10. Joyful renunciation of the world
One of the great elders Fr Tikhon came into contact with was Archimandrite Seraphim.
Fr Seraphim lived out of a damp and dark cave, and only came out to partake in the Divine Liturgy with the rest of the monks of the monastery every day. He would also inspect the monastery to see that everything was in order, before retiring back to his cave once again every day.
This kindly old saint was no ordinary man. He was a nobleman, a German Baron. And yet, he denounced his nobility and his worldly life, and sought the joy and comfort of a deeply ascetic monastic life.
Fr Seraphim rarely spoke, and if he did, he did not say much. And yet those few times he spoke, with few words, were powerful resonances.
There was once a novice who harbored the thoughts of leaving the monastery. Fr Seraphim suddenly walked up to the novice, stomped his feet, and shouted that the road out of the monastery was closed to the novice. Everyone was amazed, perhaps because Fr Seraphim not just spoke, but shouted at someone. But the novice was perhaps even more amazed, for Fr Seraphim read his heart and admonished him to stay.
Fr Tikhon was given a rock relic on which the revered Saint Seraphim of Sarov once prayed on. He gave this relic to Fr Seraphim. Fr Seraphim asked if he could give something in return and Fr Tikhon the novice replied verbally “nothing.” However, Fr Tikhon in his heart wanted very much to be a monk, and Fr Seraphim read his heart, and said that his wish to be monk would simply be fulfilled by his own will.
When Fr Seraphim was very weak in his last year of his life, he encouraged the young novice that the greatest treasure was the monastic life, like a great treasure that can only be experienced by those in it, and admonished the young novice to keep a strong will – for the monastic life demands much of those who stay in it.
Fr Seraphim led a pristine, prayerful, ascetic life and kept his pace close to God. He did not need the worldly temptations, nor the meaningless title he inherited as a baron (St Matthew 19:21). Just as the Apostle Paul was previously Saul of Tarsus, the Apostle dropped his lineage and followed Christ to preach the Gospel of Truth, and left his birth and possessions behind (Philippians 3:4-11).
We live in the world, most of us, as we labor in the world. But we are reminded not to conform to the world, or be shaped and corrupted by it (Romans 12:2). Our sight is set on God, in our breathing, in our deeds, in our footsteps in the world, just as Apostle John encouraged us that our Lord and Christ will protect us from the evil one as we traverse in the world (St John 17:14-15). Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.