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Posts tagged ‘Teachings of Seraphim’

Teachings of Seraphim 19

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Part 19. The Light of Christ

In order to accept and perceive the light of Christ in one’s heart, it is necessary to divert oneself from the external as much as possible. First, by cleansing the soul with penitence and good deeds with true faith in the Crucified; then, by closing the physical eyes, it is necessary to immerse the mind in the heart and appeal to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ continually. Then, by measure of our zealousness and fervour of spirit for the Beloved (Lk. 3:22), a person with the calling of this name finds delight, which arouses a thirst toward greater enlightenment.

When a person internally contemplates the eternal light, his mind becomes clean and free of any sensory notions. Then, by being completely immersed in the contemplation of uncreated beauty, he forgets everything sensory, does not want to see even himself, but desires to hide in the heart of the earth, if only not to be deprived of this true good God.

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Teachings of Seraphim 18

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Part 18. The Active and the Contemplative Life

 

A person consists of a soul and body, and therefore his life’s path should consist of both physical and spiritual activities — of deeds and contemplation.

The path of an active life consists of fasting, abstinence, vigilance, kneeling, prayer and other physical feats, composing the strait and sorrowful path which, by the word of God, leads to eternal life (Mt. 7:14).

The contemplative life consists in the mind aspiring to the Lord God, in awareness of the heart, focused prayer and in the contemplation of spiritual matters through such exercises.

Anyone desiring to lead a spiritual way of life must begin with the active life, and only later set about the contemplative, for without an active life it is impossible to lead a contemplative one.

An active life serves to purify us of sinful passions and raises us to the level of functioning perfection; at the same time it clears the way to a contemplative life. For only those cleansed of passions and the perfect can set out on that other life, as can be seen from the words of the Holy Scriptures: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”(Mt. 5:8), and from the words of Gregory the Theologian: “Only those who are perfect by their experience can without danger proceed to contemplation.”

If it is impossible to find a mentor who is able to direct us on the path to a contemplative life, then in that instance we must be guided by the Holy Scriptures, for the Lord Himself commands us to learn from it, saying: “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life”(John 5:39). One should not abandon the active life even when a person has so excelled in it that he has reached the contemplative, for the active life assists the contemplative and uplifts it.

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Teachings of Seraphim 17

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Part 17. Sorrow

 

When the evil spirit of sorrow seizes the soul, then, by filling it with bitterness and unpleasantness, it does not allow it to pray with necessary diligence; it disrupts the attention necessary for reading spiritual writings, deprives it of humility and good nature in the treatment of others and breeds aversion to any discussion.

For the sorrowful soul, by becoming as if insane and frenzied, can neither accept kind advice calmly, nor answer posed questions meekly. It runs from people as if from the perpetrators of its embarrassment, not understanding that the reason for its illness — is within it. Sorrow is the worm of the heart, gnawing at the mother that bore it.

He who has conquered passions has also defeated sorrow. But one overcome by passions will not avoid the shackles of sorrow. As an ill person can be identified by the color of his face, so is one overcome by passions distinguished by sorrow.

It is impossible for one who loves the world not to feel sorrow. But he who despises the world is always cheerful. As fire purifies gold, so sorrow in God — penitence — purifies the sinful heart.

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Teachings of Seraphim 14

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Part 14. Purity of Heart

 

We must continually protect our heart from unclean thoughts and impressions, according to the words of the author of the book of Proverbs:

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

Purity is born within the heart from extended safekeeping of it, to which the vision of the Lord has access, according to the assurance of eternal Truth:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

We should not reveal unnecessarily what is best in the heart, for only then does that which has been accumulated remain in safety from enemies visible and invisible, when it is kept as a treasure in the innermost heart. Do not open the secrets of your heart to everyone.

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Teachings of Seraphim 13

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Part 13. Feats

Blessed Seraphim told those followers who strove to take excessive feats upon themselves that not complaining and humbly bearing insults are our “verigi” and our hair shirt. (The word verigi in Russian means iron chains and various weights. A hair shirt is clothing made of thick, very coarse wool; some ascetics wore these things to burden their body.)

It is not necessary to undertake feats beyond one’s strength. Instead, one must try to keep our friend — our body — right and capable of performing virtues. One must follow the middle route, turning neither to the right hand nor the left (Proverbs 4:27), giving the spirit the spiritual, and the body the physical things necessary for maintaining temporal life. One should also not refuse that which society legally demands, according to the words of the Gospel: “Render therefore to Caesar those things which are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

One should condescend to one’s soul in its infirmities and imperfections, endure one’s deficiencies as we bear the failings of others, not become lazy, and continually urge oneself to be better.

