History of the Diveyevo Monastery
Founding of the Monastery
Around 1758, a wealthy landlady (with land ownership in the Yaroslavl, Vladimir and Ryazan Provinces) and a widow, Agatha Semenovna Melgunova, arrived with her 3-year-old daughter to Kiev’s St. Florus Ascension Monastery to take monastic vows. One day, she had a vision of the Mother of God who commanded her: “It is Me, your Sovereign Lady to whom you direct your prayers. I came to announce My will for you. I do not wish for you to end your days here. Just as I sent my servant Anthony away from My lot at the Holy Mountain of Athos to have My new lot at the Kiev-Caves Lavra established here, thus I declare: go forth and travel to the land I am about to show you. Travel towards the north of Russia and visit all the holy monasteries dedicated in my honor. I will show the place where you will end your earthly God-pleasing life. In that new place of residence, I will glorify My name by founding a great monastery. Go forth then, My servant, and may the grace of God, My strength, and My grace, as well as My mercy and riches, always be with you!”
After consulting with the God-inspired Kievan elders, Venerable Alexandra intrepidly began her journey as directed by the Theotokos.
On her way to Sarov monastery, Mother Alexandra stopped to rest at the village of Diveyevo. Exhausted, she sat down and fell asleep. Once more, she had a vision of the Mother of God, who pointed out she had reached her destination. The Queen of Heaven said: “Here is the place I commanded you to seek in the north of Russia,” the Most Holy Theotokos told Mother Alexandra. “Here is the lot set aside for you by the Divine Providence. Reside here and do God-pleasing work till the end of your days, and I will always be with you and visit you. I will found a monastery unequal to anything before or afterwards in the world: it is my fourth domain in the whole creation. As many as there are stars in heaven or sands in the sea, shall I increase the number of those who serve the Lord Our God and Me, the Ever-Virgin Mother of Light, and who glorify My Son Jesus Christ. May the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God and the abundance of all earthly and heavenly treasures, obtained without a sweat, never grow scarce at this beloved place of Mine!”
Soon afterwards, the rejoicing Mother Alexandra went to the Sarov monastery and sought advice of its elders who told her to follow the Queen of Heaven’s command and blessed her to settle 2 versts (appr. 1.3 miles. – Tr.) away from Diveyevo, in the village of Osinovka. Soon after, her nine-year-old daughter got sick and died. Thereafter, Mother Alexandra went to settle her estates and manage the property and homesteads. Upon completion of her business around 1767, she returned to settle down in Diveyevo and resided at the house of the parish priest Vasily Dertev. She built a cell on his property and lived there for 20 more years. In 1773, Mother Alexandra began construction of a stone church in the village of Diveyevo in honor of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. She placed it at the exact location the Queen of Heaven had appeared to her. The church was completed in 1779.
The Founding of the Kazan Community
In 1788, a local landlady Mrs. Zhdanova heard about the new community bestowed upon Mother Alexandra from heaven and gifted 1 ½ acres of her land, adjacent to the Kazan church, for the future community. Venerable Alexandra built three cells there and surrounded them with a wooden fence. She took one cell herself and her novice, inviting three more novices to reside in another, while a third cell was offered as a place to stay for pilgrims travelling to Sarov. The community followed a strict Sarov regimen. Elder Pachomius from Sarov monastery became a mentor to the sisters. Their meals were made in Sarov and brought in once a day. The sisters spent their time sewing and knitting for the monks in Sarov and led a simple life of labor and prayers, free of any excesses. Foreseeing her death, Mother Alexandra beseeched father Pachomius to keep her novices and the Kazan community in his care and to provide for the future monastery that the Queen of Heaven once pledged to her. Father Pachomius responded: “I will provide for the needs of your novices according to the promise you gave to the Queen of Heaven. Yet, it is unlikely I will live to see it fulfilled. How about Hyerodeacon Seraphim, whose saintly life is known to you? He is young and will live to see it happen. Go and entrust your affairs into his hands.”
Mother Alexandra reiterated her request to Father Seraphim. A week before her death, she took on the monastic rank of Great Schema, received the Holy Mysteries on the day of her passing, and reposed peacefully in the Lord on June 13, 1789.
