The glorification of St Seraphim of Sarov (January 2), took place in 1903, seventy years after his repose. On July 3, 1903 Metropolitan Anthony of St Petersburg, assisted by Bishop Nazarius of Nizhni-Novgorod and Bishop Innocent of Tambov, transferred the saint’s relics from their original burial place to the church of Ss Zosimas and Sabbatius. Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra provided a new cypress coffin to receive the relics. This cypress coffin was then placed inside an oak coffin and remained in the church until the day of the saint’s glorification.
At noon on July 16, the first day of the festivities, Metropolitan Anthony offered a Memorial Service, called a Panikhida, for the ever-memorable Hieromonk Seraphim in the Dormition Cathedral. Services also took place in the monastery’s other churches.
The next day Metropolitan Anthony and Bishop Nazarius served a Memorial Liturgy in the Dormition Cathedral. At 5:00 that afternoon, all the bells of Sarov began to ring, announcing the arrival of Tsar Nicholas and his family. Metropolitan Anthony greeted them and then led them to the Dormition Cathedral for a Molieben of Thanksgiving.
The royal family attended the early Liturgy on July 18th and received the Holy Mysteries. Later that morning, the final Panikhida for the repose of Hieromonk Seraphim’s soul was offered in the Cathedral. These would be the last prayers offered for him as a departed servant of God. From that time forward, prayers would be addressed to him as a saint. At 6 P.M. the bells rang for Vigil, the first service with hymns honoring St Seraphim, and during which his relics would be uncovered for public veneration.
At the time of the Litiya during Vespers, the saint’s coffin was carried from the church of Ss. Zosimus and Sabbatius and into the Dormition Cathedral. Several people were healed of various illnesses during this procession. During Matins, as “Praise ye the Name of the Lord” was sung, the coffin was opened. After the reading of the Gospel, Metropolitan Anthony and the other hierarchs kissed the holy relics. They were followed by the royal family, the officiating clergy, and all the people in the cathedral.
On July 19, the saint’s birthday, the late Liturgy began at 8 o’clock. At the Little Entrance, twelve Archimandrites lifted the coffin from the middle of the church, carried it around the altar, then placed it into a special shrine. The long-awaited event was accompanied by numerous miraculous healings of the sick, who had gathered at Sarov in large numbers. More than 200,000 people came to Sarov from all across Russia to participate in these holy events.
The festivities at Sarov came to an end with the consecration of the first two churches dedicated to St Seraphim. The first church to be consecrated was over his monastic cell in Sarov. The second church was consecrated on July 22 at the Diveyevo convent.
My dear brothers and sisters, this saint, this truly authentic human being that we celebrate today, shines like a beacon to modern man, pointing to us the way by his quiet, prayerful life. Here is the example we need, here is the model we long for. In his own lifetime people flocked to him by the thousands just to look at him, just to look at a real human being. They were in awe of him, for he seemed so much more than any of them and yet he was just a humble, old monk. People longed to speak to him, to tell him all their sorrows, to ask him the questions that they feared to ask anyone else. But many came just to look at his face, to behold what man could become by grace.
What hope he gave them, what incredible, unbelievable hope he gave them! In the midst of darkness and confusion, one of their own had managed to find the Way. So, they waited, simply to see him. Imagine! Waiting in line all day long just to see this humble, little monk, just to catch a glimpse of his face, the face of a real, true authentic human being, who was filled with divine love and compassion because Christ dwelt within him.
Today we celebrate one of our own who followed the narrow path and became a true disciple of Jesus Christ. A man who had so died to the world, had so died to himself, to all that is selfish, that Christ could come and make His home within him. Our Savior says in St. John’s Gospel, “If a man loves me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him!” —John 14:23
The question for us today is this: “Am I walking on the narrow path? What am I doing with my life? Where am I on this feast of St. Seraphim? When I venerate his icon, does it challenge me to question my life? Am I really living an authentic Christian life? Am I really a disciple of Jesus Christ?” St Seraphim lived, and lives, to help us along the way. He continues to be a faithful guide to the Land of the Living.
In 1991, St Seraphim’s relics were rediscovered after being hidden in a Soviet anti-religious museum for seventy years. Widely esteemed in his lifetime, St Seraphim is one of the most beloved saints of the Orthodox Church. Through the prayers of Our Venerable Father Seraphim, O Lord Jesus Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen.