Seraphim of Sarov bigraphy, stories - Russian saint

Seraphim of Sarov : biography

30 July 1759 - 14 January 1833

Saint Seraphim of Sarov () (19 July (1 Aug) 1754 (or 1759) – 2 January (14 January) 1833), born Prokhor Moshnin (Прохор Мошнин), is one of the most renowned Russian monks and mystics in the Orthodox Church. He is generally considered the greatest of the 19th century startsy (elders) and, arguably, the first. He is remembered for extending the monastic teachings of contemplation, theoria and self-denial to the layperson, and taught that the purpose of the Christian life was to acquire the Holy Spirit.

Seraphim was glorified (canonized) by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1903. The date of his death is his major feast day. Reverence for him is not limited to the Orthodox; Pope John Paul II referred to him as a saint in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.Melkite Greek Catholic Church Information Center, "Saint Gregory Palamas"

Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, (Knopf, 1995), ISBN 978-0-679-76561-5, page 18. 

One of his "spiritual children", Nicholas Motovilov, wrote most of what we know about him today.

Perhaps Seraphim's most popular quotation amongst Orthodox believers is "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved."


Born 19 July (new style 1 Aug) 1754, he was baptized with the name of Prochor, after Saint Prochorus, one of the first Seven Deacons of the Early Church and the disciple of John the Evangelist. His parents, Isidore and Agathia Moshnin, lived in Kursk, Russia. His father was a merchant, but Seraphim had little interest in business. Instead, he began a life that was very devout to the Orthodox Church at a young age. According to Orthodox tradition, as a small boy he was healed by a wonderworking icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), Our Lady of Kursk. It is claimed that during his life he experienced a number of visions.

In 1775, at the age of 17, he visited Saint Dorothea in Kiev.

In 1777, at the age of 19, he joined the Sarov monastery as a novice (poslushnik). In 1786 he was officially tonsured (took his monastic vows) and was given the religious name of Seraphim, which means "fiery" or "burning" in Hebrew. Shortly afterwards, he was ordained a hierodeacon (monastic deacon). In 1793 he was ordained as a hieromonk (monastic priest) and became the spiritual leader of the Diveyevo convent, which has since come to be known as the Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent. Soon after this, he retreated to a log cabin in the woods outside Sarov monastery and led a solitary lifestyle as a hermit for 25 years. During this time his feet became swollen to the point that he had trouble walking.

One day, while chopping wood, Seraphim was attacked by a gang of thieves who beat him mercilessly until they thought he was dead. He never resisted and was beaten with the handle of his own axe. The thieves were looking for money, but all they found in his hut was an icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary). The incident left Seraphim with a hunched back for the rest of his life. However, at the thieves' trial he pleaded to the judge for mercy on their behalf.

After this incident Seraphim spent 1,000 successive nights on a rock in continuous prayer with his arms raised to the sky, an almost super-human feat of asceticism, especially considering the pain he was already in from his injuries.

In 1815, in obedience to a reputed spiritual experience that he attributed to the Virgin Mary, Seraphim began admitting pilgrims to his hermitage as a confessor. He soon became immensely popular due to his reputation for healing powers and gift of prophecy. He was often visited by hundreds of pilgrims per day and was reputed to have the ability to answer his guests' questions before they could ask.

As extraordinarily harsh as Seraphim often was to himself, he was kind and gentle toward others — always greeting his guests with a prostration, a kiss, and exclaiming "Christ is risen!", and calling everyone "My joy." He died while kneeling before an icon of the Theotokos at the age of 74. This icon is currently in the house of the catholic Community of Beatitudes in Bad Driburg, Germany.

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Living octopus

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