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Feast of St. Sergius of Radonezh (September 25)   2 comments

Above:  Icon of St. Sergius of Radonezh 

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT SERGIUS OF RADONEZH (CIRCA 1314-SEPTEMBER 25, 1392)

Abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Sergiyev Posad, Russia

Born Varfolomei Kirillovich

St. Sergius of Radonezh was, by reputation, the greatest of the Russian saints.  He, revered during his lifetime, retained his illustrious name after he died.  Our saint was, however, an unassuming man.

The times during which St. Sergius of Radonezh lived shaped him, and he shaped them.  The Mongol Empire, at its height in the 1200s, spanned the distance from Ukraine to China.  The Mongol conquest of Russia (1237-1240) began a period of Mongol (Tatar) dominance under what, in Russia, was the Khanate of the Golden Horde, which fell in 1480.  The Tatars were, over all, fairly hands-off overlords.  They collected taxes and drafted soldiers, mainly.  The Tatars officially respected cultural institutions, such as the Russian Orthodox Church.  Nevertheless, the life of the Church suffered under Tatar domination, for Tatars played competing princes off against each other.  It was a time of civil wars and related economic upheavals.

Varfolomei Kirillovich, born into nobility in Rostov, near Moscow, circa 1314, came from a family impoverished by these circumstances.  He and his brother, Stephen, raised in the village of Radonezh, also near Moscow, moved into the nearby forest when our saint was 20 years old, after the brothers’ parents had died.  The brothers lived as holy hermits.  Yet, as was the case with many of other holy hermits in Christian history, a community grew up around them.  In 1337 Varfolomei took monastic orders, became a priest, assumed his duties as the first abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, and became Sergius.  The town of Sergiyev Posad (later renamed Sergiyev then Zagorsk then back to Sergiyev Posad) developed around the monastery, the center of the revival of Russian Orthodox monastic life.  Our saint, the founder of 40 monasteries, was a hard-working abbot until he died, except for a time when, in humility, he retired because Stephen opposed his monastic reforms.

St. Sergius was so respected that St. Alexius (in office 1354-1378), the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia, with residence in Moscow, asked our saint to succeed him.  St. Sergius was so entrenched in his ascetic lifestyle, however, that he declined the offer.

Dimitri Donskoi, the Grand Prince of Moscow from 1359 to 1389, sought and received help from St. Sergius before fighting Tatar forces in 1380.  Dimitri consulted the abbot, who blessed him and sent a message to the Muscovite soldiers.  The result of the Battle of Kulikovo, fought on the Kulikovo Plain, at the confluence of the Don and Nepravda Rivers, on September 8, 1380, was a great and historic victory for the Muscovite army.  The Tatars remained a threat, but Dimitri, elevated to the status of the Russian national leader among the competing princes, had proven that the Tatars were not invincible.

St. Sergius died at his monastery on September 25, 1392.  The Russian Orthodox Church canonized him in 1452.

The Monastery of the Holy Trinity is the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UPPER THEBAID

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN STAINER AND WALTER GALPIN ALCOCK, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATIENS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich:

Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we,

inspired by the devotion of your servant Sergius of Moscow,

may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 4:1-9

Psalm 87

1 John 2:15-17

Luke 8:16-21

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 601

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