July 19, 2010

A Handwritten Letter of St. Seraphim of Sarov

A handwritten letter of St. Seraphim to Archimandrite Anthony, 
Rector of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergey Lavra

In 2006, a photographic copy of a manuscript was published containing spiritual counsels written by the hand of St. Seraphim of Sarov († 1833) to the then young Hieromonk Anthony (1792-1877), who regularly visited and sought advice from the Saint. In 1831, St. Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, chose Father Anthony as his spiritual Father and appointed him Rector of the Holy Trinity Lavra near Moscow (the Metropolitan was then Abbot of the Monastery). Father Anthony, as Archimandrite, worthily served the renowned Lavra, and Russian monasticism more generally, for more than forty years, until his saintly repose.
It seems that the original text was found among the personal archives of Father Anthony at the Lavra. We do not have further information regarding either the original or the photographic copy; nevertheless, the Grace-filled spiritual admonitions of the text are wholly consistent with the well-known “Brief Teachings” of St. Seraphim.

A copy of the original handwritten letter and an English translation of the text follow.

1. Learn noetic prayer of the heart as the Holy Fathers teach it in the Philokalia; for the Jesus Prayer is a light on our path and a star leading us to Heaven.

2. Learn to practice the Jesus Prayer while breathing in through your nose, with your lips shut; this technique is a scourge against the flesh and carnal desires.

3. Add “through the Theotokos have mercy on me” to the usual Jesus Prayer.

4. Outer prayer alone does not suffice, for God is attentive to the mind. Thus, monks who do not unite outer prayer with inner prayer are not monks, but little black heads.

5. Fear like the fire of Gehenna those painted ravens [women]; for they often transform soldiers of the King into servants of Satan.

6. Keep in mind that the true mandyas [mantle] of a monk is patient endurance of slander and disparagement with joy; where there are no sorrows, neither is there salvation.

7. Do everything gradually, calmly, and not at once. Virtue is not a pear; it is not devoured in one bite.

Source: From the Russian book by Princess Natalia Vladimirovna Urusova, Materinskii Platch Svyatoi Rusi [Maternal Lamentation for Holy Russia] (Moscow: Izdanie “Russkii Palomnik,” 2006), pp. 80-81.