A Blessed Discovery

The Biographical Icon depicting significant events in the Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov

The Bio­graph­i­cal Icon depict­ing sig­nif­i­cant events in the Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov


St. Seraphim giving Spiritual Counsel to a young Monk

Excerpt of lower left cor­ner of Bio­graph­i­cal Icon:  St. Seraphim giv­ing Spir­i­tual Coun­sel to a young Monk










Dear Friends of the OCMP,

The event that I am about to relate in today’s post hum­bles me, and encour­ages me to con­tinue in all earnest­ness com­pos­ing the can­tata ‘The Life of St. Seraphim’, of which I have been ded­i­cated for nearly the past two years.   

As can be seen on the cir­cum­fer­ence of the full length icon of our beloved Elder, there are 20 unique life scenes depict­ing note­wor­thy events in the life of this great Saint.  I have been musi­cally set­ting each scene, often with a uniquely com­posed text of orig­i­nal hymnog­ra­phy that include essen­tial details that are con­veyed by the music, and are not found in the ser­vice texts.

For the past two weeks, I have been reeval­u­at­ing my research on the scene in the lower left cor­ner, not being con­vinced that I had accu­rately por­trayed the event.   I reached out to many an icono­g­ra­pher, com­poser, and Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian church musi­cian seek­ing to iden­tify who was in that scene, and what event was tak­ing place.  Unfor­tu­nately, the old Slavonic writ­ing at the top of each icon scene is illeg­i­ble, and this has thwarted the best efforts to deci­pher it.  Other ver­sions of this bio­graph­i­cal icon show a dif­fer­ent scene in that posi­tion, and we could not rely on those for ref­er­ence.   Many vol­un­teers sym­pa­thetic to my cause had offered valid sug­ges­tions based on posi­tion, and other clues in the image.  

Last week, I vis­ited Holy Cross Monastery in Setauket, NY, and inquired of Hierodea­con Parthe­nios Miller, who has been a dear friend and Litur­gics men­tor for many years.  He is inti­mately con­nected to this project because it was through his min­istry that I was intro­duced to St. Seraphim nearly 10 years ago.  I posed the dilemma to him, and we sat for nearly an hour going through dif­fer­ent resources that he had on hand.  Not being sat­is­fied with the lack of find­ings, he rec­om­mended that I read ‘St. Seraphim of Sarov’ by Valen­tine Zan­der (SVS Press).  Admit­tedly, I do not own every biog­ra­phy on St. Seraphim, and I jumped at the chance to acquire another source text.  ‘Iron­i­cally’, Fr. Parthe­nios just hap­pened to have that book on order to restock the monastery book­store, and as a cour­tesy he changed the ship­ping address to my home.  He said to me, you will have great joy when you dis­cover the answer to your quest.   The book arrived at my home on two days ago (Aug 20th), and I began read­ing it immediately.  

Today, August 22, 2014, I dis­cov­ered the mean­ing of the event in ques­tion, and Fr. Parthe­nios’ words that ‘I will have great joy’ were ful­filled dou­bly: the sec­ond way which I could have never imag­ined.   The mean­ing of the scene is sim­ply depict­ing the time when St. Seraphim ended his 5 year monas­tic seclu­sion, opened his door, and began to wel­come vis­i­tors, many of whom were monks.   Had this been all I learned I would have been been sat­is­fied and con­tented that my research yielded a solu­tion to the mys­tery, and  I could con­tinue with my composition.

 How­ever, after read­ing the pas­sage begin­ning on page 22, and con­tin­u­ing on to page 23, some­thing very strik­ing man­i­fested itself to me.  Zan­der chron­i­cles that on 15 August 1815, the Bishop of Tam­bov was denied and audi­ence with St. Seraphim, but “a week later” St. Seraphim opened his door for the first time in 5 years and blessed the Gov­er­nor of Tam­bov and his wife.  The next para­graph goes on to describe how the ‘time of enclo­sure had come to an end’, and that he was then heard singing ser­vices, teach­ing, and bless­ing vis­i­tors with an opened door.  

