The great Russian saint, Reverend Sergius, baptized Varfolomei or Bartholomew, was born of noble parents in the city of Rostov, South Russia, in 1320. His mother, Maria, was a very religious woman. Definitely, that had a deep effect on the boy. One day, when Maria stood in front of the altar during the divine liturgy, the baby in her womb cried out thrice — the first time, before the Gospel began to be read, the second — when the Cherubic hymn was being sung, and the third Holy Trinity St.Sergius Monasterytime — at the end of the service. That was something unheard of. Maria for a long time kept in her heart that sign indicating her son was a chosen one.
When Maria was safely delivered of the child, it was not the mother who taught her son piety, but the boy who taught his mother. Other members of the family noticed, that one of those days when the mother ate meat, the baby rejected the breast. In a little while Maria — she would become a nun later — started living a monastic life, long before taking the vows. On Wednesdays and Fridays — the days of fast — the newly-born baby refused to take the mother's milk. Naturally, his parents took note of all that and kept praying to God asking Him to protect Varfolomei from vice and temptation in the future.
When he was still a little boy, Varfolomei became fond of the prayer to Jesus Christ: "Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on me!" He used that prayer, which he liked more than any other, to get anything he asked for.
His faith in God Almighty kept growing during private prayers… At first, the boy had great difficulty in learning to read and write. Other pupils read Holy books far better than he did. The boy was very upset, however, he never got desperate and relied on God's help.
One day, in search of lost horses the boy strayed far away from home to have a miraculous vision under a big green oak. God granted him a meeting with a very old, kind-looking man. The old man was deep in thought, his fingers busy with the rosary. Varfolomei at that minute was very sad, because his teachers became even more angry about his failures in class. The very thought of it made him cry. The old man raised his prophetic eyes, handed the boy the wafer (or the altar bread) and said: “Hence forth God gives you the gift of learning, little boy. The altar bread is small, but may its size not confuse you; it will taste so sweet as soon as you try it.”
As soon as the boy tasted the altar bread, he saw divine light and joy filled his entire being.
The boy's father and mother — Kirill and Maria — were greatly surprised, when their son opened the Psalm-Book as soon as he got home and started reading it calmly and fluently. God himself opened the mind of the future monk and his soul tasted the sweet of divine reading.
Varfolomei’s body matured. So did his soul. His pure young heart experienced no temptations. Childish whims and games were alien to him. When Varfolomei turned fifteen, his parents moved from Rostov to the Moscow princedom, to a small town of Radonezh. At the age of twenty Varfolomei came to his parents to ask for their blessing to retire to a monastery. However, God kept putting the chosen one to test more than once and it was not before he closed the eyes of his parents and buried them, that his wish came true. After that he and his elder brother, Stephan retired to a hermitage in the center of an impenetrable forest — a hill not far from Moscow.
At the age of twenty-three Varfolomei took the habit on the day of St. Martyr Sergius. The Hegumen who performed the ritual, presented the young monk with a rosary and told him to recall the name of God day and night.
Sergius displayed great patience and courage, for he lived in a dreadful place, surrounded by wild beasts and having not enough bread or water. He dedicated St. Sergius of Radonezh. Iconhimself entirely to the labor of praying and to perfecting his soul. He was never in a hurry nor was he negligent when he recited the prayer to Jesus Christ. He sought to understand each word of it. Very soon the holy monk learned how sweet the words of the prayer to Jesus Christ were.
In his spiritual labor Sergius often encountered various temptations. More than once his log cabin was surrounded by strange creatures during the night. The creatures looked like wild beasts or villains wearing tall caps. They were the demons. They yelled at him: “Go away! Why have you come to live here in the woods? Aren't you afraid of death by famine or at the hands of villains?"
The cabin seemed to collapse, break in two and the floor seemed to go from under his feet. However, Sergius kept standing in front of an icon of Jesus Christ upright, as a candle, made signs of the cross and kept repeating with his whole might: “Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on me!”
If only today's Christians knew what kind of infallible weapon there is in the name of Jesus which they can use against evil, filthy designs.
The demons would disappear as suddenly as they had appeared. Sergius would then give thanks to Almighty God.
Even the speechless creatures, the animals of the woods felt the blessing coming from Sergius. Wild and violent by nature, they became quiet and humble, when they came to the log cabin where the monk lived. The bear was the most frequent visitor. Sergius invariably treated him to a loaf of bread.
A town standing at the top of a mountain can’t escape people's attention. And the fame of Sergius's hermitage travelled far and wide. Many pilgrims came to him in search of secluded, pious life. However, Sergius was never quick to accept new-comers. He told future monks:
“Make your hearts ready not for calm careless life, but for great patience to cope with any temptation and any labour. Make yourself ready for fasts, hard spiritual labour and many sorrows.”
A total of twelve monks gathered at the hermitage of Radonezh. They founded a monastery that would later be named the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
The old wisdom in Latin says: “Ore et labore”, that is — pray and work! The Prayer to Jesus Christ cannot be conducted by the one who is idle. If our soul can be likened to a boat sailing to the harbour of impassionedness, prayers and earthly labours can be likened to the oars that keep it going. St. Sergius never stayed idle. He could do any kind of job — build a home, bake bread, make clothes, carry water and make all preparations the divine liturgy. Whatever he did, he did with prayer: “Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on me!” And the life of Reverend Sergius was a miraculous evidence of the power of that prayer.
One day the monastery had a misfortune — it ran out of wheat and famine ensued. In view of the risk of death from hunger there began the murmur of discontent among the monks. Sergius tried to reason them, but his brethren turned a deaf ear on the voice of reason or faith. Sergius prayed for them in private: “Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on us, your sinful children, feed us somehow!”
