True Community & Wonders

Mikhail Nesterov\'s Holy Rus (undated)Mikhail Nesterov’s Holy Rus (undated)

One day some Greeks arrived from Constantinople, sent by the Patriarch to visit the saint. Making a deep obeisance they said to him: “The all-powerful Patriarch of Constantinople, Philotheus, sends you his blessing,” and they presented him with gifts from the Patriarch, a Cross and a “paramand,” and also handed a letter to him.

The saint asked: “Are you sure that you have not been sent to someone else? How can I, a sinner, be worthy of such gifts from the most illustrious Patriarch?”

The answered: “We have indeed been sent to you, holy Sergius,” the elder went then to see the Metropolitan, Alexis, and took with him the missive brought from the Patriarch. The Metropolitan ordered the epistle to be read to him. It ran: “By the Grace of God, the Archbishop of Constantinople, the Oecumenical Patriarch Philotheus, by the Holy Spirit, to our son and fellow-servant Sergius. Divine grace and peace, and our blessing be with you. We have heard tell of your godly life dedicated to God, wherefore we greatly praise and glorify God. One thing, however has not been established, you have not formed a community. Take note, blessed on, that even the great prophet and our father in God, David, embracing all things with his mind, could not bestow higher praise than when he said: ‘But now, however good and however perfect, yet, above all, is abiding together in brotherly love.’ Wherefore I counsel you to establish a community. That God’s blessing and His grace be always upon you.” The elder inquired of the Metropolitan: “Revered teacher, what would you have us do?” The Metropolitan answered: “With all our heart we approve and return thanks.”

From henceforth life on the basis of community was established in the monastery. The saint, wise pastor, appointed to each brother duties, one to be the cellarar, others to be cooks and bakers, another to care for the sick, and for Church duties, an ecclesiarch, and a sub-ecclesiarch, and sacristans and so forth. He further announced that the ordinances of the holy fathers were to be strictly observed; all things were to be possessed in common, no monk was to hold property of his own.

His community having been established with much wisdom, the numbers of followers soon increased. Also, the larger the supply of offerings to the monastery, the more hospitality was extended. No person in need ever left the monastery empty-handed; and the saint gave orders that the poor and all strangers were to be allowed to rest in the monastery, and no suppliant to be refused, adding: “If you will follow my precepts and continue in the faithfully, God will reward you, and when I leave this life, our monastery will prosper and continue to stand with the Lord’s blessing for many years.” And to the present day it has remained standing.

Before long dissension arose; the devil hating goodness, put about the idea of disputing the authority of Sergius. One Saturday, while Vespers was being sung, and the Abbot Sergius, wearing his vestments was in the altar, his brother Stephen, who was standing by the choir, on the left, asked the canonarch: “Who gave you that book?” The canonarch answered: “The abbot gave it to me.” Stephen then said: “What has the abbot to do with it? Did I not sit in that place before?’ and adding other silly remarks.

Although the saint was standing by the altar and heard all that was said, he kept his silence. When they all came out of the Church, he didn’t go to his cell, but walked away from the monastery, unknown to all. When he arrived at the monastery of Makhrisch, he asked the abbot, Stephen, if one of his monks could lead him to a desert place. Together they searched and discovered a beautiful spot close to the river Kerzach. The brotherhood, hearing about the saint, took to visiting him in twos and threes, sometimes more. Our father Sergius sent two of his followers to Metropolitan Alexis, with the request for a blessing to build a Church. Aided by divine favor, a Church was erected in a short while, and many brethren gathered there.

Soon, several monks from Holy Trinity, unable to bear the separation from their spiritual father, went to the Metropolitan and said: “Holy Lord, we are living like sheep without a shepherd. Command our abbot to return to his monastery, that he may save us from perishing and dying of grief without him.”

The Metropolitan dispatched two archimandrites, Gerasim and Pavel, to the abbot with the message: “Your father, Alexis, the Metropolitan sends you his blessing. He has rejoiced exceedingly to hear that you are living in a distant wilderness. But, now return to your monastery of the Holy Trinity; those persons who were dissatisfied with you shall be removed from the monastery.”

Upon hearing this the saint sent a rely: “Tell my Lord the Metropolitan, all from his lips, as from those of Christ, I receive with joy and disobey in nothing.”

The Metropolitan, glad at his prompt obedience, instantly dispatched a priest to consecrate the Church to the Annunciation of the Theotokos. Sergius selected one of his followers, Romanus, to be the abbot of the new monastery, and sent him to the Metropolitan to be raised to the priesthood. The saint then returned to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

When the news reached the monastery that the saint was returning, the brethren went out to meet him. On beholding him it appeared as if a second sun were shining; and they were so filled with joy that some of the brethren kissed the saint’s hands, others his feet, while others seized his clothing and kissed that. There was loud rejoicing and glorifying God for the return of their father. And what of the father? He rejoiced with his whole heart at seeing this gathering of his flock.

Now Bishop Stephen, a God-fearing and devout man, had for St Sergius a deep, spiritual affection. One day he was traveling from his episcopacy of Perm to the capital, Moscow. The road along which the bishop journeyed lay about seven miles from Holy Trinity Monastery. When the godly bishop came opposite the saint’s monastery, he stopped and said, bowing low towards the direction of the saint: “Peace be with thee, brother in God!” The saint, at this hour, was seated at table with the brethren. Perceiving in his spirit what Bishop Stephen was doing, he rose from the supper table, stood for an instant in prayer, the bowing said aloud: “Be joyful, thou shepherd of Christ’s flock; the peace of God be always with thee.” At the end of supper his disciples inquired of him what he meant. He openly told them: “At that hour Bishop Stephen, going on his way to Moscow, did reverence to the Holy Trinity, and blessed us humble folk.” He pointed out to them, also, where this had taken place.

One time, when Theodore, son of Stephen, was with blessed Sergius in the monastery, he was taking part in the Divine Liturgy, which was being sung by the saint, and with aforenamed, Stephen, the saint’s brother. Of a sudden Isaac, who had taken a vow of silence, saw a fourth person serving at the altar with them, of a bright shining appearance, and in dazzling apparel, Isaac asked Father Macarius, who was standing beside him: “What miraculous apparition is this?” Macarius replied: “I do not know brother, I see a fearful and ineffable vision. But I think, brother, that someone came with the prince.” (Prince Vladimir was at this time within the monastery.) One of the prince’s attendants was asked if a priest had come with them, but no, they knew of no one.

When Liturgy was at an end, seizing a favorable moment, one of the brethren approached Saint Sergius and questioned him. But hem anxious not to disclose the secret, asked: “What wonder did you see, brother? My brother Stephen was saying the Liturgy, also his son, Theodore and myself, unworthy though I am. No other priest was serving with us.” His disciples insisted, entreating him to reveal the mystery to them, whereupon he said: “Beloved brethren, what the Lord God has revealed can I keep secret? He who you beheld was an angel of the Lord, and not only this time but every time I, unworthy though I am, serve with the messenger of the Lord, That which you have seen, tell no one as long as I am on this earth.” And his disciples were astonished beyond measure.

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