The Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery is the place of eternal rest of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov and the venerable and blessed women of Diveyevo, where many among the sisters and pilgrims experience the effects of their presence. As we approach the holy relics, the threshold between our time and theirs fades away. Lying here in the flesh and providing constant consolation and intercession, the Diveyevo saints stand before the Throne of God offering their unceasing prayers for us. They represent the unity of the entire Church on earth and in heaven and bear witness to the existence of the immortal soul and life eternal. The relics of the saints left behind are a source of joy to the faithful.
Day in and day out, anywhere from tens to thousands of people come to the Diveyevo monastery glorified by the miracles performed by the relics of a wondrous God-pleasing man – Venerable Seraphim. Nowadays, just as before, he is a willing and fervent intercessor for us. He is just as compassionate and sensitive to people's needs and afflictions. He is quick to comfort, save and heal all those who seek his grace-filled attention. Just as before, he is alive and dear to all those who honor and love him.
Father told the sisters and his disciples that he would rest in his flesh in Diveyevo. He also promised that his relics would be uncovered in Sarov and transferred to Diveyevo and there would be so much joy that Paschal hymns will be sung in the middle of summer! He also prophesied that the relics of Mother Alexandra, the foundress of Diveyevo, Schemanun Martha and nun Elena would rest near him as well.
The holy elder's prophecies came true. Nowadays, people flock to the relics of Diveyevo as if they were a life-saving spring exuding many blessings. There are eight saints there, since the holy relics of the Blessed Diveyevo mothers Pelagia, Paraskevi and Maria were uncovered in 2004 followed by the Venerable Confessor Matrona in 2007.
Through our prayers, we continue our spiritual conversation with the saints as though they were alive after their righteous repose. In the morning and throughout the day, daily Moliebens with the Akathist are served at the relics of Venerable Seraphim. The nuns will not start anything without first addressing their prayers to him. Every aspect of monastery life centers around Father Seraphim, the spiritual father, caretaker and developer of the monastery. The monastics speedily appeal to him, sensing his living presence in their lives and keeping in mind his instruction to visit his grave and to tell him everything as if to a living person.
Every morning, troparions are sung and prayers are read in the presence of the holy relics of Venerable Alexandra, Martha and Elena, the blessed nuns Pelagia, Paraskevi and Maria, and the Venerable Confessor Matrona. On their remembrance days, festal Divine services are performed by their relics.
Akathist to Venerable Seraphim by the shrine with his holy relics at the Trinity Cathedral
At the time the relics of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov were uncovered in 1903, Bishop Dimitry of Kazan said: "Numerous miraculous signs of spiritual bounty, revealed after the prayers to the elder in blessed repose, indicated that even in our day the Lord has gifted our people with a generous and speedy intercessor. The Holy Church has universally approved and affirmed everyone's general belief in his holiness and intercessory power before God. Hereby we affectionately honor our Venerable father Seraphim and solemnly glorify the righteous man's holy memory. 'All the nations' of the land of Russia have long honored him with deep affection and reverence. Henceforward, this wondrous luminary, placed high at the candle-stand of the Orthodox Church, has warmed our hearts with his unearthly light, which enlightens the minds and brightens the one true pathway the seekers of spiritual renewal must choose to reach the heights of moral goodness."
Here is an eyewitness account of the events in Sarov: "The crowd was the thickest along the path arranged for the procession with the holy relics of the venerable father. On each side, the lame, the sick, and the ailing were seated. A big group of sickly hapless ones was stationed in front of me: right before me laid a small "heap" of a living being uttering a plaintive pitiful cry. A middle-aged woman, the mother of that lump by my feet, and a girl of 10 or 12 years old, stood beside her. The brighter the candles burned, the more anxiously the heart raced. There was no movement in the air. The sky, clear and cloudless, moved forward as if greeting a festal celebration of the people. It lit a myriad of its heavenly lanterns. Everyone felt enormous prayerful exertion. Waiting and hoping. Intense prayers wafted from each side of the over-crowded square: "Venerable Father Seraphim, pray to God for us!" "Help!" "Heal!" "Cure!"
