Blessed Sampson

A generation and more ago there were many Orthodox who quietly venerated the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. Although they had not yet been canonized even by the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, let alone the Church inside Russia, the pious revered their memories, collected details of their lives and miracles, asked for icons of them to be painted, tried to find out where their relics might be, and asked for their prayers, awaiting the day of their formal glorification..

Today in conditions of outward freedom, both inside and outside Russia, we are discovering that the list of New Martyrs and Confessors is growing ever longer. Among almost contemporary Confessors inside Russia there stand out a number of Elders, like St Kuksha of Pochaev, Fr Seraphim of Belgorod, Fr Tavrion of Riga and Fr Sampson.

The latter is of particular interest to the English-speaking world, not only because of his life, but also on account of his origins. The son of Esper Alexander Sievers, a senior Russian civil servant of Danish descent, his mother was English and brought up her son as an Anglican. Indeed, his mother, Anne, had been a belle of London society at the end of the nineteenth century, where she had been engaged to an Indian prince. However on the very eve of her wedding, she had discovered that the prince had betrayed her and she had left for Russia and married there.

The future Fr Sampson was born in St Petersburg on 27 June/10 July 1900 and baptised Edward in the Anglican Church. Brought up as an Anglican by his devout mother, who had been close to Farrar, he was highly educated and spoke six languages. In his teens he decided to be received into the Orthodox Church. This duly took place when he was nineteen years old in 1918 when he was received into the Church at Peterhof. The future Fr Sampson quickly initiated himself into the Faith and left the convert psychology behind him. Adopting the spirit of Orthodoxy, with its spontaneous Orthodox reactions and the authentic practical spirituality of the Church, he was no longer a convert, but an Orthodox Christian.

A year after his chrismation into the Church, he became a novice and there began a life as a monk and then priest-monk. This life was frequently interspersed with persecution. In 1929 he had a vision of St Seraphim of Sarov, was arrested again and spent altogether nearly twenty years in concentration camps. Meanwhile, his sister Olga had gone to live in London in 1922, his brother had died of typhus in the early 1920's and his father had died in 1926. His mother became Orthodox through her son and became his spiritual daughter. She died in 1942.

Torture, illness, hunger and sorrow strengthened Fr Sampson, who had a special attachment to the Mother of God, St Nicholas the Wonderworker and St Seraphim of Sarov. In 1946 he escaped from prison-camp, walking 7,000 miles across Siberia. The rest of his life and his role as a spiritual father to a countless number of people, was a story of repentance for his many weaknesses and falls. Fortified by the beloved Jesus prayer, in 1967 he received the great schema in monasticism. He reposed in 1979.

Today Fr Sampson leaves many spiritual children in Russia. Since his repose on 11/ 24 August 1979, his tomb at the Nikolo-Arkhangelskoie cemetery in Moscow has become a shrine and many have been healed there, even those with terminal illnesses. He helps and strengthens all in the Orthodox Faith and comforts those with family, financial and other difficulties. He never leaves in sorrow those who turn to him.

In 1996 we had the spiritual joy of discovering the 1,700 pages of the 4 volumes of the Life of Fr Sampson ('Talks and Teachings of the Elder Hieroschemamonk Sampson', referred to in the extracts below by the Volume and Part number). Then in 2002 through the kindness of an old spiritual friend, Mother Sergia of the Convent of St John in St Petersburg, we discovered another smaller volume, entitled 'Your Abba and Spiritual Father Hieroschemamonk Sampson'. (This is referred to below as Y.A.). Like the previous four volumes this was also published by the Derzhava Press in Moscow and contains reminiscences and many photographs.

On this website it is our intention to make better known to the English-speaking world the life and words of this contemporary Anglo-Russian priest and the authentic Orthodox Tradition.


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