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May 6, 2015

Saint Seraphim of Livadeia as a Model for our Lives

St. Seraphim of Dombos (Feast Day - May 6)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Seraphim was born in the village of Zeli, within the province of Atalanta, from his pious and virtuous parents Anthony and Kali. He was named Sotirios and learned his first letters from the parish priest, apparently of the village, to whom his parents gave him over. His desire for the monastic life brought him very early to the Monastery of the Prophet Elias, which was on Mount Karkara, near his village. There he built a chapel dedicated to the Savior Christ together with a dwelling within a cave. However, since that area was very busy, he was forced to abandon it and went to the Monastery of the Holy Unmercenaries, near Atalanta. But there he faced the same problem and went to the Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior on Mount Sagmatio, between Thebes and Evia. There he was tonsured a monk and given the name Seraphim, and after some time he was ordained a Deacon and a Priest. There he gained prestigious fame as a spiritual father and helped many people. But to avoid the crowds of people who flocked to the Monastery due to his fame, he departed from there with the permission of the Abbot, and searching for a secluded location, he was led by the providence of God to the area of Mount Dombos, west of Mount Helicon, where he built a church dedicated to the Savior Christ, as well as some cells for some monks who submitted to him. After ten years he built a cell on the western peak of Mount Helicon, for more quietude.

Saint Seraphim spent his entire earthly life in asceticism, simplicity and austerity. He lived the hesychastic way of life, which leads to the purification of the heart from the passions, the illumination of the nous and theosis. That is, to a personal communion with the living God, whom he loved very much, and thus was able to truly love other people, as well as all of creation.

His repose was indeed venerable. Foreknowing the day of his departure, he waited for it like a passenger waits for a train to lead him to his beloved homeland. He departed for the Jerusalem above on the day of Pentecost in 1602, at the age of 75.

His life and conduct give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, quietude is first and foremost a way of life, and a quiet environment helps in meditation and prayer, which is why many of those who are flooded with divine eros depart for quiet and secluded locations. But the hesychastic life is, primarily, an internal state of the soul, associated with prayer, asceticism, the sacramental life, and complete trust in the providence and love of the Triune God. Through hesychasm the heart is purified, the nous is illumined and gains the wings of perfect humility and selfless love, making a person truly human. In other words, from a wild beast a person becomes a harmless lamb, because the hesychastic way of life calms the passions and transforms them. From passionate they become dispassionate, from covetous they become merciful, from selfish they become a lover of God and a lover of man. Hence, they become a true blessing in the life of their family, their social environment, and for the whole world, having acquired inner peace.

Second, obedience to the will of God and progress in the spiritual life, will cause the devil to become envious, together with those people who are subservient to the devil, which results in the people of God being tested and experiencing great temptations. The venerable Seraphim was no exception, by Divine concession, and he was tried with many and great temptations. However, he confronted them with great patience and above all with complete confidence in the providence and love of God. We will mention, briefly, one of these great temptations, which exemplifies his humility and patience, his forbearance and love.

Saint Seraphim was accused by a Turkish commander in Livadeia of deceiving the inhabitants of Dombos and taking their property, instead of a low fee, in order to establish his Monastery. The commander became angry and sent three Turkish soldiers to bring the Saint before him. The soldiers brutally abused him throughout the trek, from Dombos to Livadeia, tormenting him mercilessly. They did not foresee, however, as they should have, their need for water, and they began to be tormented by thirst. The Saint took pity on them and asked them to unbind him in order for him to kneel and pray. After praying he took a rod and struck the dry ground, like the God-seer Moses, and immediately there gushed forth fresh water, which quenched their thirst. Then they began to suffer from hunger and began to hunt, but without success. Then the Saint prayed again, raising his hands, and by doing so he caught three pigeons that flew to him, and he gave it to them. After the second miracle the soldiers softened, became calm and full of admiration and awe they released him and allowed him to go back to his Monastery to continue his work.

The person who is transformed by the Grace of God, transforms whatever environment they live in. With humility, forbearance, love and the power of prayer they change what is wild to become calm, and at the same time they satisfy the hunger and quench the thirst of those who are weary and battered in the journey of life, lovingly healing their wounds and helping them acquire the fullness and meaning of life.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Όσιος Σεραφείμ ο εν Δόμβω", May 2006. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.