St. Seraphim Reminds the Orthodox People of the Meaning of Their Lives

A Sermon by His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, in St. Seraphim’s Church on the parish feast day.

From time to time, the Lord sends His people great soothsayers, great saints, who admonish the people, preparing them for great changes in the life of that people. So too it was with our Orthodox Russian people: venerable St. Seraphim was send by God namely in such a difficult spiritual time, when the Russian land was inundated by various currents – un-Russian, un-Orthodox currents – from the West, from different faiths. There were many various influences that changed the nature of the people’s spiritual life.

sermon.lgAnd so the Lord instructed St. Seraphim, as a form of assignment, to remind the Orthodox people of the meaning of their lives. In his personal life he achieved great spiritual heights; he was truly a member of God’s elect: the Mother of God appeared to him many times, along with other saints. And he devoted himself to great spiritual struggle in prayer and asceticism, preparing himself to carry, according to God’s will, spiritual benefit – a sort of spiritual science – to the people, who came to him in great numbers.

He especially opened the meaning of a Christian life to Nicholas Motovilov; he said, “You have been taught improperly, O theophile. You were taught that the meaning of life is in the doing of good deeds. Well, I say that the meaning of spiritual life is in acquisition of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. That is, the goal of our lives is a relationship with God, a direct relationship, through prayer through the fulfillment of God’s will, through spiritual struggle, though good deeds, which are the means by which to obtain a status such that the Grace of God, the Holy Spirit, settles in our hearts, in our souls – and we will have a true relationship with God. This is the goal of our Christian life.”

Saint Seraphim reminded everyone, through Motovilov, through others who came to him, reminded all of us, that we ought not heed only externalities, those means, while not attaining the goal itself. As our venerable father said, “Fasts, prayer, prostrations, alms, – all this is but a means to that great end, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

And so, when one, by spiritual struggle, by work on himself, cleanses his soul, his heart, and all within himself, then the Lord will settle in him, as he settled in the great multitude, the assembly of God-pleasers, which were people just as we are, and who became inhabitants of the Kingdom of God, all while still living on this earth.

In this we see also the meaning of the words of the Savior: The Kingdom of God is in you. That is, Christ tells us that we must search for the Kingdom of Heaven not outside of ourselves, but within. When we have a close, prayerful, mystical relationship with the Lord God, then we step into eternity, into the Kingdom of God, which will continue unto the ages of ages.

And so today, celebrating venerable St. Seraphim, we feel joy in our souls, regardless of the feelings or mood we may have had when we entered the church, but the Grace of God, and even the name of St. Seraphim, memories of this joyous elder of the Russian land, implants in us spiritual joy, joy in the Lord, and Paschal joy, as St. Seraphim greeted people with the Paschal greeting. And so we heard today the Paschal hymns, which brought us great spiritual joy.

I wish all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to undertake your spiritual struggle, not putting off this important aspect of our temporary earthly lives, so that we might set our internal life aright, the life of our soul, that we might be prepared to meet the Lord in the presence of St. Seraphim and all the saints who struggled on this earth; and, finally, that you all might have joy in your hearts, joy in this life, and joy in the next.

By the prayers of St. Seraphim of Sarov, may the Lord have mercy and save us, and settle us in the Kingdom of God.

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