Elder Seraphim (Romantsov), known in the world as Ivan Romanovich Romantsov, was a Schema-Archimandrite, a Russian elder who lived in the Glinsk monastery and in Sukhumi (Abkhazia). He was glorified by the Holy Synod of the Church of Ukraine on March 25, 2009 with other Glinsk elders: Schema-Archimandrite Andronik (Lukash) (1880–1974) and Schema-Metropolitan Seraphim (Mazhuga) (1896–1985).
Ivan was born on June 28, 1885, in a village of Voronok of the Krupetsk volost of the Kursk province into family of peasants. Little information is available about his early life, since the elder did not say anything due to his modesty. After his graduation from the parish school and the repose of his parents, Ivan entered the Glinsk monastery.
In 1914-1916, he took part in World War I where he was wounded. Then he was taken to the hospital. Archbishop Micah (Kharkharov) of Yaroslavl (1921-2005), who later became a spiritual son of Fr. Seraphim, writes that at the same time there was a hypnotist in the hospital among the injured. He could hypnotize almost all other patients but could not do this with Ivan, because he always recited the Jesus prayer. And no matter how much the hypnotist tried to hypnotize, nothing worked. At that time, as Archbishop Micah writes, Ivan got to know from personal experience the power of the Jesus prayer and that hypnosis is not just an experiment with the hidden powers in man but is the work of the demons.
Following his recovery Ivan returned to the monastery. In 1919, Ivan was tonsured a monk with the name Juvenalis. His elder, hieromonk Aristoklis (Veter), taught him a wholehearted daily confession of thoughts and attention to all the movements of the heart. Later, Juvenalis believed that the inner doing is very important for the spiritual growth and salvation.
In 1919, Juvenalis was ordained hierodeacon and, in 1926, when he moved to Sukhumi after the closure of the Glinsk monastery, he was ordained a hieromonk and tonsured into the Great Schema with the name of Seraphim. In 1931, Seraphim was arrested and sent to the White Sea Canal construction.
From 1934 to 1946, Fr. Seraphim lived an ascetic life in Kirghizia where he was hidden by a pious family. In 1946-1947 he lived in Tashkent as a confessor at the Cathedral. In 1948, after his return to the reopened Glinsk monastery, he was appointed a spiritual father by Archimandrite Seraphim (Amelin).
Most of all, Fr. Seraphim wanted to bring his spiritual children to humility, about which he wrote: "Everything that you need for salvation is the true humility, inner conviction that you are the worst of sinners; this is the greatest gift of God, and it is gained by many works and sweats. Then the man feels in his heart such calmness that is inexplicable in human words. Day and night, look for this precious jewel. One who is truly humble, if he has any gifts from God - prayer or tears, fasting, all of them he carefully conceals, for the human praise, like a moth, eats everything." In his letters and instructions, Fr. Seraphim constantly warned against conviction of others.
In 1961, after the second closure of the Glinsk monastery, Fr. Seraphim moved to Sukhumi (Abkhazia). Never before was the church at Sukhumi crowded as when Fr. Seraphim was living there. He ministered to the spiritual needs of people, hearing their confessions and sending out many letters, responding to the questions from his spiritual children. According to Archimandrite Raphael (Karelin), the true reason why Fr. Seraphim settled in Sukhumi, was the pastoral care of the hermits from the nearby mountains.
Fr. Seraphim himself was experienced in the Jesus Prayer. He considered obedience to be absolutely necessary to practice the Prayer. He said that if a person with hard work achieves the skill to recite the Jesus Prayer, but has not achieved healing of the soul through obedience, if he will not cut out his own will, then the prayer, uttered out of habit, would not be that true inner unceasing prayer of which the ascetics wrote. The prayer will remain only as words, as a proud mind can not unite with the name of Jesus Christ - this incomprehensible Humility.
Fr. Seraphim knew from his own experience what the unceasing prayer of the heart is. A well-known elder John (Krestiankin), who was tonsured a monk by Fr. Seraphim in 1966 in Sukhumi, writes in one letter to some person about the way the Lord gives His gifts and takes them away: "My spiritual father was a young man when he received the gift of unceasing Jesus prayer and the fullness of joy in it, and then the Lord took this gift away, and all his life Fr. Seraphim looked for the lost piece of silver – he worked humbly and patiently – the gift was returned to him by the Lord a few days before his death - as a witness that the Lord had accepted his tears his whole life".
On December 18, 1975, during the vigil, Fr. Seraphim felt ill. He went to his bed. All the time the elder said aloud the Jesus Prayer, and when tired, asked the others to continue to recite it. For two weeks, he partook of Holy Communion daily. Being fully conscious, the Elder was honored to see many of his brethren in the spirit, who, according to him, were singing the sticheron "Eternal council". And then the elder in a weak voice sang: "O taste and see that the Lord is good. Allelujah." After the vision, he said, "What I have prayed all my life and what I was searching for, it is opened now in my heart, my soul is filled with grace, so that I could not even hold it." After this he said, "Now I'm going to die". On December 31 he closed his eyes for the last time and the next day, on January 1, 1976, the elder reposed.
- (Russian) Schema-archimandrite Seraphim (Romantsov) 1885-1976.
- (Russian) Database of New-Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Orthodox Church of the 20th century.
- (Russian) Pravoslavie.ru: Three newly-canonized Glinsk elders.
- (Russian) Archimandrite Raphael(Karelin). The Mystery of Salvation. Schema-Archimandrite Seraphim.
- (Russian) Letters of elder John Krestiankin. 10-th edition. 2011.
- (Russian) Letters of Archbishop Micah (Kharkharov). Part 2.