Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

24 September 2005
  Sergius, Abbot of Holy Trinity
25 September 1392

Note: My 2007 commemoration of the Venerable Sergius includes much additional information plus several illustrations.

To Russians, Sergius is both national hero and an example of Russian spiritual life at its best. His posterity reminds us of William Tell among the Swiss or Joan of Arc with the French. He was born in Rostoff around 1314, the son of a farmer.

When he was twenty, he and his brother began living as hermits in a forest near Moscow. Others joined them in what became the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, a center for the renewal of Russian Christianity. Pilgrims came from all Russia to worship and to receive spiritual instruction, advice, and encouragement. At the time, Russians were largely controlled by the neighboring (non-Christian) Tatar (or Tartar) people. Sergius rallied the people behind Prince Dmitri Donskoi, who defeated the Tatars in 1380 and established an independent Russia.

Possessed of a winsome personality, Sergius was also a gentle man. Accounts bear strong resemblance to those told of Francis of Assisi, including a special affinity which he and animals held for each other. He had the ability to inspire in men an intense awareness of the love of God, and a readiness to respond in love and obedience. He remained close to his peasant roots. One contemporary said of him, "He has about him the smell of fir forests." To this day, his effect on Russian devotion remains considerable.

Two major convents on the outskirts of Moscow preserve the recollection of the freedom for which he urged Dimitri to fight. One is the fortress of the Donskoi Monastery, under the Sparrow Hills. The other is the Simonov Monastery on the banks of the Mosqua — a place of beauty chosen by the saint himself.

When eighty-four year old Metropolitan Alexis knew his life was ending, he desired to give Sergius his blessing, appointing him as successor. But the humble monk, in great alarm, declared that he could not accept and wear the sacred picture of the Blessed Virgin suspended by gold chains, which the primate had sent him from his own breast upon which it had hung. "From my youth up," said Sergius, "I have never possessed or worn gold, and how now can I adorn myself in my old age?"

St. Sergius died at an extremely advanced age in 1392, to the almost universal sorrow of his contemporaries.

Suggested Collect

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Sergius of Moscow, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Suggested Lection

Psalm 34:1-8 or 33:1-5, 20-21
Ecclesiasticus 39:1-9
Matthew 13:47-52
 
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