Part 5 Monastery Life
Before long dissension arose; the devil, hating the propitiation of goodness amongst mankind, put the idea of disputing the authority of Sergius into several of the monks. One Saturday, white Vespers were being sung, and the Abbot Sergius, wearing his vestments, was at the altar, his brother, Stephen, who was standing by the choir, on the left, asked the canonarch, "Who gave you that book?" The canonarch replied, "The abbot gave it to me." The other said, "What has the abbot to do with it? Did not I sit in that place before?" and adding other silly remarks. Although the saint was standing by the altar, he heard what was said, but kept silence. When they all came out of church he did not go to his cell; he walked away from the monastery, unknown to all. When he arrived at the monastery of Makrishch, he asked the abbot, Stephen, if one of his monks could lead him to some desert place.
Together they searched and finally discovered a beautiful spot close to a river called the Kerzhach. The brotherhood, hearing about the saint, took to visiting him, in two's and three's, and more. Our Father Sergius sent two of his followers to the Metropolitan Aleksei, with the request for his blessing and permission to erect a church. Aided by divine favour, a church was erected in a short while, and many brethren gathered there.
Soon several monks from the Holy Trinity, unable any longer 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 Paul, to the abbot with the message: "Your father, Aleksei the Metropolitan, sends you his blessing. He has rejoiced exceedingly to hear that you are living in a distant wilderness. But, return now to the monastery of the Holy Trinity; those persons who were dissatisfied with you shall be removed from the monastery." Whereupon, hearing this, the saint sent reply, "Tell my lord the metropolitan, all from his lips, as from those of Christ, I receive with joy and do disobey in nothing."
The metropolitan, glad at his prompt obedience, instantly dispatched a priest to consecrate the church to the Annunciation of the Immaculate and Blessed Virgin, Theotokis. Sergius selected one of his followers, called Roman, 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 fathers hands, others his feet, while others seized his clothing and kissed that. There was loud rejoicing and glorifying God for the return of their spiritual 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 travelling from his episcopacy of Perm to the capital, Moscow. The road along which the bishop journeyed lay about seven miles from St. Sergius' monastery. When the godly bishop came opposite the saint's monastery, he stopped and said, bowing low toward the direction of the saint, "Peace be with thee, brother in God!" The saint, at this hour, was seated at the trapeza table with his brethren. Perceiving in spirit what Bishop Stephen was doing, he rose from the supper table, stood for an instant in prayer, then 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 the aforenamed Stephen, the saint's brother. Of a sudden Isaac, who had taken the vow of silence, saw a fourth person serving at the altar with them, of a bright, shining appearance, and in dazzling apparel. Isaac inquired of Father Makary, who was standing by his side, "What miraculous apparition is this?" Makary 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 in the monastery.) One of the prince's attendants was asked whether a priest had come with him; but, no, they knew of no one.
When the divine Liturgy was at an end, seizing a favourable moment, one of the brethren approached St. Sergius and questioned him. But he, 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 I, unworthy as I am. No other priest whatever was serving with us." His disciples insisted, entreating the saint to reveal the mystery to them, whereupon he said, "Beloved brethren, what the Lord God has revealed can I keep secret? He whom you beheld was an angel of the Lord, and not only this time but every time I unworthy as I am, serve with this messenger of the Lord. That which you have seen tell no one, so long as I am on this earth." And his disciples were astonished beyond measure.
|Rublev's Icon Christ's|
Descent into Hell
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