After the death of the founder, only three novices were left to reside in the tiny Diveyevo community. They elected Anastasia Kyrillovna to be their elder, who proceeded to increase the total number of monastics to 52 sisters. While Anastasia Kyrillovna was its head, the community lived remarkably well and quite peacefully in complete obeisance to the rules established by Mother Alexandra. Father Pachomius, till the last day of his earthly life, kept the novices of the Diveyevo community in his fatherly care. After he passed away in 1794, the sisters of the community were left without their caring elder. By then, Father Seraphim had shut himself from the outside world and could no longer care for the community.
When Anastasia Kyrillovna died in 1796, the sisters chose Xenia Mikhailovna Kocheulova as their sister superior. Unfortunately, Xenia Mikhailovna’s harsh strictness disheartened the sisters so much that only 40 of them stayed after the first year of her supervisory activities. However, by 1825, the community has increased its number of residents back to 50. From 1822 on, the sisters came to seek advice from Father Seraphim, who, though still living as a shut-in at his hermitage, had already accepted visitors there.
Founding of the Community-By-the-Mill
Father Seraphim wished for the sisters to learn how to lead a simple life and the easiest path to acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit by using the same rule he had followed during his many years of asceticism. He wished for the Kazan community to follow a simplified monastic rule, but Xenia Mikhailovna declined, saying the elder Pachomius had assigned the order to them. Father Seraphim then left it as it is relieved of the need to follow the great elder Mother Alexandra’s bequest.
On November 25, 1825, the Queen of Heaven appeared to him in the woods near Sarov and said: “Why do you want to forsake the behest of my servant Agatha, nun Alexandra? Leave Xenia and the sisters, but do not break the promise given to my servant. Work hard to fulfill it, as it was according to My will she had pleaded with you. I will appoint another place, also in Diveyevo, where you will organize the monastic community promised to Me. In the memory of that promise, take eight sisters from Xenia’s community, the place of my servant’s repose.” She pointed out those sisters, name-by-name, that he was to bring in and pointing to a location eastwards and opposite Our Lady of Kazan church’s altar. She ordered to have that place enclosed by a Kanavka and a dike dug out exclusively by the sisters of the community. She gave instructions to build a double blade windmill and the first cells using timber brought from the Sarov woods. Later on, She instructed a two-altar church of the Nativity of Christ and The Nativity of Herself to be added to Our Lady of Kazan Church’s porch. Additionally, She gave him a new typicon for the new community that no monastery had ever used before. As a pre-requisite, no widow should ever take a chance to be accepted into this community, but exclusively maidens only. They, in turn, will only be admitted with Her own blessing as She promised to forever remain the community’s Hegumenia and bestow Her gifts and Lord’s mercy upon her new earthly domain.
Groundbreaking for the mill took place on December 9, 1826 at a site that the Queen of Heaven pointed out to Venerable Seraphim. “It is the feast of the Conception by the Righteous Anna, so mill construction will start today!” declared the elder solemnly on that day. The new community became known as the one “by the mill.” There were no cells built yet so the sisters resided and worked at the mill till late fall. By the end of October, the first cell was built and all of them stayed there. Shortly thereafter, Father Seraphim acquired a granary and blessed the building of a few more cells to accommodate new members of the community.
Just as in Apostolic times, the Community By the Mill was united by the spirit of love for Christ, the Queen of Heaven, Father Seraphim and in mutual sisterly love, despite their hardships and scarce food supplies.
Two Separate Communities
In 1833, The Community By the Mill had 19 cells inhabited by 73 sisters. Although the two women’s communities differed greatly, they co-existed in peace and unity. Father Seraphim used to explain their differences underlining their independent status and complete self-sufficiency. After Father Seraphim’s death, a novice from Sarov, Ivan Tikhonovich Tolstosheev (later known as Hyeromonk Ioasaf), got willfully involved in the peaceful life of both communities: By the Mill and Lady of Kazan. During his lifetime, Father Seraphim had prevented him from doing so, but the ambitious novice fancied becoming the spiritual father of the communities. In 1842, Ivan Tolstosheev arranged to receive an order to unite the two communities in one. He tried to draw the sisters to his side, distracting them from fulfilling the great elder’s legacy. The time of troubles lasted for 29 years, resulting in great poverty and debt: the communities at one point had no starter to make bread, but more importantly – their spiritual life was shattered. The tumultuous times ended with the personal interference of the Emperor and the Holy Synod in 1862. The community was then elevated to the rank of a monastery, and the nun Maria (Elizaveta Alexeyevna Ushakova) was chosen as Abbess.