 Here is what made me shud­der in my core:  St. Seraphim opened his door to the world  “a week later”… August 22, 1815!   199 years ago TODAY

I hope that you are edi­fied by this story, and may we always remem­ber that we are NOT spir­i­tu­ally alone in our holy works, and that all things hap­pen in God’s time for his greater pur­pose.  I ask you to con­tinue to pray for the suc­cess of this project, that through it, the biog­ra­phy of St. Seraphim and the inter­ces­sor we have in him, may be pre­sented to the world in an unprece­dented way.  
May St. Seraphim bless us and help us to acquire the spirit of peace.    


Robert Sirico ,  

Founder:  Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project 

An overview of Composition Progress during Summer 2014

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

16a. Snapshot

The open­ing bars of Move­ment 16a:’ Those who have Decided’ from the Can­tata ‘The Life of St. Seraphim’ by Com­poser Robert Sirico

I am very excited to share that the drafts of Move­ments 14 a & b, 15 a, b, & c, and 16a of the Life of St. Seraphim’ have been com­pleted adding another 15 min­utes of beau­ti­ful music to this work in progress! Much of the hymnog­ra­phy in these sec­tions is com­pletely orig­i­nal and gives an unprece­dented musi­cal voice to the his­tor­i­cal depictions.  

*Move­ment 14 describes the Tsar’s encounter with St. Seraphim and how he sought the coun­cil of the Holy Elder. *Move­ment 15 high­lights the begin­ning of the rec­og­nized mir­a­cles and the appear­ance of the Virgin’s well spring, and describes how St. Seraphim achieved noto­ri­ety as a healer of woes.  * Move­ment 16a is another direct quote illu­mi­nat­ing the virtues of the Jesus Prayer.  Accom­pa­ny­ing this excerpt is a snap­shot of the musi­cal set­ting of these blessed words.

The Mas­ter Taught: “Those who have truly decided to serve the Lord God should prac­tice the remem­brance of God and unin­ter­rupted prayer to Jesus Christ, men­tally say­ing: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sin­ner.”   


1000 Nights of Prayer Upon a Rock

St Seraphim in Prayer on a Rock for 1000 Nights

Fire of Love: Encoun­ter­ing the Holy Spirit, Paint­ing By Don­ald Goergen

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

I am very excited to share that the draft of 13th Move­ment of the ‘Life of St. Seraphim’ has been com­pleted! The tex­ture of this set­ting is for SATB choir with soli.  We are blessed with a rich hymno­graphic tra­di­tion which draws our atten­tion to the virtues of God’s Holy Saints for our ulti­mate encour­age­ment in the spir­i­tual life.

For your edi­fi­ca­tion, I present to you the fol­low­ing hymn from the Akathist to St Seraphim (with orig­i­nal hymn-text appended in italics):

A strange won­der do we behold in thee, O holy one, for though a weak and fee­ble old man, thou didst con­tinue in prayer kneel­ing on a rock for a thou­sand days and nights [*as a sym­bol of the rock of Peter’s con­fes­sion upon which Christ would build his church. 

Recall­ing that with the Lord a day is like a thou­sand years, and a thou­sand years are like a day, thine ascetic strug­gles sym­bol­ized Christ’s descent into hades as He rose again vic­to­ri­ous on the third day.]  

Who can tell of the pains and strug­gles thou didst endure in thy hades, O blessed father, lift­ing up thy holy hands to God, con­quer­ing the spir­i­tual ene­mies of the pas­sions and chant­ing to the Lord: Alleluia!

