Life – Miracles – Prophecies of St Seraphim of Viritsa:
The New Saint of the Orthodox Russian Church (1866-1949)
Reviewed by Emmanuel N. Stamatiou
1. Brief Background
• St Seraphim of Viritsa (also known as Basil Mouraviov) was born on 31/3/1866 in Russia (Yaroslavl).
• At the age of 10years his father died and he went to work as merchant’s aid in St Petersburg.
• In 1890, at the age of 24years he married a pious woman, Olga Nardenova and they had 2 children, Nicholas and Olga (who lived only 1 year).
• Basil became very successful in the fur trade and acquired great wealth.
• In September 1920, he gave away all his possessions and became a novice monk in the Lavra of St Alexander Nevsky .
• In October 1920 he became a monk with the name Father Barnabas.
• In the same year, his wife became a nun in the female monastery of the all Holy Virgin Mary of Iveron in St Petersburg.
• After a while he was ordained deacon and then on 29/08/1921 he was ordained presbyter.
• In 1927 Fr Barnabas put on the great habit and was renamed Seraphim in honour of St Seraphim of Sarov.
• Fr Seraphim quickly became known among the Christians of St Petersburg. The Elder’s spiritual gifts made him known even beyond Russia. People from all parts of Russia and overseas would come to Lavra to receive his blessing, to be consoled, and to seek his advice.
• In 1927 Archbishop Alexius Simanski visited him to seek his advice. Fr Seraphim told him that he would become patriarch and head of the Russian Orthodox Church for 25 years. He said that, “After Patriach Tikhon, Russia will not have a patriarch for many years. Metropolitan Sergius will not be patriarch even for one year and after him you will be patriarch. A war will occur, a dreadful war, a world war. This war will make our people return to God. The same people who now have authority in their hands and are closing the churches will then be opening them.”
• By the end of the1920s the communists closed the monasteries. Many monks were exiled; others were imprisoned in concentration camps and many had a martyric end. In 1933 Fr Seraphim went to the little town of Viritsa and remained there. The doctors found in Fr Seraphim many illnesses, and it seemed that soon the Elder would die. For this reason the authorities left him free and allowed him to stay in Viritsa. Here in Viritsa, all the Elder’s spiritual gifts were fully revealed: his clairvoyance, the grace of prayer and miracle working.
• Many people would visit the Elder in Viritsa to find help and consolation and this could not remain hidden from the authorities. One day 3 agents entered the house and wanted to take Fr Seraphim, but they found him ill and stuck to his bed of pain. The Elder called one of the visitors (who he had never met him) near him and said, “May your sins be forgiven, servant of God”, and he said his name. The power of love won. The merciless agent’s heart softened and they looked at the Elder in a more friendly way.
• A few days before the war between the Soviet Union and Germany began, the Elder told a woman that the war would begin on Sunday 22 June 1941 and it happened as he said.
• In the beginning of the war, many inhabitants of Viritsa visited the Elder asking him if they should leave their homes to be saved from the Germans or stay in Viritsa. The Elder answered them with certainty – “Viritsa will be saved, not even one home will be burned, nor will one person be killed here.” That’s precisely what happened.
• In September 1941 the Germans entered Visitsa but did not pillage or kill any of the inhabitants. The German soldiers, when they learned about Fr Seraphim and his prophetic gift, began visiting him and asking him about the end of the war: would Hitler win or not? The Elder answered that Hitler would not be able to defeat Russia. He said, “You will never be able to take Leningrad. We are Orthodox people. Faith is now being persecuted, but in a short time, freedom will come.” To one of the German officers he said, “You will reach up to Poland and there you will find your end. You will not return home.” That officer was killed in Warsaw.
• The Elder always said that the Germans would leave. “They are visitors and visitors do not stay long. They leave.” Someone imparted these words to the military city administrator and he sent soldiers to the Elder’s home to kill him. As soon as they entered the Elder’s cell, the Elder spoke to them in German and said many things to the soldiers concerning their families. He knew how many children they had and everything about them. Then upon finishing he said, “Tell the administrator, whatever you sewed in Russia, you will harvest at your home.” The Elder prophetically said something that personally concerned the administrator; for this reason, he did not dare to harm the Elder.
