Bishop Seraphim, in the world Nicholas Ioannovich Zvezdinsky, was born on April 7, 1883, into a family of yedinovertsy, converts from the Old Believers. His father had secretly left his father, a prominent member of the priestless sect of the Old Believers, and then been ordained at a young age in St. Petersburg. John Zvezdinsky set about converting his erring brothers to the Church of Christ. Soon his zealous words had won him many followers. His brothers became yedinovertsy, and in Moscow the schismatics joined the Orthodox yedinovertsy Church in their thousands.
Seraphim was called Nicholas in Holy Baptism in honour of the hierarch St. Nicholas. In the second year of his life he lost his meek and prayerful mother. Thereafter he lived under the supervision of his father, his kind nurse and his sister. Early in the morning he would be brought into the church for Mattins, where he would go to sleep. His father was very insistent that he should not remain at home, saying:
"Let him sleep, but in the church."
The strict customs of yedinovertsy worship instilled in the young Nicholas the habit of attending services without laziness; he learned chanting and reading on the kliros. He would stand on a little stool by the analoy, look into the Psalter and clearly and loudly read the words of the Prophet David. Once he went through the royal doors into the altar, to the astonishment of his father, who was standing by the altar. The people praying were not offended, but saw in this a sign from God that the young boy would himself become a church-server standing before the altar of God.
After leaving primary school near the yedinovertsy church, Nicholas was transferred to the Zaikonospasskoye school in Nikolskaya street in Moscow. On the way to the school there were many chapels, and the young pupil and his companions did not pass them by but went into all of them, praying for success in their studies. With the kopeks given to him for his breakfast, Nicholas would buy candles and place them before the wonderworking icons: to the All-good Quick Hearer, to the Great Martyr Panteleimon in his chapel, to the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God at the Vladimir gates, to St. Sergius at the Elijah gates, or to St. Nicholas in Nikolskaya street.
Kolya was good at his studies, but suffered a lot from his boisterous school-fellows, who, seeing his quiet and meek bearing, would take away his breakfast or the little money which his father had given him for his schooling and food.
After leaving the school, Kolya went to the seminary. Two of his peers there were the future bishops Gabriel Krasnovsky and Nicanor Guduchi. The young Kolya was very attracted to another quiet orphan brought up without a mother by a nanny - Tanya, the daughter of some neighbouring factory-owners who considered themselves higher than clergy children. Kolya did not draw close to Tanya, but only admired her from a distance.
At this point the Lord visited Kolya with a wonderful visitation. Kolya fell ill with inflammation of the lymph glands. This illness had carried a class-mate of his to the grave, and the young Nicholas was bound to go the same way. He suffered unbearable pain. For two months he could not sleep. His temperature was high. The doctors explained to the sorrowing father that the infection of the blood was irreversible and they had no way of saving him.
Having lost his wife, and standing now at the death-bed of his beloved son, the father sobbed inconsolably, begging the Lord to save the life of his son. The Lord heard his prayer.
The abbot of Sarov used to visit Fr. John in connection with the conversion of the schismatics, of whom there were many near Sarov. This time the igumen brought with him an icon of the God-pleasing Sarov elder Seraphim who was beginning to be glorified throughout Russia by his miracles.
"Father Protopriest!" said the igumen. "Do not despair of the life of your son. The elder Seraphim works glorious miracles and is able to intercede before the Lord for the healing of your Kolya. Ask him - he will console you!"
Touched, the father went up to the bed of his suffering son Kolya and said to him:
"Here's your doctor, Kolya, ask him, and he will heal you!"
And the dying youth quietly and firmly took hold of the icon of the elder Seraphim in his hand and tearfully began to pray for help and healing. His prayer was heard. He had not slept for two months already, but now in his tears he softly fell into a peaceful sleep. And, O wonder! On waking, he did not feel the slightest pain, but everything around him was wet from the pus which had flowed out.
