Posted in honor of the 40th Anniversary of the repose of Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) of Platina.
|Father Seraphim serving the Divine Liturgy, Saint Herman Monastery, Platina CA.|
The Veneration of
Father Seraphim Rose
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
~ Psalm 115 (LXX)
Excerpted from the booklet, AKATHIST to our Holy Father Blessed Seraphim of Platina. You can learn more details about this unique publication here.
Those familiar with the edifying life story of Father Seraphim Rose know how the popular veneration of him began immediately upon his death, and has spread all over the globe these nearly thirty years since.
On the fortieth day after Fr. Seraphim's repose, a day designated as a special time of prayer by the Church, pilgrims again arrived at Fr. Seraphim's grave to pray for him. Many, however, had begun to do what Bishop Nektary [Kontzevich, of Seattle, ROCOR] had advised Mother Brigid; that is, to pray not only for Fr. Seraphim, but also to him, that he would continue to guide and pray for them from the other world. Bishop Nektary, who came to the monastery on the fortieth day together with several clergymen, confirmed what was already in people's hearts. After serving Divine Liturgy and then a pontifical Pannikhida at the grave, the Bishop gave a sermon which ended with the phrase: “Fr. Seraphim was a righteous man, possibly a saint.” Bishop Nektary was well qualified to make such a statement, having been in close contact with saints both in Russia and the free world. The priest who was translating his sermon into English, however, hesitated in repeating this phrase, particularly the last word. Calculating that such a bold affirmation might be risky since other Church leaders had not yet expressed their opinion, this priest asked Bishop Nektary if he had really meant what he said. Hitting the ground with his staff, the Bishop repeated, in Russian, “A Saint!”— and the confused priest was obliged to render this word in English.
Having led a procession from the hillock of Fr. Seraphim's grave, the Bishop was about to enter the church, still holding a censer in his hand. Abruptly he turned around and, with great feeling, loudly began to sing the glorification hymn to monk-saints: “We glorify thee, our holy Father Seraphim, and we honor thy holy memory: instructor of monastics, and converser with angels.” The monks, clergy and pilgrims joined in the singing, and the sorrow of being separated from Fr. Seraphim was again transformed into joy. 
It is a sense of this ineffable joy of the kingdom to come which affirms Father Seraphim’s sanctity for those who, if we may speak so boldly, have mystically come under his paternal protection and the guidance of his epitrachelion. This transfigured joy is precisely the experience of those who gathered at Father Seraphim’s bedside when he was in the hospital suffering excruciating pain from his final illness:
Having driven all night, Archbishop Anthony arrived at the hospital where he and Fr. Herman read the prayers for the departure of the soul. It was close to 2 A.M. Those at Fr. Seraphim’s bedside did not want to leave. And then something unprecedented happened. Perhaps it was the compassion of the Mother of God which opened the doors. People began to gather in Fr. Seraphim’s room—not three or four, but at least 20 surrounded his bed, and for the next several hours they sang for Fr. Seraphim to hear perhaps for the last time the beautiful Dormition stichera: “O ye apostles from afar, being now gathered together…” Then the entire Paschal Canon was sung. Many sang through their tears. Fr. Seraphim was breathing through a respirator and could not speak. But he was conscious, and when he heard the singing of one of his favorite hymns, “Noble Joseph,” he began to cry. It was hard to look upon Fr. Seraphim’s sufferings, but it was harder still to tear oneself away from his bedside. Finally, however, the nurses asked everyone to leave. No one knew that this was only the beginning of a vigil that was to last another five days and nights…
Those who had the opportunity to spend several hours at this time praying or reading the Gospel at Fr. Seraphim’s bedside will never forget this intense and very sobering experience, It was a time to think about death which was hovering very close, and about the meaning of suffering for Christ. Utterly helpless, tied to the bed to avoid danger from possible seizures, wires from monitoring devices crossing his chest, his arms punctured with tubes and breathing with the help of a respirator, Fr. Seraphim looked like the image of one crucified; truly, we were witnessing a martyrdom. So often he had spoken about suffering and the benefit it had upon the Christian soul…
The hours passed slowly. Each telephone call, each visit from the doctors or nurses—we hoped for the best, and feared the worst. The waiting room became a prayer room, with one akathist or canon following another. The Gospel was read by turns, all four books, and again. It was such a time of intense and prolonged prayer that few of us had ever experienced before...
Tuesday morning Fr. Seraphim's condition again became very critical; phone calls were made to ask for increased prayer. That afternoon Abbot Chrysostomos and Hieromonk Auxentius arrived from St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Ohio. Soon afterwards Bishop Nektary of Seattle also arrived to keep watch over his spiritual son whom he had ordained only 5 years ago. That night a midnight Liturgy was held in the hospital chapel, a room on the same floor as the Intensive Care Unit; it had a low ceiling and no windows which gave it a catacomb feeling. This was heightened by the intensity of the situation and the fervent prayers, united in spirit and purpose. Just as he had every day that week, Fr. Seraphim received Holy Communion and appeared to be more at peace…
Wednesday afternoon the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God, “Unexpected Joy,” was brought from San Francisco. It was immediately carried in to Fr. Seraphim. Throughout the day those present prayed before it, and sensed that truly, the Mother of God was keeping a close watch over Fr. Seraphim and that his sufferings were not in vain.