If you have eaten too much food or done anything else related to human weakness, do not be upset. Do not add injury to injury, but, urging yourself to correction, courageously try to keep spiritual peace according to the words of the Apostle: “Happy is he that condemns not himself in that thing which he allows” (Romans 14:22). This same meaning is contained in the words of the Saviour: “Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Any success in any area we must assign to the Lord and say with the prophet: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1).

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Teachings of Seraphim 12

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Part 12. The Spiritual Peace

 

Nothing so aids the acquiring of internal peace as silence, and as much as is possible, continual discussion with oneself and rarely with others. A sign of spiritual life is the immersion of a person within himself and the hidden workings within his heart.

This peace, as some priceless treasure, did our Lord Jesus Christ leave his followers before His death, saying, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I nto you” (John 14:27).
The apostle also spoke this about it: “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7); “Follow peace with all people, and holiness, without which nobody shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

In this way, we must direct all our thoughts, desires and actions toward obtaining God’s peace, and always cry out with the Church: “Lord, you will ordain peace for us” (Is. 26:12).

It is necessary by all means to try to keep one’s spiritual peace, and not to become provoked by insults from others. To do this, it is necessary always to restrain oneself from anger, and by careful watch to guard the mind and heart from unclean waverings.

Insults from others must be borne without disturbance; one must train oneself to be of such a nature, that one can react to insults as if they did not refer to oneself. Such an exercise can bring serenity to our heart and make it a dwelling of God Himself.

We see an example of such a lack of malice in the life of St. Gregory the Miracle-Worker. A certain immoral woman demanded payment from him, purportedly for a sin committed with her. He, not in the least angry with her, humbly said to one of his friends: pay her the price which she demands, quickly. The woman became possessed as soon as she accepted the unrighteous payment. The bishop then prayed and exorcised the evil spirit from her.

If it is impossible not to become indignant, then at least restrain your tongue according to the words of the Psalmist: “I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (Psalm 77:4).

In this instance we can take as examples for ourselves St. Spyridon of Tremifunt and St. Ephraim the Syrian. The first bore an insult when he entered the palace by the demand of the Greek emperor: one of the servants present in the emperor’s chamber, taking him for a beggar, laughed at him, did not allow him to enter the chamber and even struck him on the cheek. St. Spyridon, being without malice, turned the other cheek to him, according the word of the Lord (see Matthew 5:39). The Blessed Ephraim, living in the desert, was once deprived of food in the following fashion. His pupil, carrying the food, accidentally broke the vessel on the way. Blessed Ephraim, seeing the pupil downcast, said to him: “Do not grieve, brother. If the food did not want to come to us, then we will go to it.” And so the monk went, sat next to the broken vessel, and, gathering the food together, ate it. He was thus without malice!

In order to keep spiritual peace, it is necessary to chase dejection away from oneself, and to try to have a joyful spirit, according to the words of the most wise Sirach: “Sorrow has killed many, but there is no good in it”.

In order to keep spiritual peace it is also necessary to avoid judging others in any way. Condescension towards your neighbor and silence protect spiritual peace. When a person is in such a state, then he receives Godly revelations.

In order not to lapse into judgment of others, it is necessary to be mindful of oneself, to refuse to receive any bad information from anyone and to be as if dead to others.

For the protection of spiritual peace it is necessary to enter into oneself more often and ask: Where am I? In addition, it is necessary to watch that the physical senses, especially sight, serve the inner person, not diverting the soul with mortal items, because the gifts of grace are received only by those who have inner workings and keep watch over their souls.

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Teachings of Seraphim 11

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Part 11. Patience and Humility

It is necessary always to be patient and to accept everything that happens, no matter what, with gratitude for God’s sake. Our life — is a minute compared to eternity. And for this reason “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Bear the insults of your enemy in silence, and open your heart only to the Lord. Try in any way possible to forgive those who humiliate you or take away your honor, by the words of the Gospel: “Of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again” (Luke 6:30).

When people curse us, we must consider ourselves unworthy of praise, imagining that if we were worthy, everyone would be bowing down to us. We must always, and before everyone, humble ourselves, according to the teachings of St. Isaac the Syrian: “Humble yourself and you will see the glory of God within yourself.”

An excerpt from the teachings of Seraphim of Sarov of the 18th & 19th centuries. He was one of the most renowned Russian saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Seraphim extended the monastic teachings of contemplation, theoria and self-denial to the layperson.

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