This is a story about St Seraphim which Fr. Seraphim from Mull Monastery first heard from one of the sisters at his Monastery in Diveyevo:
“When St Seraphim was living as a hermit in the forest, two young men who were novices at the monastery in Sarov had him as their spiritual father (can you imagine that?). One was called Sasha; I don’t remember the name of the second one.
At one point, St Seraphim gave them an obedience to go and pray to the Saints of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. He had been there as a young man himself, just before entering the monastery in Sarov, and he probably wanted his two spiritual sons to receive the same blessings he had.
Anyway, having received this obedience and a blessing from the Monastery, they left for Kiev. On the way to Kiev though (which would have taken weeks), Sasha grew increasingly sad and weak. He was missing his spiritual father so much that he felt he could not go on without St Seraphim.
As they were travelling further from Sarov, things got increasingly worse, his heart ached so much, his pain cut so deep that he fell physically ill. He suffered for a few days, tormented by the love he felt for the great Saint and the separation from him, until he eventually died.
He died missing his spiritual father. This is a story I’ve struggled with for a long time, until last year, I asked my own spiritual father about it. What happened to the soul of poor Sasha? Was that not spiritual death, to get so attached to a human being that you could not live without that person?
My spiritual father only said: ‘that young man was not missing St Seraphim, but Christ’s image in the great elder’. He may not have had the spiritual maturity to understand this, but the love he felt, that beyond-human need to be united with St Seraphim, was actually the craving, the longing, the love his heart felt for Christ.
St Seraphim had revealed to him Christ Himself. Sasha had felt Christ’s love in the saint’s love. His soul understood that there is no life apart from his spiritual father, because – unknown to his simplicity – he had learnt that there is no love apart from Christ. So when the young man died, he did not become separated from his spiritual father, but he finally became One with the Lord of his heart.”
* Dedicated to my dearly loved spiritual Father
I know how the monk Sasha ( Alexander) felt. When away on pilgrimages, the break in my heart gets wider and tears begin to fall. I miss him so much, though, it seems, it has not been to death so far!