"What's this?" the thought flashed through his head. "Am I healed?"
And he felt a heavenly sweetness in his heart and clearly knew that he was delivered from the terrible disease.
The news of the miraculous healing through the prayers of the elder Seraphim were immediately sent to Sarov: "To his Reverence, the Abbot of the Sarov monastery, Igumen Hierotheus. Your Reverence, deeply respected Igumen Hierotheus! It is good to keep the secret of the king, but it is commendable to preach the wonderful works of God, says the Scripture.
"I have the honour to inform your Reverence of the following event in my family: my son Nicholas, 18 years of age and a pupil in the third class of the Moscow theological seminary, fell ill this last January 12, 1902 with a swelling under the right armpit (lymphatic inflammation). At that time I informed you of my son's illness and suffering. His illness got worse from hour to hour, and the patient became exhausted and began to have fainting spells. This lasted until January 28. On that unforgettable day, at six o'clock in the evening, I received from your Reverence the book The Life of the Elder Seraphim and his icon on white tin-plate. I brought this icon to my suffering son; I asked him to cross himself and with faith to kiss the image of the saint. With difficulty he crossed himself, kissed the icon and placed it on the painful place... O wonderful miracle! The illness disappeared, the sufferings ceased, the patient became calm. During the night, as he was sitting in his bed, he was praying and several times kissed the icon. At 5 o'clock in the morning he lost consciousness and fell asleep; an hour later he woke up and asked for his sister, saying:
"'I'm all wet, I must have been sweating profusely'.
"But she saw that the abscess had burst, and that the bed and the bedsheets were all covered with pus. At the present time my son is completely healed.
"Such is the mercy of God which has been shown to my son Nicholas through the prayers of the holy Elder Seraphim. I and my children witness to this with our signatures and the seal of our names. Your Reverence's fervently grateful fellow-struggler in prayer and obedient servant, Protopriest John Zvezdinsky, dean of the yedinovertsy churches and of the Moscow yedinovertsy church of the Holy Trinity.
"July 30, 1902, No. 144, Moscow. Nicholas Zvezdinsky, Michael Zvezdinsky, Anna Zvezdinsky."
This healing was the more miraculous in that, as became clear at the inquiry, two doctors, an allopath and a homeopath, were called to the side of the sick youth. Both witnessed to the seriousness of the patient's condition. But their remedies did not help him, and the doctors themselves did not ascribe the healing to them. The witnesses of the event and the sick youth himself firmly believed that the healing was the work of God through the prayerful intercession of the God-pleaser Seraphim.
The doctors gave their witness concerning the miraculous recovery under oath.
On receiving the news, the Holy Synod petitioned the emperor concerning the opening and glorification of the holy relics of the Elder Seraphim, who was unceasingly pouring forth streams of miraculous help to all those who called on him with faith. When the emperor acceded to their request, the Synod ordered Protopriest John Zvezdinsky to compose the service to the God-pleasing wonderworker Seraphim of Sarov, which Fr. John did with zeal, displaying a wonderful gift and warmth of faith and love for the Elder Seraphim.
The troparion and kontakion were composed by Fr. John in gratitude for the saving of the life of his son.
The youth Nicholas, who had been healed in body, was also healed in soul. His heart no longer yearned for Tanya, it burned with love for God and his merciful healer, it burned with desire to give his miraculously prolonged life to the glory of God.
Soon he became a reader in the seminary and began to preach to the glory of the Holy Trinity.
His fiery words set the hearts of people on fire, his listeners burned with love for God and the Church of Christ. Hierarchs, teachers and students marvelled at the depth of his words. He was particularly eloquent when speaking about Holy Communion.
Nicholas Zvezdinsky graduated as one of the best students, and in 1905 entered the Moscow Theological Academy.
In his third year Kolya lost his father, who died on January 6, 1908. His father's house was occupied by his successor, another rector of the Trinity-Vvedensky church. His sister was living with her husband, and his nanny went to live in the country.
