur and we will have hunger.”

They listened to him and built their house in Viritsa. This is only one example that shows the Elder’s prophetic gift.

C. Counsels of Saint Seraphim of Viritsa

* The Lord has the power to show forth workers if we beseech Him. Let’s pray and let’s beg Him and then from the rocks the Lord will show forth His chosen ones.

* At least once in our life we must light a candle for those whom we insulted, whom we deceived, whom we stole something from, whom we owed, and we did not pay our debt.

* When some people would complain to the Elder that they were being slandered, he would say: “Let the others say ugly words about us. We should try to make everything good.”

* The Elder used to say, that a time would come when near every believer would be forty unbelievers and they will beg him to save them.

* The Lord can wait even a thousand years for just one person to be saved for the number of angels who fell [i.e. the demons] to be made up.

* Even in the most difficult times, he who will occupy himself diligently with the Jesus prayer, ascending with the frequent invocation of the Son of God’s name in ceaseless prayer, will be able to be saved easily.

* The Elder many times used to say that the Christian should, of course, pray for his enemies. More specifically, he used to say the following: “Of course we should pray for our enemies. If we don’t pray, it’s as if we are throwing gasoline on fire and the flame becomes constantly bigger…Always give thanks for everything, even for the afflictions to the Lord and the Panaghia.”

* There will come a time when not the persecutions but money and the goods of this world will take people far from God. Then many more souls will be lost than in the time of the persecutions. On the one hand, they will be putting gold on the domes and will put the crosses on them and on the other hand everywhere evil and falsehood will reign. The true Church always will be persecuted. They who want to be saved will be saved with illnesses and afflictions. The way in which the persecutions will occur will be very sly and it will be very difficult for one to foresee the persecutions. Dreadful will be that time; I pity those who will be living then.

* The Elder loved the youth very much. Then the young people didn’t go to church almost at all and the Elder rejoiced very much, when they would visit him. Father Seraphim used to say that the role of the youth will be very great in the future revival of the ecclesiastical life. He also used to say that there will come a time when corruption and lewdness among the youth will reach the utmost point. There will hardly be any virgin youth left. They will see their lack of punishment and will think that everything is allowable for them to satisfy their desires. God will call them, however, and they will realize that it will not be possible for them to continue such a life. Then in various ways they will be led to God. In many people there will be a tendency towards the ascetic life. They who formerly were sinners and alcoholics will fill the churches and they will feel great thirst for the spiritual life. Many will become monastics. The monasteries will open and the churches will be full of believers. The young will go on pilgrimages to the holy lands. That time will be beautiful. That today they are sinning greatly, will lead them to a deeper repentance. Just like the candle which before it goes out, shines strongly and throws sparks, and with its light it enlightens the surrounding darkness, thus will be the Church’s life in the last age. And that time is near.

* After the end of the second World War, the Elder said to a spiritual child of his: “there will come a time when from the church of All Holy Virgin Mary of Kazan till the Lavra of Saint Alexander, there will be a litany. You will see it.” At that time it was difficult for one to believe it and today this became a reality. The Orthodox of Russia remember the procession of Saint Seraphim of Sarov’s precious relics in the roads of Saint Petersburg. The procession went from the All Holy Virgin Mary of Kazan church to Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

There is one more poem of the Elder which he wrote in 1946:

Glory to the great God and Lord!
Chant my spirit with joy,
My heart longs for your holy church
Where is the Sweetest Lord Jesus!
You are my life the only hope,
You enliven me in my afflictions and illnesses.
Be always for me joy, cover and hope,
I hand into Your hands my whole life.
Oh my most beautiful Savior,
Give me Your grace!
You are the wonderful guardian of my life,
My good father and my tender mother.
I admire Your heavenly glory,
Far is the vanity of this earthly world!
My spirit and my heart long for only one thing
The Kingdom of the Heavens with its beauty…
There in the heavens the choirs of saints
The myriads of angels
Chant with one mouth the beautiful hymn
“Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth!”
You are the joy of my heart
Creator, God and my Father.
My soul burdened with sins longs for heaven
Where the afflictions and the illnesses will stop.
Glory to the great God and Lord!
Chant my spirit with joy,
My heart longs for your holy church
Where is the Sweetest Lord Jesus!

Published with the permission of Fr. Nicholas Palis. To order the book call or write the St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite Publication Society, 2101 Ritchie Street, Aliquippa, PA 15001-2124. 724-375-7867 / FAX: 724-375-1086.