But then from the depths of the church, where the relics of the venerable one rested before his glorification, we heard the first sounds of singing: "O glorious wonder! A champion of piety is revealed in Sarov, Seraphim the wondrous, our fervent intercessor before God. Rejoice, O monastery of Sarov… sing for joy, ye multitudes of Orthodox faithful…Rejoice, O luminary of the Russian lands..," "O come, ye assembly of the faithful, and let us glorify today with songs of praise our most wondrous father..," "Do not forsake us, Father Seraphim…"
Everything came alive. The intensity of the people's faith peaked. Hundreds of thousands of faithful were united in prayer. They beseeched Heaven and God asking their venerable father: "Help!" The holy Russian soul was languishing in its prayerful exuberance. It was as if the land trembled from this moaning. Would the heavens stay silent? And the One Who once appealed to us: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest:" wouldn't He outstretch His mighty hand to us? Father Seraphim, our joy and our hope, would he stay silent or would he not come and respond to human distress and the tears of the afflicted? No, it cannot be so! Everyone believed, everyone waited: there would be a miracle. And it came. It arrived faster than expected. With the first sounds of the church chanting the praise to the venerable one, news about miraculous healings arrived from all sides: one healing, then another, and yet another… The human soul cried, sobbed and rejoiced at the same time. The people were heard. It is hard, almost impossible, to explain in words the atmosphere that enveloped the multitudes of people who gathered there at that time.
In the meantime, the church singing got louder and was heard brightly and distinctly. Clearly, the Venerable Father Seraphim had risen and walked invisibly to the place of his glorification. His holy relics, placed in a richly decorated tomb and lifted on high, were approaching the monastery's main cathedral. Here they came alongside the group of the unfortunate ones sitting by my feet. Everyone's eyes, hands, and hearts were fixed upon the holy tomb, everyone yearning for the same thing: "Father, the venerable one, father Seraphim, help!"
At this moment, the small "ball" curled right by my feet shuddered vigorously, moaned, stretched and stood up, saying quietly: "Mama, I am healed." Heart-stricken by what has just occurred, everyone, myself included, froze for a second and stood transfixed. A great miracle, an act of God's grace, had just taken place in front of our eyes. Coming back to our senses, all we could do was to utter the words of the Psalmist: "Wondrous is God in His saints, God of Israel."
Pilgrims at Sarov Monastery during the days of glorification of Venerable Seraphim. 1903
The saints are not dead. How else could a body of a deceased man be able to work miracles, cast out demons, heal the sick, end temptations and misfortunes and bring down all kinds of good gifts from the Father of Light?! (James 1:17)
Relics are usually kept in shrines, or specially decorated tombs made from precious metals or rare woods. The shrines are decorated with carving and stones, and a canopy is built over them. Vigil lamps are lit before the holy relics as a sign of fervent love to the saints and in commemoration of their eternal glory shining like sun in the Heavenly Kingdom.
Small particles of the relics are held in chests or small boxes that may also contain the saint's clothing, parts of a coffin or other related items. A reliquary holds finer pieces of the saint's relics or any other sacred object that are embedded in the saint's icon. The relics may also be inserted into crosses or Archpastoral Panagias.
The churches holding the relics or their particles hold festal vigils and Liturgies on these saints' remembrance days. Moliebens are served before the relics and icons with relics. The oil from the oil lamps that hang before the relics is distributed among the faithful.
Shrines and reliquaries with the holy relics at Diveyevo churches
The holy relics are worthy of our reverent praise not just because they are the mortal remains of people renowned for their virtuous lives and who are the receptacles of the grace of the Holy Spirit abundantly shared with those who come with faith. St. John Chrysostom in his Word to all martyrs says: "The shrines of the martyrs are safe harbors, sources of spiritual fruit, the richest treasures, inexhaustible. Just as harbors accept and berth ships when stormy seas overwhelm them, so do the martyrs' shrines accept our souls, overtaken by earthly cares, and bestow profound peace and security. As ice-cold waters from springs exhilarate the flesh, exhausted by labor and worn out by heat, so do they refresh the souls, inflamed by abominable passions. Just one look at the martyrs' shrines harnesses and extinguishes foul lewdness, all-consuming jealousy and burning wrath."
Dead saints, says Venerable Ephrem the Syrian, act as though they're alive: they heal the sick and cast out demons, for the holy relics always contain the grace of the Holy Spirit. "... your bones will flourish like an herb" (Is. 66:14), says the Holy Scriptures about the righteous. The relics are hence revered as throughout history they have always manifestly testified and still testify to the holiness of a God-pleaser.