In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ!
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
In my life I’ve been blessed on three occasions to visit the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad outside of Moscow. It’s hard for me to talk about because the place affects me in such a deep and personal way. God’s gifts are many and they are varied. One gift that God gives occasionally is the gift of tears. These are not the normal tears that accompany our human emotions, but these are deep, spiritual tears that that are not from sadness, or loss, or vanity, or anger. No,” these tears flow from love of God. They nourish man, bringing great joy to his soul” as Elder Cleopa describes them. In the presence of God, in the courts of the Kingdom of Heaven, these tears may come to some. For me, it’s in the Trinity Cathedral, in the presence of the relics of St Sergius of Radonezh, that God, in His merciful loving kindness, has on three occasions granted me the blessing of the gift of tears. I don’t share this in order to boast. I have absolutely nothing to boast about. This is not about vainglory, or attention-seeking. I only bring it up so that you will understand the profound holiness of that place, and the grace-filled power of this amazing saint.
Today we celebrate the uncovering of the relics of our venerable and God-bearing Father, Sergius, abbot of Radonezh and Wonderworker of All Russia. Every time we commemorate him, we can’t help but recall his amazing and God-pleasing life. His life was like a beacon of fire or a lighthouse blazing with brilliant light that attracted so many thousands of souls for salvation in Christ. He was an apostle in the wilderness, and an icon of the monastic life, turning the deep forest into a gleaming city set on a hill, filled with angel-like beings working out their salvation. What is the monastic life, and why is it so important to the life and well-being of the Church?
Many people who live in the world, especially those who are far away from the Church, do not understand what monastic life is about. What good is it? What does it do for society? Isn’t it selfish? Isn’t it unnatural? These are the questions they ask. But remember, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said that there would be some who would be called to a life of chastity and holiness.
“All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it” (Matthew 19:11-12).
This ideal was emulated by many of those who decided to follow in our Savior’s footsteps and reject temporal life. One of the first was St. Paul who said, “For I would that all men were even as I myself” (1 Cor. 7:7-8), meaning that he did not marry and lived a solitary life, dedicating all his resources to his apostolic work. And after St. Paul there were virgin men and women, as well as widowers and widows who did not remarry, who decided to dedicate their entire lives to God. And in the fourth century some of these people became part of a great monastic movement, exchanging their lives in the cities for life in the desert and to create monastic communities, which later became monasteries.
So it was, that a holy monastery was founded by St. Sergius in the primeval forests of Radonezh. With time, disciples began coming to the saint in the Monastery of the Life-giving Trinity, and since that time multitudes of people, seeking to live a life of repentance and fasting has never withered. By their thousands, and for many centuries there have been those who have decided to emulate our Lord Jesus Christ in everything, including this choice of the solitary way of life, the life of repentance, the life of ascesis.
Let us pray to our venerable and God-bearing Father Sergius, Abbot of the Russian Land and intercessor for the whole world, that he may always pray for our holy Orthodox Church and intercede in Heaven for all its monasteries, and that monastic life may never grow weak in our holy Church but may flourish as it did in his time even in our own days. Amen.