By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan

St. Seraphim's conversation with Motovilov

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 6, beginning with verse 22, Jesus Christ tells us, "The light of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye be evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness." And in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, Chapter 5, verse 5, St. Paul tells us that we are justified by faith, and that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which is given to us.

These two Scriptures lessons remind me of the wonderful conversation that St. Seraphim had with Motovilov. The conversation took place on a gloomy Thursday in the winter near St. Seraphimís hermitage opposite the River Sarovka. It was bitterly cold, and snow was falling on top of an already deep accumulation. Motovilov was sitting on a tree stump, and St. Seraphim was squatting in front of him.

During the course of their conversation St. Seraphim and Motovilov were both illuminated by the Holy Spirit to the point that they became oblivious to the cold. They both witnessed an unearthly peace, joy, and lovely aroma. The wonderful state of being that St. Seraphim and Motovilov were permitted to enjoy was spoken of by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Roman chapter 14, verse 7: "The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit".

Motovilov had been concerned with a question that had gone unanswered since his childhood. This question was "What is the aim of our Christian life?" The clergy that Motovilov approached gave him obvious answers, but their answers did not satisfy Motovilov. He was told to attend church, pray to God, do the commandments, and do good. Somehow these answers left him wanting a real in-depth explanation of the aim of a true Christian.

St. Seraphim proceeded to tell Motovilov that the true aim of our Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. St. Seraphim told him that fasts, vigils, prayers, almsgiving and every good work done for Christís sake is only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God.

What St. Seraphim was telling Motovilov was that first of all the belief in Jesus Christ must be there. You must love God with your whole heart, and love your neighbor as yourself, then whatever you do whether it is fasting, vigils, almsgiving; you must do from hearts that are glowing with love for the Holy Trinity. In other words your eye must be single; as the Gospel lesson from St. Matthew teaches, or you must be focused on a single purpose, obtaining the Holy Spirit of God so that the Holy Spirit may bear witness to the truth of the Only-Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ in your heart.

We are not saved by the works we do, but we are saved by acquiring the Holy Spirit of God, that proceeds from the Father, and bears witness to the Risen Son of God, and His ultimate sacrifice for us. The grace that we receive from the Holy Trinity is the light of the body; it illuminates us from within. It nourishes our spirits so that we are able to accomplish great things in the mighty name of Jesus Christ.

Just as a candle can light another candle without diminishing its own light, so this light we receive from the Holy Spirit is inexhaustible, just as the Holy Eucharist is forever eaten, yet never consumed, and enlightens those who partake of it, The Holy Trinity is a fountain of life-giving energy which flows in us and all who seek to acquire this illumination.

St. Paul said that the we are justified by faith, and that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which is given to us. We receive this gift of the Holy Spirit when we are Chrismated following our Baptism. The Holy Spirit is the very breath of spiritual life in us. St. Seraphim told Motovilov this about Holy Baptism and Chrismation: "This Baptismal grace is so great and so indispensable, so vital for man, that even a heretic is not deprived of it until his death; that is, until the end of the period appointed on high by the Providence of God as a life-long test of man on earth, in order to see what he will be able to achieve (during this period given to him by God) by means of the power of grace granted him from on high."

We may fall from grace, but we do not lose the ability to find our way back to a state of grace as long as we have life and breath. If we fall, we should hasten to offer repentance for our sins. We should strive to regain the ground we have lost by practicing our faith in pure, God loving hearts.

In this wonderful conversation with Motovilov St. Seraphim tells him "What God requires is true faith in Himself, and His Only-Begotten Son. In return for that the grace of the Holy Spirit is granted abundantly from on high. This grace is available to everyone: "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him in truth" Psalm 144:18, and "There is no partiality with Him". Ephesians 6:9. As St. Seraphim told Motovilov, "The Lord listens equally to the Monk, and also the simple Christian layman". I encourage you to read the entire conversation between St. Seraphim and Motovilov. In it you will find inspiration, and Godly instructions from St. Seraphim. It is written as if it applies to all who read it, and the benefits spoken of in this conversation are indeed available to all of us.