The Order of St. Benedict Bethlehem Priory Servants of Jesus
Saint Sergius, Abbot
This Sergius was born near Rostov in Russia, about the year 1314, of parents noble by birth, Orthodox in faith, and devout in life. Unto them God gave three sons, Stephen, Bartholomew who became the monk Sergius, and Peter. This was the time when the Tartars held all Russia in most cruel subjection, so that if one was to exist, it was necessary to know how to live in the swamps and forests, in hiding from the savage invaders. And hence these three boys were brought up to hardship and hard work of every kind. Now Bartholomew seemed unable to learn to read or write, which grieved him no little, so that he prayed often in secret: O Lord, give me understanding. But one day a visiting monk blessed him, and commanded him to read the liturgy with him; which same he suddenly was able to do. And so, when his two brothers married, he determined to become a monk as soon as his parents died. At which time Stephen, whose wife had also died, went with him into a great forest; where with much labour they erected a hermitage, and lived therein as best they could.
Then hungering loneliness caused Stephen to leave, and enter an established monastery; and Bartholomew remained alone, suffering privations beyond measure, especially in the dreadful winters; but most of all, he underwent great temptations. At length a certain abbot came to see him; and perceiving what a noble servant of Christ this young anchorite was, he named him Sergius and professed him as a monk; at which time he was about twenty-three years of age. Finally some young men joined him; and when they numbered twelve, the bishop of that region made Sergius a priest and blessed him as Abbot, namely, of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, as it was called. In all these days of hardship, Sergius was stoutest of heart in wielding the axe and hoe, and in prayer without ceasing. So that in time God gave that place many monks and goodly buildings; and Sergius was able to found forty other monasteries; and from them fifty others were founded; whereupon all Russia was blessed, amidst its desolations, by the labours of holy Sergius. But before this came to pass, there was a rebellion against the discipline of Sergius, and he left secretly, and went further into the forest that he might be alone with God.
Where again disciples came to him, and his former monks begged him to return to them, which he did. Then came to him also once again his own brother Stephen, accompanied this time by Stephen’s son. And so his fame increased until he was revered as the pastor of all Russia and counsellor of high and low. And although he was the gentlest of men, it was he that sent forth the Russian army, with his blessing, to drive forth the Tartars from the land. By which blessing the Christian soldiers, untrained, fearful, and outnumbered, defeated the Mongols, so that Russia thus began to throw off the yoke of their Mohammedan overlords. And the great multitude of Russians slain in this battle were remembered by name in the prayers of Holy Trinity Monastery until its dissolution in 1918. For this holy house existed well-nigh onto six hundred years as a chief center of learning and religion. Sergius steadfastly refused to become Metropolitan of Russia; and at an advanced age he went to God, on September 25th, 1391.
GRANT, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the prayers of thy holy Abbot, blessed Sergius, may commend us unto thee: that we, who have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, may by his advocacy find favour in thy sight. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.