Venerable Sergius of Radonezh
July 18 and Oct. 8 (July 5 and Sept. 25 according to church calendar).
In the middle of the 14th century the famous Troitze-Sergievski monastery was established. Its founder, venerable father Sergius (Bartholomew in the world) was a son of Rostov boyars Cyril and Maria who moved closer to Moscow and settled in the village of Radonezh. At the age of seven Bartholomew was sent to school to learn reading and writing. All of his soul aspired for literacy, but he still had difficulty in learning. Grieving over it, he was praying to God day and night to enable him to open up the doors of book literacy. Once, while looking for horses that had gone astray in the fields, he came across an old monk whom he had never seen before. The monk was praying under an oak tree. The boy came up to him and told him about his woe. Having listened to the boy with sympathy the old man began praying for his enlightenment. Then having produced a small piece of communion bread and blessing the boy with it, he said, "Take it and eat it, this is given to you as a sign of God's grace and for understanding of the Scriptures."
And the boy was truly endowed with God's grace of memory and understanding, and he began to easily learn literacy.
After that miracle young Bartholomew's desire to serve only God became still stronger. He wanted to seclude himself like the ancient ascetics, but his love for his parents kept him in the family. Bartholomew was always modest, he was quiet and reticent; humble and kind with everybody, he never got irritable and obeyed his parents in everything. His usual food would consist of bread and water and he completely abstained from food on fasting days. After his parents died, Bartholomew gave up his inheritance to his younger brother Peter and together with his elder brother Stephan, settled to live in a wild forest near the Konchora river 10 miles away from Radonezh. The Brothers cut wood themselves and built a hut and a little church. The church was blessed in the name of the Holy Trinity by a priest sent by Metropolitan Pheognost.
Thus a famous cloister of Saint Sergius was founded.
Soon Stephan left his brother to become Father Superior of Bogoyavlenski monastery in Moscow and a confessor of the great prince. But Bartholomew, who was baptized Sergius when taking the monastic vows, stayed in the forest alone for about two years. It is hard even to imagine how many temptations the young monk had to go through during that time. Whole packs of wolves would pass by his hut and bears would come too, but none would cause any harm to him. Once the holy anchorite gave some bread to a bear who came to his cell and from that time on the animal began to frequent Venerable Sergius, who shared his last piece of bread with him.
Despite all Saint Sergius's attempts not to attract attention to his life he became famous and other monks were coming to seek salvation under his guidance. They asked Sergius to be ordained their priest and Father Superior. Sergius did not agree for a long time, but then taking their insistence as a sign from above, he said, "I would much rather obey than command, but fearing God's judgment I give myself into the Lord's hands." It took place in the year of 1354, when Prelate Alexei became Metropolitan of Moscow.
The life and work of Venerable Sergius have a special place in the history of Russian monasticism, as it was his cloister that served as an example of secluded ascetic life out of town limits and organized as a community. Starting from scratch the monastery of the Holy Trinity was at first in great need of everything; chasubles were hand painted, sacred chalices were made of wood, they had to burn splinters instead of candles for light in church; but the devotees were zealous. Saint Sergius was a model of asceticism, deepest humbleness and staunch faith in God's help. He was a true leader in work and services and the monks followed his example.
Once the monastery was completely out of bread. Father Superior himself built an entrance-room in the cell of one of the monks in order to earn some loafs of bread. But at the times of sheer destitute, through the prayers of the monks, lavish support was unexpectedly granted to the cloister. In some years after the monastery was founded peasants started coming to settle nearby. As the monastery was situated not far from a big road to Moscow and further to the North, it started doing better and better. Following the example of the Kiev-Pechora monastery, it began giving alms generously, and provide shelter and support to sick and traveling people.
Saint Sergius became renown as far abroad as Constantinople, and Patriarch Philophius sent him his blessing and a written endorsement that decreed the new rules of community cloister life established by the founder of the Holy Trinity monastery. Metropolitan Alexei loved Venerable Sergius as a friend, he entrusted him important tasks like peacemaking between rancorous princes, and was planning to make him his successor. But Sergius declined this honorable offer.
One day Metropolitan Alexei decided to award Sergius with a gold cross for his work and devotion, but Sergius said, "Since my youth I have never decorating myself with gold, the more so in my old age I wish to remain poor," and he resolutely refused the award.
Great prince Dimitry Ivanovich, called Donskoi (of the Don river), who revered Venerable Sergius as his father, asked for his blessing to struggle against Mamai, a Tatar khan. "Go fearlessly, prince, and believe in God's help," - said the Holy old man and delegated his two monks to accompany and help him. They were Peresvet and Oslabia, who died as heroes in the battle of the Kulikov field.
Even in his lifetime Venerable Sergius was working wonders and had the blessing of great revelations. One day he had a vision of Mother of God appearing to him majestically together with the Apostles Peter and John and promising to keep his monastery in her benefaction. Another time he saw wonderful light and a multitude of birds filling the air with beautiful singing , and he had a revelation that his monastery would host many monks. 30 years after his blessed repose, his imperishable relics were opened (September 25 1392).
The Troitze-Sergievski monastery gave rise to many new monasteries. It spread the network of cloisters covering the whole of the northern part of Russia and linking it to the clerical and administrative centre of the country - to Moscow. Before St. Sergius's repose the following monasteries had been built by him and with his assistance: Kirzhachski monastery (near the Kirzhack river in the Vladimir county), Golutvin monastery (in Kolomna), Simon monastery (in Moscow), Visotski monastery (near Serpukhov), Borisoglebski monastery (near Rostov), Dubenski monastery (in honor of the Kulikov battle), Pokrovski monastery (near Borovsk), Avraamiev monastery (near Chukhloma). After venerable Sergius entered into rest, his disciples founded some other monasteries, such as Savvin-Storozhevski monastery (near Zvenigorod), Zheleznoborski monastery (near Galich), Voskresenski (on the Obnora river in the north of the Jaroslav county), Pherapontov monastery, Kirillov-Belozerski and others. Saint Stephan, the elucidator of the Perm region, was one of saint Sergius's friends.
Troparion, Tone 4
Champion of virtue and warrior of Christ,/ thou didst contend against earthly passions;/ thou wast a model to thy disciples in vigil, chant and fasting/ and the Holy Spirit came and dwelt in thee./ As thou hast boldness towards the Trinity remember thy flock/ and visit thy children as thou didst promise,/ O holy Father Sergius.
Kontakion, Tone 8
Wounded with love for Christ and eagerly following Him,/ thou didst spurn all carnal desire and shine as the sun on thy fatherland./ Christ has given thee the gift of wonderworking./ Remember us who honor thy memory and cry: Rejoice, Sergius our holy Father.
Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church
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