May 14, 2015

Tales of our Holy Father Serapion the Sindonite

St. Serapion the Sindonite (Feast Day - March 21)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

`Sindon' means `linen cloth', and this Saint was called `the Sindonite' because he covered his naked body only with a linen cloth. He carried the Gospels in his hand. Serapion lived like the birds, with no roof and no cares, moving from one place to another.

He gave his linen cloth to a poor wretch who was shivering with cold, and himself remained completely naked. When someone asked him: `Serapion, who made you naked?', he indicated the Gospels and said: `This!' But, after that, he gave away the Gospels also for the money needed by a man who was being hounded to prison by a creditor for a debt.

At one time in Athens, he did not eat for four days, having nothing, and began to cry out with hunger. When the Athenian philosophers asked him what he was shouting about, he replied: `There were three to whom I was in debt: two have quieted down, but the third is still tormenting me. The first creditor is carnal lust, which has tormented me from my youth; the second is love of money, and the third is the stomach. The first two have left me alone, but the third one still torments me.' The philosophers gave him some gold to buy bread. He went to a baker, bought a single loaf, put down all the gold and went out.

He went peacefully to the Lord in old age, in the fifth century.

By Leontios, Bishop of Neapolis
(Life of Saint John the Almsgiver)

Our Saint [John the Almsgiver] who was adorned with so many good deeds, was not wanting either in this respect, for he dearly loved reading the lives of the holy fathers, especially of those who practiced almsgiving.

One day when reading the life of St. Serapion, who was nicknamed Sindonios, he came across the following passage: 'Serapion once gave his cloak to a poor man and as he walked on and met another who was shivering, he gave that one his tunic, and then sat down naked, holding the holy Gospel, and on being asked, "Who has taken your clothes, father?" he pointed to the Gospel and said, "This is the robber." Another time he sold the Gospel to give alms, and when a disciple said to him, "Father, where is your Gospel?" he replied, "Son, believe me, it was the Gospel which said to me, Sell all you have and give to the poor, so I sold it and gave to the poor, that on the day of judgment we may have freer access to God."'

He also read: 'Another time a widow woman asked the same St. Serapion for alms because her children were hungry, and as he had nothing whatever to give her, he obliged her to sell him to some pagan actors, and these he converted to Christianity in a few days.'

After reading all this about St. Serapion, he [John the Almsgiver] was so overcome and filled with admiration for his goodness, that he burst into tears and then summoned all his own officials and read all these portions about St. Serapion to them and said: 'On my soul, you lovers of Christ, see how greatly a man is edified by reading the lives of the holy fathers. For, believe me, until today I really thought that I was doing a little something by giving away the monies which came to me, for I did not know that some, when overcome by pity, even sold themselves!'