Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Blessings of Meeting Father Seraphim Rose

"We can all thank God for the life of Father Seraphim (Rose). 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."
— Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes

The Blessings of Meeting Father Seraphim (Rose)
(Originally posted on Facing Islam on September 19, 2013)
Written by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes, April 2008

Dear Friends in Christ our Lord,

May the great peace and joy of our Lord God always be with you!

Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose)
”The photo I best remember him...”

Several people have asked me if I am the person Father Seraphim Rose mentioned in his diary. My name was Father Demetrios Serfes at the time I met the pious Father Seraphim. Since then I have been elevated in rank within the church and so now use the name "Very Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios (Serfes)".

I would like to share with you my experience of meeting Father Seraphim (Rose). I regard this meeting as having been a great blessing, and, since I get so many requests to describe it, I shall attempt to do so here.

I encountered Father (Hieromonk) Seraphim (Rose) years ago when he visited my parish house in Mt. Holly Springs, Pennsylvania. Father Seraphim was on his way to give a lecture at Holy Trinity Monastery-Seminary in Jordanville, New York. At that time, I had only been a priest for five years. I considered it a great blessing that someone of Father Seraphim's stature would go so far out of his way to come visit and pray with me.

In fact, Father Seraphim had made a hundred mile detour to meet with me. He had been in New Jersey and had just finished giving a lecture at a Russian Orthodox Church. I had received a telephone call from him. He told me he would like to visit and had heard that on Fridays I held a supplication service to the Mother of God. He said he would attend this service but would have to leave the area early Saturday morning in order to be at Holy Trinity Monastery-Seminary in New York in time to present the lecture he was scheduled to give there.

I was spiritually overjoyed! Father Seraphim arrived one hour before my service. Together we went into church to pray. After the service we returned to my parish house for a light meal after which we retired to the parish office. I well remember Father Seraphim sitting in a chair and speaking to me in a manner of deep Christian humility. He was obviously at peace within himself. As he spoke, I felt the peace of our Lord all around him. We discussed the saints and martyrs of the church and the love of our Lord God.

I shall always treasure the time I spent with Father Seraphim. He was a great and good soul. Our joyful conversation was especially rewarding for me because I had corresponded with him during the five years I spent as a Seminarian. During that period Father Seraphim had sent me many inspirational books as well as a free subscription to Orthodox Word, published by the St. Herman Brotherhood in Platina, California. I treasured these resources, all of which were sent as gifts. My own financial situation at that time did not allow for purchasing such luxuries. Father Seraphim further supported me in my studies by sending $20 in cash each month to apply toward my ongoing expenses. $20 bought a lot more then than it does today so this was a substantial gift. I later found out that Father Seraphim kept records of what he sent me. A permanent record of his gifts remains in the monastery's archives.

When Father Seraphim visited me in person, my greatest desire was to offer my most sincere and humble thanks to him and to his Brotherhood of St. Herman for their loving and caring support of me while I was in the Seminary. When Father first saw me, he exclaimed, "At last we meet in Christ our Lord!" My reply was, "Thanks be to God! It is good to see you at last!"

Father Seraphim seemed to be in prayer even as he sat in my office. What I best remember about our conversation was that he never said anything negative about anyone. He said that we should pray for all because our Lord is with all who love Him and one another.

As a newly ordained priest, conversing with him gave me much spiritual insight. I did not want the conversation to end. But the afternoon lengthened into night and I saw that he needed to rest. He still had a long trip to Jordanville, New York ahead of him in the morning. Every hour with Father Seraphim was such a blessing for me! I hated to let him go!

We conversed through the night and when morning came, with dismay I said to him, "Forgive me, Good Father! You must go rest before your long pilgrimage to the Holy Monastery in New York." He then said, "Alright. I will rest just for a little while, thank you, and God be with you." He then rested for only two hours. We said our morning prayers and afterwards had breakfast. He blessed the food.

As we went outside to his rented car, the Good Father Seraphim had tears in his eyes. He begged me to pray for him and repeated how pleased he was to have finally met me in person. I assured him of my prayers for him and I thanked him again for his joyful visit. Reflecting on his tears, I believe Father Seraphim felt he was on his way to the podvig or struggles ahead of him. He very much believed in the prayers of others, simply because he loved to pray. It was as if Father Seraphim knew something was soon going to happen to him.

A couple of months passed. I received an unexpected phone call two hours before I was to do my normal Friday Supplication Service to the Mother of God. The caller told me Father Seraphim had been rushed to the hospital due to a serious illness. He had requested that I remember him in prayer at this Friday service, praying either for his recovery or for his repose because he was in terrible pain.

I was astonished to receive this sad telephone call! He had given no indication that he was ill when I had seen him earlier that summer. Of course I prayed for his speedy recovery.

I later learned that when Father Seraphim was brought to the hospital, he could barely speak. But nonetheless, his request for prayer had reached me. The Fathers at St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood later also expressed astonishment that his prayer request had reached me, because Father Seraphim was not able to speak while he was in intensive care. His request could have been made before he arrived at the hospital; all I know is that I received a telephone call asking me to pray for Father Seraphim while he was in the hospital.

A few days later, I received another phone call. Father Seraphim had reposed in the Lord. Tearfully, I went to the church to do a memorial service for him. Father Seraphim was born on 13 August, 1934, and he reposed in the Lord on 2 September, 1982. Memory Eternal!

Father Seraphim reposed in the Lord shortly after his visit with me. His passing was truly a great loss for all who knew him: so many had been blessed by his life and by witnessing his humility and his great love for God and for the Church.

Father Seraphim gave us not only his prayers but also the benefit of his many talents. These he freely employed in his writings and publications to help us understand the meaning of Holy Orthodoxy. The life of Father Seraphim, both as a monastic and as a priest, inspires us spiritually. He chose to live simply as a humble ascetic on a beautiful mountainside in Platina, California. Surely God heard his prayers and was always present for him.

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 (Rose). 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.

In September 2005, I was able to make a pilgrimage to St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood in Platina, California. I met the Respected Hieromonk Damascene at the gate of the Holy Monastery and we went together to the tomb of Father Seraphim. I was so pleased to at last visit his grave site and offer a prayer. While there, I could sense him greeting me and saying, "Father Nektarios, I am pleased you arrived at last!" The next morning I was honored to celebrate the memorial service at his grave.

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 (Rose).

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. May the Lord our God remember Father Seraphim in His Kingdom. Memory Eternal!

Glory to God for all things!
Peace to your soul!

Humbly in Christ our Lord,
+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Who prays for you!
Written in 2005 and rewritten April 3, 2008