At this point the Lord sent Nicholas a spiritual father who took the place of his father. Near the Holy Trinity Lavra in the quiet Zosima hermitage there lived a hermit, Hieroschemamonk Fr. Alexis. The fiery student was led to him.
Fr. Alexis embraced his young spiritual son with all his heart, took him completely under his direction and became his elder. Kolya felt that through the power of the prayers of the holy hermit everything earthly had left him and his spiritual heart was set on fire. He conceived a desire for a pure monastic life. At the shrine of St. Sergius, Kolya, together with two student friends of his from the Academy, vowed to devote the whole of his life to God in monasticism.
The first student received the tonsure and became the future Archbishop Philip of Astrakhan. The second was attracted by a girl and broke his vow. But just before his marriage he unexpectedly fell down dead.
"God exists, and is a jealous God," said the rector of the Academy in his funeral speech.
The youth who had vowed to betroth himself to God was not allowed by God to betray Him, and the jealous God took him to Himself before he could betray Him. The sorrowful bride decided to devote herself to God for her betrothed; she took the tonsure and by her strict fulfilment of her monastic vows strove to redeem her guilt before God of having drawn the youth onto another path than that which he had sworn to follow.
The young Nicholas Ivanovich fulfilled the oath that he had made at the shrine of St. Sergius.
On September 26, 1908, he received the monastic tonsure and was ordained to the diaconate. The enemy fought strongly against the ascetic, not wanting him to become a monk. By night he was assailed by fears with regard to everything spiritual. When this did not work, the devil used the girl whom Nicholas Zvezdinsky had loved so long and so tenderly. Unexpectedly she began to look for him. But although the young student felt drawn towards her and earthly happiness, still, calling on God, he rejected this temptation and hastened his steps to the elder Alexis, who in his hermit's cell blessed him not to delay in taking the tonsure.
On September 26, the rector of the Academy Eudocimus tonsured the third-year student Nicholas Zvezdinsky in the Academy church dedicated to the Protecting Veil of the All-Holy Mother of God during the all-night vigil. He gave his vows loudly, and was vested in everything monastic. His face shone with an unearthly light, and the Holy Spirit played on his ascetic face.
On October 22, the feast of the Mother of God of Kazan, he was ordained to the diaconate. And on July 8, 1909, the other feast of the Kazan Mother of God, he was ordainedto the priesthood.
But soon the enemy took up arms against the warrior of Christ. Terror, fear, anguish, darkness and the despondency of solitude rolled in waves over his soul. Hell came up to his heart... then a terrible crash, the church collapsed, falling through onto the ground floor, the iconostasis was in pieces. The monk trembled, crossed himself and suddenly a terrible guffaw rent the air. The ascetic came to - everything was in its place, the church was intact, a quiet prayerful twilight and a grace-filled warmth filled the church.
In 1909, Hieromonk Seraphim graduated from Theological Academy with the degree of master of theology. Since he was the best preacher and a well-known ascetic, Metropolitan Vladimir of Moscow, the future hieromartyr, left him in the Moscow diocese as a teacher of church history in the Bethany seminary. There Fr. Seraphim won the hearts of the students by his example and words; like their teacher they burned with desire to be faithful servers of the altar of God until their death. He was also a teacher in the Moscow theological seminary.
But the enemy did not sleep. He wanted to change the students' good opinion of their teacher. He insinuated into their midst an adulterous woman of great physical beauty, high rank and subtle charms. Under the guise of spiritual striving she tried to win over the ascetic Fr. Seraphim, loading him with valuable gifts and presents. But the warrior of Christ was very attentive to himself and did not give in to Satan's charms and wiles. He understood his subtle nets and guarded himself in a cell inaccessible to the female sex. And he refused to accept her rich gifts. Everybody condemned her and sincerely took pity on him. The devil, who wanted to become master in the academic institutions, could not stand Fr. Seraphim, who was a model of meekness, a rule of faith and abstinence, and a fine teacher.