It was, after all, still the period of Dormition. Liturgy was again served at midnight in the hospital chapel and Fr. Seraphim received Holy Communion at 3 A.M. on Thursday morning. The icon remained in the hospital where people were still keeping vigil and periodically taking the icon into Fr. Seraphim whenever visitors were permitted.
But this vigil was not to last much longer. At about 10:30 the doctors announced that there was very little hope left, there was nothing more they could do. And within minutes, the vigil over the dying had ended, and a new life for Fr. Seraphim had begun. So it was pleasing to God. He had passed from death to life, from earth to heaven where the choirs of the righteous shine like the stars in the glory of Transfiguration.
Of the minutes and hours that followed, Abbot Chrysostomos has written:
“I went with Abbot Herman into the hospital room to help prepare the body, immediately after the death of this holy man. The room was now filled with love, with an inner spiritual fragrance, and with a sorrowful joy. From that moment on, no one who had not loved the man ever touched his body. And thus the fruits of his suffering, the victory of his struggle with whatever evil it was that he chose to do battle, became perfectly united with those around him. His unembalmed body we carefully and lovingly dressed. And despite efforts to bind his jaw, his face naturally fell into a quiet smile of unmistakable heavenly joy. His body never stiffened, nor did decay of any kind set in. The skin remained soft and the body seemed to be one of a sleeping child. A scientist from the University of California at Berkeley correctly described the body when he commented, ‘He looks precisely like a relic’.
“The death of Father Seraphim produced a spiritual phenomenon untold of in our times. Lying in state in a crude wooden coffin in the humble monastery church, not only did the body remain soft and life-like in the summer heat, but so comforting was his face that one could not bear to cover it, in the traditional monastic way. Even children could hardly move away-from the coffin, since the body brought such internal peace and suggested such love. Everyone was aware that, in our times, among us, a holy man had left in his body a phenomenon that challenges science and our hearts. There was a universally expressed feeling among those present that we were privileged witnesses to a manifestation of God’s Grace…
|Father Seraphim in blessed repose, Saint Herman Monastery, Platina CA, September 1982.|
“The burial of this holy man took place amidst great personal grief, for his loss was unthinkable to all who loved him. But this grief was overcome, washed away, and transformed by a joy that one could only compare to that of Pascha. And indeed, several times during the burial the Paschal Troparion was spontaneously sung. What all of this means for us Orthodox in America, one can only vaguely understand from the astounding phenomenon which I have described. But without doubt, the death of Father Seraphim will benefit us as greatly now as his tremendous witness has during his years on earth.” 
As the years and now decades have passed, the veneration of Father Seraphim has become truly global, and yet we may rightly say that everywhere round the globe, wherever he is venerated, his veneration is truly local. Beginning on a large scale first appropriately in Russia, which threw off the shackles of the atheist Soviet regime less than a decade after Father Seraphim’s repose, the faithful there feel as if Father Seraphim is uniquely theirs. Fr. Alexey Young (Hieromonk Ambrose in monastic tonsure), when speaking in Russia about Father Seraphim, met with Orthodox youth who asserted that, “Father Seraphim is really for us young Russians.” Surprised by this, Fr. Ambrose replied, “That’s funny, I always thought he was for us Americans!” Father Ambrose then observed, “This is one of the signs of a saint: he appeals to everyone, everywhere, in all languages and cultures, with an immediacy and conviction...” 
|The 'Russian Icon' of Blessed Father Seraphim.|
Fr. Peter Alban Heers elaborates on the veneration of Father Seraphim, especially in the Balkans:
In a very small amount of time, in just a few years, the veneration and the love of Fr. Seraphim Rose has spread through Greece. People are really showing great interest in what he has to say. I have been made privy to and become friends with people in other parts of the Balkans, in Serbia and Romania, where they have told me as well that the same phenomenon is happening and has happened perhaps even earlier in Serbia with the rise of Fr. Seraphim. So much so, that when I was in Serbia just a few years ago, I was impressed to see that Fr. Seraphim was, especially by many young people, really considered to be a saint. They had icons made of him, and they considered that he was a holy saint, a holy man, of the Church.
The words of the Lord came to my mind, “A prophet has no honor in his own country.” In America, Fr. Seraphim, although venerated by many and with many miracles associated with his life after his repose, is sometimes seen as controversial because of his writings, especially on the soul after death. He is seen as controversial or just plain wrong. Whereas here in Greece, a traditional Orthodox country, we see that this book, The Soul After Death, has been the most positively received of all the books Fr. Seraphim has written.