Justice was restored in the fourth domain of the Mother of God partly due to the activities of such blessed God-pleasing men as Holy Hierarch Philaret (Drozdov) the Metropolitan of Moscow, Holy Hierarch Theophan (Govorov) the Recluse of Vysha, Venerable Anthony (Medvedev) Superior of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, Archbishop Anthony (Smirnytsky) of Voronezh, and others.
Transformation of Two Communities into One Monastery
According to the Decree of the Holy Synod dated February 10, 1861, the Diveyevo nun community in the Ardatov District was elevated to the rank of a third-grade cenobitic monastery.
In his letter to the Superior of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra Archimandrite Anthony (Medvedev) at the beginning of 1862, Metropolitan of Moscow Philaret wrote about this event: “The prayers of Father Seraphim have prevailed. The Holy Synod decreed to admit the Diveyevo superior Elizaveta to the veil and make her Hegumenia.” That is when the prophetic words of Father Seraphim, told to one of the Diveyevo sisters, came true: “Remember my word, matushka, your twelfth superior will become the monastery builder.” On November 17, 1862, Elizaveta Alexeyevna Ushakova was elevated to the rank of Hegumenia and given the new monastic name of Maria. The Community by the Mill’s typicon was applied to the whole monastic community. Therefore, it received the name of Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery. The sisters reverently kept the legacy of Father Seraphim alive.
Between 1862 and 1904, when the monastery was headed by the Hegumenia Maria (Ushakova), it acquired its distinctive architectural look that has survived to this day. In line with the Venerable Seraphim’s prophesies, the Trinity cathedral (built in 1875), the Hegumenia quarters with the home church of Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene (1901), the Refectory church after Faithful Saint Prince Alexander Nevsky (1895), the bell-tower (1902), and about thirty other service buildings and cells were built.
Multiple shops became the major source of income for the monastery. The workshops produced handicrafts such as gold and silk embroidery, satin stitching in fine cotton and linen, oil painting shop, lithographic (working in photography as well as decals on tin, stone and wood), metal carving and bookbinding, among others. Monastics took care of the monastery’s needs by baking bread and prosphora and making candles, dress and church garment and wool habits. Over 400 overcoats for the Sarov monks were sewn annually. Nuns were involved in a variety of other household chores, such as glass cutting, house painting, and working in cellars, orchards and gardens, and at the mill. The monastery kept a large fruit garden, a threshing shop, and 2 granaries. A water pump house delivered water throughout the monastery, its various service houses and two bathhouses. The monastery had its own home for the elderly and gravely sick nuns, a dentist office and a hospital. At the monastery’s orphanage for girls, the attached priests taught school subjects, while the nuns gave lessons in handiwork and singing.
The monastery owned local hotels for the nobility and the general public, as well as stables, a smith shop with two dormitories for hired hands, and five estates for clergy and servicemen. By the beginning of the 20th century, St. Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery had become the largest cenobitic community. “This is not really a monastery, but a whole district spreading over three verst (less than two miles),” bishop Innocent of Nizhny Novgorod observed.
The pilgrims arriving to Diveyevo during those years saw how sisters breathed and lived Father Seraphim’s legacy. “Father said so!” was heard every minute during their conversations. Sergey Nilus wrote the following about the monastery: “All of Diveyevo is a holy place and its holy love is spills over and sparkles at every corner of this amazing place, from its every cell, every kind word from its Hegumenia or from any of its sisters I have met.”
After the death of Hegumenia Maria in 1904 and in accordance with her will, Mother Provisor Alexandra (Trakovskaya) was elected to be Hegumenia up until the closing of the monastery. In 1917, a total of 270 nuns and 1474 novices resided in the monastery, while the village of Diveyevo had a population of 520. In 1919, the monastery was reorganized into a working co-op, yet its churches were not closed and the services could still continue there. Land, farms, and estates – all were confiscated. The sisters had to work as farmers on their nationalized lands and receive food rations as their pay. Despite of all difficulties, however, the monastery remained a pilgrimage destination. It continued to receive thousands of pilgrims who strived to venerate the holy places of Diveyevo during the years of hardships preceding the monastery’s dissolution in 1927.
Monastery Between Its Dissolution and Reopening
Father Seraphim said: “Time will come when my “orphans” will come rushing to the Nativity gates.” The sisters were perplexed by it: “What gates are these?” In 1927, on the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, the dissolution of the monastery began. During the festal Liturgy, the bishop of Dmitrov Seraphim (Zvezdinsky) told the sisters: “The monastery is closing, but no one strips you of your monastic habits. Each of you stands before the Chalice today, but how will one drink from it, will you be worthy? Until today, you glowed as one big candle, and now you will be divided into separate tiny ones. You need to maintain this glow.”
