St. Seraphim of Sarov: Why Did Even that Holy Man Need Asceticism?

Saint Seraphim of Sarov is one of the pillars of the Orthodox faith in the Russian lands. Most Orthodox believers know his biography. We have also heard a lot about the miracles that he made. However, some readers of his biography might ask: what did he need all those ascetic feats for?  After all, he led an absolutely chaste and pure life, didn’t he?

What Does a Pious Person Need Asceticism For?

St. Seraphim himself considered fasting, alms-giving, prayer, and staying awake to be essential for acquiring the Holy Spirit.

St. Seraphim of Sarov led a chaste life since childhood years. Moreover, his entire family was known for its piety and donations to the Church. In spite of that, Father Seraphim used to say that you cannot rely solely on your good actions. You should check and see whether they bring down the grace of the Holy Spirit. He added more spiritual exercises to his everyday routines, noting, “I exhaust him who exhausts me.” It means that there are no actions that can shield us from the attacks of the enemy of the human race. We are stuck in this battle during our entire lives.

We Cannot Imitate Him Today

Apostle Paul writes, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith you should follow” (Cf. Hebrews 13:7) We know how Saint Seraphim imitated Jesus Christ and Saint Paul. How do “we” do it? We lack both the power and the desire to do so.

What we really want is to live happily. We don’t want to suffer. We comfort ourselves by following the external rules and norms of a “godly” lifestyle. We always attend to our own needs and desires.

So… Are We Damned? How Can We Be Saved?

The Lord declares, “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12: 9). That is why we should acknowledge our true condition and follow the Elder’s advice by evaluating our actions and thoughts carefully in order to make our first step on the ladder that leads to the Heaven, to the Kingdom of

Admittedly, we cannot imitate St. Seraphim of Sarov today… We should at least do our best to treat the Holy Fathers’ heritage respectfully and honestly and act accordingly. Apostle Paul writes, “So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Cor. 9: 24). If we can’t run, let’s take tiny steps towards the Heaven so far as possible…

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  1. I don't believe that we cannot imitate the saints today. Perhaps we cannot take on their entire lifestyle, but we can imitate habits and attitudes and apostolic practices. I think the loophole given is an excuse for our weaknesses, not for the deterioration of the world.

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