Introducing the Original Hymn ‘St. Seraphim and the Bear’ for the 11th Movement of the St. Seraphim Oratorio


St. Seraphim and the Bear

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

I am very excited to be begin­ning the 11th Move­ment of the ‘Life of St. Seraphim’ ora­to­rio. The tex­ture of this set­ting will be for Dou­ble SATB choir with dou­ble SATB soli. After much research, I have not dis­cov­ered a tropar­ion describ­ing the rela­tion­ship of ‘St. Seraphim and the Bear’. It is here that I have taken on the task of com­pos­ing an orig­i­nal hymn text for this icon scene in the spirit of the great Hymno­g­ra­phers of the past. For your edi­fi­ca­tion, I present to you the fol­low­ing hymn: 

11. The Holy Priest Seraphim befriends a Bear (Orig­i­nal hymn text)

Mvt 11

Open­ing Mea­sures of the Draft of the 11th Move­ment of the St. Seraphim Can­tata
’St. Seraphim and the Bear’

*** “Whilst thou wast in seclu­sion from the world immersed in the rig­ors of prayer and the asceti­cal life, 

the ani­mals of the for­est, drawn by their innate sense of the Cre­ator within thee, befriended Thee, and kept watch as thou con­versed with the Lord of Hosts and the Holy Theotokos. 

Fero­cious beasts would pros­trate them­selves before thee; 
the mighty bear would sur­ren­der her honey, and the wolf her prey,
in exchange for bread blessed by thy hands, O Saint. 

The calm­ing of their for­mi­da­ble natures 
showed the vic­tory of Christ over the wolf, that nat­ural preda­tor of the lamb, and of the bear who fiercely pur­sues the bul­lock, 
as mys­ti­cal sym­bols for the ene­mies of the Gospel. 

Thy holy and peace­ful life gives us a fore­taste of the divine rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of heaven and earth,
When Christ, Our God, will make all things new. ”

Wanted: Unique Images of St. Seraphim of Sarov, his Relics, and Diveevo Monastery.

St Seraphim's stoleDear Friends of the OCMP,

Wanted: Unique Images of St. Seraphim of Sarov, his Relics, and Diveevo Monastery.

As many have already read from my recent post­ings, I am com­pos­ing an ora­to­rio on The Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov accord­ing to the scenes from his bio­graph­i­cal icon. I have been research­ing and com­pos­ing since Sep­tem­ber 2012 and am already half way through the first draft. The dura­tion of the first half is already an hour and I look for­ward to com­plet­ing the entire draft this year. Count­less hours have already been devoted to this project, with many more to go!

After the ora­to­rio is drafted, and edited, and made ready for per­for­mance, I plan on pre­mier­ing it as a glo­ri­ous trib­ute to our beloved Batiushka. More details will fol­low on this site, and the OCMP offi­cial web­site, when I am ready to announce the con­cert information.

One ele­ment of this project will include a slide-show of Unique Images of St. Seraphim of Sarov, his Relics, Diveevo Monastery, His glo­ri­fi­ca­tion etc.

I am reach­ing out to any­one who is will­ing to donate images that can be used in this slide-show. I respect copy­rights, and will credit all sub­mis­sions accord­ing to the most cur­rent stan­dards of cita­tion. NONE of the donated images will be sold or for­warded. This is STRICTLY for the slideshow which will play simul­ta­ne­ously dur­ing the per­for­mance of the oratorio.

If you are inter­ested in mak­ing these image dona­tions, please send them as .JPEGs of .GIFS attached to an e-mail addressed to OCMP33@gmail.com with “St. Seraphim Images” in the sub­ject line. Please include a descrip­tion of the images in the email body, ad how they should be credited.

I have already col­lected some beau­ti­ful pics donated by pil­grims to holy sites asso­ci­ated with St. Seraphim, and I would like to thank all those who have whole­heart­edly sup­ported my efforts in devel­op­ing what may be the first-ever, bio­graph­i­cal Ora­to­rio about St. Seraphim of Sarov.

I wel­come ALL cor­re­spon­dence and inquiries into this and any other OCMP project.