• During the war, aside from his strict fasting and prayer for the salvation of the Russian people from annihilation, Fr Seraphim prayed 1000 nights on a rock before St Seraphim of Sarov’s icon, in this, imitating his protector St Seraphim.
• When an area of Viritsa was undergoing occupation, a woman became pregnant and did not want to have an abortion. When she visited Fr Seraphim to discuss the problem, before she said anything, he said, “Imagine what’s happening today. Some mothers who resemble Herod in inhumaneness and harshness, slaughter their own innocent children.” The woman realized that the Elder knew everything, she knelt before him with tears in her eyes and confessed her transgressions.
• The Elder informed many of the women in Viritsa if their husbands or sons survived the war and when they would be returning home. “Don’t worry, your own little Nicholas will return home in a bit, but his little head will be hurting very much.” Truly Nicholas returned but had a serious wound on his head.
• To the sick, the Elder gave prosfora (Blessed bread). When people ate it they became well. He would often say, “Many times we become sick because we do not pray before beginning our food and we do not seek from God to bless it. All these things which we use for food are God’s gifts to people. Through them all of nature and the noetic world of angels serve man. For this reason each time we sit down to eat, we should pray with much diligence.”
• On 3/4/1949 Fr Seraphim said, “Today I cannot accept anyone. I will be praying. He called his relatives to his cell, gave them his blessing and an icon of St Seraphim of Sarov and asked them to light the vigil lamps. Fr Alexius arrived to confess him and at 2.00am he asked them to read the funeral prayers. When the prayers were finished, he did the sign of the cross and reposed in his home in Viritsa.
• At least once in our life we must light a candle for those who we insulted, whom we deceived, whom we stole something from, whom we owed, and whom we deceived, whom we did not pay our debt.
• The Elder used to say that a time would come when there would be 40 unbelievers for 1 believer and they would beg that 1 to save them.
• The Lord can wait even 1000 years for just 1 person to be saved for the number of angels who fell (ie. the demons) to be made up. (ie. God is perfect, His creation is perfect. When the ranks of the fallen angels have been replaced with the souls of the righteous men, the Second Coming will take place.)
• He said that, “Even in the most difficult times, he who will occupy himself diligently with the Jesus Prayer will be able to be easily saved.”
• “Pray for your enemies and always give thanks to the Lord and the Panagia for everything, even for afflictions.
• “There will come a time when not the persecutions but money and the goods of this world will take people far from God. Then many more souls will be lost than in the time of the persecutions. The way in which the persecutions will occur in the future will be very sly and it will be very difficult for one to foresee them. Dreadful will be that time; I pity those who will be living them.”
• He also used to say that there will come a time and the time is near when corruption and lewdness among the youth will reach the utmost point. There will hardly be any virgin youth left. They will see their lack of punishment and will think that everything is allowable for them to satisfy their desires. However, God will call them and they will realize that it will not be possible for them to continue such a life. Then in various ways they will be led to God.
• “Not what you want, but whatever God wants.” Pray that He may show you His will.
• One day a woman and her blind daughter went to see Fr Seraphim. When they entered his cell, the woman knelt before the Elder, received his blessing and with tears begged him to help her daughter. Fr Seraphim prayed. He took oil from the vigil lamp which burned before the icon and anointed the child’s eyes with it. Then he told the mother to cover the child’s eyes with a handkerchief and to not take it off until the following night. The next night the child received her sight.
• One day a Russian lieutenant and his platoon took over an alcohol factory in Germany. There were many wells full of alcohol. Everyone rejoiced and wanted to try it. Suddenly, a general appeared and ordered the men to immediately fire on all the wells and disappeared. When the war ended the lieutenant returned home, he saw a monk’s photo among his mother’s icons. In it he recognized the general who had given the order to fire at the wells. He asked who this was and his mother told him it was her spiritual father, Hieromonk Fr Seraphim. “During all the time of the war, he was praying for you,” his mother told him. “I had asked him to pray for you so that they didn’t kill you.” The lieutenant was shocked to hear this because later on he learned that the wells contained methyl alcohol and everyone who would have drunk from the wells would have surely died.”
