The Life of St. Sergiy Radonezhsky
St. Sergiy Radonezhsky was born on the 3-rd of May 1314 in the village of Varnitsy near Rostov city in the devout and noble boyar family. He was pre-chosen by the God as early as being in the womb of his mother. We can find in his Life the fact that when his pregnant mother was in the church on the Divine Liturgy he cried three times as everybody could hear that - before the reading of the Sacred Gospel, during the Cherub Song and when the priest said "the holy of holies" ("the sanctum sanctorum"). The God granted St. Kirill and St. Maria a son, which was given a name Bartholomew. From the first days of his life the infant amazed the people with fasting - he didn't take mother's milk on Wednesdays and Fridays as well as on the other days when his mother ate meat. Having noticed that, Maria completely refused from meat food. When Bartholomew was 7 years old, he was sent to studies together with his two brothers - Stefan (the elder one) and Peter (the younger). His brothers were studying successfully but Bartholomew legged before them. He begged the God with tears for a gift of reading and writing. Once the father sent Bartholomew to graze the horses. Going there the boy saw an angel sent by the God in the appearance of the monk, who was standing under the oak-tree in the middle of the field and praying. Bartholomew approached him and waited till the end of the prayer, bowed. The monk blessed the boy, kissed him and asked if he had any wish. Bartholomew answered that he wanted to know reading and writing and asked to pray for him. The monk did so and, blessing the boy once again, told him that the God fulfilled the boy's desire. Saying this he took out the vessel and gave Bartholomew a part of the Host as a sign of a Divine Grace and for understanding of the Holy Scripture. After that the old monk wanted to leave, but Bartholomew invited him to his parents' house. The boy's parents met the guest with honour and offered him some meal, but he answered that first one must partake of the spiritual food and ordered the boy to read the Book of Psalms. Bartholomew started to read smoothly and his parents were surprised with that. Parting the monk predicted: "Great your son will be in the face of the God and the people. He will be the chosen abode of the Holy Spirit". Beginning from that time the saint adolescent read and understood the books without any difficulties; with special diligence deepened he into the prayer, not omitting a single Divine Service. Since his childhood he was fasting strictly, eating nothing on Wednesdays and Fridays, and just bread and water - on the other days of the week.
In 1328 or so St. Sergiy's parents moved from Rostov to Radonezh. When their elder sons got married, St. Kirill and Maria took Schema in Khot'kovski Monastery of the Protection of the Virgin. This happened shortly before their death. Subsequently widowed elder brother Stefan also took Schema there. Having buried the parents Bartholomew together with Stefan went to the forest near Radonezh to live the life of the monks. First they built the Cell and later - a small Church, which, by the blessing of the Metropolitan Theognost, was consecrated in the name of the Holy Trinity. But soon Stefan left his brother as he couldn't stand the difficulties of life in the desolate place, and moved to the Epiphany Monastery in Moscow (where he drew together with monk Alexiy, later the Metropolitan of Moscow). And Bartholomew took the monastic vows from the Father superior Mitrofan with the name of St. Martyr Sergiy, beginning the new life in glorification of the Holy Trinity. Resisting the temptations and demons' fears his strength was constantly growing. Gradually he became well known to the other monks searching for his guidance. St. Sergiy met everybody with love, and soon the congregation of 12 monks appeared in a small cloister. Their experienced confessor was very hard working - he himself built some Cells, he fetched the water, chopped firewood, sewed the clothes, cooked for the whole community and humbly did a lot of various works. St. Sergiy combined the hard work with prayer, vigil and fast. The brothers were surprised that the health of their confessor didn't get worth but on the contrary - strengthened as a result of the rigorous feat. Not without difficulty the monks entreated St. Sergiy to become a Father Superior of their cloister. In 1354 Afanasiy, the Bishop of Volyn', ordained St. Sergiy into the celibate priest and conferred on him the cloth of Father Superior. As before the strict obedience was carried out by the monks. With the monastery expanding its requirements were also growing. Often the brothers had scanty meal but the unknown people brought all the necessary staff by the prayers of St. Sergiy.
