Times of War

Pavel Ryzhenko’s St Sergius Blessing the Warriors (no date)

A rumor spread that Prince Mamai was raising a large army as punishment for our sins, and that with all his heathen Tartar hoards he would invade Russian soil. Intense fear prevailed among the people at this report. The puissant and reigning prince, who held the scepter of all Russia, was great Demetrius, having great faith in the saint, came to seek his counsel regarding war with the heathen. Sergius, bestowing upon him his blessing and strengthened by pray, said to Prince Demetrius; “It behooves you, Lord, to have a care for the lives of the flock entrusted to you by God. Go forth against the heathen and upheld by the strong arm of the Lord, conquer and return to your country sound in health and glorifying God with loud praise.”

The Grand-Duke replied: “If indeed God assists me, father, I will build a monastery to the Immaculate Mother of God.” And with the saint’s blessing he hurried away. Assembling all his armies, he marched against the heathen Tartars; but seeing the multitudes of the enemy, the Grand-Duke was suddenly overcome by fear and began to doubt. Suddenly, a courier from St Sergius arrived, in haste, with the message: “Be in no doubt Lord, go forward with faith and confront the enemy’s ferocity; and fear not, for God will be on your side.” Forthwith, the Grand-Duke Demetrius, and all his men were filled with a spirit of temerity; and engaged in battle against the pagans. They fought; many fell; but God was with them and helped the great invincible Demetrius, who vanquished the ungodly Tartarts. In that same hour, St Sergius was engaged with his brethren before God in prayer for the army’s victory. Within an hour of the final defeat of the heathen, the saint, who was a seer, announced to the brotherhood what had happened in battle, the victory, the courage of Grand-Duke Demetrius Ivanovich, and the names of those who died at the hands of the pagans; St Sergius made intercession for them to all-Merciful God.

Grand-Duke Demetrius returned to his country with great joy in his heart, and hastened to visit holy, venerable Sergius. Rendering thanks for the prayers of the saint and the brotherhood, he gave a rich offering to the monastery and in fulfillment of his vow, expressed his wish to build, at once, the monastery of the Immaculate Mother of God. After searching for a favorable location, venerable Sergius fixed upon one by the banks of the river Dubenka. With the Grand-Duke’s consent, a Church to the Dormition of the Theotokos was consecrated by Saint Sergius. The saint appointed one of his followers, Sabbas, a man of exceeding virtue, as abbot. A community was formed and many brethren joined it.

Once again the Grand-Duke Demetrius entreated Saint Sergius to come to Kolomna, to consecrate a site for the building of a monastery to be dedicated to Holy Theophany. It was the saint’s custom to travel everywhere on foot. Obedient to the Grand-Duke, he traveled to Kolomna, consecrated the site where the Church was to be erected, then at the Grand-Duke’s request, he sent one of his disciples, Gregory, a priest monk of devout disposition and virtue, for the new monastery. In time a stone Church was completed which still stands to this day.

Another time the illustrious Prince Vladimir begged St Sergius, likewise, to come to his part of the country, to the town of Serpukhov, and consecrate a place by the river Nar, and dedicate a Church to the Conception of the Theotokos. Once again, the saint obeyed the request. This God-fearing prince also begged him to send one of his disciples, Athanasius. Although St Sergius found this request difficult, love prevailed and he consented. Athanasius, being a man of rare virtue, learned in the holy scriptures – many valuable writings by his hand bear witness to him to the present day – the saint loved him dearly. To Athanasius he entrusted the founding of the monastery, and the forming of the monastic community. Aided by St Sergius’ prayers, the monastery was built, wonderful and beautiful, and named: “On the Height.”

Igor Mashkov-St Sergius of Radonezh Blesses Grand Prince St Dmitri Donskoi Before the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380

But why pursue further the saint’s planting of ecclesiastical fruit? It is well known how many monasteries were founded by God’s chosen servant. And offspring of his offspring, burning bright as stars, they are everywhere radiating a serene and wondrous life and a blessing to all.

Metropolitan Alexis, being elderly and seeing his increasing weakness, sent for St Sergius. While they conversed, Alexis asked to have the Cross with the “paramand” adorned with gold and precious stones brought to him to give as gift to him. St Sergius bowed low and in great humility refused it saying: “Forgive me Lord, I have worn no gold ornaments since childhood, and I want nothing in my old age but to continue in poverty.” The Metropolitan insisted and said: “I know beloved, that thou are fulfilling a vow, but be obedient, and take this which we offer to thee with a benediction.” Further, he said to Sergius: “Do you know why I have sent for thee? I desire, while I yet live, to find a man able to feed Christ’s flock. I have doubted of them all, but you alone have I chosen as worthy. I know with all certainty that from the puissant Prince to the lowliest of his people, that you are the one they want.”

On hearing this, the saint was deeply grieved, regarding honors for himself as a thing of naught, and he pleaded with the Metropolitan: “Forgive me, Lord, but this of which you speak is beyond my powers and you cannot find it in me. What am I but a sinner and the least of men?” The bishop quoted many sayings from holy scripture, but the saint, unyielding in his humility, said: “Gracious Lord, if you do not wish to drive away my poverty from your Holiness, speak no more about my poor self, nor permit anyone else, for no one can make me otherwise.”

The Metropolitan, understanding that Sergius would not yield, allowed him to return to his monastery. Before long the Metropolitan Alexis left this life, in the year 6885 (1378); and once more the princes implored the saint to accept the rank of Bishop. Venerable Sergius remained adamant that he would not accept. Archimandrite Michael was raised to the bishopric; but this man, with great presumption, not only invested himself with the episcopal robes, but also proceeded to plot against Sergius, in the belief that the saint would put a check on his audacity by seeking the episcopal throne for himself. Blessed Sergius hearing of Michael’s threats against him, remarked to his disciples that Michael, vaunting himself of his sacred appointment, would not obtain his wish for, overcome by pride, he would not reach the imperial city. The saint’s prophecy was fulfilled. On his way by boat to Constantinople Michael fell ill and died. Thereupon everyone regarded Saint Sergius as one of the prophets.

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