And it so happened that soon the gates of the monastery opened and the inhabitants saw a cartful of freshly-baked breads…
With the same prayer to Jesus Christ Reverend Sergius brought into being a water spring on Makovets hill. Before that the monks had to go a long way to quench their thirst.
At first monks contemplated calling the spring of water after Sergius, but the humble Hegumen forbade…
The Saviour says that only the ones pure in heart can see Him. The wise teachers of spiritual life testify that no one can make one's heart pure without the prayer of Jesus. That prayer is the water that washes away filth from our souls — vanity, self-esteem, pride, impatience and others. Reverend Sergius, who since childhood observed the oath of virginity acquired the purity of his heart by walking up the ladder of the prayer of Jesus step by step. One day, when he left his cell, he chanced to have a miraculous, divine vision showing how close he was to God. He heard the voice: “Sergius, you pray for your flock. Your prayer has been heard. Look — there are the monks gathering under your leadership in the name of the Holy Trinity.”
Sergius looked up and saw the sky open and white birds come down to the meadow in front of his cell. Then he heard the voice again:
“So shall multiply the number of your disciples. When you pass away their number will not grow smaller, if they follow in your footsteps.”
The Gospel by Mark says: "Demons will be excercized and sick people cured in my name.” Reverend Sergius learned the true meaning of these words. One day a desperate peasant brought his sick boy to him. The boy died in front of the gates of the hermitage. Sergius then ordered to bring the boy’s body to his cell and remained there all alone. He prayed: “Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, resurrect this boy, if you will!”
In a little while the desperate father was beside himself with joy to see his son restored to life.
Reverend Sergius was reluctant to disclose the gift of working miracles he had from God. So he told the man: “The boy just felt dizzy. Now he has come round.”
Who of us, proud and self-loving children of the 21st century have achieved Christian humbleness and through it the wonderful calm of our soul?.. Isn't it the reason why we know no peace of mind or body that we have neglected the heavenly piety? However, through the prayer of Jesus it makes its way to the human heart, slowly but surely.
One night Reverend Sergius was praying in his cell. With the name of God, he sat down to pause for a while, and then said suddenly to his disciple Mikhail: “Stay awake, child! We are going to have a visitor!” The boy froze with fear.
Suddenly there was a voice in the night: “There comes the Virgin!”
There was a light in the cell, brighter than the Sun. Reverend Sergius saw the Mother of God radiating wonderful light. She was followed by Apostle Peter and Apostle John, the Theologian. Sergius fell to his knees in front of the Queen of Heaven. St.Mary touched Reverend Sergius with her hand and said mercifully: “Fear not, the chosen one. I have come because your prayers for your disciples have reached me. Don't worry anymore about the hermitage. From now on there will be an abundance of every¬thing during your lifetime and when you ascend to heavens I will never neglect this place.”
With the help of the prayer of Jesus Reverend Sergius became a powerful defender of the Russian land. He chanced to protect Holy Russia from the Hordes of Khan Mamai in 1380. He did not take part in the famous battle on Kulikovo field. However, with the name of God he blessed the weapons of St. Dmitri of the Don, a faithful prince. With the name of God at his lips Sergius kept praying in his cell throughout the battle. The prayer of Jesus helped Sergius see everything what was going on on the Kulikovo field. The Lord himself gave him the power to see everything and know everything. St.Prince Dmitri of the Don, in a move of gratitude to Sergius of Radonezh for his prayers, instituted a special memorial service in honour of those who died in that battle. The Russian Orthodox Church has conducted the service ever since.
The death of Reverend Sergius was quick and calm. When he passed away on September 25, 1392, his face shone like the face of an angel. The church regards death as an act of parting with the misfortunes and hardships of earthly life to the kingdom of eternal blessing.
Thirty years after his death, Sergius of Radonezh was seen in a dream by some pious layman. He told the man: “Go and ask the Hegumen and the brothers, why do they keep me for so long in the coffin and underground, where water surrounds my body?”
In 1422 the coffin was recovered and opened — and the body of Reverend Sergius was found intact. The garments were not spoiled either… Sergius manifested his close bonds with the monastery, where he had spent so many years in the troubled days of Russian history.
In the year of 1608, when the army of Poles led by Dmitri the Imposter, besieged the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, the monks more than once saw Sergius walking along the walls and asperse the land around. Reverend Sergius came to the Hegumen of the monastery and urged him and the brothers to defend the monastery with courage.
The Russian people remember particularly well that Reverend Sergius helped gather the army that would liberate Russia from the Polish invaders. On three occasions he was seen in a dream by Kuzma Minin, a citizen of Nizhni Novgorod. On the third night he addressed Minin with a threat in his voice: “Didn't I tell you to gather armed people? Merciful God wishes to relieve the Orthodox Christians of disorder and trouble and to give them peace and calm. So I told you to go and fight for the liberation of the Russian land from the enemy. Don't hesitate if your superiors fail to follow you. Your own subordinates will do that eagerly and a good cause will have a good outcome!?
On October 22, 1612, when the Moscow Kremlin was stormed and the Poles driven out of the city, Reverend Sergius came to one of the bishops the Poles had kept prisoner in the Kremlin. He told the bishop that the Russian land would be saved that day.
Today, as in the past, the Holy Trinity Monastery, founded by Sergius of Radonezh, is the heart of Russian soil. These days, there is great confusion in people's minds. Troubled times are experienced by our country and the reason for that are our sins. The country is being torn apart by selfish and greedy people. And when we come to the Holy Trinity Monastery and when we light a candle in front of the icons of Sergius of Radonezh and near his relics, our hearts are filled with blessing… “Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on us!”
Source: The Voice of Russia