The Story of St Searaphim of Sarov and the Bear

St Seraphim of Sarov and the Bear

St Seraphim of Sarov and the Bear

THE BEAR

One day Matrona, one of the nuns, saw [Father Seraphim] sitting on a tree trunk in the company of a bear. Terrified, she let out a scream. The Staretz turned round and, seeing her, patted the animal and sent him away. Then he invited Matrona to come and sit beside him. ‘But’, Matrona relates, ‘hardly had we sat down when the animal returned from the wood and came and lay at the Staretz’ feet. I was as terrified as before, but when I saw Father Seraphim, quite unconcerned, treating the bear like a lamb, stroking him and giving him some bread, I calmed down. I looked at the father and was dazzled by the sight of his face which seemed to me full of light and like an angel’s. When I was wholly reassured the Staretz gave me a piece of bread and said: “You needn’t be the least afraid of him, he won’t hurt you.” So I held out the bread to the bear and, while he was eating it, it was such joy to be feeding him that I wanted to go on doing so. Seeing how much I was enjoying it, Father Seraphim said: “You remember the story of St Jerome feed­ing a lion in the desert? Well, here we’ve got a bear obeying us.” I exclaimed: “The sisters would die of fright if they saw such a sight!” “They won’t see it,” replied the Staretz. Then, “I’d be very sad if anyone killed him,” I went on. “Nobody will kill him and nobody except yourself will see him,” answered the father.’ Matrona was already rejoicing at the thought of telling the sisters about it but the Staretz, reading her thoughts, said to her, ‘No, my joy, you’re not to tell anyone until eleven years after my death. Then God will show you whom to tell.’

And so it happened: a day came when, some years after the father’s death, Matrona went past an artist’s studio in the monastery; he was working on a portrait of the father in the forest on a tree trunk. `0,’ she said, ‘you really must paint the bear!’ What bear?’ asked the artist in surprise. Then Matrona told him the story and remembered the Staretz’ words. Eleven years had gone by.

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