St. Seraphim of Sarov: Ten Sayings

On God

God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the devil – for the devil is cold – let us call on the Lord. He will come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him but also for our neighbor, and the cold of him who hates the good will flee before the heat of His countenance.

On Hope

All who have firm hope in God are raised to Him and illumined by the radiance of the eternal light. If a man does not let excessive concern for himself turn him away from love for God and for acts of virtue, then this hope is true and wise. But if a man places all his hope in his own affairs and turns to God with prayer only when unforseen misfortunes befall him, and seeing no means in his own powers to avert them begins to rely on the help of God, his hope is vain and deceptive. True hope seeks first of all the Kingdom of God, and is confident that every earthly necessity of temporal life will doubtless be given… The heart can have no peace so long as it does not acquire such hope… It is of this hope that our Savior’s most holy words speak to us: «Come unto me, all ye that labor and are burdened, and I shall give you rest» (Matt. 11:28); that is, hope in Me and you shall be comforted in your labor and cares.

On Love for God

He who has achieved perfect love exists in this world as though he does not exist in it, for he considers himself a stranger to what is visible, and patiently awaits the invisible. He is wholly turned away from it towards love for God and forgetful of every other love. The soul, full of love or God, then leaves the body; it has no fear of the unsubstantial power of this world, but flies off with angels as though from a foreign land to a land of its own.

On the Preservation of Truths One has Come to Know

One should not open one’s heart to another unnecessarily. Out of a thousand you will find only one that will preserve your secret.

With a person of this world, one must speak of worldly things, but with a man whose mind is of a spiritual nature one must speak of heavenly things.

 On Talkativeness

An attentive man need but talk a lot with such as are of a contrary disposition for his inner self to be thrown into confusion.

But the really deplorable thing is that this results in the extinguishing of the fire which our Lord Jesus Christ came to re-establish in our hearts. For nothing so weakens the fire kindled in the heart of a monk by the Holy Spirit for the sanctification of his soul as communication and talk and chatter, excepting conversations with those who are sons of the divine mysteries, conversations for the restoration of the mind and for spiritual fellowship.

 On Prayer

A man who has decided to serve the Lord God must practice awareness of God and uninterrupted prayer to Jesus Christ, mentally repeating: «Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.» After dinner one can say this prayer: «Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, through the prayers of the Theotokos, have mercy upon me, a sinner;» or resort directly to the Most Holy Theotokos, praying: «Most Holy Theotokos, save us;» or repeating the angelic greeting: «Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos.» With such exercise, with preservation from distraction and with the maintenance of peace of mind, it is possible to come to God and become one with Him. For, according to the words of Issac the Syrian, we cannot come near to God without uninterrupted prayer (Homily 69).

St. John Chrysostom well described the virtue of prayer. Prayer, he said, is a mighty weapon, an unlimited treasure, independent wealth, a quiet haven, a reservoir of silence; it is the root and the source and the mother of ten thousand blessings (Homily on Inscrutability, 5).

If in prayer it happens that the mind is caught up by distracting thoughts, then one should bow down to our Lord God and ask for forgiveness, saying: I have sinned, O Lord, in word, deed and thought, and all my senses.

One must always strive against giving in to mental distractions. Through these the soul is turned away from the consciousness of God and His love to the activity of the devil. As St. Macarios says: «All the eagerness of our enemy is to turn our thought away from remembrance of God and of fear and love of Him» (Homily 2, Ch. 15).

When the mind and the heart are united in prayer, and nothing disturbs the soul’s contemplation, then the heart is warmed by spiritual heat and the light of Christ operates, filling the whole inner man with peace and joy.

On Sorrow

A soul filled with sorrow, made mindless and frenzied, cannot either accept good advice or answer proffered questions with gentleness. Whoever masters passions masters sorrow as well.

He who loves the world cannot but sorrow, whereas he who has turned away from the world is eternally joyous.

As fire purifies gold, so sorrow that is in accord with God purifies a sinful heart.

On Despondency

Just as the Lord cares for our salvation, so the devil, the killer of men, strives to lead man to despondency.

When despondency seizes us, let us not give in to it. Rather, fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great courage say to the spirit of evil: «What are you to us, you who are cut off from God, a fugitive from Heaven, and a slave of evil? You dare not do anything to us: Christ, the Son of God, has dominion over us and over all. Leave us, you thing of bane. We are made steadfast by the uprightness of His Cross. Serpent, we trample on your head.»

On Patience and Humility

One should always endure all things with gratitude, for God’s sake.

Our life is but a minute in comparison with eternity. Therefore, according to the Apostle, «the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come which shall be revealed in us» (Romans 8:18).

When someone disparages and abuses you, try as far as possible to forgive him, in accordance with the Gospel: «Of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again» (Luke 6:30).

When people revile us, we should consider ourselves unworthy of praise. If we were worthy, all would defer to us.

We should always and foremost humble ourselves, following the teaching of St. Isaac of Syria: «Humble yourself and you will behold the glory of God.»

Therefore let us love humility, and we shall behold the glory of God. His glory is imparted to us in proportion as we become humble.

If there were no light all things would be dark. Similarly, without humility there is nothing in man but darkness.

 On Care of the Soul

We should have every concern for our soul, and should strengthen our body for this reason only, that it may assist in the strengthening of the soul.

Voluntarily to exhaust our body to the point that the spirit is exhausted is an unreasonable mortification, even if it is done to acquire virtue.


From Modern Orthodox Saints: Volume 5, St. Seraphim of Sarov, by Constantine Cavarnos and Mary-Barbara Zeldin.

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