The fame of St. Sergiy's deeds reached Constantinople and the Patriarchy Phylopheus has sent him the Cross, the Paraman and Schema with a blessing for the new feats. He advised the Chosen by the God to organize a monastery. Having a letter from the Patriarchy St. Sergiy went to the Consecrator Alexiy and was recommended to introduce the strict rules into the abode. But the coenobites started grumbling at this and St. Sergiy had to leave his dwelling place.
He founded the new abode in the honour of Annunciation on the bank of the river Kirzhach. However the order in his previous abode fell into decay and the monks asked the Consecrator Alexiy to return their former Father Superior. St. Sergiy implicitly obeyed Alexiy, having left Roman, his apprentice, to be the Father Superior of the Kirzhach monastery.
In his life St. Sergiy was honoured to receive the blessed gift of the miracle-works. He resurrected the boy, when the hopeless father considered his only son to be lost forever. The fame of St. Sergiy's miracles was spreading quickly and the sick people were brought to him not only from the surrounding villages, but also from many distant places. And no one left him, having not got the cure and edifying advice. Once the Consecrator Stefan, the Bishop of Perm', who deeply respected St. Sergiy, was going from his eparchy to Moscow. The road was passed in 8 versts from Sergius monastery. Having had the intention to visit the monastery on his way back St. Stefan stopped, read the prayer and bowed to St. Sergiy saying: "Peace be with you, brother". This very time St. Sergiy was sitting at the table together with all the community. Suddenly he stood up, read the prayer and sent the blessing in reply to the Consecrator's one. Some of the apprentices were surprised with such an unusual behaviour, so they hurried to the place where St. Stefan has been and made sure that the vision of their teacher was true. Gradually the coenobites have become the witnesses of the other miraculous events. Once the God's Angel co-served St. Sergiy during the Liturgy, but being very humble St. Sergiy forbad disclosing this to anyone before his death. Tight bonds of spiritual friendship existed between St. Sergiy and Consecrator Alexiy, who, in the evening of his life, called St. Sergiy and asked to accept the Metropolitan power of Russia. But St. Sergiy refused meekly.
That time Russia was suffering from the Tatar yoke. The Grand Prince Dimitriy Ioannovich assembled the troops and came to St. Sergiy's abode to ask for the blessing before the fight. St. Sergiy sent two of his coenobites to help the Prince - Andrey (Osliabia) and Alexander (Peresvet) - and predicted the Russian victory over the Tatars. This prediction has come true - on the 8-th of September 1380 the Russian warriors completely conquered the Tatar hordes on the Kulikov field, thus initiating the liberation of the Russian lands from the Tatar yoke. During the battle St. Sergiy was praying with the whole community begging the God to give the Russian army victory.
As St. Sergiy was spending his life like an angel the God has gifted him the divine vision. Once at night Abba Sergiy was praying before the icon of the Blessed Virgin. Having finished the Canon he sat down to have a rest, but suddenly told his apprentice, St. Mikhey that they will have a miraculous visit. In a moment God's Mother accompanied by the St. Apostles Peter and John the Theologian appeared. St. Sergiy prostrated himself onto the floor because of the unusually bright light, but the Mother of God touched him with her hands, and blessing him promised to always protect his holy abode.
St. Sergiy passed away on the 25-th of September 1392. Before the end of his life on the earth he called his community for the last time and told it his last will: "Listen to yourself and hear yourself, brothers. First of all do have the divine fear, spiritual purity and sincere love…"
Praying to St. Sergiy we search for his help to overcome the pride and self-importance, we ask him to grant our children talents and capabilities, to enlighten our spirit and to help in education.
The commemoration of St. Sergiy Radonezhsky is celebrated on the 5/18-th of July and the 25-th of September/8-th of October.
The Acathistus to St. Sergiy in doc-format (in Russian) you can download here (15Kb).
Literature: "The Acathistus and the Life of St. Sergiy Radonezhsky", Sretensky monastery, "Novaia Kniga", 1998.