St Sergius & the bear…

Mikhail Nesterov- Youth Saint Sergius (1892-97)

Saint Sergius, “…in all humility asked the [Abbot Metrophanes’] instruction on living alone in the wilderness and wrestling with the enemy and the Abbot, after discoursing with him for a while on spiritual matters, commended him to God and went away, leaving him to silence and the wilderness.  Who can express the holy youth’s labors and struggles in his desert solitude?  Who can understand his fervent desire, his warmth of love for God, his sighs and tears and constant prayer?…. Many wild beasts also visited him, not only by night but also by day; there were bears, and howling wolves.  At first he was afraid, being human, but then he turned to prayer, and by God’s mercy the beasts departed.  
One bear in particular would come to the Saint.  Seeing that the animal came only to get some food, the Saint would place a small slice of bread on a log, and so the bear learned to come for the meal thus prepared for him…. Often there was no bread, and both he and the bear would go hungry.  Sometimes the Saint would give his only slice to the bear, being unwilling to disappoint him.  Let no one be astonished at this knowing certainly that when the Holy Spirit dwells in a man, the creatures become submissive to him, just as to first created Adam in the beginning , before the transgression of the commandment, when he likewise lived alone in a wilderness, and everything was subject to him.”

~The Northern Thebaid: Monastic Saints of the Russian North

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