In his sorrows Fr. Seraphim found joy under the roof of the Chudov monastery, where his father and friend Archimandrite Arsenius (Zhadanovksy) was living. Always immersed in prayer and examining himself, the good pastor of a numerous monastic flock, Fr. Arsenius was of the same mind in everything with Fr. Seraphim. After the noisy worldliness of the seminary, Fr. Seraphim found here the monastic discipline and prayer-life that he was looking for. Fr. Arsenius immediately embraced him as a friend, and the elder of the Chudov monastery, Igumen Gerasimus, prophesied to Nicholas Ivanovich that he would become the abbot of the monastery.
On September 21, 1912, Fr. Seraphim was given the post of teacher of homiletics, liturgics and pastorship in the Moscow theological seminary.
It was 1914. Fr. Arsenius was consecrated bishop of Serpukhov. A successor was needed for the Chudov monastery. The choice fell on Fr. Seraphim, who was well-known for his fiery sermons within the walls of the monastery, and on June 13, 1914 he was appointed to this post with promotion to the rank of archimandrite, being at the same time inspector of the church schools of Moscow. From 1915 to 1916 he was also president of the Moscow section of the Orthodox Kamchatka Brotherhood.
Vladyka Arsenius saw in him a faithful helper, fellow struggler in prayer and friend; the brotherhood - a good leader and a lofty example of the monastic life; the parishioners - a wonderful consoler, director and teacher. But the temptress Eve came here, too, and tried to turn Fr. Arsenius and the brotherhood against the abbot. She embarrassed everyone by her presence, always appearing near Archimandrite Seraphim. But God preserved His warrior - everyone saw that he was chaste.
The revolution broke, and the Church was not unaffected. Soon the order came to abandon the Chudov monastery. The Kremlin came under bombardment, and the brotherhood of the monastery and the representatives of the higher clergy of the Local Council of the Russian Church were escorted into the basement of the Chudov monastery, where, 300 years before, Patriarch Hermogenes, the pillar of the Orthodox Church and the single upholder of Orthodoxy in the whole of Russia, had been starved to death by the Poles. Here unceasing prayer was sent up for the salvation of the Orthodox Fatherland; everyone wept, fasted and prepared for Communion. Here, too, St. Alexis was brought in his simple white coffin; by his relics he was as if present with them praying for his Russian flock...
In August, 1918, the Chudov monastery was deserted. Fr. Seraphim sealed the precious remains of St. Alexis with his abbot's seal, as if wishing to preserve the valuable treasure from his enemies. In tears he said farewell to his guide and the founder of the monastery.
The brotherhood was transferred to the Novospassky monastery, but they were not given accomodation. Vladyka Arsenius and Fr. Seraphim thought of staying in the Zosima hermitage, but the monks there were frightened of them, as if with the arrival of the well-known people from the Kremlin their monastery, too, would be closed. They had to settle in a small house in the Seraphim-Znamensky skete of the women's community of the Protecting Veil under the solicitous care of the abbess of the skete, Matushka Tamara. There, in the woods, was a house-church in the name of St. Arsenios the Great. Vladyka Arsenius celebrated the Liturgy there everyday, while Fr. Seraphim was the chanter; noone else was present.
And so the two friends prayed for all their children, for Orthodox Russia, for everyone. Soon their spiritual children from the Chudov monastery began to visit them. At this time Fr. Seraphim took no confessions. Vladyka Arsenius was the spiritual father of everyone. In this remote hermitage Fr. Seraphim imitated his heavenly protector, St. Seraphim. He devoted himself to prayer, reading the whole of the New Testament during the week - exactly as is written in the life of St. Seraphim. He also did physical work, chopping wood for fuel and making charcoal for the censer. In this way he prepared himself for the lofty apostolic feat that lay ahead of him.