That is how the prophecy of Father Seraphim was fulfilled. A week later, the monastery was closed. It rained heavily during the days the monastery was closing, as if the nature wept. Rain made it really hard for everyone, but especially for the old and ailing nuns from the almshouse, to move out. After the last service on the feast of the Elevation of the Cross, many of the sisters never saw each other again and never returned to Diveyevo. The majority of sisters settled in the surrounding areas while some returned to their homes. The monastery moved away behind its walls.
Hegumenia Alexandra and her closest sisters settled in Murom. She kept part of the Diveyevo holy items including the major one: the icon of the Mother of God “Tenderness” that formerly belonged to Father Seraphim.
The monastic prayer life never ceased even for one day during all those years. The sisters gathered for prayer services in private and never gave up their monastic prayer rule. Many sisters were arrested and sent to the concentration camps, some were executed. The monastery in dissolution existed till the end of the 1940s. At that time, the incarceration and exile ended and the sisters flocked back to their monastery to settle down nearby. During the Khruschev era of religious persecution, visiting priests performed the church services and sacraments in private. With the blessing of the Holy Patriarch Pimen, the Diveyevo sisters took their veils.
The revival of church life in the village of Diveyevo began in 1988, when the faithful were allowed to purchase a house above the Kazan Icon spring and refurbish it for the church’s needs. On Lazarus Saturday, on April 22, 1989, a wooden church was dedicated to the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. On April 30, 1990, on the day of the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos, Trinity Cathedral of the Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery was consecrated once more. Beginning January 1,1991, all canonical services were performed daily.
On July 21, 1991, the Holy Synod announced, through the state media, its decision to reopen the Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery. On the 30th of July of the same year, the holy relics of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov, discovered at St. Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral (then a museum of religion), solemnly arrived to Diveyevo. On November 17, 1991, before a large gathering of people, Metropolitan Nikolai (Kutepov) of Nizhny Novgorod and Arsamas elevated the nun Sergiya (Konkova), formerly an assistant abbess of the Savior-Transfiguration hermitage of Ryga monastery, to the rank of Hegumenia of the Holy Trinity Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery.
Archbishop Arseniy of Istra recollects:
“To understand it clearly, I would like to start from the very beginning. Late Archbishop Evgeniy (Zhdan) of Tambov greatly facilitated the matter of finding the relics of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov. Ever since he was elected to head the Tambov see in 1987, Tambov Region experienced the revival of the spiritual life. Simultaneously, Vladyka studied loads of documents and accidentally stumbled upon a few regarding the unsealing of a tomb holding the relics of Venerable Father Seraphim by the NKVD. By all means, it was a dreadful piece of paper as it proved an act of plunder performed in relation with the holy God-pleasing man. Yet, it also provided a literal and detailed description of each bone and vertebrae found in the tomb of the venerable saint. In 1990, the Church Council of the Russian Orthodox Church elected Metropolitan Alexiy of Leningrad as its new Patriarch. At the end of the same year, Stanislav Alexeevich Kuchinsky, the director of the Museum of Religion in Leningrad, called me: “Your Grace, I cannot confirm it positively yet, but we must have discovered the relics of some God-pleasing man. The relics are skeleton only, no covers. Only one mitten rested on top, with the sign “Venerable Father Seraphim, pray to God for us!” These relics are not included in our inventory list, as we found them by accident wrapped in some tapestry…”
Naturally, I immediately informed the Holy Patriarch. His Holiness consulted Stanislav Alexeevich and, soon afterwards, in December, a special commission headed by His Grace Evgeniy was formed. I was invited to participate, together with some other clergy of St. Petersburg Diocese.
Now, we arrived to Petersburg (Leningrad then) and, in the presence of the museum director, his deputies, and some employees, we ascended the stairs to the room where “the find” was located. Obviously, we were used to trusting nothing but the documents – well, no documents were available in this case. As I mentioned earlier, His Grace Evgeniy was able to locate, back in 1988, the Act of unsealing the relics of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov containing a detailed description (in fact, that is why His Grace Evgeniy headed the commission). Having the Act on hand, we were able to compare the newly uncovered relics with the description. Everything we saw coincided with the relics of Venerable Seraphim in every minute detail! Even such a known fact: remember from the life account of the venerable father how he was almost beaten to death by the thieves looking for treasures? Even this account found its proof: the relics’ sternum was found to have an obvious and rather deep bent! What shocked me more than anything else? The head of Venerable Seraphim had a monk hat on with a round hole at the front. Most likely, it had some rounded metallic plate attached so that people could venerate it.
