Saint Serapion of Zarzma, born into a noble family of Klarjeti, was renowned for his abundant wealth and virtuous deeds. His early life was marked by the loss of his mother and, soon after, his father. Despite these hardships, from his youth, Saint Serapion yearned for a life of solitude as a hermit.
Accompanied by his younger brother, Ioane, he embarked on a journey to the Parekhi Monastery, seeking the guidance of the esteemed wonderworker, Mikael of Parekhi, who was affectionately known as “the spiritual father and teacher of orphans.”
While Saint Serapion’s younger brother, Ioane, continued the family tradition of caring for wanderers and the less fortunate, Mikael recognized in Serapion a deep calling to serve as a priest. In a divine vision during prayer, Mikael received instructions to send Serapion and Ioane to Samtskhe to establish a monastery.
Initially apprehensive about the monumental responsibility, Saint Serapion submitted to the will of his spiritual father. Together with several companions, they journeyed to Samtskhe, carrying with them a miraculous icon of our Lord’s Transfiguration.
Upon reaching a towering mountain, the monks initially settled there, intending to construct their monastery. However, they were met with resistance from the local villagers, who drove them away. Undeterred, they continued their search, guided by the vision granted to their spiritual shepherd, Saint Mikael.
In the mountainous region, a nobleman named Giorgi Chorchaneli ruled. While hunting one day, Giorgi noticed smoke rising from the dense forest and sent a servant to investigate. Learning of the monks’ presence, he hastened to greet them with humility, venerated the wonder-working icon, and sought their blessings.
Inspired by Saint Serapion’s teachings, Giorgi fell to his knees, pledging to support the establishment of the new monastery. He generously donated the land and surrounding area and issued a deed assigning ownership of all the territory the monks could cover on foot in a day to the future monastery. He even sent his servant to accompany them.
The brothers embarked on a journey through uncharted territory, traversing dense forests and rocky paths. While some locals warmly received them, others, like the residents of Tsiskvili, displayed hostility.
During one fateful night, an earthquake miraculously split the rocks holding back Lake Satakhve, washing away the entire village of Tsiskvili, leaving only two survivors. The place came to be known as “Zarzma,” symbolizing a somber event (“zari” denoting tragedy).
The monks continued their quest to find a suitable location for their church. Saint Serapion wished to build on a high hill, while Ioane and others expressed concerns about the harsh conditions. To decide, they filled two small icon lamps with equal amounts of oil. Serapion placed one atop the hill, and Ioane placed the other near a stream. Through prayer, it was revealed that Ioane’s lamp burned until midday, leading them to choose the site accordingly.
Despite many challenges, including the need to salvage stone from a church destroyed by the earthquake, the monastery’s construction was completed after three years. The miraculous icon of the Transfiguration was enshrined in the church’s altar, and Saint Serapion established the monastery’s rules.
Upon nearing the end of his life, Saint Mikael of Parekhi sent two disciples to Serapion and Ioane. Upon hearing of the monastery’s completion, he rejoiced and blessed its benefactor, Giorgi Chorchaneli, presenting him with a withered box tree branch. Mikael prophesied that if the branch blossomed, it would signify God’s will to continue the work in His name. In time, the branch did bloom, and the miracle became widely known.
Saint Serapion, sensing his impending departure from this world, gathered the brethren, bid them farewell, and appointed Hieromonk Giorgi as his successor. He was laid to rest with great honor on the eastern side of the monastery church’s altar.
Through his holy tears, Saint Serapion rejuvenated the barren wilderness and accomplished numerous virtuous deeds. He shone as a radiant star of the Church through his miracles. Let us beseech Christ God to have mercy on our souls through the intercessions of Holy Father Serapion.