Sergius of Radonezh
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|Sergius of Radonezh|
Icon of Sergius of Radonezh, 17th century
|Born||May 14, 1314
|Died||September 25, 1392
Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius
|Honored in||Eastern Orthodox Church
Byzantine Catholic Churches
|Major shrine||Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra|
|Feast||Repose: September 25
Uncovering of Relics: July 5
|Attributes||Dressed as a monk, sometimes with paterissa (abbot's staff)|
Venerable Sergius of Radonezh (Russian: Се́ргий Ра́донежский, Sergii Radonezhsky), (14 May 1314 – 25 September 1392) also transliterated as Sergey Radonezhsky or Serge of Radonezh, was a spiritual leader and monastic reformer of medieval Russia. Together with Venerable Seraphim of Sarov, he is one of the Russian Orthodox Church's most highly venerated saints.
The date of his birth is unclear: it could be 1314, 1319, or 1322. As his medieval Life states, he was born to a boyar family near Rostov Velikiy, where Varnitsy Monastery now stands. He was originally baptized with the name Bartholomew (Варфоломе́й Varfolomei in Russian). His parents Kirill and Maria became impoverished and moved to Radonezh together with their three sons: Stefan, Bartholomew and Peter. Although an intelligent boy, Bartholomew had great difficulty learning to read. His Life states that a starets (spiritual elder) met him one day and gave him a piece of prosphora (holy bread) to eat, and from that day forward he was able to read. Orthodox Christians interpret the incident as being an angelic visitation.
Upon his parents' death, Bartholomew went to Khotkovo near Moscow, where his older brother Stefan was a monk. He persuaded Stefan to find a more secluded place to live the ascetic life. In the deep forest at Makovets hill they decided to build a small cell and a church dedicated in honor of the Trinity. Thus started the history of the great Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra.
In time, Stefan moved to a monastery in Moscow. Varfolomei took monastic vows, taking the name Sergius, and spent more than a year in the forest alone as a hermit. Soon, however, other monks started coming to him and building their own cells. After some time, they persuaded him to become their hegumen, or father superior, and he was ordained to the priesthood. Following his example, all the monks had to live by their own labor. Over time, more and more monks and donations came to this place. Nearby, there appeared a posad, which grew into the town of Sergiev Posad, and other villages.
When the news of Sergius's life reached patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople, he sent to him a monastic charter. During the reign of St. Dmitri Donskoi, his disciples started to spread his teaching across central and northern Russia. They settled intentionally in the most impracticable places and founded numerous monasteries, of which Borisoglebsky, Ferapontov, Kirillo-Belozersky and Vysotsky monasteries could be mentioned. St Sergius was also connected with the foundation of two monastic communities in Moscow - Andronikov and Simonov monasteries. All in all, disciples of Sergius founded about 40 monasteries, thus greatly extending the geographical extent of his influence and authority. However, when Metropolitan Alexius asked him to become his successor, Sergius declined, preferring to remain a simple monk.
As an ascetic, Sergius did not take part in the political life of the country. However, he blessed Dmitry Donskoy when he went to fight the Tatars in the signal Battle of Kulikovo field – but only after he was certain Dmitry had pursued all peaceful means of resolving the conflict. Some historians interpreted his political stance as aspiring to make peace and unite Russian lands under the leadership of Moscow.
Death and canonization
Sergius died on September 25, 1392, and was glorified (canonized) in 1452. His incorrupt relics were found in 1422 and placed in the new Trinity Cathedral of the Lavra which he founded. The church commemorates him on September 25, the day of his death, and on July 5, the day his relics were uncovered. See September 25 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics). Among the many affectionate titles given him, he has been referred to as the "Abbot of Russia" and "valiant voevod" of the Russian land.
The Roman Catholic Church officially recognizes Sergius as a saint, listing him in the Martyrologium Romanum. He is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on September 25.
The ecumenical Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius is named in part for him.
In December 1937, Pavel Florensky (1882–1937), a Russian theologian, priest, mathematician, inventor, philosopher and engineer died in the Soviet Gulag and it is thought he was condemned by an extrajudicial NKVD troika under NKVD Order No. 00447 to be executed during the 1930s Bolshevik purges after refusing to disclose the hiding place of Sergius' head which the Bolsheviks wanted destroyed. It is rumoured that Florensky and other theologians were involved in a plot to save and hide the relics of St. Sergius. The relics were returned by Pavel Golubtsov, later "Archbishop Sergius," to the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra (Trinity Cathedral) of the Lavra in 1946 when it was reopened.
Varnitsy Monastery of St. Sergius commemorates the saint's birthplace.
- Simeon Shakhovsky, Akathist to St Sergius
- Maccioni, Antonio. "Pavel Aleksandrovič Florenskij. Note in margine all'ultima ricezione italiana" in eSamizdat (2007) V:(1-2):471-478. In Italian.
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