Anyway, the skull bones of venerable father were dark in color except for this spot that was really bright and light, as it was venerated many, many times… A sweet feeling of joy enveloped me upon observing it…
After the examination of the relics, the Holy Patriarch instructed the director of the Sofrino church supply factory to manufacture the tomb for Venerable Seraphim. Later, he summoned Metropolitan Nikolai of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas and announced the news of finding the relics of Venerable Seraphim.
The laymen learned the news a bit later. During his annual Nativity address at the Yelokhov Epiphany Cathedral, the Holy Patriarch, in response to the greeting by the Metropolitan Juvenaly and addressing everyone present, said: “My dear ones, I would like to announce something else, an extraordinary event the Lord has bestowed upon us: the relics of our venerable and God-bearing Father Seraphim, the miracle-worker of Sarov, have been found!” I was stunned how the whole cathedral literally gave one big gasp: the announcement caused deep innermost excitement in everyone present!
In the middle of January of 1991, the Holy Patriarch departed to Petersburg (still named Leningrad). Here, the relics of the venerable father, with triumphant singing, were carried from the stock room to the Kazan Cathedral (still under government use), where a short prayer service was held. Thereafter, the relics were transferred to the St. Alexander-Nevsky Lavra, as the clerics and faithful of the Leningrad Diocese greeted the precious holy relics at the gates.
The relics of Venerable Seraphim were available for veneration at the Trinity Cathedral of the Alexander-Nevsky Lavra. On the feast of blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, His Holiness visited the northern capital again. On February 6, with throngs of people filling the streets and singing praises to Venerable Seraphim, his relics were carried from the Lavra to the Moscow railway station. The procession, with candles and quiet singing, went along the street route the city officials had mapped out, and what a touching sight it was! It created neither the confusion nor noise nor commotion that usually surrounds the big events or gatherings… The air was full of extraordinary spiritual joy.
A special train car was provided for the delivery of the relics of the venerable father to Moscow. When the procession reached the station, we realized that the people had completely blocked all the platforms and access routes to the station! At this moment, it seems, the railway station’s operation had come to a standstill…
When our train departed, an inexplicable feeling enveloped us! The car carrying the relics of Venerable Seraphim was the last one on the train, and the Holy Patriarch stayed there. At our departure, everyone present on the platform and all the way through to the station entrance, fell to their knees. That moment, when the citizens of Petersburg bowed down to say farewell to the venerable father, is stamped in the memory forever and will unlikely be forgotten. Their hearts had than spoken.
On our way to Moscow, the clergy read the akathists and performed the prayer services all night long. Early in the morning, the train arrived to Moscow’s Leningrad station. Our arrival had not been announced officially, but it did not matter: when the train approached the station, the number of greeters outnumbered those on the train. Everyone was overjoyed by the fact the faithful had somehow learned of the train’s arrival without any official notice.
A long procession of the cross carrying the relics of Venerable Seraphim went from the Leningrad station to the Epiphany Cathedral. It happened to be the feast of the icon of the Mother of God “Assuage My Sorrows.” The freezing air and blizzard had not slowed down the faithful, and everyone was overwhelmed with joy.
When the relics were brought inside the Epiphany Cathedral, an impromptu prayer of thanksgiving was sung, as no service books had been used and everything was done by heart, inspired by the excitement everyone felt!
That same evening, His Grace Varsonophius was nominated as bishop of Saransk in front of the relics of Venerable Seraphim. His consecration as bishop took place the next day, on 8th of February. I think it did not happen by chance – Saransk is the capital of Mordovia, formerly a part of the Tambov Diocese, where Venerable Seraphim glorified God by his deeds.
