This year the entire Russian World celebrates the 700th anniversary of the birth of a great man of fervent prayer and ascetic, one of the most revered Orthodox saints – St. Sergius, Hegumen of Radonezh. The future elder (Bartholomew in his childhood) came to this world in hard times of the Russian history, when the internal separation caused external dependencies of Russia and the spiritual Treasury of Orthodoxy was under the threat of heresies and non-Orthodox expansion. The response to the tragic earthly circumstances was «search for the other city»: many compatriots turned to the values of Christianity, to the ascetic deed and monastic doing.

Based on his family experience, a young boy Bartholomew had to learn the imperfection of the world, separated by internecine wars, intrigues and hatred. Being a descendant of the Rostov aristocrats, who became poor after being persecuted, he did not burden his soul regretting about the lost earthly treasures. Instead of that he completely turned to the acquisition of Heavenly Treasures. The life of the monk was the confirmation of the seemingly paradoxical truth, according to which leaving the world and quiet time can be lifesaving not only for the hermit, but also for his family, for his people and his earthly homeland. That finally changes and makes the world abandoned by the monk better.

An inspiring example for many generations of Russian apprenticeship was the sincere prayer of the boy Bartholomew rewarded with the gift of knowledge.

An inspiring example for many generations of Russian monasticism became the selfless labour of the monk Sergius in the desert of Radonezh.

An inspiring example for many generations of the Russian army was the blessing given by the St. Sergius to the Great Prince Dmitry Donskoy before the Battle of Kulikovo.

This blessing and an unprecedented act of sending two warrior-monks, Peresvet and Oslyabya, to the battlefield, introduced the character of a Holy War to the struggle against Mamay and provided Russians with the final victory in the confrontation with the Horde. However, the glorious feats of Russian soldiers were preceded by a huge spiritual work done by St. Sergius and the whole Church. That is the reason why Vasily Klyuchevsky admitted later that the political revival of our country was preceded by a moral revival.

Thanks to the efforts of the monk Sergius of Radonezh and his associates the monasticism has become an important special ideal in Russian society. The life of the monks, who devoted themselves to spiritual ministry, became a moral example for the laity. Values of non-possession, fraternal affection and selfless labour were of great importance. The monk revived the tradition of living in the community which descends from Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra.

The monastery of the new type with common property, collective work and hegumen unity of command was a not-of-this-world example of the earthly society. The movement from disunity to unity influenced all spheres of the Russian life, including the state policy. The geographical expansion of the Moscow Principality coincided with the prevalence of coenobitic monasteries. St. Sergius himself and his disciples founded more than forty monasteries in all parts of Russia at that time.

Distribution of common moral and social ideals, the adoption of the universal Orthodox culture and approval of the standards of the Church Slavonic written language led to the formation of the all-Russian national identity. Paraphrasing the well-known words by Lev Gumilev, we could say that people from Suzdal, Vladimir, Rostov and Pskov went into Orthodox churches as representatives of their local traditions, but when they went out, they were sons of the single Russian Nation. And today Russian identity is based on social, linguistic, religious, state principles that originate from the times of the St. Sergius.

Acts of St. Sergius of Radonezh belong to our glorious past, make us stronger in the present and pave the way to the future. That is what makes the nationwide celebration of the 700th anniversary of the birth the Great Russian Saint so important.

From the statement on the results of the Cathedral Hearings on the Theme «The Venerable Sergius as the Consolidator of the Russian Lands»


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