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  St. Seraphimís Blessing

In November, 1950, a woman by the name of Liudmila Damianovna Panteleyeva, presented a priest in Kiev with an icon of St. Seraphim in memory of her husband, Michael Nikolaevich, whose funeral the priest had recently served. The priest, Fr. Alexey Glagolev, had been much saddened by the loss of an icon of the Saint which his father had brought from Sarov in 1927, and before which he had for many years served a weekly akathist in the church of St. John the Warrior. During the Second World War, when the churches were opened, the icon had disappeared. Since that time, Fr. Alexey had sought to find another icon of St. Seraphim as he very much wanted to resume the weekly akathists. One can therefore imagine how overjoyed he was to receive such a treasure which became even more dear to him when he heard its history.

    The icon was painted in oils on canvas and measured approximately 70 x 55 cm. The Saint was depicted in half stature wearing his mantia, with his hands folded crosswise on his chest holding a prayer rope. The face was much younger than is traditionally found on icons of the Saint-. It was, in fact, an early portrait to which a halo had later been added. At the request of Fr. Alexey, L.D. related the following story of the icon. 

Wondrous is God in His Saints 

     Her husband, M.N., an engineer by profession, had been very pious even in his youth. He often chose to spend his free time praying, either in church or alone at home. There in Kiev he took. an active part in church life, and: after he died he was held in warm remembrance by many of the believers in the city. At his funeral one of the speakers remarked upon the Christian warmth which characterized his relation towards others, in evidence of which he mentioned M.N.'s book of commemorations with its list of several thousand names of people for whom he regularly prayed.

     In the '20's a severe trial befell M.N.: he was arrested with a group of people and charged with a serious offense. The situation was so grave that his wife despaired of seeing him ever again. While she accepted this trial as somehow being God's Providence, L.D. sorrowed greatly over the fact that her husband would have no chance to receive Holy Communion.

     On the Apodosis of the Feast of the Entry into the Temple of the Most Pure Theotokos, she went for Vigil to the Mikhailovsky monastery and, standing at the reliquary which contained relics of Great-martyr Barbara, she prayed for her imprisoned husband.

     "I prayed to the Most Holy Mother of God, to Great-martyr Barbara and to St. Seraphim (on the feast of the Entry, St. Seraphim had been made a deacon), beseeching them for one thing only--that my husband be able to partake of the Holy Mysteries."

     Suddenly, someone touched her shoulder. As there were many people in the church, she paid no attention and continued to pray. A second and a third time this was repeated. Somewhat annoyed, L.D. turned around. To her great astonishment, she found herself face to face with her husband! At his request, the commander of the guards had granted him .a 24-hour leave of,. absence,, from the place of detention (for some reason this group was being held not in the prison, but 'in the war tribunal building) in order to receive Holy Communion.

     Although this commander was an unbeliever, he had taken a liking to M.N. and occasionally entrusted him with small errands, knowing that M.N. would return within the appointed time period. So it was that, having communicated of the Holy Mysteries, M.N. went back to the place of detention, Two months later, he was acquitted and released. Then, in fulfillment of a vow made during his incarceration, M.N. made a pilgrimage to Sarov.

        Not long after this; L.D. developed a tumor from which she suffered considerable pain. An eminent physician of the city Dr. Pivovonsky, advised, surgery as the only possible cure. An operation was performed but the tumor soon reappeared. The doctor advised that the operation be repeated and did not hide the fact that the patient's condition was very critical. After talking it over, the couple decided against the operation and, instead, made a pilgrimage to Sarov. This took place in the summer, not long before the monastery was closed (evidently in 1925 or 1926--ed.).

       Arriving at the monastery, the Panteleyevs went straightway to the service in the Dormition cathedral. They were amazed upon entering to hear the priest, Hieromonk Marcellus, pray for "the health of Michael and sick Liudmila" in the ektenia.

      After some rest, they spent a few days praying in the various Sarov churches and visiting the different holy places of the monastery. Then they went to Diveyevo to see the clairvoyant eldress, Maria I Vanovna (the last of the Diveyev eldresses). M.N. had made her acquaintance on his. previous pilgrimage. When L.D. asked the eldress for her blessing, the latter said: "Why did you have an operation? The Saint has been waiting a long time for you ! Anoint. the tumor with oil from the lamp hanging before the icon of the Mother of God of 'Tender Feeling' and from the lamp burning near the relics of St. Seraphim. From Diveyevo return to Sarov on foot (it was app. 10 miles); those who ride are guests of the Saint; those who walk-are his children."

       Following this counsel, the Panteleyevs made the return trip to Sarov on foot for the Saint's summer feast day. Several times they repeated' this journey between the two monasteries--always on foot. When after two weeks they returned to Moscow, there remained no trace of L.D.ís tumor; she felt well, both physically and spiritually. At their departure, Maria Ivanovna counselled them in all their needs and undertakings to turn to the Saint in prayer.

    The eldress lived not far from the convent's house of charity. L.D. enjoyed visiting the meek,, elderly women there. Once, as she was leaving the building, she mistakenly opened a door which she thought led to the exit and found herself at.the entrance to someone's room. This was so unexpected that L.D. did not immediately excuse herself. She was the more surprised as the woman in the room bore a striking resemblance to her mother. Furthermore, her attention was at once fixed upon an icon of St. Seraphim, which faced her from the icon corner. "Forgive me, please, matushka," she said to the woman. "I came here accidentally."

     "In spiritual life nothing is accidental. You have come here not by chance. I was praying to St. Seraphim to send me a kind soul; I have need of your help. I have a son in Samarkand to whom I want to send a parcel and a photograph; I am growing weaker with each passing day and cannot possibly do this m y s elf," explained the elderly woman who, as it turned out, was a schema nun by the name of Mother Simeona.

     L.D. was glad to fulfill the elderly nun's request, and in gratitude Mother Simeona made the Panteleyevs a gift of the icon of St. Seraphim which had made such an immediate and striking impression on L.D. The Panteleyevs learned that Mother Simeona was a well-educated woman who came from a rich, merchant family. Her parents had been benefactors of the Sarov monastery and had received as a gift from' the monastery this portrait of "Batiushka Seraphim," painted early in his lifetime, before he became bent over after being attacked by robbers:

     Soon after their return to Kiev, the grateful Panteleyevs, zealous to spread the glory of St. Seraphim, began to invite various members of the Kievan clergy to their home to serve an akathist before their newly acquired icon. The services began to be held

      regularly each Wednesday and attracted such ∑ a large number of worshippers that it was not long before the services were moved to the church of Sts. Boris and Gleb. When her husband died and L.D. gave the icon to Fr. Alexey, it was transferred to the church of St. John the Warrior. With great joy Fr. Alexey resumed the serving of a weekly akathist which was sung to the special Sarov melody by all those present. Concerning Schema-nun Simeona, it was learned that she died at her son's in Samarkand, five years after the closure of Diveyevo. 

(Translated from an article by A.G.Gorbovsky in Nadezhda -Vol. 10, Frankfurt, 1984.)

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