Saint Seraphim of Sarov feeding a bear near his hermitage.
I am scheduled to check in to the TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa on January 4th, but I've decided to start my fast at home a few days ahead of schedule. I want to do this because today (January 2) is the Feast Day of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a modern Russian Saint of the Orthodox Christian Church. St. Seraphim holds a very special place in my heart because it was through him that I found my way back to God after being spiritually lost for almost 20 years.
St. Seraphim was born in 1759 and died in 1833 at the age of 74. When he was 10 years old, he became deathly ill and received a vision of the All-Holy Virgin Mary (known as the Theotokos in Orthodoxy) in which she spoke to him and promised that she would heal him soon. Several days later, when a famous Icon of the Theotokos traveled by his home, his mother carried him outside to venerate it and, in that instant, he was healed. He became very devoted to the Theotokos from that time forward and entered a monastery at the age of 18. He spent 25 years of his monastic life as a hermit in the forest alone seeking communion with God.
At one point while at his isolated hermitage, St. Seraphim was viciously attacked by thieves who brutally beat him and left him for dead. After he regained consciousness, he spent 1000 consecutive days kneeling on a rock in devoted prayer to the Theotokos and, at some point shortly after this, he received direct instructions from Her to begin counseling lay Christians seeking help in their spiritual life. People traveled from all over Russia to meet and speak with him during the final 18 years of his life.
This is the "Tenderness" Icon of Theotokos that St. Seraphim prayed to:
St. Seraphim had a very close relationship with the wild animals of the forest and was seen to feed bears and other so-called dangerous creatures directly out of his hands. One observer reported that while feeding a bear his face had a miraculous appearance and glowed as bright as that of an angel. His universal greeting to everyone who came to him for spiritual counsel was, "My Joy! Christ is Risen." Normally, the greeting "Christ is Risen" is used only during the celebration of Christ's Resurrection (Easter/Pascha) by Orthodox Christians. But for St. Seraphim, everyday was a celebration of Christ's Resurrection. Here are some of my favorite quotes by him:
"Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved."
"The purpose of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit."
"God is the fire that warms and kindles the heart...with perfect love."
St. Seraphim fasted every Wednesday and Friday (an Orthodox tradition) throughout his entire adult life, and he ate a very abstemious diet in general (completely vegan). So many saints, it seems, became saints by going into the "desert" to fast and pray for extended periods of time. This practice has a long biblical tradition. In the Gospel of Matthew (4:2), we are told that Jesus went alone into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and 40 nights before beginning his ministry of healing to the Jews. In Exodus (34:28), we are told that Moses climbed atop Mt. Sinai and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and when he came down his face shone so brightly that all were afraid to come near him. He also brought with him the Ten Commandments which had been dictated to him by God while on the mountain. In 1 Kings (19:8), we are told that the prophet Elijah fasted for 40 days and 40 nights while climbing Mount Horeb where, upon reaching the top, God spoke to him.
Now, obviously, I am not expecting anything quite so profound or dramatic as this from my own fast and time in the "desert." Although I will have a substantial amount of alone time, which I plan to use for meditation and spiritual reading, I will still have quite a bit of contact with others. Nevertheless, as I withdrawal my attention from the outer world and focus much more on the inner world, it will be a wonderful time of healing for both body and soul. This is a journey I have been looking forward to for a long, long time.
My first day of fasting was uneventful. I actually felt quite good. I experienced a few tummy growls, but no real hunger to speak of, and my energy level was higher than normal. I even took my dog for a walk in the afternoon. I drank about 2 quarts of water over the course of the day.
I have not yet received the results of any of the pre-fasting tests that Dr. Klaper ordered for me. And I do not own a scale so I cannot tell you precisely what my starting weight is, but when Dr. Klaper weighed me in his office several weeks ago I was 113 lbs.
In spite of fasting, I decided to attend the "Bowl Burning" ceremony at my local Unity Church. This is a powerful New Year's tradition within Unity in which all the participants write down everything they wish to release from their lives on a piece of paper and then burn this paper in the flame of a candle. After we all burned our papers, the minister then asked us to write a letter to God thanking Him in advance for all the good things we expect to receive in the coming year. The minister will mail all of our letters to God back to us at the end of the year so we can see how much of what we ask for has manifested in our lives. I wrote down every negative attitude and emotion I could possibly think of that I might still be holding onto from past and present experiences and watched as they disintegrated into ashes. In my letter to God, I thanked Him for my perfect health, financial stability, and joyful heart. This is a very profound symbolic ritual for cleansing one's heart of old accumulated poisons and inviting positive new experiences into our life. Being able to do this with a community that supports you, in all that your are, is a real blessing.
If you would like more information about why am embarking on this fast, please read my blog posts Preparing for a Water Fast and MY STORY.
"There is no relationship of greater importance to achieve than the relationship between you, in your physical body, right here and now, and the God/Source from which you have come. If you tend to that relationship, first and foremost, you will then, and only then, have the stable footing to proceed into other relationships. Your relationship with your own body; your relationship with money; your relationship with your parents, children, grandchildren, the people you work with...will all fall swiftly and easily into alignment once you tend to this fundamental, primary relationship first."
Excerpted from from Abraham's newest book, "The Vortex, Where the Law of Attraction Assembles All Cooperative Relationships "