Yours in Christ,
Robert Sirico, Com­poser & Founder
Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project


Akathist to the Kursk Root icon

Monks from the Holy Cross Monastery (ROCOR)   in Setauket, New York  with guest chanters,  pose with the orig­i­nal Kursk Root Icon

It was a bless­ing to join the monks of Holy Cross Monastery singing the Akathist to the Holy Theotokos and ven­er­at­ing the Kursk Root icon as it vis­ited local parishes in the New York area.  Here Fr. Max­i­mos, rec­tor of the monastery holds the famed 900 year old mirac­u­lous icon of the ‘Kursk Root’.   Vis­it­ing choir mem­bers of other parishes were wel­comed to par­tic­i­pate in the Akathist ser­vice which drew hun­dreds of faith­ful to the monastery to ven­er­ate the aged icon.  Robert Sirico, Choir Direc­tor of the St. John the The­olo­gian Litur­gi­cal Choir  (right, front row) was among those invited to sing the sacred service.   

ORIENT: Sacred Song and Image, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chorale Sings in Concert

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

I am hon­ored to sup­port in prayer and action the St. Vladimir Sem­i­nary Chorale con­ducted by Mat’ Robin Free­man. I am encour­ag­ing you to attend this con­cert and to be enriched by the sacred music and images on this pro­gram. I am also excited to have a por­tion of my Parak­le­sis ser­vice music (Ode 9) included in the evenings musi­cal showcase! 

 I encour­age you to donate gen­er­ously to the music pro­gram at St. Vladimir’s Ortho­dox Sem­i­nary. Fol­low the link above to pur­chase your tick­ets and to offer a sup­ple­men­tary gift in thanks­giv­ing for the tal­ent of these fine musi­cians. Please help them con­tinue to develop the music depart­ment of the sem­i­nary as they sing the praises to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and intro­duce many to the ancient mys­ter­ies of Ortho­dox Christianity. 

Yours in Christ,
Robert Sirico
Founder, Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project


Newly Formed St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chorale Sings Newly Composed Music by Robert Sirico

The newly formed chorale with Fr. Bene­dict Churchill (cen­ter), who presided at the ser­vice. The chorale was con­ducted by Mat. Robin Free­man (left of Fr. Bene­dict) and com­posed by Robert Sirico (right of Fr. Benedict).

This past Sat­ur­day, the St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary com­mu­nity marked two “firsts” in Three Hier­ar­chs Chapel on its cam­pus. One was the singing of my new musi­cal com­po­si­tion, and the other was the pre­miere of their newly formed musi­cal ensem­ble. The new com­po­si­tion was a musi­cal set­ting in Zna­menny chant of the “Small Canon to the Mother of God,” also known as the Par­a­cle­sis to the Theotokos; and the new ensem­ble was “St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary Chorale”.  

I had the priv­i­lege of being at the Mas­ter Class and choir rehearsal led by Matushka Robin Free­man on the pre­vi­ous night before the Par­a­cle­sis was offered. I was moved to my core by the amaz­ing tal­ent of the St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary Chorale. Heav­enly beauty pro­jected through their angelic voices, and I couldn’t even imag­ine how beau­ti­ful the actual ser­vice would be the next day. When I heard the music in its proper litur­gi­cal con­text, I felt like the psalmist who said, ‘Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense’. What an extra­or­di­nary expe­ri­ence it was to hear my music, for which I labored nearly a full year to com­plete, Matushka Robin Free­man con­ducts the St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary Chorale offered in the full glory of the Par­a­cle­sis ser­vice! I left deeply edi­fied, and I pray that oth­ers were sim­i­larly moved. This music is my gift of love to the Theotokos and to her Son’s holy Church. 


SERVICE OF HEALING: Paraclesis to Mother of God in St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chapel on February 4th 2012, 1 pm


This gallery contains 4 photos.

Dear Friends of the OCMP, I am pleased to announce that on Sat­ur­day, Feb­ru­ary 4th at 1 p.m. a prayer ser­vice for the sick, and departed will be held at St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary in Three Hier­ar­chs Chapel. The Par­a­cle­sis (or, lesser sup­pli­ca­tory canon) … Con­tinue read­ing