In October, 1919, his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon called him to himself. Bishop Eudocimus of Nizhegorod had asked the patriarch to give his agreement to the consecration of Fr. Seraphim Zvezdinsky to the see of Arzamas. However, the authorities did not allow him to go to Arzamas. So the patriarch, who was at that time choosing helpers, said:
"I need you," and appointed him bishop of Dmitrov, a vicariate of the Moscow diocese.
The day before the consecration, on the feast of St. Ignatius the Godbearer, Fr. Seraphim vividly described the thorny path of the hierarch of Christ.
"Batyushka," said his spiritual children, "why did you preach such a sorrowful sermon on such a significant and joyful day in your life?"
"Because it will be sorrowful," said Fr. Seraphim firmly.
On December 21 / January 3, 1919/20 (according to another source, December 15), Patriarch Tikhon and other hierarchs consecrated Fr. Seraphim to the episcopate in the Trinity podvorye. After the Liturgy, Patriarch Tikhon pointed out that it was the feast of St. Peter, the first metropolitan of All Russia, and expressed the desire that Vladyka Seraphim would be like him:
"Just as the Hierarch Peter was the support of the city of Moscow, so you must be the support of the city of Dmitrov."
After saying farewell to his friend Vladyka Arsenius, Vladyka Seraphim left for the city of Dmitrov. When the patriarch saw him off, he said: "Go along the apostolic path, do not be upset by the inconveniences of life and the lack of necessities, but endure everything that comes your way."
On arriving in Dmitrov, Bishop Seraphim found himself a place to live, built a house church in the name of St. Seraphim and organized church services. These services attracted many people. Soon the new archpastor's love for his flock and devotion to God raised the souls of the worshippers, and church life in Dmitrov began to flourish.
Where Vladyka served, there were his spiritual children. In Great Lent they stood in the church from morning to evening without feeling tired, and would not be parted from their father even for an hour. They accompanied him to his house, chanting and praising Christ, and could not be persuaded to leave until the door of the house closed behind him.
Vladyka gave himself totally to his flock. From the morning, after the daily Liturgy, crowds of people of all ranks and stations in life would come to him for advice and consolation. There were more than a hundred churches in his diocese, 300 hundred priests, 250 deacons and three monastic communities - for all he was father, comforter and pastor.
Even thirty years after he had been driven from the town into exile, people remembered his words and passed them on from mouth to mouth. One would recite his sermons by heart, another would recount incidents in his life in Dmitrov. There was no house in which his name was not known and practically none in which his portrait did not hang.
On December 12, 1921 Bishop Seraphim was arrested in Moscow.
In January, 1922, Bishop Seraphim founded the brotherhood of the Life-creating Cross of the Lord in Dmitrov. Patriarch Tikhon had given his blessing to the formation of brotherhoods, which were not meant to replace, but to complement the parishes in the new conditions of Soviet life. Vladyka knew and loved each one of his flock, and was constantly visiting them. His cell-attendant, who was used to these wanderings of his, used to say to him as they were walking together through the streets of Dmitrov:
"Vladyka, there's a light, aren't they waiting for us? We haven't managed to visit everyone!"
The bishop was assiduous in serving, and considered it his duty to confess everyone - he was never content with the practice of general confession that was beginning to spread everywhere in the 1920s. And he would say to his children:
"Never and nowhere, under no circumstances of life must the members of the brotherhood be ashamed of their holy Orthodox Faith..."
His zeal did not go unnoticed, and at the end of November, 1922, he was arrested and imprisoned in a subterranean prison in Moscow. He was accused, in particular, of firmly resisting the renovationists, to whom he surrendered not even a single church in his diocese. For nine days Vladyka ate nothing, being fortified only by the Holy Gifts. Then he was transferred to Butyrki prison for five months. Here he experienced sufferings similar to those experienced by the martyrs of the first Christian centuries. Insects gnawed at his flesh, which tore away in chunks; his whole body was one bare lump of meat. But the Lord appeared to His suffering servant in prison and strengthened him, in memory of which he wrote an akathist to the Suffering Christ the Saviour which contained the following words: "Strengthen me, who am thoroughly exhausted, in the bearing of the saving cross which Thy right hand hath sent to me."
