Tag Archives: St. Seraphim

His pure soul.

Today — or yesterday if you want to be strict about liturgical time — is the commemoration of the repose of St. Seraphim of Sarov, a beloved holy father in the Orthodox Church and beyond. And while I was in church remembering him with hymns and prayers, this icon was waiting in a package on my front porch, painted and sent by my goddaughter Rosemary. It says right on the package: “Expected delivery date: January 4.” But it would be rude to make him sit in a truck or depot on his memorial day. Perhaps it was an angel who sped him along to my house two days early; it fulfilled my joy to have his icon with me and to be able to see through this particular “window into heaven,” on his very feast day.

“On January 2 [1883], Father Paul, the saint’s cell-attendant, left his own cell at six in the morning to attend the early Liturgy. He noticed the smell of smoke coming from the Elder’s cell. Saint Seraphim would often leave candles burning in his cell, and Father Paul was concerned that they could start a fire.

“’While I am alive,’ he once said, ‘there will be no fire, but when I die, my death shall be revealed by a fire.’ When they opened the door, it appeared that books and other things were smoldering. Saint Seraphim was found kneeling before an icon of the Mother of God with his arms crossed on his chest. His pure soul was taken by the angels at the time of prayer, and had flown off to the Throne of the Almighty God, Whose faithful servant Saint Seraphim had been all his life.”

-From oca.org

A theme of love and serving.

This sign on the wall in our church kitchen shows evidence of its location above the coffee maker. I was looking at it as though for the first time this morning as I prepared the agape meal at church. It was my fourth time cooking for 100-120 people; I don’t know exactly how many ate today, but the important thing is we didn’t run out of food. 🙂

I went back and forth from the kitchen to the church as needed to put things in the oven to warm, and to worship. Before Divine Liturgy there was a glorious baptism, and I was surprised to miss the actual immersion of the baby, but I came in to the heady scent of Holy Chrism as he was being lifted out of the font, which in an Orthodox baptism is no more than halfway through, so there was plenty of praying left to do, and rejoicing in the love and joy that filled the place.

The next time I had to leave and come back, I entered when Father Peter was giving the homily. I’d never heard him preach before, and his words were full of warm encouragement. Near the end he recited the whole poem below, with a fitting and enlivening amount of expression.

It was a great honor to be the one serving and feeding my fellow worshipers a few minutes later. All week I’ve been grousing and anxious about the upcoming event, even though I had planned and organized well and had young and competent helpers, an easy menu, etc. As has been the case before, I began to relax on Saturday when we did the first steps of cooking. I was so grateful for my assistants who are my friends and love me.

Today, even more people helped, were thankful, told me that they loved the food — all the hugs and kind words I could want, to make me feel what a gift it is to be part of this parish and of Christ’s Church, and to work with people on a worthy project.

When I heard Herbert’s poem, I immediately thought, “I must share that on my blog!” I forgot to take any pictures of the food to share, but I think you can envision a hefty chunk of cheesy polenta with a scoop of the meatiest possible red sauce ladled over, plus a dollop of pesto on top. Mixed greens on the side, and ice cream for dessert. I might do this same menu again sometime, it was so relatively easy and successful.

For the good of our souls, it was not worth much, though, compared to the Love that Father Peter talked about, and George Herbert sang of, and which we had tasted in the Holy Mysteries that morning.

But it was an echo and a reminder, and gave us sustenance so that we could sit around basking in our family happiness for a while. “O taste and see that the LORD is good!”

LOVE

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
                              Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                             From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
                             Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                             I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
                             Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
                             Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
                             My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
                             So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert

A fire that warms and kindles the heart.

God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. And so, if we feel in our hearts coldness, which is from the devil—for the devil is cold—then let us call upon the Lord, and He will come and warm our hearts with perfect love not only for Him, but for our neighbor as well. And from the presence of warmth the coldness of the hater of good will be driven away.  -St. Seraphim of Sarov

On July 19 we commemorate the uncovering of the relics of the Venerable Seraphim of Sarov.

Virtue is not a pear.

seraphim fresco lightsToday we commemorate the repose of St. Seraphim of Sarov, of whom I have written before. He is the patron saint of my Orthodox parish. What a wonderful man! And what a blessed day we had, in spite of cold and even a broken heater in the church. Sometimes lately, when I am cold, I pretend that I am a monastic – and what would a monastic do? Pray, and be warmed by the Holy Spirit. I can’t say that I instantly become a prayer warrior when I think this way, but somehow it helps me to relax, and to at least offer up some kind of plea.

This icon of Father Seraphim is a fresco in our church, a picture I took sometime in the past when the light was falling in patches on him. Today, as I stood bundled in scarf and gloves, the sunshine came through an arched window high above the altar and blinded me for a few minutes until the angle changed enough to pass beyond my face. I didn’t want to change my position to escape it – whenever this happens to me I feel it as an extra gift from God, that He is giving me Himself in the warm light.

seraphim letter to

I want to pass on this quote from St. Seraphim, which came from a letter (pictured in its original form) that he wrote to Hieromonk Anthony in the first half of the 19th Century; it captured my imagination and heart from the first time I read it many years ago. The words have been translated in various clunky forms, but I like this version for the way it expresses the tone that he conveyed by his life. And it seems a good word for the new year, as well. Happy New Year to all of you, and may we all be drawn closer to His Kingdom in 2015.
 

Whatever you do, do it gently and unhurriedly,
because virtue is not a pear to be eaten in one bite.

–Saint Seraphim of Sarov