My dear readers, below you will find a translation of a sermon by the New Hieromartyr Seraphim (Zvezdinski). It is the first of twenty two sermons specifically on the subject of the Divine Liturgy. It is, as far as I know, the first time it appears in English.
As with all the holy newmartyrs of Rus’, the life of St. Seraphim is of great profit and interest. Rather than relay his God-pleasing life in this article, I will direct the reader to two accounts of his life, here and here.
This holy hierarch was steadfastly faithful to Christ during times of fierce persecution. After years of cycles of imprisonment and release, this faithful servant of Christ was martyred for His Lord. The godless soviets murdered him by firing squad.
As one of the brief recount of his life notes, His sermons had special qualities; they were interesting and convincing, and formed an individual connection with the conscience of each member of the audience. His words continue to draw souls to Christ, and modern day monastics are able to find the needed guidance for their spiritual life in his writings.
While I was in Ukraine in 2019, my wife and I purchased a book that contained a collection of lives of saints named Saraphim, in Russian. In this book I was delighted to find twenty two sermons on the Divine Liturgy by St. Seraphim (Zvezdinski). This was also the first time that I heard about this wonderful saint.
The book notes that these sermons were preserved in Russia in samizdat form during the time of the godless Soviets.
It is a striking fact that during times of growing tribulations, the Divine Liturgy was greatly emphasized in the teaching of St. Seraphim. The reader will note in what lofty terms he speaks of it. Obviously, as he himself says, he is but striving to reflect the life of Christ in His Church and the teaching of the saints.
Clearly and unambiguously he sets the Divine Liturgy as the greatest offering of all. I would think it safe to assume that if he were in the flesh in our times he would call for more Liturgies to be offered, rather than as sadly happened in the past, Liturgies to be halted or reduced.
Yet, we may learn this great lesson from St. Seraphim – in times of trouble we must turn to more prayer, most of all in the Church and most of all the Divine Liturgy, rather than less or none. We may also be challenged to evaluate our own ethos, do we hold the Divine Liturgy in such awe? Do we see it as the most essential gift of God for the Christian life? Would the saint approve of modern obstacles in the way of the Liturgy?
The saint also makes clear that it is Christ Himself that gives of Himself in the Divine Liturgy. Thus, for our times, we may contemplate, could the Divine Liturgy convey illness? Or, to frame it in words that are faithful to the ideas of St. Seraphim, could Christ Himself be a spreader of illness? I believe that after reading even just this one sermon by the saint, the clear answer is emphatically no. The reader will see how he emphasizes the Holy Chalice, and in what lofty terms he speaks of it.
The saint makes clear that a vital job of a true pastor is to call the people to the Mystical Supper of the Divine Liturgy.
In light of the saint’s teaching, could you, the reader, imagine him requiring segregation according to “vaccination” status? Using but one current example of our times. (I wonder do those requiring segregation believe that heaven will be so divided? Will there be a special seating for the vaccinated in heaven? For the Divine Liturgy is the manifestation of heaven on earth.)
The words of the saints, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are the only true guiding principles for us as Christians. In fact, everything done in the Church must be evaluated by this life alone. Things that are not in harmony with it must be rejected.
The saint clearly connects the Divine Liturgy to the upholding of true faith in Christ. It is not a magic rite at all. Yet, when offered in Spirit and Truth it is the greatest of all spiritual weapons.
Enough of my words. I ask for your prayers as I undertake the endeavor of translating these priceless sermons on the most sublime gift that God has given to mankind through His Incarnation – the Divine Liturgy. I pray our fervor for the Divine Liturgy will only grow.
(Note: all end notes were added by me. The sermons are not named in Russian, only numbered, any names given are my own for the purpose of blog titles. Also, please feel free to reproduce this work; I ask that in doing so it be noted that the text was translated by Fr. Zechariah and Natalia Lynch. Translation is a time demanding work, yet the material is of such great benefit I offer it for free. If you would like to make a donation, it is of course very appreciated. I believe these words of the saint to be of great importance for us. Please share as much as possible.)
Begin Translation –
Today, as I promised, I will be discoursing with you on the subject of the Divine Liturgy.
Christ says, “Take, eat, this is My body,” and further, “Drink of it all of you, for this is My blood of the New Covenant” (cf. Matt. 26:27-28).
A multitude of shining stars fill the heavens, they are all but the sparks of God’s vestments; of them all the sun is the most beautiful, most radiant, and most bright. A multitude of sweet flowers cover pastures and fields; of them all the fragrant rose is the finest and most wonderful. A multitude of rivers, brooks, lakes, and streams run across the face of the earth; yet they all descend and flow into the vast, great, and immense ocean. A multitude of splendid bright stones are hidden in the bosom of the earth; there are sapphires, emeralds, rubies, yet the glistening diamond is more wonderful, purer, and brighter than all.