He was transferred to hospital. His heart began to fail, but the Lord preserved his life since it was needed for the Church and his beloved flock, who unceasingly prayed for him with tears. The parcels they sent were so big that the hierarch was able to feed many prisoners on them. And even here he did not cease to catch souls by his love for Christ. People who had apostasized from Christ the Saviour, who had not approached the Holy Mysteries for thirty years, confessed their sins to him and were again united to Christ.
He was in prison for five months. On March 30, 1923 he was sentenced to two years' exile in Zyryansk region, in the village of Vizinga. A large crowd of people accompanied their archpastor to the station, and for a long time his children lay on the ground, giving him their last earthly bow, until the train disappeared from view. Two nuns accompanied him on his journey, providing him with food and seeing to his clothing. The hierarch had given away almost all his clothing to his fellow-prisoners.
The journey lasted a month. On May 16, he arrived in Ust-Sysolsk, where the venerable Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan was living. The hierarchs comforted each other and then parted again. Vladyka Seraphim was sent to the remote
village of Vizich (or Vizingu), where he was at the end of 1924 and the beginning of 1925. There, in a simple peasant's hut in an ocean of forests, the hierarch and his two companions settled. Soon a house church was built, and the everyday services took up all their free time. The exiled hierarch gave himself to prayer for his flock, while his flock remained faithful to their lawful hierarch, not joining the renovationists.
"Only here, in saving exile," wrote Vladyka Seraphim to his friend Vladyka Arsenius, "have I learned what seclusion and prayer is."
And here he received food and clothing from his spiritual children, who wrote to him about their sorrows and needs. Vladyka replied to them in writing, comforting them and not allowing the renovationists to build their nest in his diocese.
Thus passed two years.
On the day of the Annunciation, 1925, Vladyka Seraphim rejoiced at the news that he had been freed from exile. On the next day, however, he was greatly saddened to hear that the patriarch had died. On May 4, he arrived in Moscow, having stopped at Sergiev Posad for confession with his elder, Fr. Alexis.
The Church in Moscow was in a pitiful state. Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, the patriarch's successor, was not trusted by many of the pastors and archpastors of Moscow, and the venerable hierarchs did not want to submit to a hierarch who had only just become a monk. But the pure-hearted Vladyka Seraphim understood that the metropolitan was the most worthy successor to the patriarch. He knew that Patriarch Tikhon had been greatly comforted by Metropolitan Peter's devotion, faithfulness and love for him. And by supporting the locum tenens in his turn, Vladyka Seraphim helped to reconcile the Muscovite clergy with Metropolitan Peter.
Vladyka Seraphim spent the summer in the Borisoglebsk Anosin monastery in Moscow diocese. In the autumn Metropolitan Peter appointed Vladyka Seraphim, together with other vicar-bishops, to take his place in Moscow.He knew that he would not betray the Church of Christ.
At the end of 1925 Vladyka Seraphim retired to a wooded retreat twenty versts from Kubinki station in Zvenigorod uyezd, where there was a house church in honour of St. Sabbas of Zvenigorod. Quiet prayer gave peace to the soul of the archpastor, and he clearly understood that the enemy would not allow Metropolitan Peter to take the helm of the Church again. And in order to preserve his independence, Vladyka Seraphim retreated further into the
On June 13, 1926 he was exiled to Arzamas. On July 5, 1926, he made a pilgrimage to Diveyevo. The timid abbess took fright at the unexpected arrival of the popular hierarch and began to constrain him and prevent him from performing Church services. Vladyka Seraphim suffered this for a long time, but finally by his humility and prayers he won over the abbess. Andso every day he would celebrate the Liturgy behind closed doors in the underground church of the Mother of God "Console my Sorrow", praying for the monastery and his orphaned flock. After the Liturgy he would go round St.
