St. Seraphim of Sarov
St. Seraphim was born on the 19th of July in the year of our Lord 1754. His given name was Prochor. His father was a merchant who had taken upon himself the building of the cathedral in their town of Kursk, Russia. The young saint was once climbing on the scaffolding and fell off from a great height, but was miraculously carried softly to the ground. Later, the young Prochor fell very ill. He was visited by Panagia in a dream during which she told him that she was coming to visit him. The next day there was a procession through the streets with the Kursk Root icon of the Theotokos. His mother carried him out to kiss the icon and ask for healing. The young Prochor was instantly healed. From a young age he wanted to dedicate himself entirely to God as a monk. He was blessed by Elder Dositheos to go to the Sarov forest monastery. After struggling for two years in the monastery, he was struck again with illness. This time the illness caused severe swelling in his legs. He was visited by Panagia again. She touched his leg with her staff and the fluid drained out. When he awoke, healed, there was a scar on his leg as evidence of the miracle.
After many years as a novice, Prochor was eventually tonsured a monk and given the name Seraphim (reflecting his own 'fiery' love for God). He was later ordained a hierodeacon (monastic deacon) and then a hieromonk (monastic priest). While serving the Divine Liturgy, St. Seraphim would often have visions of the heavenly court. He would see Angels serving with the priests and deacons, and once he saw the Lord entering the church with a retinue of heavenly attendants. The Lord approached the amvon, blessed the people, and entered into His icon on the templon. St. Seraphim was struck with awe and couldn't move. He remained in rapture for three hours, standing in the altar.
As a priest, St. Seraphim would serve the Divine Liturgy every day of his life. Eventually, he obtained a blessing to retire in seclusion to the forest. He built a hermitage and called it "Mt. Athos." He would spend many years in his little Athos, only going to the main monastery for All-Night Vigil on Saturday and returning to his hermitage after the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. St. Seraphim grew in holiness. He became entirely absorbed in prayer. As word spread of his holiness, visitors from all over would come to see him for advice, confession, and prayers. St. Seraphim didn't appreciate the disturbance of his solitude. He forbade women to come, and eventually, the Lord seemingly approved of his desire for solitude, caused his cell to be cut off from the monastery (the path became so blocked by fallen trees that no one could pass). His only visitors then became the birds and animals of the forest. They would speak to each other and share food together. Increasing his ascetic struggle, St. Seraphim began a practice in imitation of St. Symeon the Stylite. Every night he would get up and go to a rock in the forest. He would pray, kneeling or standing, with arms raised to heaven "God have mercy on me a sinner." He prayed this way for 1,000 days and nights.
St. Seraphim was once come upon by thieves at his hermitage. They came looking for money, but found only icons and potatoes. They beat St. Seraphim severely and left him for dead. St. Seraphim survived and crawled to the monastery, where the fathers were shocked to see him in such condition and feared for his life. Once again, St. Seraphim was healed by Panagia in a dream. He forgave his abusers. The beating left him permanently bent over and he had to walk with a cane the rest of his life. At this point, he had to move back to the main monastery where he kept his solitude by locking himself in his cell most of the day.
St. Seraphim could read hearts, was a spiritual physician, and beloved by many spiritual children. He always had a peaceful demeanor and once said, "acquire the spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved." He worked countless miracles during his earthly life and continues to do so from heaven. He, also, was transfigured during a deeply spiritual conversation with his disciple Motovilov. They were speaking about the spiritual life. St. Seraphim taught that we should strive to acquire the Holy Spirit. At one point, he grabbed Motovilov by the shoulders and demanded he look at him. The disciple couldn't because St. Seraphim's eyes were flashing like lightening and his countenance was exceedingly bright. The saint told him that they were both that way, because they were in the Spirit of God. One disciple also once saw St. Seraphim standing in the air during prayer. The saint strictly forbade the disciple from telling the story until after his death. The holy one was also blessed to know the approach of his departure from this life. Panagia appeared to him, in the presence of one of his nuns, to tell him the time and hour. St. Seraphim often told his cell attendant that his death would be announced by fire, and so it was. The cell attendant was drawn to the cell by the smell of smoke (St. Seraphim often kept candles burning). He entered and found that the holy father was reposed, kneeling in front of his icons, with his arms crossed over his chest. Thusly, the saint completed his earthly life and his soul was taken up into heavens by the Queen of Heaven Herself.