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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SAINT SERGIUS OF RADONEZH (1319-1392) The name of Saint Sergius evokes not only an edifying and joy-inspiring page of Russia s history,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 7, 2004

      "The name of Saint Sergius evokes not only an edifying and joy-inspiring
      page of Russia's history, but is also a bright trait of the Russian
      people's moral content," ? writes the famous historian Klyuchevsky. Saint
      Sergius of Radonezh ? a spirit of simplicity and modesty, a quiet recluse,
      a modest abbot, a mentor and comforter. What manner of struggle sanctified
      his name to such a degree?

      Saint Sergius of Radonezh

      The Lord sent His chosen one at the difficult time not only of Russia's
      outward enslavement, but also of its inner decline, profound despondency
      and spiritual collapse. The Venerable one was born under the Tatar yoke ? a
      time when the nerves of all Russians still bore the painful impress of the
      horror caused by that national catastrophe, which resulted not only in
      material, but also in moral destruction, and for a long time subjected the
      populace to a stupefying torpor. To cast off the barbarian yoke once and
      for all, to establish a durable, independent state, and to induce
      non-Russians into the fold of the Christian Church, Russian society itself
      had to rise to the level of these great objectives, to uplift and
      strengthen its own moral powers, which had been abased by a century of
      bondage and despair.

      It is to this moral instruction of the people that St. Sergius dedicated
      his life, to this end applying the means of a moral discipline accessible
      and comprehensible to all men ? a living example, a visible embodiment of
      moral rule. He began with himself, and by a lengthy period of solitude,
      full of labors and privations, in the midst of a primeval forest, he
      prepared himself to become a guide for others.

      The name of Sergius of Radonezh "transcends the boundaries of time," writes
      Professor Klyuchevsky, because in its significance the task he undertook
      went far beyond the framework of his era, and by its beneficial activity
      profoundly impressed the life of succeeding generations. This task ? the
      strengthening of the Russian state under a single authority at a time of
      fratricidal civil strife, oppression and subjection to the khans ? was the
      fulfillment of the testament given to the hierarchy of the Russian Church
      by that saint of ancient Russia, the Metropolitan Peter, who had
      prophetically blessed the then small town of Moscow as the future
      ecclesiastical and governmental capital of the Russian land. St. Sergius
      was not a politician, just as he was not a "prince of the Church"; he was a
      teacher, an encourager, a peace-maker. At a difficult juncture in time, he
      blessed Prince Dimitri to wage a terrible war for Orthodox Russia, and gave
      him two schema-monks, Peresvet and Oslabya. The schemamonks, arrayed not in
      helmets and armor, but in their monastic garb replete with white crosses,
      gave the army of Prince Dimitri the appearance of a sacred crusade. During
      the battle, the Venerable one himself prayed in church, and "seeing' the
      course of the battle, commemorated those who had fallen.

      Worshipping the life-giving Trinity, the consubstantial and indivisible
      Trinity, Who is the beginning, source and well-spring of life, the
      Venerable one built a church to the All-holy Trinity. He saw it as a
      summons to unity for the Russian land, according to his biographer
      Epiphanius, "so that by gazing constantly upon it, we might conquer the
      fear created by the hated divisions of the world." The extensive
      hospitality commanded by St. Sergius, gifts of all sorts, beginning with
      bread and ending with the healing of body and soul ? all of this became a
      favorable condition for "gazing" at the church of the All-Holy Trinity and
      contemplating within it the prototype of Divine unity.

      St. Sergius blesses Prince Dimitri
      for his battle with the Tatars

      Thenceforth, the names of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius became
      indivisibly linked in the Russian Orthodox conception. The Russian people
      did not forget the one who taught them to worship the Holy Trinity: soon
      after the saint's death, a monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity was
      built at the site of his birth (the Varnitsky Monastery near Rostov); its
      main church contained a side-chapel dedicated to St. Sergius. One may even
      say that it became a rule to build Holy Trinity churches with St. Sergius

      The Lavra of the Holy Trinity, founded by the Venerable one, became the
      spiritual center, the heart, of Russian Orthodoxy. In 1892 Klyuchevsky
      wrote: "These monuments do not feed the people's vanity, but rather the
      idea of descendants being responsible before their great ancestors, for the
      moral sense is a sense of duty. When we honor the memory of St. Sergius, we
      examine our-selves, we review our own moral stock which had been bequeathed
      to us by the great founders of our moral order, and we replenish it,
      filling up what had been expended. The gates of the Lavra of St. Sergius
      will be shut and the lamps which burn over his tomb will be extinguished
      only when we completely squander this stock without replenishing it." And
      such a time did come! The Lavra was destroyed and was closed for many years
      when "Tatars and Mongols of our times" captured it. All its treasures were
      confiscated. The relics of the Venerable one were rummaged through (as were
      others all over Soviet Russia). Everything was mocked, defiled. Yet the
      lamps have been lit anew over the tomb of the Venerable one, and the
      Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra now shines in golden splendor, reminding us of
      St. Sergius' great, selfless, inspired service to the homeland, his
      spiritual stature and dedication to the Faith.

      For future generations, St. Sergius became an eternal companion and guide.
      "He uttered few words, but gave the brethren a far greater example by his
      works," ? Epiphanius says of the saint. He left no writings behind him, but
      his spiritual contribution to the history of the Russian Church and to
      Russian culture is remarkably great. The disciples of the Venerable one
      received, in addition to the usual monastic pursuits, a blessing to
      undertake special ministries to the Church: the copying of manuscripts,
      iconography, church building. In an ancient account of the saint's death,
      he is called "the initiator and teacher of all the monasteries in Russia."
      And truly, no fewer than one fourth of Russia's monasteries were founded by
      his closest disciples. St. Sergius, during his early wanderings, and
      countless future generations of his spiritual children after him, carried
      with them Russian enlightenment, Russian culture, the Russian ideal, and
      spiritual beauty.
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