Seraphim's canal and recite "Virgin Mother of God, rejoice!", in accordance with St. Seraphim's rule, 150 times.
Every day he prayed in St. Seraphim's hermitage. And on July 19, the
feast of the opening of the relics of St. Seraphim, he served in Sarov. (St. Seraphim's relics had been removed from the monastery in March, 1926.) Thousands of pilgrims participated in the festivities. But soon Vladyka was given the order to leave Sarov. Thus just as the first celebration of St.
Seraphim at Sarov was linked with Fr. John and his son, the future Vladyka Seraphim, so the last hierarchical Liturgy in Sarov was celebrated by Vladyka Seraphim on August 15, 1926.
"Where do you want to go?" they asked the exiled archpastor.
"Only back to my diocese," replied the hierarch.
"That is impossible!" they replied.
September 9/22 was Vladyka's last day in Diveyevo. During the night he was ordered to go he did not know where. Then in pouring rain he and other members of the Diveyevo community were brought to Arzamas. Late at night the damp, dark walls of Arzamas prison received the tormented prisoners. In the morning the nuns who accompanied him brought him dry, clean clothing. Soon the prisoners were taken to Nizhni-Novgorod, where the basement of a threatening institution hid the archpastor from the eyes of those who loved him. In these difficult trials his gallstone illness got worse, and he was given over into the care of a nun who was his adopted daughter. He was released on October 8, and on October 17 he was ordered to appear before Metropolitan Sergius in Moscow
Vladyka Seraphim categorically refused to accept Sergius' infamous "declaration" of July, 1927, which placed the Church in more or less complete submission to the atheists.
"I am morally incapable of doing that which those who do not love Christ the Saviour want," was the reply of the wise confessor.
"Agree with the proposal," said Metropolitan Sergius, "otherwise you
will not only land up beyond the Arctic circle, but your lot will be three times as bad as that of Metropolitan Peter."
At this point Vladyka produced a petition that he be retired, expressing thereby his refusal to submit his rank and conscience to those who did not love the Son of God and His glory.
Sergius, stunned by the decisive departure of the archpastor, hid Vladyka Seraphim's decision from all those round him in order that others
should not follow his example and retire.
According to Metropolitan Manuel, Vladyka Seraphim's conversation
with Metropolitan Sergius took place after the latter's notorious declaration of July, 1927, and Archbishop Zenobius of Tambov was also present. Vladyka Seraphim and Archbishop Zenobius refused to accede to Sergius' demand that they read out his declaration from the ambon to their flocks, which would
have meant that they agreed with the declaration. Instead, the confessing
bishops produced (from the sleeves of their cassocks) their petitions, which they had prepared earlier just in case. It was at that point that Metropolitan Sergius mentioned the Arctic circle, and the island of Khe on which Metropolitan Peter was exiled. Apparently, after this the bishops were given some time to consider their response. It is not known what Archbishop Zenobius did. But Vladyka Seraphim, who had been given the choice of returning to his flock or exile in the town of Melenki (on the river Unzhe in Vladimir province) if he did not accept the conditions, asked the advice of an elder. The elder said:
"Go to Melenki, and you will be beloved of God."
Soon Vladyka was ordered to leave Moscow and go to Melenki, where his new life in retirement began. For five years he did not leave his house, but lived a life of prayer in strict accordance with the typikon. Faithful pastors came to seek his advice from Moscow, and his spiritual children also visited him.
Vladyka Seraphim lived with Vladyka Arsenius in the St. Catherine's women's monastery until its closure.
According to one source, Vladyka signed the decisions of the so-called "Nomadic Council" of the Catacomb Church, which took place in various places between March and August, 1928, through Protopriest Paul Borotinsky.
