Sermon on the Day of the Venerable Saint Seraphim of Sarov. 15.01.2023
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
There is a moment in the Gospel where the Lord says, “Assuredly, assuredly I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not see death till they see the Kingdom of God present with power.”1 Many Christians, unfortunately, even Christians, did not understand the words of the Savior and thought that the Second Coming of Christ would be in the first century, while the Apostles were still alive. But the first century passed, and then the second, the tenth, the twentieth centuries passed as well, and those people who do not understand the words of Christ still wonder. Right after these words, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will see the Kingdom of God even now”1 Christ takes the Apostles, who were the closest to Him, ascends Mount Tabor with them and transfigures before them. As the Gospel says, they see the Glory of God and the Uncreated Divine Light. The first words of St. Peter the Apostle, which precisely described that moment, were, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”2
When a person comes into the Glory of God, into this miracle of the Uncreated Light, when he or she is shrouded with the Grace, the first and the most precise thing (as the rest happens later and is secondary) he or she says, “It is good for me to be here.” The Apostles were not the only people who saw the Kingdom of Heaven present with power in this age. After them there were thousands of saints in the first, fourth, and tenth century. In the tenth century, St. Symeon the New Theologian, an outstanding person, all of a sudden, said the following, “If you have not met Christ in this life, then everything in your future life is in doubt.” If there were no miracle of your personal transfiguration in this life, then everything will be very unstable in your future life.
First century, fourth century, tenth century, St. Symeon the New Theologian. Thirteenth century, St. Gregory Palamas. And finally, very-very close to us, the Venerable St. Father Seraphim. He entered the Grace of God to such an extent as the Apostles did on Holy Mount Tabor. Although, one might wonder, he lived in the nineteenth century! Nineteen centuries separate him from the events, which took place on Mount Tabor. And suddenly, he repeats the state of the Apostles almost to the full extent. He does not keep this for himself, as his personal secret, but shares this through his close novice Motovilov; through him, he shared this to us. In a snowy forest, he takes Motovilov by his hands and the miracle of transfiguration works. Everything becomes enlightened with this Uncreated Light. When Father Seraphim asked Motovilov, “What do you feel?” There were different words, “warmth and light,” but the main point was the same, “Father, I feel so good here. I wish I could stay here forever.” Just as St. Peter the Apostle says in his childish naivety, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah2 and we can sit outside and be happy.” This is his involuntarily childish exclamation.
Every one of us hears the appeal of the Lord to cleanse ourselves, as the Lord says, “Anything that defiles shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”3 This is why He says, “Do you want to enter? Then cleanse yourself.” Every one of us, on hearing this appeal, becomes sincerely inflamed with the desire, “I want, Lord!” and tries to cleanse himself, but comes to a dead end. Nothing works. If we succeed in accomplishing some external efforts and observing some external things, we cannot do anything about our inner world. At this moment, all Christians come to a point of desperation and say, “Lord, You see, I want to do this sincerely, but nothing works.” They start to struggle with this internal shame and always remain defeated; they cannot overcome this at all.
I would like to tell you one important thing. At least, from my experience this is the main notion, without which no one can cleanse himself. The most exact definition of Christ is Christ the Sweetest. When Christ becomes the Sweetest for you, not just Sweet, but the Sweetest, when His sweetness becomes bigger than any earthly sweetness, than the taste of any delicious food we overeat, than the taste of lust we revel in, than the taste of vanity, which soothes us and turns our heads; nothing affects people like vanity does. So, only if Jesus becomes sweeter than anything else, He will win and prevail inside of us. He should become real and the Sweetest for us. This is why all those Christians who simply fight and contradict sin may attain something, but will never do it to the full extent. At least, I can sincerely say so about myself. Until we realize that all our efforts should be directed not only at a struggle with sin, but all our force and attention should be directed at seeking Christ and reuniting with Him. Having reunited with Him, we begin to feel He is really the Sweetest. And His sweetness intercepts all earthly sweetness. Everything earthly becomes bitter in comparison to the sweetness of the Sweetest Jesus. This is the only way to overcome sin. Christ should become the Sweetest for us. Everything else, everything earthly, all our passions may simply remain sweet. But Christ should be the Sweetest.
This happened with Holy Father Seraphim of Sarov. He did not beat sin by himself, but he fathomed Christ, learned how sweet He was, and everything earthly became tasteless and even bitter for him.
Venerable Father Seraphim, pray to God for us! Sweetest Jesus, do not leave us! Mother Theotokos, save us!
Have a blessed Feast!
Having touched Christ, Father Seraphim became sweet, as he touched Him. He became very-very-very sweet.
1 “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” (Mk. 9:1)
“Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Mt. 16:28)
2 “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Mk. 9:5)
3 “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles.” (Apoc. 21:27)