Really, there is, no controversy surrounding him as far as I am aware in Greece. In fact, in our own diocese, a new book on the soul after death has just been published by the Protosingulos (the second after the Bishop), and he extensively cites Fr. Seraphim’s writings and appeals to his authority on the subject of the soul after death, which is quite remarkable. This young American convert has now become an authority for Greek Archimandrites and clergy here in this Orthodox country of 2,000 years...
There is no second thought. When they encounter Fr. Seraphim, they encounter his life, his writings, his teachings, and they immediately accept him as an authority, as a conveyor of the Holy Tradition, as an intercessor before God. They are tremendously moved by his conversion, by his ascetic life, and by his dedication to Christ and the Church.
And it should be, for us in America, a source of great joy, encouragement and also a great lesson, because Fr. Seraphim chose the version of Orthodoxy which is most true to the Tradition and most akin to the Orthodox faith and life that one encounters here in the old country. This is shown in his decision, his life and his way of living the Orthodox faith which have proven to be authentic and accepted by the faithful and the clergy of many, many Orthodox places and countries—first of all Russia, but also now in Serbia, Romania, in Georgia, and all around the Orthodox world. 
|An Athonite Icon of Blessed Father Seraphim.|
It should be a great source of joy and encouragement for us as Orthodox Christians in America and a great example for us that one of our own has reached the heights of spirituality and has shown to be a Holy Father in our own day…
At the end of the day, the Church, the faithful, the people of God, will have their say. It is apparent, at least here in Greece, that they are accepting and rejoicing in the life of Fr. Seraphim, his witness, and his teachings. And, to the glory of God, the Church continues to produce saints, even in far off California which is not known for its holy places. But we do in fact have in our own day two holy men from California—St. John and Fr. Seraphim—who are intercessors before God and examples for us all. Amen. 
From personal veneration, to local, to global, and back to personal; how a saint’s life resonates with and inspires the hearts of his fellow believers offers the most convincing testimony. The Very Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes offers his own personal testimony of the sanctity of Father Seraphim, affirming what many others who knew him also felt in his presence:
To have met this good soul was for me, a poor sinner, a great spiritual joy and blessing! He was such a good, loving priest and monk. Father Seraphim was filled with remarkable humility and serenity beyond description. My own life as a pastor has been enhanced and enlightened because of Father Seraphim (Rose). I thank God for allowing me to have known him.
We can all thank God for the life of Father Seraphim. He taught us to heed Christ's own instructions—to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul and to judge no one, but rather, love all, even those who do not love us. He admonished us to live by the example of the saints and martyrs of our Holy Orthodox Church.
On three recent occasions when, as President of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund, I visited Kosovo-Metohija, I distributed many photos of Father Seraphim to the monks and nuns in that region. They were delighted to have a photo of Father Seraphim; he has become widely known and is venerated by many Orthodox Christians, not only in America, but all over Europe, Russia, Australia, and elsewhere around the world. To this day I meet numerous people, including monks and nuns, who have been converted to Holy Orthodoxy all because of the life and teachings of Father Seraphim.
Many icons of Father Seraphim have been painted and some call him a saint. Miracles have been attributed to him. It greatly pleases my heart and soul to hear him referred to as “Father Seraphim of Blessed Memory”! May the grace of the Holy Spirit bring us someday to the holy canonization of Father Seraphim. 
Blessed Father Seraphim acquired and was faithful to the Patristic mind of the Orthodox Church, and lived to the fullest the Gospel command of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Whoever would come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” He said of himself that when he became Orthodox he “crucified his mind.” And having done so, he then expended all his energy in focused determination, laboring with the talent the Lord entrusted to him, with grace from above, in order to advance the Kingdom of Christ. It is Father Seraphim’s radical self-denial for the sake of Christ which imbues his words with the true ‘savor of Orthodoxy’ cultivated in pain of heart, and which makes him such a beloved and trustworthy guide for us Orthodox Christian strugglers of these last times. But our true veneration of him must always be linked to our own struggle to live an authentic Orthodox Christian life. To this end may we all receive the blessing offered by one of Father Seraphim’s spiritual sons to a younger seeker:
May the Lord grant you to follow
in the footsteps of Father Seraphim!
Amen! So be it!
O Holy Father, Blessed Seraphim,
pray to God for us!
1. Hieromonk Damascene, Father Seraphim Rose ~ His Life and Works, St. Herman Press, Platina CA, 2005, pp 1030-1032.
2. Orthodox America, Issue 22, Vol. 3, No. 2, Special Memorial Issue, Aug-Sept 1982.
3. Hieromonk Ambrose Young, writing in the Preface, Father Seraphim Rose ~ His Life and Works, p. xii.
4. Father Seraphim is likewise openly venerated all throughout the Holy Mountain of Athos, where icons and photos of him are treasured by the monks, who count him as one of their own.
Note on images and icons:
The images of Blessed Father Seraphim included here are assumed to be in the public domain, or their use protected by 'Fair Use' conventions under US Copyright Law. No copyright infringement is intended.
The icons included in this post are available from Uncut Mountain Supply. No copyright infringement is intended, and the viewer is directed to visit Uncut Mountain to support them in their good work.