So likewise, the spiritual world has stars, precious stones, and flowers of the spiritual pasture. The Orthodox Church guards a multitude of amazing stars – the hymns of praise – but they all converge in the sun of our Church, the Divine Liturgy. There are a multitude of marvelous flowers in the pasture of the Church but the most wonderful rose is the Divine Liturgy. The sacred rites are the many magnificent precious stones but brighter than all, the glistening diamond, is the Divine Liturgy. Every spring, every river – our holy mysteries – merge into the deepest and holiest mystery of the Divine Liturgy.
In the Church we have the hands of Christ, His mouth, and His eyes, and also His Divine heart. His hands are the sacred rites; the language of Christ’s mouth is His holy Gospel; His eyes are the holy mysteries, through which He gazes into our souls; His heart is the Divine Liturgy. Every Church Father speaks of the Divine Liturgy with delight. Blessed Augustine, a holy Father of the West, exclaims “Thy wisdom could have created, could have established for humanity, even more spectacular flowers in the fields, and yet Thy love has been shown forth to the greatest degree possible in the Divine Liturgy.” And this is why: in the Liturgy Christ gives Himself to the faithful in His Life-creating Body and Blood.
St. John Chrysostom says the Divine Liturgy is a great and magnificent gift. The very Angels of God, if it is even possible to express such things in human language, envy us – mankind – to whom it has been granted to partake in the Divine Body and Blood. Myriads of Angels flock to the place where the Divine Liturgy is served, and with trepidation they stand round about the holy altar, covering their faces, while glorifying and praising the exalted mystery accomplished here. In such a manner, the holy Fathers speak of the Divine Liturgy; in such awe they stood before it.
The ancient Christians comprehended well what blessing is given to people in the mystery of the Eucharist; daily they approached the Holy Chalice, O how pure their lives were! When they would depart on a long journey, they would take to themselves the Holy Mysteries, together with the cross on their chest, as protection. Our forefathers would always begin the day with attending the Liturgy, only after it would they start the works needed for earthly life. This is how people of a Christian mind valued the Divine Liturgy.
Many names are given the Divine Liturgy. The first – “Pascha,” thus the ancient Christians and holy Fathers called it. St. John Chrysostom states, “The one present at the Divine Liturgy is like the beloved confidant of Christ, for the Liturgy is the Mystical Supper and we, tasting of the Holy Mysteries, as it were lean in on the heart of Christ and hear its pulse.”1 The second name is “Supper,”2 for here is offered to us the Heavenly Bread3 – the Life-creating Body and Blood of Christ. The third name is “Eucharist.”4 The fourth is “Fellowship,” and the Liturgy is thus named because in the mystery of Communion we enter into the uttermost fellowship with Christ; through this mystery Christ penetrates into all the members of our body. The fifth is “the Meal,” in a similar manner to “Supper,” the Liturgy is called “the Meal”5 because it is the dinner, the feast, to which the Lord calls His slaves through His servants.
We are the slaves, yet how many among us are there who upon hearing the invitation of the King refuse to go. Rather, some prefer to go to their merchandise, some to their field, and others do not want to leave the house because “I have married a wife” (cf. Matt. 22:1-14; Lk 14:16-24). The servants of the Lord – the archpastors and pastors – give the call, yet their call is not heard, as is not heard the call of the Church – the call of Christ, the voice of Christ – the Holy Gospels. Not only is the call not heeded but some even place obstacles in the way; they laugh, mock, and sneer at those who would come. Such people do not see that they are but beggars and wretches – pathetic, unfortunate, and accursed. They deprive themselves of the Divine sun; the priceless diamond they trample underfoot in their delusion.
My dear ones, my God-given flock, love the Divine Liturgy; guard the fragrant rose of Christ, enlighten your souls with the light of the Divine sun. When you fail to attend the Divine Liturgy, count it as if you lost a day of your life. May there not be found in your midst Tolstoyites6, Baptists, and Adventists,7 and the other sectarians and scoffers who deny the Holy Chalice. May your eyes ever behold the Holy Chalice, may your ears ever hear, “Take, eat” and “Take, drink.” Ever may you give thanks to the Lord for this most excellent gift, before which Angels tremble. “Praise ye the Name of the Lord; O ye servants, praise the Lord” (Ps. 134:1).
1cf. John 13:25
3cf. John 6:32ff
5Russian – Обедней Originally from the Russian word “Обед” (obed), which is a midday meal. Обедней is also a more colloquial way to say the “Divine Liturgy” most of all among the common Russian people (of that time). I have chosen to translate it as “meal.”
6Followers of Leo Tolstoy
7All of these groups promote/promoted a strong anti-sacramental ideology.