• In the decade of the 1920s Fr Peter was captured and imprisoned in a concentration camp. He returned to Leningrad after the end of the war to find that his son was missing in action. He and his wife went to see Fr Seraphim. As soon as he saw him he said, “Welcome Nikitas.” “I am not Nikitas, my dear Father, I am Fr Peter.” They drank tea together and the Elder said, “Take 3 packages of biscuits, one for each of you. Your son is alive and you will see him soon.” The next day their son knocked on the door and they all sat down and had tea and biscuits together. Later Fr Peter became a monk and at tonsure received the name Nikitas.
• Alexander had to work on Sundays and could not go to church. One day when he was off work he went to the Elder to get his blessing. When he went into the Elder’s cell he heard the Elder call out, ”Alexander, for 6 days work and on the 7th day pray to the Lord your God.” The Elder did not give his blessing. Alexander returned to the Elder on 3 occasions but the Elder repeated the above and did not give his blessing. One Sunday whilst filling up the truck with hay, Alexander fell and broke his spinal cord in 3 places. His wife ran to Fr Seraphim to tell him what happened to her husband. When he heard her he said, “I heard that he broke his spinal cord. Let us pray to the All Holy Virgin Mary and to St Seraphim of Sarov and Alexander will become well and will walk.” After a few months Alexander walked on his own. He told Alexander, “You will drive me to my last habitation here on earth.” When Fr Seraphim reposed in the Lord, Alexander drove the Elder’s coffin to the cemetery.
• Catherine was diagnosed with a terminal illness at the age of 35 years. She went to Fr Seraphim and he told her, “Go home, cut this prosfora into small pieces and each morning before taking your breakfast, eat a piece and drink a little holy water.” After a few weeks the doctors were amazed that her illness had completely disappeared.
• To the people whose marriage had a blessing from the church, the Elder would say that in no case should they dissolve it no matter how many problems there existed in their family life.
In 1946 a woman visited him to tell her pain her husband began drinking and she wanted to divorce him. “How will you separate? You are crowned before God. Wait a bit, your husband will become good.” He stopped drinking and became good and compassionate.
• In 1946 they brought to the Elder a 15 year old boy who had a gangrenous foot. The surgeon wanted to amputate the foot. Fr Seraphim gave the boy holy water and told him to sprinkle his foot with it. In one year, the foot healed and the youth grew up walking normally to the extent that he served in the commando forces and conducted 20 parachute jumps. Not even a trace of his sickness remained.
• A girl’s mother had cancer and was in hospital. She was in a room together with other patients and was waiting for an operation. Very rarely would a person come out alive from the room. The daughter went to see Fr Seraphim but he was ill and was not receiving visitors that day. The Elder’s helper told her to write down her problem on a little piece of paper. Afterwards the nun gave the girl a prosfora from the Elder and told her that Fr Seraphim wanted her to share it with everyone who was in the same hospital room together with her mother. When the girl did that which the Elder had commanded, the following occurred. Examinations were done again and the doctors did not find cancer cells in any of the people in the room. It was truly a miracle. Everyone who ate of the “bread of life”, which the Elder sent them, returned to their homes healthy. The girl’s mother lived to the age of 83 years.
These are just some of the miracles mentioned in this book which St Seraphim performed with God’s grace. It is worthwhile buying the book and reading the rest yourself. I have no doubt that you will be moved spiritually just as I have been. St Seraphim performed miracles not only during his lifetime, but also after his death. Many Christians with illnesses who visited his tomb at the Holy Virgin Mary of Kazan Church in Viritsa have been miraculously cured.
Fr Seraphim was communed by angels. He was a bright star that shone in Viritsa during the difficult times of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and WWII. Those who followed his advice avoided certain death. From the power of the Holy Spirit, he guided the people with the light of his miracles and spiritually illumined the whole of Russia and eventually all other Christian nations through the written word. To this day St Seraphim is ready, willing and able to intercede to Christ our God that our souls be saved. All we have to do is to make the effort and ask him through our prayers.
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1st Salutations to the TheotokosSat Feb 24, 8:00 AM
St Theodore Teron - English LiturgySat Feb 24, 4:00 PM
VespersSun Feb 25, 7:30 AM
1st Sunday of Lent, Sunday of Orthodoxy - Matins & Divine LiturgyMon Feb 26, 3:30 PM