At the age of 18, Seraphim firmly decided to become a [[monk]]. His mother blessed him with a large copper [[crucifix]], which he wore over his clothing all his life. After this, he entered the Sarov [[monastery]] as a [[novice]].
From day one in the monastery, exceptional abstinence from food and slumber were the distinguishing features of his life. He ate once a day, and little. On Wednesdays and Fridays he ate nothing. After asking the blessing of his [[starets]], i.e., a spiritual elder, he began to withdraw often into the forest for prayer and religious contemplation. He became severely ill again soon after, and was forced to spend most of the course of the next three years lying down.
His taking of the monastic vows occurred in 1786, when he was 27 years old. He was given the name Seraphim, which in Hebrew means "fiery," or "burning." He was soon made a [[hierodeacon]]. He justified his name by his extraordinarily burning prayer. He spent all of his time, save for the very shortest of rests, in church. Through such prayer and the labors of religious services, Seraphim became worthy to see [[angel]]s, both serving and singing in church. During the [[Liturgy]] on [[Holy Thursday]], he saw the Lord [[Jesus Christ]] Himself, in the form of the Son of man, proceeding into the Church with the Heavenly host and blessing those praying. The saint could not speak for a long time after being struck by this vision.
In 1793, St. Seraphim was [[ordination|ordained]] a [[hieromonk]], after which he served every day and received [[Holy Communion]] for a year. St. Seraphim then began to withdraw into his "farther [[hermitage]]"—the forest wilderness about five km from Sarov Monastery. He achieved great perfection at this time. Wild animals—bears, rabbits, wolves, foxes and others—came to the hut of the ascetic. The staritsa, i.e., eldress, of the Diveevo monastery, Matrona Plescheeva, witnessed how St. Seraphim fed a bear that had come to him out of his hand: "The face of the great starets was particularly miraculous. It was joyous and bright, as that of an angel," she described. While living in this little hermitage of his, St. Seraphim once suffered greatly at the hands of robbers. Although he was physically very strong and was holding an axe at the time, St. Seraphim did not resist them. In answer to their threats and their demands for money, he lay his axe down on the ground, crossed his arms on his chest and obediently gave himself up to them. They began to beat him on the head with the handle of his own axe. Blood began to pour out of his mouth and ears, and he fell unconscious. After that they began to hit him with a log, trampled him under foot, and dragged him along the ground. They stopped beating him only when they had decided that he had died. The only treasure which the robbers found in his cell was the icon of the Mother of God of Deep Emotion (Ymileniye), before which he always prayed. When, after some time, the robbers were caught and brought to justice, the holy monk interceded on their behalf before the judge. After the beating, St. Seraphim remained hunched over for the rest of his life.
"Oh, if you only knew," he once said to a monk, "what joy, what sweetness awaits a righteous soul in [[Heaven]]! You would decide in this mortal life to bear any sorrows, persecutions and slander with gratitude. If this very cell of ours was filled with worms, and these worms were to eat our flesh for our entire life on earth, we should agree to it with total desire, in order not to lose, by any chance, that heavenly joy which God has prepared for those who love Him."
The miraculous transfiguration of the starets' face was described by a close admirer and follower of St. Seraphim: Motovilov. This happened during the winter, on a cloudy day. Motovilov was sitting on a stump in the woods; St. Seraphim was squatting across from him and telling his pupil the meaning of a Christian life, explaining for what we Christians live on earth.