Part 6 St. Sergius & Russia
A rumour spread that Khan Mamai was raising a large army as a punishment for our sins and that with all his heathen Tatar hordes he would invade Russian soil. Very great fear prevailed amongst the people at hearing this report. The puissant and reigning prince, who held the sceptre of all Russia, great Dimitry having a great faith in the saint, came to ask him if he counselled him to go against the heathen in battle. The saint, bestowing on him his blessing, and strengthened by prayer, said to him: "It behoveth you, Lord, to have a care for the lives of the flock committed to you by God. Go forth against the heathen; and upheld by the strong arm of God, conquer; and return to your country sound in health, and glorify God with loud praise." The grand duke replied, "If indeed God assist me, Father, I will build a monastery to the Immaculate Theotokos." And with the saint's blessing he hurriedly went on his way.
Assembling all his armies, he marched against the heathen Tatars to meet them on the field of battle at Kulikova, where the rivers of Don and Nepryadva meet. Prince Dimitry and his generals, upon seeing the multitudes of the Horde, began to doubt of obtaining victory. The generals were perplexed, not knowing what to do, when of a sudden, a courier from the Monastery of the Holy Trinity arrived in all haste with a message from the saint stating: "Be in no doubt, Prince Dimitry; go forward with faith and confront the enemy's ferocity; and fear not, for God will be on your side." Forthwith, the Grand Duke Dimitry and all his armies, were filled with a spirit of temerity; and went into battle against the pagans. They fought, and many fell, but God was with them and helped the great and invincible Dimitry, who vanquished the ungodly Tatars.
In that same hour the saint, with his brethren, was engaged before God in prayer for victory over the pagan Hordes. Within an hour of the final defeat of the ungodly, the saint, who was a seer, announced to the brotherhood what had happened, the victory, the courage of the Grand Duke Dimitry, and the names, too, of those who had died at the hands of the pagans; and he made intercession for them to all-merciful God.
The Grand Duke Dimitry returned to his country with great joy in his heart, and hastened to visit the holy, venerable Sergius. Rendering thanks for the prayers of the saint and of the brotherhood, he gave a rich offering to the monastery and, in fulfilment of his vow, expressed his wish to build at once the monastery of the Immaculate Theotokos.
After searching for a favourable place, venerable Sergius fixed upon one by the banks of the river Dubenka, and with the consent of the grand duke a church to the Dormition of our Blessed Virgin Theotokos was established by St. Sergius. As abbot, the saint appointed one of his followers, Sabbas by name, a man of exceeding great virtue.
A community was formed, and many brethren joined it. Once again the Grand Duke Dimitry entreated St. Sergius to come to Kolomna, to consecrate a site for the building of a monastery to be dedicated to the Holy Theophany of our Lord.
It was the saint's custom to go everywhere on foot. Obedient to the grand duke, he went to Kolomna, consecrated the site, and a church was erected and, at the grand duke's request, he sent him one of his disciples for the founding of the monastery, a priest-monk, Gregory, a devout man and of great virtue. In time a stone church was built, which is standing to this day.
Another time the illustrious Prince Vladimir begged St. Sergius, likewise, to come to his part of the country, to the town of Serpukhov, and consecrate a place by the river Nar, and dedicate a church to the Conception of the Theotokos. Once again the saint obeyed the request. This god-fearing prince also begged him to send one of his disciples, Afanasii by name. Although the saint found it hard to grant this request, love prevailed, and he consented. Afanasii being a man of rare virtue, exceedingly learned in Holy Scriptures-many valuable writings by his hand bear witness to him to the present day-the saint loved him dearly. To him the saint entrusted the founding of the monastery, and the forming of the community. Aided by the prayers of the saint, the monastery was built, wonderful and beautiful, and named "On the Heights."
But why pursue further the saint's planting of ecclesiastical fruit? It is well known how many monasteries were founded by God's own chosen servant. And, offspring of his offspring, burning bright as stars, they are everywhere radiating a serene and wondrous life, and a blessing to all.
The Metropolitan Aleksei, being old, and seeing his weakness increasing, sent for St. Sergius. While they conversed, the metropolitan asked to have a certain cross with the "paramand" that was adorned with gold and precious stones brought to him, to give it to the saint; but he, bowing low in great humility, refused it, saying, "Forgive me, Lord, 1 have worn no gold ornaments since childhood, wherefore all the more do 1 wish in old age to continue in poverty." The bishop insisted, and said I know, beloved, that thou art fulfilling a vow, but be obedient, and take this which we offer thee with a blessing." Further, he said to the saint: "Dost know why I sent for thee? I desire, while I yet live, to find a man able to feed Christ's flock. I have doubted of them all; thee alone have I chosen as worthy. I know with all certainty that, from the highest prince to the lowliest of his people, thou art the one they want."
On hearing this the saint was deeply grieved, regarding honour for himself as a thing of naught, he pleaded with the bishop: "Forgive me, Lord, but this of which you speak is beyond my powers, and you never will find it in me. What am 1 but a sinner, and the least of men?"
The bishop quoted many sayings from Holy Scriptures, but the saint, unyielding in his humility, said, "Gracious Lord, if you do not wish to drive away my poverty from your Holiness, speak no more about my poor self, nor permit anyone else, for no one can make me otherwise."
The bishop, understanding that the saint would not yield, allowed him to return to his monastery. Before long the Metropolitan Aleksei left this life, in the year 1378 (6885); and once more the princes implored the saint to accept the rank of bishop; but, firm as adamant, he would in no way consent.
Then a certain archimandrite, Michael, was raised to the bishopric; but this man, with great presumption, not only invested himself with the episcopal robes but also proceeded to plot against the saint, in the belief that the venerable Sergius would put a check on his audacity, wishing to occupy the episcopal throne himself. Blessed Sergius, hearing of Michael's threats against him, remarked to his disciples that Michael, vaunting himself of his sacred appointment, would not obtain his wish, for, overcome by pride, he would not reach the imperial city.
The saint's prophecy was fulfilled. On his way by boat to Constantinople, Michael fell ill and died. Thereupon everyone regarded St. Sergius as one of the prophets.
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