Between February and July of 1991, the relics rested at the Epiphany Metropolitan Cathedral. In the summer, a massive cross procession, this time by a motorcade, transferred the relics of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov to the newly reopened Diveyevo women’s monastery. The Holy Patriarch, hierarchs and the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church headed the procession. The procession literally went through all of European Russia – visiting cities and villages in Moscow, Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod Regions, via Arzamas on to Diveyevo. Lots of memories were made then, as people from all walks of life streamed to participate in the event. Massive crowds followed the procession, but it was the residents of the town of Lakinsk that impressed me the most. There was no planned procession stop in this town and the rain started pouring before we approached it, so the decision was made to speed past it. But what we witnessed upon entering it! Lots of local people came to the road – carrying crosses, icon banners, flowers and icons. They came out to greet Venerable Seraphim! In the downpour! All of a sudden, upon seeing the approaching motorcade, all of them, despite the rain, got to their knees! It is too difficult to express what feelings overtake you when you are witnessing such a devotion to the holy relic!
So it was all along the route: people would come to the roadside, greeting the relics, expressing their joy each in his own way.
Upon entering Vladimir, His Grace Evlogiy, Bishop of Vladimir, followed by the host of local clergy, met the relics at the Golden Gates. Imagine such an amazing panorama: the reliquary in the center, His Grace Evlogiy at the gates surrounded by clergy, and the rest of the square is filled with the faithful! The great city square, going down in front of the main cathedral, was packed full of people who came to bow down before Venerable Seraphim. Everywhere else, at each stop, the services were performed and the prayers sung. Vyazniki and Gorokhovets were among the next stops…
Next, the arrival to Nizhny Novgorod – a huge cathedral located at the city fairgrounds, masses of people… The cathedral is built on an open square, no shade, just the mid-summer heat… The relics had to be carried out to the southern cathedral portico so the people, flowing en masse, had a chance to venerate them. Next stop was Arzamas, where His Grace Ieuropheus, now reposed, was ordained a bishop at a local cathedral. Afterwards, the motorcade proceeded to Diveyevo.
Several villages and settlements were located along the road to Diveyevo, and their residents stood with crosses and icons by the roadside… Obviously, it called for a stop there, as well.
Making some prolonged and some short stops along its way, this extraordinary procession came to an end. I would like to thank all those who took part in it, who either assisted others, or prayed, or was involved somehow. I want to thank each and everyone since it would have been impossible to organize such a grand event that involved every layer of the society without our absolute solidarity.
Thereafter, Lord has brought about the discovery of the relics of other God-pleasing saints, but Venerable Father Seraphim was the first among many…
Meeting of the Relics of Venerable Seraphim at the Diveyevo Monastery
Not long before his death, Venerable Father Seraphim used to tell N.A.Motovilov in their conversations that he would rest in his flesh in Diveyevo instead of Sarov. After his death and after the canonization that followed in 1903, his relics stayed at the Sarov monastery. Today, though, we see how his prophecy was fulfilled.
On July 29, 1991, the lower tier of bells was raised onto the Diveyevo bell-tower. The arrival of the relics of Venerable Seraphim was then greeted by the bell tolling. On July 30th, the cross procession with the holy relics arrived to Diveyevo. The procession was headed by the Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexiy II.
That is when the holy man’s predictions over him laying in flesh in Diveyevo could were clearly understood. Sarov has become a restricted-access town, while the Diveyevo monastery has seen its rebirth, its oil lamps re-lit and monastic life renewed.
The relics were placed at the center of the Trinity Cathedral in place of a festal icon. The top screen was removed, and the clergy came to venerate the uncovered relics. Then the tomb was moved under its canopy. An all-night vigil service was held in front of the tomb. The next morning, the Liturgy was served at 9 am. In the evening of July 31st, the Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexiy II served the Little Vespers with the Akathist at the Trinity Cathedral. Three choirs from Diveyevo, Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas performed. At midnight of August 1st, the Divine Liturgy began. Paschal hymns replaced post-communion prayers. Second and third Divine Liturgies were served at 3 am and 6 am at the side altars that were dedicated to Venerable Seraphim and the icon of the Mother of God “Tenderness.” The platform for the Patriarchal divine service was set up at the square in front of the cathedral. The hierarchs carried the tomb holding the relics from the cathedral and placed it on the podium before the festal icon. The Holy Patriarch served the Liturgy in front of a great multitude of the faithful. Thousands and thousands of pilgrims were deemed worthy of partaking of the Holy and Life-giving Mysteries of Christ on this memorable day. The earthly and heavenly Church triumphed glorifying this great intercessor for the land of Russia before God.
