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March 16, 2020

Saint Serapion, Archbishop of Novgorod (+ 1516)

St. Serapion of Novgorod (Feast Day - March 16)

Saint Serapion was born in the village of Pekhorka near Moscow, and from a young age he was inclined toward monasticism. According to the wish of his parents, he entered into marriage, and was ordained to the priesthood. A year later he became a widower and was tonsured at the Dubensk Monastery of the Dormition. Because of his virtuous life he was elected as abbot of the monastery and he labored so much for it that it later became known by his name - Serapion Hermitage.

Desiring to engage in more rigorous ascetical struggles, the Saint resigned his position and entered the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, where he became the abbot in 1495. The Saint enjoyed the respect of the Great Prince Ivan Vasilyevich, and at his request, the Prince pardoned three convicted boyars who had been condemned to death.

While attending the Council of 1504, Saint Serapion passionately defended the practice of the Church and Monasteries possessing property, as a means of charity. This brought him into conflict with Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk (Sept. 9), who taught that the Church should not own villages and estates.

In 1506 he was consecrated as Archbishop of Novgorod. During a big fire in that city in the year 1508, the Saint tearfully prayed that the Lord would cause it to cease, and it did.

Saint Serapion had to endure many troubles. In July 1509, at the Sobor that considered the conflict between him and Joseph Volotsky (the latter was under Serapion's episcopal jurisdiction but had directly appealed to Simon, Metropolitan of Moscow - an act that Serapion deemed to be uncanonical), and his letter of complaint, in which he said Joseph had abandoned heavan (meaning he had abandoned his rightful bishop) and descended to earth. The grand prince took this as a personal insult, that Serapion was claiming the local prince was divinely mandated and Grand Prince Vasili III was mundane. Serapion was found guilty, removed from office, and confined to the Andronikov Monastery in Moscow.

In 1511 Saint Serapion moved to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, where he spent the remainder of his life in unceasing meditation and prayer, honored by the Lord with the gifts of discernment and of working miracles.

After being tonsured into the Schema, the hierarch reposed in peace on March 16, 1516. His incorrupt relics were found on April 7, 1517, and to this day they rest hidden in Serapion’s Pavilion, at Holy Trinity Cathedral, in Trinity-Sergius Lavra. After his death, the See of Novgorod remained vacant for 17 years.

The Lord has glorified His Saint with the gift of miracles, both during his lifetime and after his death. Once, on the Feast of the Dormition, the Saint healed a lame man, who for many years had crawled on his feet and hands, leaning on pieces of wood.

In 1608, during the siege of the Lavra by the Poles, many monks and laymen, who came to the temple to pray for his monastery, saw him in the bishop’s vestments.