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  • Constantina Alexander

The value of personal peace

St Seraphim of Sarov

I am very fond of St Seraphim of Zarov. He was a fully fledged hermit living in a Russian forest, sadly beaten by thugs and consequently walked with a stoop thereafter. He received some of the most profound and wide ranging wisdom about the Holy Spirit in his foresty idyll and passed it on to a young disciple called Nicholas Motovilov, not molotov, as I keep wanting to write.

The icon above is one I painted in egg tempera from a small picture the size of a large postage stamp. It hangs by my office door and at certain times of day when the sun shines on the forest I see little birds come to life in the sun's rays that are often obscure at other times. Such is the beauty of tempera painting - it has hidden depths.

The bear was starving but St Seraphim handed the bear his last bit of bread, nonetheless. A year later when st Seraphim was again very hungry, the bear returned and showed him where there were some mushrooms he could eat.

What does St Seraphim say about 'peace'?

"Learn to be peaceful, and thousands around you will find salvation....There is nothing better than peace in Christ, for it brings victory over all the evil spirits on earth and in the air. When peace dwells in a person's heart it enables them to contemplate the grace of the Holy Spirit from within. The person who lives in peace collects spiritual gifts as it were with a scoop, and sheds the light of knowledge on others. All our thoughts, all our desires, all our efforts, and all our actions should make us say constantly with the Church, 'O Lord, give us peace!' when a person lives in peace, God reveals mysteries to them." Seraphim of Zarov.

I am beginning to see what he means and I have my scoop at the ready but it will be filled with nothing if I do not make the effort to keep inner peace. And isn't that awesome, that by being still, being at peace can influence the outer world and those in it. Such is the work of a hermit.