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, 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 at 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 side-chapels.

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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    Remember, anything that is a HALF TRUTH is not truth but a lie!  Many there are that you may know who fit those descriptions... pray for them.  Pray that God will send his Spirit of Truth upon them and lead them to Salvation through tears of Repentance, conversion of their cold and calculating hearts toward seeking forgiveness from God and those whom they attempt to harm. 

 

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    Yes, our Metropolitan Archbishop, +Joseph Thaddeus, SSJt., Ph.D. strongly defends the Seals of the Confessional for such leads to true Repentance in thought, word and deed whereby the penitent is required to make amends, where possible, to seek forgiveness of those harmed by his actions whether real or imagined, and to give his forgiveness to those who have harmed him before taking the Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  The reality of this understanding is bound up in and with the findings for which cause he, himself, had been character assassinated by his detractors who claim the courts prevented him from breaking the Seals of the Confessional which is not the truth at all.... Click here to see what another bishop's findings are...

 

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