“The prophecy of a great elder has been fulfilled, the Holy Patriarch addressed the pilgrims. “We saw the great spiritual joy the Orthodox faithful in towns and villages expressed venerating the precious holy relics of our venerable father. Truly, the Paschal joy filled our hearts and we sang Paschal hymns, remembering his words that Pascha will be celebrated in the middle of summer. We turn a new page written in the history of the Diveyevo monastery. It will have the great power to attract pilgrims who will come here to draw spiritual consolation and strength from Venerable Seraphim.”
After the Liturgy and the cross procession, the relics of the venerable saint were brought back into the cathedral. On that day, ten thousand pilgrims gathered at the Diveyevo monastery, which had just barely began its renovation process.
100th Anniversary of Canonization of Venerable Seraphim
The feast of the 100th anniversary of the canonization of the Venerable Seraphim of Sarov commenced with Vespers and the Akathist to the God-pleasing saint on July 31st, at 4pm. After the Little Vespers, the whole congregation awaited silently and patiently for the arrival of the Holy Patriarch Alexiy II from Sarov. Mother Hegumenia Sergiya with the other sisters met the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church with the traditional loaf of bread and salt. A solemn Vigil service began. A hundred years before, the same ceremony had taken place in Sarov. Few at that time could understand Venerable Seraphim’s prophecy about his resting in Diveyevo in the flesh. We are the witnesses to how this prophecy has been fulfilled, since his relics were laid to rest at the Trinity Cathedral in Diveyevo in 1991.
The time came for serving Litya. Singing the hymn “Let us assemble today, O monastics, and reverently praise the holy venerable monk..,” the clergy slowly proceeded towards the narthex of the cathedral. The Litya petitions sought the Lord’s mercy, through the prayerful intercession of all the saints and the Venerable Seraphim, the miracle-maker of Sarov, the great intercessor and advocate before the Throne of God. Right before the Service of Six Psalms, the service slowed down in anticipation of the entrance of the Holy Patriarch. And here enters Patriarch Alexiy II, walking along the carpet of live flowers, greeted by the monastery’s choir and bell-ringing. After the reading of Six Psalms, came the most solemn moment of the service. In 1903, the Diveyevo nun Maria (Ushakova) spoke how Father Seraphim had prophesied about it: “What a marvel of all the marvels it will be, when the cross procession arrives from Sarov to Diveyevo.” In fulfillment of this promise, on the 100th anniversary of the canonization of Venerable Father Seraphim, a cross procession with the holy relics did arrive from Sarov where the relics stayed temporarily for the celebratory church service. The clergy, followed by the sisters, began enthusiastically singing the Exaltation hymn: “We glorify thee, our holy Father Seraphim, and we honor thy holy memory, instructor of monks, and converser with angels.” The reliquary, brought from Sarov, was installed in its newly reproduced silver tomb. The words of one of the participants of the saint’s canonization events in Sarov 100 years earlier came to mind: “Sing, O Rus, thunder out your praise for him loudly on high, let it rise higher and louder, reaching the Throne, where he stands fearlessly before the Ever-existing One, responding to every lamentation reaching him from the suffering earth. Sing, the Russian land, sing praises louder to him, rejoicing that you and your spirit brought him forth, that he was your voice during his earthly life, in his aspirations, extol him loudly: “We glorify, we glorify thee!..” The Holy Patriarch Alexiy II read the Gospels. The Vigil service ended late, around 11 pm. Nevertheless, the mood was festive and no one was fatigued.
Prayers never ceased during that eventful night. At midnight, a prayer service began with the blessing of the waters, followed by the Divine Liturgy at the Trinity Cathedral. Another nighttime service took place at the Transfiguration Cathedral. At 1 am, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. Early morning, at 4 am, the Divine Liturgy was served at the side altar of the icon of the Mother of God “Tenderness” at the Trinity Cathedral. At 7am, the reliquary with the holy relics was carried out onto the cathedral square before the Transfiguration Cathedral, where the temporary altar table was built.
At 9 am, a festive bell ringing began. Bishop Georgiy of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas with Hegumenia Sergiya and the sisters met the Holy Patriarch Alexiy II in front of the Patriarchal residence. They escorted him to the place the Divine Liturgy was celebrated. The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church concelebrated with the hierarchs of the local Orthodox Churches and dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The square was filled with the faithful who prayed reverently. The cloudless, powder blue sky turned into a majestic dome. All the hierarchs could not fit into the makeshift altar. The harmoniously singing monastery choir of the Diveyevo sisters led everyone present through prayer. During the singing of the Cherubic Hymn, the clergy exited the altar for the Great Entrance. During “A Mercy of Peace” and “We Sing to Thee..,” the congregation as if held their breaths, taking in the mystery performed before their eyes. There were great numbers of the communicants on that day. Thirty chalices with the Holy Gifts were brought out.
