This commemoration is a 2018 addition to A Great Cloud of Witnesses
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Last updated: 3 November 2018
SERAPHIM OF SAROV
PRIEST AND MYSTIC, 1833
Seraphim of Sarov (30 July 1754 – 14 January 1833), born Prokhor Moshnin , is one of the most renowned Russian saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He is generally considered the greatest of the 19th-century startsy (elders). Seraphim extended the monastic teachings of contemplation and self-denial to the layperson. He taught that the purpose of the Christian life was to acquire the Holy Spirit. Perhaps his most popular quotation amongst Orthodox believers is "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved."
In 1777, at the age of 19, he joined the Sarov monastery as a novice (poslushnik). He was officially tonsured (took his monastic vows) in 1786 and 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, Seraphim 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.
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. Hundreds of pilgrims per day visited him, drawn as well by his 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 Umilenie icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) which he called "Joy of all Joys".
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