…In 1807 the abbot, Father Isaiah, fell asleep in the Lord. St Seraphim was asked to take his place, but he declined. He lived in silence for three years, completely cut off from the world except for the monk who came once a week to bring him food. If the saint encountered a man in the forest, he fell face down and did not get up until the passerby had moved on. St Seraphim acquired peace of soul and joy in the Holy Spirit. The great ascetic once said, “Acquire the spirit of peace, and a thousand souls will be saved around you.”
The new Superior of the monastery, Father Niphon, and the older brethren of the monastery told Father Seraphim either to come to the monastery on Sundays for divine services as before, or to move back into the monastery. He chose the latter course, since it had become too difficult for him to walk from his forest cell to the monastery. In the spring of 1810, he returned to the monastery after fifteen years of living in the wilderness.
Continuing his silence, he shut himself up in his cell, occupying himself with prayer and reading. He was also permitted to eat meals and to receive Communion in his cell. There St Seraphim attained the height of spiritual purity and was granted special gifts of grace by God: clairvoyance and wonderworking. After five years of solitude, he opened his door and allowed the monks to enter. He continued his silence, however, teaching them only by example.
On November 25, 1825 the Mother of God, accompanied by the two holy hierarchs commemorated on that day (Hieromartyr Clement of Rome, and St Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria), appeared to the Elder in a vision and told him to end his seclusion and to devote himself to others. He received the igumen’s [Igumen is the title for the head of a monastery, similar to the one of abbot. The term means “the one who is in charge,” or “the leader” in Greek.] blessing to divide his time between life in the forest, and at the monastery. He did not return to his Far Hermitage, but went to a cell closer to the monastery. This he called his Near Hermitage. At that time, he opened the doors of his cell to pilgrims as well as his fellow-monks.
The Elder saw into the hearts of people, and as a spiritual physician, he healed their infirmities of soul and body through prayer and by his grace-filled words. Those coming to St Seraphim felt his great love and tenderness. No matter what time of the year it was, he would greet everyone with the words, “Christ is Risen, my joy!” He especially loved children. Once, a young girl said to her friends, “Father Seraphim only looks like an old man. He is really a child like us.”
…On January 2, Father Paul, the saint’s cell-attendant, left his own cell at six in the morning to attend the early Liturgy. He noticed the smell of smoke coming from the Elder’s cell. St Seraphim would often leave candles burning in his cell, and Father Paul was concerned that they could start a fire.
“While I am alive,” he once said, “there will be no fire, but when I die, my death shall be revealed by a fire.” When they opened the door, it appeared that books and other things were smoldering. St Seraphim was found kneeling before an icon of the Mother of God with his arms crossed on his chest. His pure soul was taken by the angels at the time of prayer, and had flown off to the Throne of the Almighty God, Whose faithful servant St Seraphim had been all his life.