At the end of the Liturgy, the Holy Patriarch Alexiy greeted everyone celebrating the feast and awarded the honors of the Russian Orthodox Church. His Holiness said: “What can I wish for you all, dear brothers and sisters, when you return back to your homes, your families and friends? I wholeheartedly wish for you to carry the grace of God in your hearts back to your homes. I wish the love Venerable Father Seraphim had would touch our hearts from within. We remember how Venerable Seraphim of Sarov met everyone coming to see him with the words: “My joy, Christ is risen!” He was the embodiment of Paschal joy, joy about the Resurrected Lord, our Savior. I want to remind you once more, like I did yesterday evening, that one of the venerable father’s prophecies was about signing Pascha in the midst of summer. Isn’t it Pascha that we celebrate here right now, when we praise his memory and mark the 100th anniversary of the canonization of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov! I welcome all of you, who gathered for the festivities here, at the Trinity-Seraphim monastery, with the words of the eternal Paschal greeting resounding so joyously in the heart of every Orthodox faithful: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen! Christ is risen!” May each of you carry away this Paschal joy of being with Venerable Seraphim of Sarov. May each of you hear from us, your humble servants, that gladsome Paschal greeting and the words: “My joy! Christ is risen!” I wish the prayers of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov empower you, give you strength and courage, bestow inner peace to each of you on your life’s journey.” With the Paschal joy and great enthusiasm, as if with one voice, the whole square responded to the Patriarchal greeting: “Christ is risen!” “Indeed He is risen!”
His Holiness gifted a copy of the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God to the Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery saying the following: “I was asked to do so by people who pledged that this icon would return to the Holy Trinity Diveyevo monastery.”
The Modern Life Of the Monastery
The monastery, devastated during the Soviet years, flourished under Hegumenia Sergiya, the head of the Diveyevo monastery. Currently, all churches are restored, with the monastery buildings renovated, the Annunciation cathedral promised by Venerable Seraphim built, the Holy Kanavka dug out, with two dozen monastery sketes and farmsteads newly founded. The relics of the venerable and blessed maidens of Diveyevo have been uncovered. The walls of Trinity, Transfiguration and Kazan cathedrals were decorated. New buildings have been built. Hegumenia Sergiya selflessly serves to the Queen of Heaven, beautifying Her earthly domain.
Diveyevo monastery is like a big family: more than five hundred sisters reside here. Watching the sisters, Mother Hegumenia recalls her own childhood sorrow for being born to a small family of only four people. But God has compensated her, by her heart’s wish, with such a great family! When someone becomes a nun or takes a veil, Mother Hegumenia becomes ??? their spiritual mother. “As such, a mother is to carry all the weaknesses of her spiritual kin,” concludes Hegumenia Sergiya. “I am obliged to follow all the monastic rules myself. If I personally ignored the rules to attend a daily prayer or a meal, but taught everyone to do it, then it would be just an idle talk. One abscinds her own will by obliging to the monastery typicon, and the Lord bestows blessed joy as a reward”.
The monastery life has its own unique rhythm. Getting up at 5 am. At 5-30 am, everyone comes together for a morning prayer rule, which includes reading of the morning prayers, the midnight service, twelve Psalms with prostrations, and a prayer service to Father Seraphim. The Divine Liturgy starts right afterwards. On weekdays, the sisters begin their obediences around 8 am. The evening service starts at 5 pm and ends at 8-30 pm. Supper follows. Afterwards, everyone walks to Kanavka, and then the evening prayer rule is read at church.
Mother Hegumenia believes: “A true novice is one who can handle it all for the sake of Christ. By having experienced the love of God, she will have the desire to give selflessly back to Him at least a little bit, and through Him, to those around her. The monastery, despite being a closed institution, receives many who seek spiritual help and partake of the Holy Mysteries here. All of us are the servants of the Queen of Heaven and Father Seraphim. If one ever ponders or reminds herself about them every now and then, lots of other things in our life will get settled on its own. If you are the servant of the Queen of Heaven and Father Seraphim, can you send someone away unconsoled or mistreated? You cannot, and you must not. Therefore, if you are their servant, then ask the Queen of Heaven and Father Seraphim for help, and seek their direction, assistance, and spiritual teaching.”