On St. Seraphim of Sarov and Francis of Assisi

“The event which we relate below was communicated to us verbally in August 1931 by Mr. K. who afterwards wrote it to us in a letter. It is this letter which we shall make use of here.

It is common knowledge that St Seraphim knew experimentally and said more than oce that Christianity was preserved in all its plentitude and purity in the Orthodox Church. And what is most sriking and convincing is his own sublime virtue and the fullness of grace which dwelt in him with such ‘power’ (Mk. 9:1) as it seldom did even in the ancient Saints. It is sufficient to mention merely the talk of N.A. Motovilov with the Saint (during which he was miraculously transfigured like the Lord on Mount Tabor) in order to establish without the slightest doubt that Orthodoxy still retains in actual fact its original purity, vitality, fullness, and perfection.

But let us quote his own words: ‘We have the Orthodox faith which has not the slightest blemish.’ ‘

I pray and beseech you, he said on another occassion to some Old Ritualists, ‘go to the Greek-Russian Church. It is in all the glory and power of God. It is directed by the Holy Spirit.’

This has also been testified to by a follower of another confession. Here are the facts.

‘A friend of mine’, writes Mr. K., ‘forwarded to me a letter written in French in which an Alsatian lady asks him to send her something about the Russian Orthodox Church–a prayer book or something of the kind. If I am not mistaken, it was in the year 1925. Something was sent to her in answer to her letter, and there the matter rested for some time.

In 1927 I was in that place and tried to make her acquaintance; but she was away for the summer holidays, and I only made the acquaintance of her mother-in-law, an old lady of great Christian charity and purity of heart.

She told me that their family belonged to an ancient and noble line in Alsace, the N.N.s and that they were Protestants. It must be said that in this district of Alsace the villagers are of mixed faith, one half being Roman Catholic and the other half Protestants. They share a common church, in which they perform their services in turns. At the end of the church there is a Catholic altar with statues and all appurtenances. When the Protestants hold a service, they pull a curtain in front of the Catholic altar, roll their table out into the middle and pray. Recently there has been a movement in Alsace among the Protestants in favour of the veneration of Saints. This occurred after the appearance of Sabatier’s book on Francis of Assisi. Though a Protestant he was captivated by this Saint’s way of life after a visit to Assisi. The family of my friends also fell under the spell of this book. Though they remained in Protestantism, they nevertheless felt dissatisfied with it and in particular they strove for a restoration of the Sacraments and the veneration of the Saints. Moreover, it was typical of them that when the pastor performed the marriage ceremony, they asked him not to pull the curtain over the Catholic altar so that they might see at least the statued of the Saints. Their heart was seeking the true Church.

Once the young wife was ill and was sitting in the garden, reading a life of Francis of Assisi. The garden was in full bloom. The quiet of the countryside enfolded her. While reading the book, she fell into a light sleep.

‘I don’t know myself how it was,’ she told me afterwards. ‘Suddenly I saw Francis himself coming towards me, and with him a little old man like a patriarch, bent but radiant,’ she said indicating thereby his old age and venerable appearance. He was all in white. She felt frightened, but they came quite near her and Francis said, ‘My daughter, you seek the true Church. It is there, where he is. It supports everyone, and does not require support from anyone.’

The white Elder remained silent and only smiled approvingly at the words of Francis. The vision ended. She came to herself, as it were. And somehow the thought came to her: ‘This is connected with the Russian Church.’ And peace descended on her soul. After this vision the letter was written which I mentioned at the beginning.

Two months later, I was again at their house, and this time I learned from the visionary herself one more detail. They had hired a Russian workman. When she visited his room to see whether he was comfortably settled, she saw there a small Icon and recognized in it the Elder whom she had seen, in her light sleep, with Francis. Astonished and alarmed she asked, ‘Who is he, that little old man?’

‘St. Seraphim, our Orthodox Saint,’ answered the workman. Then she understood the meaning of the words of Francis about the truth being in the Orthodox Church.” (St. Seraphim of Sarov: A Spiritual Biography by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore)