Sergius was born at Rostov about 1314, but civil war in Muscovy forced his family to leave the city and to live by farming at Radonezh, near Moscow. At the age of twenty, he and his older brother Stephen established a hermitage in a nearby forest and built a chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity. When Stephen moved to a monastery, Sergius remained at the hermitage alone until his reputation attracted a community around him. Impressed by his humility, the metropolitan archbishop of Moscow wanted to make Sergius his successor, but Sergius preferred to remain at his hermitage, declining this and any other ecclesiastical advancement, for the rest of his life.
Sergius carried out several peace embassies for the metropolitan, and Prince Dimitri Donskoi consulted him before defeating the Tatars at Kulikovo in 1380. Sergius’ support of the prince helped rally the Russian people to his cause, and the victory against the Tatars laid the foundation for the independent life of the nation of Russia.
Sergius’s was simple and gentle in nature, mystical in temperament, and eager to ensure that his monks should serve the needs of their neighbors. Some thirty-five monasteries were founded by his disciples during his lifetime, and the revitalization of Russian monasticism in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries owes much to his promotion of hesychasm as a way of prayer and mystical encounter with God. Sergius died in 1392, and pilgrims still visit his shrine at the monastery of Zagorsk, which he founded in 1340.
The Russian Church venerates Sergius’ memory on this day. His name is familiar to Anglicans from the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, a society established to promote closer relations between the Anglican and Russian Churches.
adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)
and The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity
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. Amen.
The propers for the commemoration of Sergius, Abbot of Holy Trinity, are published on the Lectionary Page website.