He also wrote (although these words may belong to Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich): "Metropolitan Sergius has fallen away from the Church, that is, by his actions he has transgressed the Church canons. Metropolitan Sergius no longer remains in the bosom of the Orthodox Church. The Church which has recognized righteousness in communism is not a Church An 'organization bought at the price of bowing down to the Antichrist is unworthy of the Church."
On Palm Sunday, April 25, 1932, he was imprisoned in Moscow (according to another source, Melenki) in connection with the affair of the Moscow branch of the True Orthodox Church. For three months he remained in Butyrki, sick and weak. On July 7 he was sentenced to three years exile in Kazakhstan. On the feast of St. Seraphim he was taken out and put on a train, where his spiritual daughter, a nun, was waiting for him. They were taken to Alma-Ata, which was overflowing. For two months the hierarch could not find a placeto stay. He lived on the roof of a poor old man's store-room. He had hardly had time to rest on the shed, which was quickly converted into living accomodation, when he was again taken away seven thousand kilometres through Syzran, Penza, Saratov and Uralsk (on August 1, 1933) to Guryev. The unendurable heat of the Caspian played havoc with his health, and after seven months he was again taken on a very hard journey to Uralsk. Here the sufferer found shelter in a humble little cottage, where he fell victim to a bout of malaria that nearly killed him.
After recovering from this illness, at the beginning of 1935, he was
arrested in Uralsk and sentenced to three years' exile in Ishim. Sick, and without money or shelter, the exile arrived in Ishim. Having settled withhis companions in the house of an old man, Vladyka gave himself up to prayer and the reading of the Sacred Scriptures. Here in his distant exile he was visited by his spiritual children.
On the night of June 23-24, 1937, Bishop Seraphim was arrested in Ishim and sentenced to be shot. The sentence was then commuted to ten years in the camps without right of correspondence. According to one source, Bishop Seraphim and 70 exiled priests were shot in Ishim. According to another, he was shot in Omsk on August 26, 1937 and buried in a common grave. According to a third source, he was executed on March 13/26, 1937. And according toyet another source, this took place in a camp in the Far East.
(Sources: M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyatejshego Tikhona, Patriarkha Moskovskogoi Vseya Rossii, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, pp. 889-90; "Zhiznennij put' Vladyki Seraphima (Zvezdinskogo) (1883-1937)", Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, N 133, I-1981; "O svyashchennike Seraphime Zvezdinskom", Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, N 134, II-1981; Russkie Pravoslavniye Ierarkhi, Paris: YMCA Press, 1986; Shemetov, "Khristos sredi nas!", Moskovskij Tserkovnij Vestnik, May, 1990; Metropolitan Manuel Lemeshevsky, Die Russischen Orthodoxen Bischofe von 1893-1965, Erlangen, 1989; P.Z. "Vyesti iz Rossii", Pravoslavnaya Rus', no. 24 (1525), December 15/28, 1994, p. 11; Bishop Ambrose (von Sivers), "Istoki i svyazi Katakombnoj Tserkvi v Leningrade i obl. (1922-1992)", report read at the conference "The Historical Path of Orthodoxy in Russia after 1917", Saint
Petersburg, 1-3 June, 1993; "Katakombnaya Tserkov': Kochuyushchij Sobor 1928 g.", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 3 (7), 1997, p. 19; "Episkopat Istinno-Pravoslavnoj Katakombnoj Tserkvi 1922-1997gg.", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 4(8), 1997, p. 5; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1945, Moscow: Krutitskoye patriarsheye podvorye, 1996, pp. 535, 566;Ikh Stradaniyami Ochistitsa Rus', Moscow, 1996, p. 75; I.I. Osipova, "Skvoz' Ogn' Muchenij i Vody Slyoz", Moscow: Serebryanniye Niti, 1998, p. 261)
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